Writing at Christmas

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Distraction is the name of the game at Christmas, with so much to do and see, people to connect with, and the inevitable trouble that crops up every time you try to shove so much into such a little space.
Yet the word that keeps coming to me this first year in Michigan is deliberate (link here). I’ve written about this word before–and how I finally liberated it from its negative connotations–and it’s stayed with me for months now. It’s shaped my responses to the many impulses and longings I feel throughout each day and week. It takes the place of another word in my former lexicon, a word I avoid because of its associations with too-earnest Evangelicalism: intentional. But this word fits just as well. Life requires being deliberate, even though your best-laid plans will often get destroyed (it happens to everybody–don’t deliberate on it).
So many things we need to be deliberate about like setting schedules and budgets and plans, as if we had some control. Usually, despite appearances, we do have some control, and more than we think. I have to remind myself just like intentionally changing my lexicon to better motivate myself, I can reframe and redefine the supposed “distractions” that pull me away from the protected still space needed for writing.

And here, I want to choose a new word for “distraction”: inspiration. What’s a distraction but a chance for God to work in an unexpected way? Not that I’m looking for distractions (except when I’m procrastinating!), but as with all of life, the input/output principle applies here (link here).

I love the clarity of this simple mental model.

There is potential for great good in allowing unexpected input, and being forced to engage with what isn’t planned can bring inspiration if you can remain open and undistracted by the supposed “distraction.” Input (inspiration) comes from any seemingly random source (and frequently does). And of course, being diligent not to get derailed from your larger purpose is a constant effort. But we don’t help ourselves by being inflexible or too restrictive about what influences we allow in.

Especially during this season of advent, waiting, and rest from work, we need to stay open to wonder and the unexpected.
Because here’s the marvelous point: output. Once you have a good amount of input, you must exercise restraint to retreat (I also don’t like the word discipline, though it fits here). I’ve got to set a time each morning to get away and write, even if it gets derailed and I have to come back at bedtime. Asserting this practice keeps me bound to the input I get from my selective reading in the morning, and helps me charge up by being silent, gathering my thoughts, and writing, even if only for 15 minutes. I might just capture bullet points to come back to some days, if it’s all I can get. But I reserve this time daily to keep in practice of gathering the manna, and tithing my first harvest of words each morning, or I know I will lose it.

Now, I haven’t, and won’t soon practice this flawlessly. But it’s a goal. And this is my grown-up Christmas wish for you this season too, and all through the New Year. With a moderate amount of effort, may you find the input and time to make some output this holiday season. And may it be a still point for reflection and renewal for you.

If you commit to trying this, can you let me know? I’m looking forward to knowing I’m not alone in the hope of what we’ll produce….
For the higher purpose. Merry Christmas, my friend.


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One thought on “Writing at Christmas”

  1. Thank you for this. When I read this last year, I didn’t know then that I would be experiencing it as part of my whole writing journey for 2020. I connect with this post more now that the year has passed.

    I love to write, but I always resisted the idea of making myself take the time every day to do it. So it’s shocking to me that I wrote nearly every day this year. It wasn’t until that 30 day thing (thanks to you!) that I gave in and tried it, to make writing not just a “when I feel like it” occurrence, but as a daily meeting with promise, with God.

    What I work on has been random. I ended up having no big project or particular focus, laying all those thoughts aside… thinking I had to get to the root of something, but what? I did not know. Still don’t. But that’s okay. I missed days here and there. Sometimes, yes, it was just bullet points or revising something.

    The page became a true friend in the isolation that 2020 brought, and I couldn’t think of better timing for this new habit. A light in a time of darkness.

    This new consistency….I believe it has helped me to see and hear God’s love and grace in a deeper way. There’s something about it that also makes me feel that I want to be more deliberate about pausing longer and listening better to others.

    I hope it continues. All for Him.

    Thank you for your patience with my many questions and comments over time! I hope you and your family have a very wonderful New Year in 2021. Hope is everywhere today. :-) And keep writing!

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