Only Writing

Only writing is writing.

I don’t recall now whether I read that in a book or heard it during a presentation. Either way, its truth is brilliant.

They went on to say, “Reading is not writing. Thinking about writing is not writing. Researching what you’re going to write… that’s still not writing. Only writing is writing.

“Until your butt is in the chair and words are coming out your finger tips, you’re not actually writing.”

I don’t know if they actually said that last part, but if not, they definitely should have. Because that’s the part that finally inspired me to put my butt in a chair. This exact chair I’m typing from right now, in fact. Let me tell you how I found this chair.

I had 75 minutes before I needed to be across campus to a class I’m taking just for kicks (during the time, I might add, that I’m supposed to be writing.) And so, I was going to seize that time and write! But first, I needed to find The Place.

As every good (current or former) graduate student knows, there is no point in even trying to get productive work done if you are not in The Place. (Entire books, by the way, have been written on the power of graduate student procrastination tactics – comic books, but still.)

It could be the third study corral from the right on the 14th floor by the stacks. Or the beat up couch by the whining vending machine down some back staircase under the lab. The point is, you know it when you see it. And until it’s perfect, well there’s no point in even trying. Until it’s perfect, or you really, really have run out of time. Like its 4 a.m. and the paper is due TODAY and you really should have started it sooner and you don’t think the professor will understand that you just couldn’t get it done because someone was in YOUR place.

That’s when every good current or former graduate student switches to plan B. And actually starts to write.

So I came to the most logical nearby location to find The Place. It’s quiet and filled with so many books that I was sure their presence would ooze intelligible insights into my weary finger tips. I tiptoed past students already huddled into their places. I ventured down hallways that ended in emergency exits. I trekked up flight after flight of stairs. I discovered oversized picture books for when standing in front of classrooms of students. I brushed past volumes I am quite certain have not been opened in 50 years. I even strolled casually past an entire glassed-in area dedicated to special collections and manned by a guard who eyed me curiously when I accidentally had to pass back through again.

In all that wandering, I could not find The Place. My 75 minutes were dwindling. And so I retreated. Back down flights of stairs, through the stacks, and to Plan B: the first empty study corral near the door. And, coincidentally, near giant volumes of bound papers of Ulysses S. Grant and Thomas Jefferson. There are 41 volumes for Thomas Jefferson alone. Each one at least 2 inches thick and ranging in dates from 1760 – 1803. Plus several special editions. In case you were curious.

And that is how I came to be positioned in this particular chair.

I’ve had to stop several times because people strolled buy, sometimes wheeling carts, sometimes lugging books or backpacks, sometimes quietly, sometime talking. It’s not the noise that distract me; I just can’t write with someone looming over my shoulders. But that’s okay. Better to have something interrupted then to have never even started.

This is certainly true of writing, as my rather dismal blog-posting record these last 12 months might indicate. It’s easy to put it off until I actually have time. Until I’m ready. Until I’m in the perfect place. It’s much easier to think about it then to actually do it.

I bet writing is not the only thing. How easy is it to postpone a phone call to a friend because I’ve only got a few minutes? Or wait to send a card until I have time to write a full letter? Or to skip quiet time with God because I’d prefer uninterrupted time to little snatches?

Eventually there comes a time when we need to retreat to Plan B.

Just do it.

Dear children, let us not love with word or speech but in actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

 

 

 

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Stalking Time

computers

Ever wish you had more time? After a 6 month lapse in blog posts, this seems like an appropriate one to share! This was originally posted on Inspire A Fire and you can view the original post at http://www.inspireafire.com/stalking-time. 

I wish I had more time.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t lament the fact that there are only 24 hours in a day. There are so many things I’d like to do, so many things I can never quite get to. And the days, the weeks, the years, flit by.

Some people say that time is money, but that just isn’t true. The richest people in the world still have 24 hours in a day.

I don’t deny a certain level of financial stability can purchase amenities that make our lives easier and purpose to give us more free time. But just as likely, those fancy amenities begin a spiral of dependence that seems to take rather than make time. How many of us truly feel we have more time because of our televisions, cell phones, computers, automobiles? Don’t we instead just drive further, work longer, stare at screens more? The answer to more time is not found in increasingly fancy gadgets. The answer to more time is far more basic than that. Here’s what I have discovered.

Stop looking for more time. It doesn’t exist. Sometimes I find myself spending my time trying to figure out a way to squeeze more time into my schedule so that I can finally get started on The Project. It has never worked. It never will, because God – not us – created time. God created the earth and the sun and the daily and yearly cycles. God has also set our days. Moses noted in Psalm 90:10, “The length of our days is seventy years, or eighty if we have the strength.” Even with all the advancements we have made as a society, the average life span is still in line with that of the ancient Israelites. Spending our time looking for more time is not the answer.

clocks

Use the time you have. Remember the man who stockpiled all his grain, even building bigger barns to hold it all in the hopes that once he had enough he could take life easy? “God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.” (Luke 12) We can do the same thing with our time – trying to stockpile it so that once we have enough we can do X or Y or Z. Don’t wait for “enough.” Start doing X or Y or Z right now, just a little bit, with whatever time you have.

There’s always time for what you do first. If I’m completely honest with myself, my lament for not enough time is often nothing more than a handy personal excuse. There is something I wanted to do and I did not do it… not because I tried extremely hard and was repeatedly thwarted, but because I never got around to actually starting it. I had time. I spent it on something else. Jesus chided his followers not to worry about life, food, drink, clothing. Worry is a waste of time. “Your heavenly father knows that you need them. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33). How are you spending your time, really? What’s the first thing you do when you get up, when you get to work, when you get home?

Don’t confuse difficult with impossible. If God has laid something on your heart to accomplish, He will give you the means to succeed. “You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised” (Hebrews 10:36).

Time is an elusive quarry, and the secret to catching it is counterintuitive: Give up the chase. Focus your pursuit not on stalking time, but on stalking those things that you most want to fill your time with. You will find that God has indeed given you enough time to accomplish what he has purposed for you to do.

Inspire a Fire

Exciting news!

I was recently invited to become a monthly contributor to a popular Christian devotion website, Inspire a Fire. My first post was launched yesterday. Check it out at http://www.inspireafire.com/training. (And consider leaving a comment there to let the organizers know they did a good thing inviting me!)

I am so thankful for this new opportunity and for all of you who continue to encourage me to write, even on days when the words don’t do what I want them to.

Stay tuned, my friends. I am still – in the words of this post – in training.

The Girl on the Other Side of the Bathroom

That’s how we knew each other, my suitemates and I.

Roomies

Last week was my second trip to my favorite writer’s conference. (Okay, so it’s the only writer’s conference I’ve ever attended, but still.)

We stayed in a residence hall with shared bathrooms between each pair of rooms; I wouldn’t trade those accommodations for anything. Walking through the bathroom and into the other room is a bit like stepping out of the wardrobe in the C.S. Lewis classic.

You knock. You step through.

And the people, the places, the stories on the the other side are just a bit magical. You meet people who (even in passing) have stories or comments or insights that touch your life. You find yourself thinking of them days later. Maybe years later.

Makes a person wonder, what doors are here in front of me that I should be stepping through? Look around… God may be tapping you to step forward.

One of the girls on the other side of the bathroom wrote a quick summary of our last night on her blog.  If you’re interested, check it out.

Peace to you. The friends here send their greetings. Greet the friends there by name (3 John 1:14b).