I used to believe that quality creative writing required empty time and space for my ideas to percolate. Sermons are a primary example of this for me. I tend to get irritable the day before I want to have a draft done if it is not yet in hand, unable to fully focus on anything else until I feel like I’ve grasped the “angle.” But to discover this key to the entire message, I believed that I needed to be secluded either at the church, a coffee house, or at the very least, in a room by myself. Virginia Woolf’s famous image of “a room of one’s own” backs up this need for physical space away to be able to write.
Yet in the pandemic reality of working-from-home-while-parenting, I literally cannot get away physically, or set aside blocks of time to focus on one thing without other details impinging (children need help with schoolwork or to eat surprisingly frequently). I write from my laptop on the dining room table, with both kids nearby on Google Meets or asking me how to spell things or explain math assignments.
I turn Scriptures over in my mind while washing endless dishes or cooking. I click between e-mails and social media messages and the blank Word document on my screen, because I’m “supposed to” post daily to maintain an audience on the church’s or my author page. I know by the end of the day my nerves will be frayed and my attention even more scattered, and it certainly cannot wait until the weekend. I know I could be more disciplined, but I am trying to do too many things at once to determine that only one is the priority at any given time. So the creativity, the play of imagination, the Holy Spirit invitation, must be summoned in the midst of everything, not apart from it. It happens, because it has to.
How are other preachers-from-home creating the space necessary to do this well? I’d love to hear.
Now that I’ve completed an interim pastor assignment, I am transitioning back to putting “writer” higher on my priority list, and trying to convince myself: as with sermon crafting, so goes creative writing. Now I must let this practice – which “worked” for crafting sermons because it had to – infuse a writing practice without weekly impending deadlines. That’s a harder sell. Writing is a discipline that is nurtured well by incentives to get to it (like getting to have a chai from a coffeehouse!). Valuing the time and mental or spiritual space to nurture creativity is something I know is crucial for me to write. That’s why I’m putting my commitment in writing here. I’m searching for new incentives for myself. And I’m ruminating on the first chapter of the book 12 Tiny Things, about “Space.”
How can I open up the space and time, even in near-constant company, for creativity during my most alert hours? I am depending on:
- adjusting my mindset to one that says creativity IS possible even in the midst of company and distractions
- embracing the space I have for reflection while my hands are busy and
- persevering in a regular writing practice, even without the urgency of Sunday deadlines!
What is working for my fellow freelance writers to create imaginative space right now? Do tell.