1/31/2017: On Productivity

I just read this: https://www.brainpickings.org/2012/02/22/henry-miller-on-writing/

Miller echoes much of what I’ve read elsewhere. Namely, don’t write according to “Do I want to write right now?” Write according to a schedule or system, what he calls a program. Professional writers don’t wait around for inspiration—they work, and all that.

To some degree, I have done this. I did it more so when I was working on my first draft, when I could set a daily goal (2000 words). It’s more difficult now. I suppose I could set time periods. But this is difficult given that I write only when there’s nothing else to do. Writing always takes second seat. But perhaps this is better than the flip-flop I’ve been slipping into. It’s also more difficult to devote two hours a night to it, after having child #3. And I write better in the morning anyways.

My upper standard is to always work. Always be productive. And most of all, work on the book. My lower standard is just to avoid those things that addict me, like video games and movies. Somewhere in between are things like what types of productivity are acceptable: honey-dos, chores that I have to do anyways and can’t do when I’m at home, learning of various kinds. I’m sure there’s others.

But sometimes, like right now, I get afraid of my book. I’m not sure what it is. Probably a fear of sucking at it. Or maybe a fear of fear. And at those times, I slack off by finding other productive things to do. And perhaps as a result of feeling like I’ve failed my standard, I just want to slack off more and more until I want to slack off by hanging around social media.

I’m not sure if that’s really the answer. And I think it’s better if I don’t fixate on finding it. I have a feeling I just want to get my work right because of some level of idolatry, when I should be depending on God for whatever character and productivity are good. More than that, I should work toward loving God and others rather than meeting whatever level of work makes me feel good about myself. The goal is to write for others. Not for me. To serve others always, including when I write. It’s just an aspect of life.

Slacking off, avoiding that work, is not loving at all. I should write that again. Slacking off—vegging—is a lack of love toward others. Even productive things that I take on but do so to avoid loving others (looking for a house too much is a sign of this attitude; looking isn’t bad, but looking only as a way to avoid serving others is, like cleaning the house when I should be playing with my kids). Only acts I carry out in order to love others fall into the same category as loving others in my writing. But since I am convinced that I should find what ways I serve best, and since I think writing might be one of those ways, writing comes first, as far as I can make it, until I find something else that fits me better.

What about rest time? Akin to a Sabbath? It was instituted not for vegging but for true rest. Refreshment. Rejuvenation. Vegging doesn’t accomplish that. What does? Prayer. Reading Scripture. Taking in good lessons. Good conversations. Manual labor can even help one accomplish these.

What about books? Good movies? Documentaries? Things that challenge me. I feel like those would be kind of like learning, kind of like dialogue. As long as I don’t use them to veg, to avoid service. And perhaps time allotment serves this function best.

And while I’m at it, it seems like this first book is as much about learning how to be a writer (and artist and member of humanity and dependent-on-God and father and husband and IT guy and house owner and goodness what else…) as it is writing a novel. I’m kind of glad I didn’t get into writing when I was younger. I would have ruined it with the same immaturity with which I ruined music. Not to say I’ve reached the goal, but I am clearly more mature than I was.

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12/10/2016: Free To Act (cf. Phil. 2:12-13)

You are free to act.

God doesn’t tell us to wait on him to give us pure motivations or authentic motivations (pure motivations would be authentic…), he just tells us to do because it’s him in us working to will and to work his will. And he corrects us when we do wrong. And that’s it.

Something tells me he doesn’t want me to not do just because I might do wrong. Something tells me he will take care of me when I do wrong. That I have the freedom to act, knowing that I’m safe, that he loves me, that he works on me when I do wrong. And though those things may hurt, it’s good. So there’s a safety net, of sorts, in doing wrong. I am free to act because I could do right and because doing wrong is not the end.

To be continued.

(8/14/2017: I have since written a more nuanced explanation of what I’m talking about here, to be published later on. This is much too short to be of use to anyone. But this LBK was the first big movement on this topic that I had had in years.)

9/2/2016: Serve the Work

Madeleine L’Engle says to serve the work first and then serve the audience. One does not serve himself. I would prepend this with “serve God.”

Don’t want to write? This is the work that God has given to you. Serve God. Serve the work. Serve those who will read it. Serve with all the effort and intelligence and stubbornness you have.

I read a compliment someone gave a friend of mine’s piece. They loved his prose. And I responded (internally) with what must have been vehemence. “Really? I didn’t think so at all.” It was almost like I refused to believe that he had any talent at all (and, though it’s too clichéd to hold much meaning anymore, I wonder if it’s just my need to feel superior that makes me blind to the talent he has).That led to strong feelings about all the various successes he has attained (or seems to have). I will not list them here. But I was jealous. I had a sickly combination of “Why not me, God!” and “I’m definitely better than him because of ____ and _____ and _____.”

But I was reminded that I am not called to success (3/20/2017: Not as “success” is typically defined, which is the type of success I refer to in this document). And shortly after this I remembered one of my favorite songs and listened to Ginny Owens’ version on Youtube:

 

 

Be thou my vision, oh Lord of my heart
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art
Thou my best thought, by day or by night
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise
Thou mine inheritance, now and always
Thou and thou only first in my heart
High king of heaven, my treasure thou art

I can’t remember the last time more appropriate words came when I needed them (though I’m sure it’s happened). I heed riches. I heed praise. Success is first in my heart, and God my least treasure.

Be thou my vision, Lord. Let naught be all else to me. High king of heaven, steal back your throne.

Serve God. Serve the work. Serve your audience. Do it with everything you have, for that’s what you’ve been called to do, and this is the work God has put before you.