What do you have the muscle memory of? What are you in the habit of doing? Where do your thoughts go when you’re not paying attention? Mine were spiraling into the best-meaning abyss of single-mindedness.
But motherhood was defined by interruption. I’m not talking about mindfulness. I’m talking about obsession. I’m talking about avoidance. I’m talking about holding the posture of “taking from” instead of “giving to” my people. I’m talking about a dangerous road to travel.
But hat if not-writing was just as essential as writing? I’m not even talking about the creative process. I’m talking about life. What if forcing and obsessing over becoming a working writer over-loaded my brain’s kitchen table with too many of the wrong things?
I’ve felt the load. Obeying all the talking heads and podcasts. Cultivating the single-mindedness of a working writer. Feeding my social media like a goldfish. Obsessing like a gold-star winner.
I couldn’t see any more counter space. My eyes blurred out the shapes of the people right in front of me. Everything I did became in relation to writing. Every situation I grabbed onto with the question: how can I milk this moment like a dairy cow: squeezing content into my steaming bucket? My husband and children started avoiding me. They didn’t like how I in turn neglected, then used them for my creative purposes. I found my life littered with too much of my own pursuits that it crowded out any space for them to sit.
They were mad.
I was shocked.
I had to stop.
Which meant: I had to clear the table.
Leaning hard forward, I stretched my arm over the kitchen table of my life and swept everything off with the back of my hand. It makes a terrible crash when all of my priorities clatter onto the tile. Nothing makes sense. For a brief moment, I don’t know who I am, or where I am going. I see nothing but rubble, and hear nothing but the noise of impact.
After the big sweep, I spend time sifting and carefully picking up the items I still want to keep: my marriage. My children. My home. Our one direction together as a family toward the Lord.
Writing is a part of my DNA, but done out of proportion to the rest of my priorities, it can be an insidious excuse to neglect my own life, and the people therein. Writing is built into me. It feels like a steaming pot pie out of the oven. Satisfying. Heartening. The work of my hands. But I had dangerously begun to worship it, instead of the Lord. The center was coming undone. The pile was swelling and teetering.
Take my advice: let the pendulum swing back.
Eat all the crow. Forgive yourself. Lean hard forward with your outstretched arm, and do the sweep and the spare rebuild. Only a few items are allowed back on the table. Writing can have its place, but it must play well with others. When you become wildly successful in your creative pursuit, you want your husband by your side.
Here’s the secret:
I want to be successful. I want to become a working writer: supporting myself with my craft. If I crowd out my priorities – my people and my foundation – then I will crowd out my support system. When fame and money comes, I will fall. My character will be too weak and lonely. I will not be able to hold all that is poured into my lap. I will break.
Wealth and success only magnifies whatever is within a man’s heart. If he is already a generous man, he will become more generous. If he is already prone to medicate his problems, he will become more of an addict. If he has built a strong foundation, he can raise a secure life for himself and his children.
Keep this long-game in mind.
Clear the table often.
Vote for your people with your time and attention.
Create space for Not-Writing, so that when you Do-Write, your words will shine with the wisdom learned off the page. When you become famous, your character will have the muscle memory of your true priorities.