Wednesday, February 01, 2006

JK: Balance and Sloth

A question from an online interview:

This is something I struggle with on an almost hourly basis. I am constantly evaluating: What is the best use of my time? Writing my novel or fixing soup for a shut-in? Researching a story that might never sell? Or working on the children's library at church? Editing a manuscript for the umpteenth time? Or volunteering to teach a class at church?

I've managed to complete three inspirationals in the past four years and have found that I love the process of writing and re-writing so much that once I sit down at the computer, the day dissolves at an alarming rate. I frequently get up from my computer feeling disoriented from being too deeply in my story, and with the feeling that I may have just wasted hours of my precious, limited, God-given time on this earth.

My children are happy and nearly grown, my husband loves the fact that I'm writing, I'm organized enough that my home nearly runs itself, our church is healthy and thriving with or without me. But giving myself permission to do this thing that I love so much, seems to be a daily spiritual struggle.

I think you've just said the defining issue here. To be so engaged, to forget time, to find yourself totally engaged in a story is the definition of passion (as far as I'm concerned). I'm convinced that we are never wasting what God has given us in time or effort if we are passionate about what we're doing whether raising children or teaching a class or writing a novel. There may have been a time when you set aside that passion to raise your kids, to tend to your church family in a more intensive way and now, here is God giving you the opportunity to use the talents he gave you and that little voice is saying, opps, feel guilty now for enjoying this amazing gift that inspires you and will inspire others when they read your novels. Yup, best you tell yourself that it's not worth the time. Oh, what a loss for you and the rest of us!

There's a song written by Marv Ross that could be sung by a woman on the Oregon Trail lets say. It says "I'm not afraid of dying nor the wolf at my door, I'm not afraid of dying all alone anymore. But when journeys are ended and there's fruit on the vine, I'm afraid I'll be missing what I left behind." Ok, to me, this says that the woman has gone through it all, been there, tended, lived with her greatest fears and right before her is fruit ripe for the picking and she's afraid to chose it for fear she'll be held hostage by what she didn't do, her past or what might have been or maybe even the future. I truly believe God calls us to live abundantly. Didn't Christ say that? Didn't he promise that? How can we experience that abundance if we deny the very passions of our hearts?

Have I ever dealt with this? Yes. I think because we're somehow programmed not to trust in the joy. I spoke at a writer's conference once and woman said she'd come that night because she hoped I'd have some answers to whether she should continue to write her novel when she'd learned that afternoon that her cancer was no longer in remission and she had just a few months to live. The group was most responsive to her and I found myself asking her what gave her joy? She said writing, that she felt alive then but wondered if she was depriving her family of the last days with her. I shared with her a belief I have that writing can be healing and that if she told her family how she felt they'd probably be pleased beyond measure to see her doing what she loved. We talked afterwards too but I'll never forget her question. If I had only a few months to live would I want to spend the time writing? Yes. For me it is almost like a prayer.
I've made my peace most of the time with the struggle to write or "do something really important" by trusting that God has called me to write late in my life (I didn't publish my first book until the day before I turned 45) and he's given me the resources to serve him in this way.

Obedience can also mean trusting that the good things in life come from Him and acting. The Hebrew word for command means "deed". I think we're commanded to use our gifts and talents and we do that by acting and seeing what God can do with the gifts he's given. Writer Kathleen Norris who is working on a book about sloth says it is not Christian laziness but rather “the perverse unwillingness to accept the possibility of joy.”

Your children are happy and nearly grown; your husband loves the idea of you writing; your house runs itself, your church is well-tended and it is time! You've yielded long enough to those negative voices! Write on! I hope you do for your sake and ours too. Jane

Jane Kirkpatrick,

Award-winning author of 11 novels and two non-fiction books. Look for A Clearing in the Wild, Book One of the Change and Cherish Series (WaterBrook Press/Random House) in April.


At 6:49 AM, Blogger Patty said...

I once read that a classical writer, maybe it was Fyodor Dostoevsky, when he came to God felt so guilty about writing that he never wrote another novel. He spent the rest of his days penning pamphlets, if I understand the story right. What a loss for the rest of us! It's like the person who feels called to the mission field and then sells all of their important gear not realizing they've already been equipped to serve with what they have. Surrender to God means surrendering the gift, not throwing it away. Thanks so much, Jane for reminding us that writing is also a calling.

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Cheryl Russell said...

Thanks for the insight on this struggle. It's one I think a lot of writers, myself included, grapple with. I'm going to print this out and refer to it often.

At 8:27 AM, Anonymous Vasthi said...

This post spoke to my heart.
Thank you.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

You hit the bullseye every time, Jane. You speak to our hearts and in such an eloquent way! Thanks so much.

At 7:16 PM, Blogger Sharon said...

Excellent post.I have struggled with this since God made it clear to me I am to pursue writing(only recently).How will I find the time?When?Where?How will this and that get done?But it is a calling and next to my devotional time with God and my family it is of utmost importance.Definitely a calling.This was such an encouragement.Thank you!
Sharon Goemaere


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