I started my post with this title a while ago…back in December, I think, when I was having difficulty finding time to write, despite a lovely new writing space. I think I was hoping that, if I wrote a blog post about it, a solution to getting back to writing would present itself. But then I ran out of time to write the post…and here I am, three months later, still pondering this topic.
While I was away on retreat in January, I was able to take some time to look at the priorities in my life. No matter that I revisit this every year, looking at my priorities–real and imagined–is always a challenge. (For those of you who are not as good at self-deception as I am, “real” priorities are the ones that I live by; “imagined” priorities are the ones that I think I’m putting at the top of the list, but don’t actually live by.) For me, priorities is a broad term, encompassing choices for growing spiritually, to how I arrange my schedule (within my community’s schedule), to what I give more time to, to what I dedicate the “best time” of my day to. Setting priorities on a daily and weekly basis is also a practical tool in deciding what to tackle first when what’s waiting for me in my office is a bit overwhelming.
Over the past several years, I’ve been attempting to merge my “real” and “imagined” priorities, so that I’d be spending the time I needed to on the important stuff, which for me includes both growing in holiness and communicating Christ’s love to others.
But lately, I got so caught up in getting things done and crossing stuff off my list, that I lost the contemplative “edge” to my day. November and December got really busy, so I kept pushing myself to get more done. And somewhere inside, I started to equate “getting more done” as more important than writing (which almost never gives the satisfaction of “getting something done”). Even worse, I was starting to equate “getting more done” with progress on my spiritual journey. Yup, I didn’t just trip over it, I fell headlong into the “needing to achieve” trap. And by the end of December, I was having trouble writing anything. And a bit of trouble praying, too.
Providentially, God arranged for my January retreat to help me see what I was doing. Because, like my ultimate priority of union with God, writing and prayer have nothing to do with accomplishing or getting results.
And that’s where part of the challenge lies for me as a believer and as a writer. When I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing anything tangible, it’s harder for me to accept the “waylessness” that is such a big part of both true prayer and deep writing. The call to be a spiritual mother–praying and writing for many people, most of whom I won’t see or hear back from–can sometimes make me feel a bit out of touch. Focusing just on accomplishing the busy tasks can fill the emptiness…but won’t fulfill this deeper calling. For those truly called to write, the call to contemplate and then express what we have received, this is our “deeper calling.”
Page After Page by Heather Sellers is a little book that encourages people to first discover if they are writers, and then, if they are, to commit to writing. As I was flipping through it the other day, this powerful quote struck me, first as writer, but then as a pray-er: “It’s in your writing that you are going to feed others.”
This is the kind of faith that we need as writers and artists. It’s in our commitment to our writing, to how God is working in our innermost being, that we will be able to offer something for others.
The Founder of the Pauline Family, Blessed Father James Alberione, used to talk about this all the time. But I’ve run out of time, so I’ll blog about what he said in an upcoming post.