When life pushes in hard, too many of the things I love suffer. Budgets won’t balance themselves, and when the car is leaking oil you’ve got to take care of it. My priority list gets out of whack daily, it seems. Devotions, time with the Author who wrote us all, are short or non-existent. Writing in the morning is great until you were up late the night before working to pay the bills. When there’s fifteen minutes until work, writing a contemplative poem on thunderstorms is frivolous at best.
(This week’s column was an accident. I had intended to go for a few more weeks on the great writers topic, talking about belief and themes in parts two and three to complete last week’s “Truth-Whisperers.” Those columns are still coming, they’ll just be delayed for a week. Instead, you get some raw thoughts from a column that’s often raw).
As writers, our job is to trumpet hope. We’re the beating heart of a culture, pointing people to the biggest and brightest parts of life even when their own light might be dim. But how do we keep our writing from being nothing more than a reflection of what we’re going through? If life is great, there’s lots of writing flowing out and a whole lot of material to work with. If life is busy, stressed, overwhelming, boring, depressing, or all of the above, you can say goodbye to any sparks of creativity, let alone meeting any production deadlines.
The Psalms alone are plenty of evidence that writing can be born out of despair – but how can we insulate our writing from despair? When so much talk goes around about putting yourself into your writing, what sort of writing comes out when you’re depressed and kind of hate the way things are going? For me, the answer has come in slowing down and digging deep. Let bills and life worry about themselves. You’ll still get them done, work will happen, life will go on. No one’s going to just ignore their responsibilities.
For a change, instead of worrying about to-do lists, take some time to consider your own writing. Why do you write? What started you writing? Did you start out determined to whisper truth? You have seen the stars, you can’t help but write. We are written, so we can’t help but write.
When was the last time you believed the things you write about? When I’m discouraged about my writing specifically, and broader life in general, that’s when I step back and consider why I’m even writing at all. I preach to the choir, essentially. Though it seems counter-intuitive, taking time to write, to be alone with God, and to read good books will carry you through the rough patches. Sure, you’re taking time out of an incredibly busy schedule to spend on free time – something that’s hard to justify to the inner scheduler. But you’re also refreshing yourself, making yourself able to handle the stresses of daily life.
Stopping to do something creative often seems like a waste of time.
Writing fills me up, enabling me to balance the budget without falling into worry or stress. Writing reminds me of truth that I know, but may have forgotten in the clutter and bustle of life. Time with God reorients me to my true priorities, and has a way of wiping away worries that, under the true light of prayer, seem ridiculous. Reading great books teaches me to fall in love all over again, broadening my horizons beyond the tunnel vision of errands to run.
In a world that values efficiency, productivity, and busyness, stopping to do something creative seems like a waste of time. I’m susceptible to this far too often. I think this subject comes up so often because we’ve been trained to value what we can touch, what’s tangible or stored in a savings account. In the end, our faith is in our own abilities and the things that we’ve earned. But faith in these things is misplaced. It’s a never-ending, exhausting treadmill filled with doubt and worry.
At the end of the day, I’d rather look back and know that I’d stopped, been molded by my Maker, taken time to read his words, and, like an icon, reflected my own facet of that truth. I want to reflect and relay God’s gospel and truth, not an efficient taskmaster who got things done. At the end of my life, that’s what I want to have lived for: not a savings account or a certain number of tasks off my to-do list.
So go write.
Go read great literature.
Go be filled and poured out in the lives of those around you
Then, and only then, tackle the to-do list, armed with the knowledge that all of the busyness that we love to chase is pretty pointless. You have gazed at the stars, and that will last.