I worry a lot about time. And whether I’m wasting it. Whether what I’m doing is productive, whether it “counts” towards one of my many to-dos.
Because if it doesn’t, then what’s the point? I will have squandered this precious commodity. There is only so much sand in the hourglass. That laundry isn’t going to do itself.
This is one of the main reasons I tend to avoid writing. It feels like wasted time. I won’t finish whatever it is I’m working on in the amount of time I have, so what’s the point? Better to clean the toilet instead. Then I can cross something off my list.
When I tell people I’m a writer, I want to cringe. A voice inside me says, “You liar. You would rather clean the toilet than write any day!”
Writing feels like deciding to wander around in a maze. I go into it knowing, I probably won’t get to my destination in my allotted time; in fact there is a good chance that I will probably just get more lost.
I read two pieces of advice today from two very different sources, but both of them seemed to be speaking directly to me about how I spend my time.
The first was from a devotional on my Jesus Calling app. In case you’ve never heard of Jesus Calling, it’s a daily devotional based on selected Bible verses and written as though Jesus is talking to you in the first person. Here’s what I read today:
“Talk with me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communing with me. A successful day is one in which you have stayed in touch with me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day. Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask my spirit to guide you moment by moment. He will keep you close to me.”
Then I also read this piece of writing advice from Anne Lamott:
“The most important advice I would give my younger writer self is what I’d give my younger woman self: What other people think of you is none of your business. And I wish I had believed when I was a young writer that I had some time to find out who I was and that I was going to find a precious community of older colleagues who would help me. The American way is to do it yourself, figure it out yourself, stick to the decisions you make — and all of that was a lie. I was taught as a child ‘we don’t waste time; we don’t waste paper.’ If you stared off into space when I was eight, a grown-up said, ‘Don’t you have anything to do? Is your room clean?’ I’d teach my younger self to stare off into space more often. I would tell her to waste more paper. I would tell her she doesn’t need to stick to a decision; she can change her mind.”
Could it be that my to-do list is controlling me instead of me controlling it? I had never thought of it as an idol before. But maybe all this focus on executable tasks is keeping me from what is really important. Perhaps wandering around in the maze a little lost is a much better use of my time and not a waste at all. God is with me in that maze and will likely guide me exactly where I need to be if I am willing to hand over the reins to him. The more I enter the maze, the better I will be at letting God direct my steps.
When I’m not writing I don’t feel whole. When I’m not seeking God, I feel lost, rudderless. I can tackle all the to-dos in the world, but if I’m not “wasting time” writing and connecting with God, my life will still feel unfulfilled.
My prayer: God, I want to give up the need to control my life and my time. Please help me trust that you will be there with me when I sit down to write. Give me the courage to write even when it feels safer to clean the toilet. Give me the desire and the discipline to carve out time that has no defined purpose other than to connect with you. I will enter the maze. I trust that you will direct my steps. Amen.