I’ve spent the last several months trying to figure out where I belong as a writer outside of school. It’s been hard. The “real world” has a different structure to it than the academic world as far as writing is concerned – it’s slower paced, with a complete lack of deadlines, a need for writers to develop their own sense of balance. In terms of balance, I haven’t fallen down on the job – between my recent poetry experiment, my brief foray into nonfiction, and NaNoWriMo, I’ve generated nearly 200 pages of material since I started my job in September. My energy is divided toward more places than it was in school, but I’ve still managed to make writing a priority.
So what’s the problem here? The thing that’s wrong with this picture lies in the first sentence of this column – the fact that I’ve been “trying.” There are two issues here. The first is that no good creative work ever came from the author forcing it out – it’s a surefire way to put yourself through a lot of pain and in the end, produce something that isn’t really worth keeping around. As I’ve said before, that was NaNo for me – forget that I spent two months prior to the actual event planning my strategy and my project. It was still trying too hard. It’s about spontaneity – and I planned my so called spontaneity in advance. Sound paradoxical? Maybe, but that’s how it felt to me.
The more important thing that’s wrong here is that what I’ve been doing is counter-Biblical. Rather than trusting in the Lord to lead me to the right project, I’ve been trying to figure it all out on my own, and this is a route to failure that will take you there every time. A friend of mine told me that the source of anxiety I’ve been experiencing since I started work is rooted in an inability to turn all of my life over to Him – rather than “presenting yourself a living sacrifice, wholly” as Romans 12:1 commands us, I’ve been holding onto something and keeping it for myself. I now know that this thing is my creative life. Instead of giving God control over how I use my talents and what I use them for, I’ve been trying – and failing – to do it by myself. The Bible gives us many words of advice on how to proceed with matters like these, where the temptation to take hold of one’s own life becomes too much:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your path.” – Proverbs 3:5-6
“He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:6
“Whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto man.” – Colossians 3:23
“Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.” – Psalm 27:14
I’ve been remembering these things in terms of every aspect of my life – relationships, my spiritual life, my work life, my family life – except for my writing. I’ve spent too much time denying this, so much so that I’ve probably wasted valuable time trying to direct my own creative path. I’ve been dwelling on past accomplishments and wanting to get published again; I’ve been proud and not content with my circumstances, when I have no right to be anything but completely happy with where I am. The Lord has provided for all my needs – I have a job, a place to live, a spiritual community, and friends. And yet, I’ve been letting myself get extremely frustrated because I’m not working on a project. I’ve worried that people who look down on my working a minimum wage job when I have a masters will think I’m a failure if I’m not writing – which is one of the most prideful, self centered statements I could make.
I feel like I need to do something I should have done a long time ago – maybe even immediately after grad school, but I was still too ingrained in my type A attitude toward writing to consider it. I’m going into literary detox. In order to keep from taking myself down the path of leaning to my own understanding, I’m going to put a moratorium on writing for awhile. The only way I’m going to keep from putting pressure on myself is to just lay low, until the Lord sends me the right project. In the meantime, I’m planning on doing two things. The first is to commit myself to the intensive Bible study I’ve always wanted to do, but have never had time for. I have a million books, most of which have come from work, that I need to read; I want to learn basic New Testament Greek. I want a better understanding of the Bible as a cohesive unit. I’m convinced that this will not only help me spiritually – it will actually make me a better writer. This change in focus is me clearing all of this anxiety and pressure out of my head. I’m no longer afraid of losing my skills as a writer – they will be waiting for me when I’m ready to come back.
Second, the purpose of this blog has changed. It was originally created so that I could share my insights about being a new MFA grad working in a bookstore and balancing my life for time to write. This worked for awhile, but I’ve found that the more committed I’ve become to my spiritual life, the more the Lord’s influence on and complete credit for my writing abilities became topics of discussion. Therefore, this blog is now devoted to the connection between my identity in Christ and how, through my study of scripture and eventual move toward a project, He is working to use my gifts of language. My blog is excluded from the literary moratorium – I am hoping to write about how not writing or not pushing myself to write is helping me creatively. We’ll see how things go as I move forward with this.