I don’t know if this is typical of other writers, but when I first started writing full time, I became nearly obsessed with my work. I loved writing. I often explained that my job was living inside that dream world readers get lost in when they’re submerged in a good book. It was pure joy, and I could work long hours and not even realize how much time had passed.
I wanted to work seven days a week, too. For some reason — I can only think that God’s Spirit directed me — I decided that so much time devoted to my writing could end up burning me out. That was such a sad thought — that the thing I loved so much could become tedious, boring, laborious — I was willing to take precautions against such an eventuality, so I decided to take a “Sabbath” rest.
Even with the day off, my life was radically different. As a teacher, I’d lived by the calendar. Holidays were special days that changed my routine, even if I used them for work. Summer was a different season, weekends always involved doing something non-work related.
But as a writer, one day was much the same as the other. Saturdays could be writing days just as easily as Tuesdays. Summers were no longer unique from the rest of the year. Holidays that didn’t involve family get-togethers were no longer special, unless I made them so intentionally.
Yet why would I? I loved writing. It was like going on vacation every day of the week.
At some point, however, I woke up to a fact I’d ignored: by expending myself on my writing, I was no longer doing the things that fueled my thoughts in the first place. I wasn’t living life. I wasn’t even observing it any more.
The fact is, to write, even something as simple as these blog posts, a writer has to have input as surely as a fresh water lake must have both an outlet and a source for the water filling it. Without the outlet, the water becomes stagnant, without the source, the lake dries up.
In short, a writer needs to write, but he or she must also live life — read good books both fiction and non-fiction, magazines, online articles, even newspapers (yes, they still exist ;-) ); spend time doing a non-writing related hobby; hang out with non-writer friends from time to time; go somewhere; see something; schedule in exercise, chores, the mundane we’d just as soon pass off to someone else — which, it turns out, helps our thinking processes.
Interestingly, these writer principles also apply to Christians. We need our spiritual tank renewed in the same way that a writer needs his emotional and mental (and spiritual) tanks renewed. And of equal importance is the outlet. We need to serve others, not just soak up truth. Of course it’s easy to think serving our families is sufficient, even all-consuming, but I tend to think we benefit from a wider channel that reaches more people.
I also tend to think we benefit when our service includes spiritual service. Shoveling snow for our neighbor is a great way to show love, but perhaps we need to broach spiritual issues with them too. I am the worst when it comes to bringing up spiritual matters with someone I think is uninterested. I don’t want to be offensive or preachy, but I can’t help but wonder how many times I’ve passed up opportunities to talk with someone starved for the love of the Lord because I didn’t want them to be uncomfortable.
Here’s where listening to the Holy Spirit comes into play, I think.
I’m also reminded of Colossians 4:6 — “Let your speech always be with grace as though seasoned with salt so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” The always makes me think there’s a pattern we are to build into our speech so that the knowing how to respond flows from it naturally.
Like the water overflowing from a lake.