What type of writing do you do?
Jenn: I first started blogging in 2010 as a way to process my grief and our lives and my faith when my son received several diagnoses in the first few years of his life that threw my husband and myself into the world of special needs parenting. Two years later my younger son was born and he also was diagnosed with some special needs. I blogged about the things I was learning research-wise to help my boys, about the slow yet steady progress the boys were making, and about the things I was learning in my faith. Before long, I knew God wanted me to write a book to encourage other Christian special needs moms. It took a few years to write and then self-publish Embracing This Special Life: Learning to Flourish as a Mother of a Child with Special Needs. Before long, I realized my heart wasn’t just about encouraging Christian special needs moms, but all Christian women about embracing life to its fullest, no matter your life circumstances. So I started a new blog about faith related things, about praying Scripture, writing for God’s glory, and the special needs parenting journey.
What inspired you to begin writing?
Jenn: I’ve loved writing since I was young. I dreamed of writing a young adult novel (or several) and wrote a few while I was a middle school English teacher before my boys were born. Then I became a mother and both of my sons had special needs, and my whole life changed and so did my writing path and passion. I believe God has called me to encourage women in their faith journey and so that is the path I follow.
How do you find time to write?
Jenn: I find little pockets of time here and there to work on various tasks I have related to my blog and writing, such as creating and sharing posts for social media. But when it comes to actually writing, I have found that making myself a ‘writing date’ works best. Honestly, I get distracted when I try and write at home with the tasks that need to be done around the house or I get scrolling on social media and don’t accomplish much, and so I’ll set a date once or twice a week to go to a coffee shop and write. When the boys were little that required my husband to watch the kids while I went out for a few hours to write. Now, I do that when the boys are in school (or now, during this safe-at-home time, I write at home when the boys are watching a movie). But I always go into my writing date with the mindset to use that time intentionally and to accomplish whatever writing task or goal I set for myself during that time.
What do you find most challenging about writing?
Jenn: I find that it can be so overwhelming with all the things it feels like you need to do to be a writer. We ‘need’ a website, a blog, an email list, social media accounts, a platform, a proposal if we want to be traditionally published, to market a book that has been published, etc. that it can seem so overwhelming and like we have no time to actually do what we wanted to do, which is write.
So I’ve found it helpful to create a list of all the writing/blogging related tasks I want to accomplish and put a star by the one that would help me feel I made the most progress with my writing to accomplish (for example, writing a blog post, or a chapter of a book). I then make it my goal to cross off the starred item and at least one other task during the week, and then I feel like I was successful if I can do that. When I get overwhelmed by all the items on my list, I think about doing ‘the next right thing’ (like the title of Emily P. Freeman’s book and like Anna sings in Frozen 2) instead of getting overwhelmed by all the things I could be doing. It’s very freeing to think about just doing the next right thing, rather than doing all the things.
What are you working on right now?
Jenn: Well, I just completed my last year of teaching middle school English so that I can fully commit to my writing. To be honest, I’m excited and nervous about this transition. I’m continuing to write blog posts once or twice a month and I’m excited to begin writing a new book. I’m currently praying about, brainstorming, outlining, and writing snippets here and there for my second book.
What would you most like to share with other Christian writers?
Jenn: My two favorite words for living life to its fullest work well for writing too. First, we must embrace that the story or the message that burns in our heart and won’t go away is from God. We must embrace that we are the one being called to write it. That even though we may not feel qualified to write it, “for in him, you have been enriched in every way–with all kinds of speech and with all knowledge,” (1 Corinthians 1:5, NIV). We also need to embrace making the time and space for our writing and investing in our calling to write.
And then we must release that story or message into the world, which will require us to take steps of faith. It won’t ever be perfect. But it is meant to be shared with others and it’s a privilege to share the words God has given us with others. Our words have the power to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,” (Luke 4:18-19, NIV). It is a high and mighty calling and it must be shared with others.
Jenn Soehnlin is the author of Embracing This Special Life. She serves as social media/marketing manager for CCWF. Jenn enjoys blogging about faith, writing, praying Scripture, and special needs parenting at embracing.life.