Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Kiss Frantic Goodbye: The Backwards Path to Increasing Creativity

A cuppa is a great start to a slow moment...
Word count goals. Deadlines. New Year’s writing resolutions. We put a lot of focus on productivity and that’s a good thing.

Don’t ditch those plans. But what if the answer to growing in your writing life this year is slow:

Doing less doesn’t mean lazy, even though sometimes it might feel that way.
Doing less doesn’t mean doing nothing, even though that might be nice sometimes.
Doing less doesn’t mean giving up on life, even though you probably feel that way right now before you even start this habit.
Doing less will actually make you more productive.
Doing less will add energy back into your days — not to mention many other positive emotions, too.
Doing less is a way of life, a practice and it begins right here, where you are right now.
(from Savoring Slow by Shawn Fink)

In 2016, my family and I faced a number of trials and struggles. Everything from financial difficulties to hospitalizations. My heart was raw and my jeans frayed at the knees, my voice hoarse from crying out to the Lord.

Something had to change. My stress levels hit an all-time high. The busyness of my everyday life combined with these trials brought me to near-collapse level. Like many I wore busy like a badge. Family, homeschool, church, ministry obligations, etc. It all came to a halt the second time my husband was hospitalized.
Frantic and I needed to break up. It was a long process and still continues in some ways. In the last few months I’ve found myself misunderstood by friends for whom busy was a way of life as I learned to say some hard no’s.

No to that small group that wasn’t benefiting my heart. No to that obligation that was good but not best. No to what was taking time away from my priorities.

After busy and I said our goodbyes, he would pop up daily to see if I was ready to give the relationship another shot. Was I always strong? No, but I had someone new in my life and he was changing me. I might join busy for an hour or two but I began to miss my new sweetheart, Slow.

As I started my day with Slow he changed my life, from the inside out. Instead of rushing through a half hour devotional I found myself waking up earlier and earlier without the alarm. Slow was growing my relationship with the Lord and I couldn’t get enough. With unrushed time at my father’s feet, Joy and Peace came to visit on a regular basis.

Slow and I took moonlit walks, had time to throw snowballs at my daughter even when there was work to be done, enjoyed the spotless appearance of freshly washed dishes, and pressed our faces on the dryer warm towels.

After Slow and I had been together for a while, I noticed something new. I was reading books for fun not just for review. When I read the news, I was fresh with ideas for a story.

Is Frantic frustrating you? Damaging your writing life and creativity? Frantic is a slave driver and you may find your productivity increased for a little while, but only at great cost to your health, mental well-being, and sanity!

Here are some ways to SLOW down and increase your creativity that are working for me:

1)      Come to him and find rest.

"'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.'"-Matthew 11:28

Don’t rush your time with God! Are you tired in your writing life? Deadlines bogging you down? The publishing journey doesn’t look like you expected? His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He gives true rest.

Why do we work in our own strength, not bringing it all to his feet? Yes, he wants us to work hard but he is the one who gives us strength, creativity, and everything else we need for our writing journey.

How can we expect him to fill us with His words when we are not intaking His words? As we read his word and stop relying on our own strength in our writing life, He will bless our words.

2)    Prune your life in view of what matters.

“The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.”-1 John 2:17

What is the desire of your heart? Everything of this world will pass away. What are we valuing in our writing life?

To worship and glorify God, to serve my family are the first priorities of my life. Everything else comes below. To use the common analogy of the rocks, I don’t want to spend a majority of my time on sand or pebbles. Instead I want to put my big rocks into the jar first.

For me my writing is a way God calls me to worship and glorify him. But what writing activities fall under that purpose? That’s where I need to be prayerful. Not every opportunity is a blessing from the Lord as it could be a temptation pulling me away from the most important things in my life.

As I filter my life through my priorities I find it is easier to let go of busy. Some of the things we find most stressful may be something we are NOT called to do. It may be a good thing but not our best so we need to seek the Lord. There is little more stressful than doing something in my own strength and little more peaceful than walking in His.

For me this meant letting go of a club and a ministry. Both of these were good things, but pulling me away from the best.

3)    Give it all to Him.

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” -1 Peter 5:7

What makes you anxious in your writing life? Do you worry about the market growth? Wonder if there’s a place for your story? Afraid you won’t get published traditionally, at least on your timetable?

God cares about all the little details of our writing life. ALL. Pray about all these things.

One of my favorite places in my city to savor God's beauty
Keep in mind that a SLOW publishing journey may be giving you time to savor the process. Just as our children grow up in a blink, we should be making the most of these moments of our writing life instead of letting them pass away. When we wish for a new stage for our child we are missing the small pleasures along the way. LOVE the whole journey.

4)    Creativity is built in the quiet moments, as we focus in on his world.

“He says, ‘Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10

Enjoy his creation in the people and nature around you. Spend time smelling the fresh bread rising in your oven and enjoying cambric tea in your violet mug.

When we write we are told to engage all five senses in our scenes. Well, this is good advice for savoring and enjoying life. As we engage in life with all our senses, our writing will flow from the richness in our life.

In the slow, quiet moments of our life we find our creativity fueled as we sit at his feet, savor the everyday blessings of our senses, and find the joy in the world our Savior has created.

How do you savor slow in your writing life?

Julia Reffner is a child of God, wife, mom, and lover of words. She enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction and makes her home in central Virginia with three sweet ragdolls.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Beautiful, Julia! I needed to read this!

Amy Willoughby Burle said...

I just adore this blog. It's always a light to me. "Love the whole journey" That exactly. You are so right. I also really appreciated the "five senses" advice. So true. That's one of the things that I always stress to my writing students as the way to really bring life to their stories, yet how often am I doing that very thing in my life.

This morning I was just praying for some direction and the bravery to be more trusting in God's will and in all that was my typical response of --what can I do to make x and y and z happen, what can "I" do.... well, I need to step aside and let God do. I don't need to spin my wheel and further busy my life trying to yank the reigns from God's hand.

Thank you for this post. I will be pondering on this today. I will be seeking Slow.

kaybee said...

Oh, JULIA, this is great. This is why I finally gave up time management. I don't want to miss something while I'm multitasking. (That, and I set fire to my purple Nine West purse when I forgot to shut the stove off.) Frantic leads to heartache and confusion. And is not the way God wants us to live.
Kathy Bailey

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ KAREN, glad the Lord used in in your life.

@ AMY, I'm sure you are a great writing teacher! Stepping aside can be so hard, thanks for stopping by today and praying for you tonight as you seek to follow hard after Jesus.

@KATHY, Oh boy, what a scene that must have been! God has a way of giving us those object lessons doesn't he? At least he does me!