Spiritual Stagnation, a Temporary Layover

Campbell

By Eleni Papanou

One major facet of writing visionary fiction is that the author  spiritually grows during the writing process. There are periods where I have to put my work aside, either when I’m in spiritual stagnation or not feeling worthy enough to write because of a personal challenge that I have yet to overcome. Only after I sort through whatever issue is troubling me can I proceed. Each book’s conclusion connects me to the lessons learned by the characters, whose interior growth mirrors my own. What I find most revealing is that my characters ascend to a higher level than me; however, they take me one step further on my own path. They inspire me to become a better person.

I posed the question to some of my fellow authors of how they handle spiritual stagnation during the writing process and got some insightful responses.

Bob Fahey, author of Entertaining Naked People says “understanding the situation can only help so much. I know from long experience that these last for a few days while something marinates within me and then suddenly bursts free in unbelievable spouts of inspiration. And yet I still go through funks. I am just this morning coming out of a three day one. I call these being human. I can’t seem to connect with my guides in meditation; can’t feel healing energies flowing through me for those at a distance; have no ideas for whatever books I may be writing at the time. I am merely human for a while and I don’t like that. But I also realize the masters have better things to do with their time than constantly babysitting me and feeding me ideas, so perhaps I may be of some small service to them at the time by simply not pestering them and begging for more.”

However, Fahey isn’t sure whether he believes in spiritual stagnation:

“I see us as vibrant spiritual beings even when we’re unaware of it so I am not sure I believe in spiritual stagnation once you really have that ball rolling.”

I agree with the statement; however, the egoic part of me—the part that sometimes disconnects from the eternal light within me—can become stagnant. Upon reflection, I realize I need to go through periods of disconnection in order to live through a lesson, along with all the pain that comes along with learning what I must learn.

While some writers may break from writing during stagnation, others plow right on through their challenges. Sandy Nathan, award-winning author of the “Earth’s End Trilogy,”—and a plethora of other books—makes it clear why she is so productive in her writing endeavors.

“I don’t think a writer needs to be going through spiritual and personal barriers like crazy to write well. So much of actually seeing a book in print is a “seat in chair” type work, not active inspiration. If a book is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration, the inspiration can happen whenever. Before the writing, one hopes.” That isn’t to say Sandy hasn’t experienced her own challenges: “At times in my life, I’ve been flaming spiritually.  Such a period occurred when I wrote my spiritual memoir, Stepping Off the Edge. This was from about 1993 to about 1999. My spiritual life has been less dramatic since, but I wrote so much in the “flaming era” that I have a stockpile of material that will probably take me the rest of my life to write.”

Bob Fahey can also work through his experiences. “Another blessing is that I create characters, dialogue, and such out of what it happening around and within as I write. “ He offers some advice to other writers on how to work through the process.”You could give such challenges over to a character and have him or her work out in the story for all the world to share in. This could actually help some of the readers who may be facing down similar issues.”

While Sandy and Bob can work during periods of stagnation, I find that I must detach for a while to process whatever challenge I’m facing. Most of my writing will go into my spiritual journal. I recently went through a period of spiritual stagnation, which directed me toward a new path in my life, one in which may become a story one day. The challenge was excruciating, at first, but it eventually led me to a new passion…singing Greek music. It has reconnected me to my nationality that I have turned away from because of the prejudice I’d experienced as a child.

Whatever circumstance lies behind our spiritual stagnation, many of us who write VF heal and evolve spiritually during the process. Jan Krause Greene, author of I Call Myself Earth Girl, says, “My experience was that writing my novel – the first fiction I have ever written (I was a columnist for years) – created a surge of spiritual questing and growth. It was totally unexpected, but I can honestly say that writing this book opened a closed part of me to spirituality.”

And that is something this author can attest to!


Eleni Papanou is an award-winning author and perpetual student of life. Visit her website  for news and updates.

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34 Responses to Spiritual Stagnation, a Temporary Layover

  1. ellisnelson says:

    Such profound humility in the expression of your journey, Eleni. Refreshing and inspiring. May it ground us in the mystery of the process.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      I love the mystery of the process as I never know the outcome. Life is like a well written story. Thanks for your comments.

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  2. For me it's a little of both. Although I want to write more regularly, the truth is that I don't. It might be just being over committed, but sometimes I'm still working out whatever it is that is trying to come through. I'm listening. My writing is quite regular when I've got the design of the book clear and am well into it. But I also think frequent writing is like a daily practice of meditation. Not every session is spectacular. In fact, most are quite ordinary, but it's the continued practice that makes quantum leaps happen.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Yes, I also view writing as meditation. During times when I'm not writing my story, I do a lot of self-inquiry in my journal. Many truths open up that way for me. Those quantum leaps happen for me when I'm away from my desk and an idea strikes either through a vision or random thought that enters my mind—although I think that random thought was placed there for me to connect to.

      Thanks for sharing how you connect your spirit to your writing! It's truly inspiring to see how we all work differently yet arrive at the same place!

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  3. philipparees says:

    I feel that I have spiritually stagnated ever since becoming embroiled in the necessity of 'marketing'. It is so alien to who I am, just as any form of proselytisation is ( and that is, let's face it, what it is, however well disguised.) When I was writing both my published books, the flow was natural and replenished, meditation restorative and inspirational. I wonder whether the sense of spiritual stagnation comes when we are caught in conflicting shackles?

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Phillipparees, very well said! I understand where you're coming from as marketing has been my shortcoming as well. And yes, it is a form of proselytization—when you break it down into the smaller parts of what marketing entails. I never thought of it as such, which may be why I also have trouble going through the process. As far as conflicting shackles, I think that most issues—at least in my case—occur when I'm in conflict with something, be it in my thoughts or with actions taking place in my life.

      Thanks for your comments.

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      • I think we've been well trained not to "brag" or call attention to ourselves, but maybe we can think of the necessity to market differently somehow, because it does seem like a necessity. I remember buying my first car and my friend going with me to help me bargain. I'd been trained not to bargain, that it was not moral or something, but I've learned. It's one of those skills we have to develop in this seemingly imperfect world. Sharing what we've written is important if we want to reach the people Mother Nature wanted us to write it for in the first place.

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      • ambfoxx says:

        I hit like when I meant to comment. I found this thought-provoking, but I don't fully agree. It made me think of a book I've read many times, Lewis Richmond's Work as a Spiritual Practice, and reminded me to apply its ideas when I have to do the work of marketing.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Theresa,

      That’s exactly it! I never felt comfortable with drawing attention to my achievements. There are so many parallels of what you're saying that I have felt. I also have come to the same conclusion that marketing and schmoozing—something else I find equally difficult—are skills that must be learned. In fact, I discussed this with a musician friend recently—how my not promoting myself held me back. I think this is why I started Philophrosyne Publishing. I’m striving to find a way to work collectively, with other writers and have all of us succeed. That’s something I’ll never mind promoting!

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Looks like an interesting book, ambfoxx! I'm adding it to my Amazon wish list.

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  4. Bob Edward Fahey says:

    Another thought: since my life is probably 98% inspiration, but my writing maybe sometimes as low as 75% inspiration, I have learned from experience that sometimes the guiding forces want me to rest up for a surge soon coming. They can see these future events; I can't; so I have slowly, and with great resistance learned to accept such periods of intentional rest.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      It's interesting that you mention that, Bob. This is why I don't believe in writer's block. I think when the ideas stop, it's time to take a break. The "forces" wand us to pause, so we can absorb life for a while and gather up new insights along the way.

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  5. reanolanmartin says:

    This is all so true. I don't know a single real writer who doesn't pull story threads from the ether that predict or prophecy one event or many as soon as the work is finished. These threads may be personal or cosmic. It's a phenomenon we get used to, I suppose. We channel and create to one degree or another. At some point, it's going to affect us and we step out for a while.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      I do see my writing as channeling as most of the scenes from my book come from strong visuals I receive when away from my desk. However, I'm not sure if I'll ever get used to them, but yes, stepping outside is must for me, at times. Thanks for your comment!

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  6. Peter Piazza says:

    Eleni, Thanks for this wonderful post. Pete Piazza

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  7. Admin - Eleni says:

    You're very welcome, Peter.

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  8. tuilorraine says:

    So much to identify with in Eleni's post and in the many comments made in response. Thanks Eleni and all responders. These kinds of threads help my progress on Melody even when I do not participate as I often read,without responding myself.

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  9. Hi Eleni. Thanks for another thought-provoking post. I agree that authors–especially VF authors–grow spiritually during the writing process and that their characters' interior growth often mirrors the author's own. Actually, writing helps me sort through issues that are troubling me. I also identify with Sandy's statement that much of actually seeing a book in print is a "seat in chair" type of work, not active inspiration. Great conversation going on here.

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  10. Very appropriate article for me…

    I'm writing my next novel and have already realized that the writing is a huge part of working through my current spiritual challenges…

    I've been rather gentle with myself this time—the last book just grabbed me and shook my soul till I finished it—I'm willing to pause in the process, take a psychic breath…

    "Stagnation"?

    I finished all that during my first 64 years of life 🙂

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  11. Thanks for the nice mention of me and my work, Eleni! I read your article (linked above) on bullying and its effects on you and your creative life. What a great share! I was also bullied as a child and it continues to haunt me to this day. It's shaped my creativity and given my writing an edge. Also given me PTSD type stuff and lots of compassion and inspiration. Thanks to all the goodness in the universe that the bullied didn't become bullies. Thank you for sharing you light and insight!

    A bit about your topic: I just finished rewriting a novel after my editor worked on it. Usually she loves my work; this time, not so much. Or at all. The rewrite was the hardest thing I've ever done. I was not motivated or inspired. It was a matter of slogging forward, one sentence at a time. This was a case of inner guidance prevailing over physical and mental inertia. [My editor was right, BTW. When I realized that, I knew I had to apply "seat in chair" and power the thing out.] We live on a horse ranch and the metaphor of shoveling comes to play in my inner life. That's what I was doing. Also removing dross from gold. Gotta run! Thanks again for your insight and light.

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    • Admin - Eleni says:

      Thanks Sandy! Isn’t great how we can turn our negative experiences into positive art? In my book, Jessie’s Song, the protagonist talks about how art saved his life. Well, it saved my life, and that’s not an understatement!

      About your rewrite: During the rewrite process—as opposed to the writing the first draft—I can work through it no matter what I’m going through. My mindset is similar to yours—and I love how you state it: “inner guidance prevailing over physical and mental inertia.” That’s exactly how I view it. Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Admin - Eleni says:

    Same here, Margaret. Writing is the ideal therapy for me, as well as music. Thanks for your remarks!

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  13. Admin - Eleni says:

    Take a psychic breath…I like that! In essence, that's what it is. I'm taking one right now and enjoying the process. Thanks for your comment.

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  14. philipparees says:

    I would be interested to hear more about Philophrosyne Publishing. It would be so much easier to work with collective promotion of a message rather than 'My Books'! Astoundingly prolific you are!

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  15. Eleni, I find much wisdom and personally related to your comment "Only after I sort through whatever issue is troubling me can I proceed." I was writing about a character's grief in my third novel and I found I couldn't fully flesh out and deepen my character until I deepened into my own grief and acknowledged and worked through it.

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  16. Admin - Eleni says:

    And the healing that comes from the process is very cathartic. The most difficult ones for me are issues that are unidentified. I had a recent breakthrough. For the short story I wrote for the Undercurrents Anthology, I had this sense that something was missing with the protagonist. The very astute author who edited the stories mentioned there was a problem with my characterization. I immediately understood what she meant. I had not dug deep into the character’s love for her mate. When I kicked up her feminine qualities, I started to feel what was lacking, not only from her expression of love, but also my imbalance of the male and female side of me. I have a strong personality, and the male side tends to dominate. Through my female characters, I’ve learned to soften my approach. This project also coincided with the time I started reading about male and female imbalances from a Taoist perspective, so the seed was planted. It just took me a while to figure out that being soft isn’t a sign of weakness. I intellectually understood this, but it needed to be internalized.

    As I look back at my female characters, I notice that they have this balance of strength and softness. I think this spiritual lesson came out with the short story because I had fewer pages to get to the heart of my character, and she pushed what I’ve been keeping from myself to the surface. Since then, I’ve been consciously working on strengthening the feminine in me.

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  17. libredux says:

    Eleni, what a great topic you have chosen to discuss, and I have enjoyed reading about your own experiences and also others who have shared theirs in the comments. I can relate too, insofar as my novel took around 12 years to write and it was only this slow because I was going through an inner journey. For me it was a case of slow growth, slow writing, and occasionally stagnation in writing too. 😉

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  18. Admin - Eleni says:

    Sounds like your journey was very challenging. But it translated into something that went beyond your book, which is an amazing accomplishment.

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  19. Someone should write a book on Zen (or whatever form of meditation suits) and the Art of Marketing, and include some of the thoughts kicked up here. I had a blast recently speaking to an audience of about 150 about writing, reincarnation and VF. Hard work but it did not feel like I was proselytizing, for which I am grateful. Have to think about that a bit more, although right now I am on the writing side, finishing up my second major (at least is size) novel. Good topic.

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  20. Interesting differentiation you make re first draft and rewrite. It is a different process. Am currently on a rewrite/edit and I can just dictate to myself that I am going to put six hours in the chair and pull it off without too much self-coercion. Not so on a a first draft where I sometimes have to wait for days or weeks for the next scene or connection to come.

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  21. Great piece and comment thread, Eleni, even though I am late getting to comment. No, not on vacation, but taking prime time to finish my current book. Almost there–gasping as I come up to the finish line–a ten year marathon.

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  22. What a beautiful and engaging post and conversation. Thank you Eleni, Bob, and Sandy for opening your lives to us. I agree with you, Bob, there is no real stagnation; there are always seeds making their way to the light of day. As far as book promotion goes, I struggled with the idea until I got the inspired message to approach marketing with the understanding that ads, interviews, posts, and blogs can be opportunities to bless others as well. Bless you all for your wonderful work!

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