We need an idea. Make that two. Or ten. Or twenty-two.
We need a pen and a journal, or a keyboard and a computer, or maybe all of the above. And maybe we need just one more notebook. Or two. Or ten. Or twenty-two.
We need a writing space and intentional time to mess around with incomplete thoughts—those spinning wheels in our brain—words that don’t quite work here or there or over yonder. We need this space to form messy, messy, messy first drafts, which we actually wish were the only draft, but never ever are.
We expect to work hard. We expect to be able to express our thoughts on pages that someone somewhere will read. We think. Write. Erase. Write. Delete. Write. Round and round and round.
We imagine we shall create a masterpiece with our words—a novel, nonfiction book, poetry chapbook, blog, article, or memoir. Our writing will transform our readers with ten thousand a-ha moments as they take in the wonder of our words.
We are overjoyed at the prospects just ahead on the writing road.
We are overeager to begin.
We overflow with such great dreams.
What we don’t expect, at least not early on, is to feel that our writing becomes like so many other endeavors in our life. We weren’t counting on other “overs” to show up.
But ask any writer. Any creative. Go on. Text them. Email them. Call them. Or, just go speak to the person you see each morning in the mirror.
Writing and other creative endeavors start out with glamor yet soon encounter gloom. We start out with good intentions. We delight in the words swirling from brain to page, and page to chapter, and chapter to book draft.
Our writing gift comes from God; we want to offer that gift to others.
We work longer.
We work harder.
We work faster.
We work endlessly.
Then, we are befuddled by the tiresome place we find ourselves.
What if rest threaded its way through our rush to make amazing words?
Our life as Christ-centered writers is entwined with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Through spiritual disciplines, we provide rhythms for spiritual growth. Here we make space for spiritual intimacy with God and spiritual maturity as God uses all the moments of our life as places of holy transformation that we might be Christ-formed people.
In all we do, we get to participate in God’s divine nature, finding our soul at rest in God alone.
Yet we are addicted to hurry, not rest.
Dallas Willard brilliantly pointed out that to grow wise and well with God, we must ruthlessly eliminate hurry. In other words, it takes slow to grow. No garden matures overnight. Neither do we.
In every endeavor of our lives, we can explore the spiritual disciplines and find their immense value in helping us become more and more like Christ. As we practice the disciplines, we grow in attentiveness to God and our interior landscape. Rooted well in our faith, we move deeper into the God-life.
Let’s consider the Way of Rest as a way of writing from the point of view of the writer.
Start from Rest
When we sit down to write, the first thing that usually happens is ten thousand other things come to mind. We sigh at the weight of what’s ahead on the page, in the day, or in the season ahead.
Starting from Rest allows our body to be at its best, our soul to be at peace, our emotions aware of their landscape, and our brain cleared for diving into the depths of our endeavor.
Rest is not just one thing. It’s not just sleep or emotional calm. It’s multifactorial, full of nuances and complexities. To start from Rest requires me to ponder my life patterns. To discover the best way to start from Rest is to take time to consider the multiple dimensions of my life. I ask:
How’s my exercise?
- Just because I know that my body needs regular physical activity doesn’t mean I adhere to that wisely. Lack of exercise can impact how I feel as I sit down to write. What’s keeping me from a rhythm of engaging with muscle-strengthening exercises or aerobic activity?
- Moving my body will help my creativity move forward.
- It’s easy to become sedentary when we stare at a computer screen day after day. What helps us get moving?
- It’s far too easy to mindlessly eat our way through our day, forgetting that what we eat impacts everything about our body, mind, spirit, and our writing life.
- Everybody’s body needs proper nutrition. I’m not here to talk about what particular kind of nutritional plan you follow, but I am here to say that every single body needs a wise intake of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. We need wholesome unprocessed foods: protein, veggies, fruit, healthy fats, whole grains.
- If my nutrition intake is off kilter, I’ll likely be off kilter in some area of my being.
How’s my fluid intake?
- “Water is to our body-brain connection what motor oil is to our cars. Without oil in a car, the engine is at risk of going up in flames. And so it is for us when we don’t have a well-watered body and brain,” says fitness professional Alisa Keeton in The Body Revelation.
- Experts might not agree on the exact amount of water to drink per day, but they all agree that water is essential for proper hydration.
- Hydration benefits our immune and digestive systems, skin, mood, energy, weight, joints, brain, heart, and kidneys.
How’s my nightly sleep?
- Sleep informs my body, mind, and spirit.
- Deprived of quality sleep, I suffer, even if I can manage to slug through the day after a poor night of rest. Appropriate sleep alleviates stress, offers kindness to my immune system, and allows my brain to concentrate, problem-solve, remember, and think with wise cognition.
How are my emotions?
- Naming my emotions grounds me in the present moment. Such grounding means I can grasp better what is impacting my body, mind, and spirit.
- Stirred up, stressed out, or unaware of my emotions, I cannot concentrate on creative endeavors. I am not at rest.
How’s my spiritual health?
- My life with God provides a deep reservoir of faith, hope, joy, and strength. Being connected with God provides a place of restful retreat when difficulties occur.
- What happens when I start from a place of gazing upon God and noticing how He is gazing upon me? St. Ignatius invites us to settle ourselves in this simple yet profound act.
- Take time to simply love God. “No other act will bring you a greater measure of God than loving him, actively engaging your heart and soul in loving him.” ― John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad
- What’s the depth of my connection with God? How is that impacting my ability to be rested?
How’s my brain space?
- What’s crowding my brain will curtail my creativity. What do I need to let go of to be present to the work at hand?
- Cal Newport in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World says, “Less mental clutter means more mental resources available for deep thinking.”
How are my relationships?
- Be aware of what’s circling round and round in the brain as I think of various relationships.
- Is there someone we are at odds with? In need of forgiving? In need of connecting with?
- Make a plan to address the truth within relationships so healing can occur and so we are free to focus well on resting and writing.
When I sit down to write, it’s helpful to run through a quick review of exercise, nutrition, fluid intake, nightly sleep, emotions, and spiritual health.
- Inhale and exhale a few deep breaths.
- Read your body for places of joy and places of stress.
- Notice where emotions feel at peace or tangled and challenging, where your soul feels stilled or restless.
- Stay aware of where your brain feels well engaged and where fogginess is descending.
- Start with prayer. Open your hands, heart, head, and words to God’s care. Ask for His guidance as you write from the gifting He has given you.
- Engage rest as a starting point for your writing session.
Taking time to preview our body, mind, emotions, and spirit may lead to a more engaged writing time.
Stay at Rest
Once we start our writing time, it’s easy to burn out with overdoing it. Stay at rest by taking breaks regularly. Try a variety of breaks such as these:
Take Body Breaks: MOVE
- Once or twice an hour, get up.
- Move your body.
- Inhale outside air.
- Power nap if that’s your thing.
- Let there be breaks for Beauty—Art, Music, Poetry, Sculpture—moments where you rest and rejuvenate in wonder. “…practice putting yourself in the path of oncoming beauty. In other words, make time to engage art that has stood the test of time, be that music, painting, sculpture or poetry to name but a few forms available to us.” – Curt Thompson, MD, “Beauty Will Save the World.”
- Let there be breaks for Nature. “Touch nature. I’m serious—every day, your soul needs to engage creation.” ― John Eldredge, Get Your Life Back: Everyday Practices for a World Gone Mad
Take Reading breaks: PONDER
- Read lyrics to a song.
- Read a Psalm, a prayer, a liturgy.
- Read a bit of wonder.
Take Boredom breaks: WAIT
- Be willing to be frustrated, at loose ends, a beginner.
- Be willing to wait for what’s needed, not adding busywork just to say you’ve been at work on your writing.
- “To simply wait and be bored has become a novel experience in modern life, but from the perspective of concentration training, it’s incredibly valuable.” Cal Newport, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
Take Truth Breaks: REMEMBER
- Speak affirmations over your identity as a writer.
- Recall your “why” for writing when you are muddled or befuddled.
Taking Writing Breaks: PAUSE
- Let your words be like bread rising:
- Knead: mix your ingredients.
- Rise: add a bit more.
- Rest: Pause from the words.
- Punch down: Rethink. Rearrange. Notice differently.
- Rise again: Behold what has become.
- Let your words be like bread rising:
Take Prayer Breaks: CONNECT
- Consecrate your writing to God throughout your writing time.
- Listen to God’s guidance on which way your words might go.
- Release your words to His care.
Stop before you are fried.
I’ve been known to overdo it. I get going and don’t want to stop. I write too long.
But the law of diminishing returns stays ever true. At some point, more isn’t more. More becomes less, in the worst way. Too much input on the page and in terms of time spent can become too little output for the overall words created. Stop before you reach that point by creating boundaries as a way of rest for your writing life.
Stop because you are the boss of your words.
- Your writing is not the boss of you. You are not on call 24/7.
- Call a hard stop and adhere to it. Turn off the computer.
- Create margins so there is spaciousness for you to engage in all of the wonder of life around you, not just your writing life.
Stop because your words need a break, too.
- Let your words lie fallow. Just as a field needs a cover crop to revitalize the soil, your words need a rest to rejuvenate. Don’t keep plowing the field, seeding the field, harvesting the crops. Take time to simply let them be.
Stop and praise God for what has been.
- Allow worship to well up as a place of rest as the writing time draws to a close. Release what’s been. Ask for the grace you need for your next writing session. Step into a time of rest so that your next writing session can begin from a place of rest.
Rest as a spiritual discipline offers our body, mind, and spirit a spaciousness that slows us down into an unhurried place with God.
From here, our writing, or any other endeavor, flourishes at a different pace than the world might expect. In the place of rest, we are nourished as we participate in the divine life of the Kingdom of God.
Are you finding it difficult to write from a place of rest?
As a writing coach, book coach, and editor, I would love to accompany you into a space of restful contemplation and creativity so your writing can be formed into the wonder you imagine. Let’s book a free call to discuss ways I might walk with you in your writing life.