Several years ago I picked up a valuable tool at a writing conference. The familiar Elmer’s bottle sits on my desk; reading its modified label always makes me smile:
Many days, getting my bum into my desk chair is the most difficult part of writing. In my home office, I’m easily distracted by the phone, e-mail, and household chores. Then there’s Buddy, my yellow lab/German Shepherd, his tail tapping a rhythm like Morse code: W-A-L-K, W-A-L-K.
A dozen years ago I made a commitment to myself to schedule writing time on my calendar just as I’d always done for my jobs. It was one of the techniques I used to convince myself that, although writing doesn’t provide a paycheck, it is my work. I came to this decision after a time of discernment about what God calls me to. For nearly twenty-five years I was clear that I was called to nursing, and I still feel led to that work part-time. But now, I balance nursing with writing and am nearly halfway through a low-residency MFA in writing program.
Even with this clarity and commitment, I regularly dawdle when it comes time to turn on my laptop and open a blank document, or return to the memoir I’m drafting and revising. Even knowing the joy of discovery and the pleasure of crafting sentences and paragraphs into essays and chapters, I hesitate.
My stalling to get to my desk reminds me of when I postpone times of silent worship. Both writing and worship challenge my obsession with being productive, my desire to have something to show for my time. Evidence that I’m doing something. Results.
Hard as it can be, though, I keep putting my bum in my chair. At my writing desk. In my meditation rocking chair. Among Friends at Quaker worship. For when I do, I eventually get to that centered place where I open to the presence of the Divine. And that’s always “productive.”