When I started writing online, I didn’t call myself a writer. I wrote when I had time, and when I felt so inspired. I didn’t feel pressure to create, writing has always been a release for me.
That season lasted for a good while until things shifted. I wrote a book. In the months leading up to the books release, writing became a job. I elbowed things out of my way to sit down to write. I no longer waited for inspiration, I sat down and pursued it with a feverish desire to write words that mattered. This kind of passion isn’t all bad–Madeline L’Engle had it right when she said “Inspiration comes during the work, rather than before it”.
After the book came out, I lost my balance. I had shoved everything aside to write, write, write–and in the words of James Howell, (and later, Steven King), “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”. My energy waned. My desire to experience life away from the keyboard began to fade.
In my fiery pursuit of crafting word masterpieces, one painful letter at a time, I found myself increasingly frustrated by the serious and concerning disappearance of ideas of which to write about. Living as a mother of 4 young children, it seemed ideas should run through my head in abundance, with time for capturing them being the real problem.
But the opposite was true–the more time I devoted to trapping and transcribing ideas, the more stagnant my thought pool became.
Shuffling through an old filing cabinet I came across my creative writing folder from a class I took in high school. Scratched across the yellowing manila, I rediscovered a truth I’d practically forgotten.
In my pre-Jesus youth and fascination with transcendentalism, Henry David Thoreau was one of my favorite writers. I used to imagine myself trekking off with him to Walden Pond where we’d pick at the sweet grass and dip our rebellious toes in the water, while the forrest creatures lazed about on branches overhead and on the banks beside us, sucking up the marrow of our words as Henry and I mused about life, love and writing. On occasion, Emerson would join us…
Thoreau said, “How vain is it to sit down to write when you have not yet stood up to live”.
And it occurred to me, on the trek towards publication, that’s exactly what I’d neglected to do–live.
Writing is hard work. (In case you’ve been fooled in to believing otherwise.) And while it’s true, words don’t materialize while we’re off living life, failing to record it, the reality is, if we’re not really living life, there’s nothing to record. (Profound, yes?)
This is obvious, and yet it’s a struggle all writers face at some point. The balance between living life and writing about it is always in question.
Some seasons of writing call for more time in the chair. This is an inevitable part of doing the work. Deadlines, commitments, project milestones–all have to take priority in certain seasons. But these should be the seasons. They should not last, and we should not ignore the need for a change of scene.
While I sat behind a screen clicking away at the keys, I missed afternoon walks in the sun, and butterfly watching in the yard. I missed hiking in the park, and blowing bubbles on the porch. I missed the joy of cooking from scratch, as I served too many hurried meals from a bag.
I wasn’t living life, I was surviving.
Among the things I neglected, my time in the Word had also grown shorter and more rushed. Forgetting that God is the source of all life, left me grasping for all the wrong things in an effort to produce.
You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.Psalm 16:11
While God can create ex nihilo, the rest of us need a little something to work with. My creative well ran bone-dry and I panted after the memory of something I’d discounted.
I believe my writing reflected as much. The richness of inspiration does come during the work, but after the living of life.
If we want to produce stories that speak of glory, we have to spend time, on the other side of the screen, immersed in the rich, messy, full-color emotion of actual living. We have to stand up, and live. And then sit down and write.
I don’t pretend to have this balance thing all sorted.
As I write I’ this, I’m currently eyeball deep in deadlines and projects that cannot be ignored without consequences and repercussions. But I sense the time for living is very near and I can say, that I am writing this with one foot out the metaphorical door.
Walden pond awaits. Spring flowers have begun raising their fronds from beneath the hardened soil, in a beckoning wave of invitation. Soon the butterflies will return. Afternoon bubble-blowing is just days away.
It’s about time to escape to the woods for a little inspiration–it’s time to live.
Have you ever struggled with balancing working and living? When is the last time you “stood up to live” first?