I don't know if I've ever met a single person who would honestly say "Oh man, I love change!" As humans we're wired to want to stay in the place we're used to (whether that's in terms of the location we live in, our job, etc.), even if it isn't completely ideal, because - well, we're used to it! Sure, it isn't ideal, but if we change things might get worse, so we hang tight.
As writers, we can be the same way about our writing routines. I know I am. When life does its thing and throws changes into my routine or my list of responsibilities or my schedule, it becomes a massive struggle to adapt my writing habits and usually results in me going for weeks or even months without writing as I struggle to hang onto my old routine from the old situation.
And since life rarely stays the same for long, writing has felt like a constant upheaval for many years for me. It's so rare that I actually have the chance to conduct my habits the way I used to, the way I like to.
Back in July I had the privilege of attending the Realm Makers Conference in St. Louis, and while I was there I happened to bump into Allen Arnold, author of The Story of With, and was able to chat with him for a few minutes.
If you've never had the opportunity to do this, I highly recommend that you make an opportunity as soon as possible. Mr. Arnold is one of the most spiritually refreshing people I have ever talked to, and he has a way of just seeming to know exactly where you are in your creative journey, and how to help you get back onto the path if you've tripped into a ditch.
He reminded me that my writing routine today doesn't have to look like it did when I was a twenty-something single, getting up early and writing for hours before work every single day religiously, in order for me to still be productive. Yes, I now have a husband and a baby and we're in the process of buying a house and then we're going to be moving and then I'll have a farm to take care of and then we'll have more kids and then we'll be homeschooling...but I don't have to wait for all of that to go by before I can be productive and serious about my writing.
He reminded me that small steps still get you somewhere. That even if it's years before I can return to the habit of writing for an hour or more every day, it's still worth doing.
"And years from now, when you look back at this time," he said, "I think you're going to be really proud of what you've accomplished."
"Life is chaotic, and we think we have to wait for things to calm down before we're able to create," he continued. "But it's actually just the opposite. When we create, we turn chaos into order. So rather than waiting for the chaos to go away before we create, those chaotic moments are when we need to create the most, to bring order to that situation."
I'll spare you the details of how I burst out ugly crying and all that. Mr. Arnold must be used to that sort of reaction, because he appeared completely unbothered by it and was very gracious.
But since then, I've been focusing on making time to create not just "despite" the chaos of having a one-year-old and trying to buy and house and all of that...but because of it. I'm focusing on embracing the ever-changing journey of creativity and actively looking for ways to adapt, rather than stressing out because I can't find a way to do it the way I used to. When things get hectic and crazy and stressful, I've started looking for opportunities to create - whether it's through writing or crafting or baking - and the difference it makes almost feels worthy of the word "miraculous."
I'm learning that there is so much more joy to be found when we stop obsessing over comfortable campsites and start embracing the joy in the journey.
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