Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 2

To continue from yesterday, on finding time to write in our busy, busy lives… well, I find that really everyone is pretty busy—I don’t meet many who say they are bored—and the best way I’ve found to make time is twofold:

1. Scheduling

Every other week, I choose a day that is typically slower with grading, and put “write” on my to-do list. It isn’t the only thing on my list, not by far (I will not show you my list—it is overcrowded and it makes me look crazy)—but having it on my list reminds me that when I do have some alone time in the evening, that I must dedicate the first thirty minutes of it to writing.

Sometimes I run over that thirty minutes, writing poetry in a mad-dash, sometimes I just read poetry and take notes. Either way, I find this fairly productive, and it’s much easier to accomplish then doing a for-real “artist date”, where I must leave the house and everything. I consider this the “work-out video” equivalent of writing time—maybe not quite as awesome as a five-mile run (equivalent to the writing residency?) but a workout nonetheless.

2. Gap Times

If you really pay attention to it, most of you, no matter how busy, will find that you have tiny three and five minute gaps in your day where you could possibly fit writing in, if only to jo down an idea, image, phrase.

Some of the best gap times for me are while the girls are eating breakfast, absorbed in playing with each other but also not hitting or fighting with each other (three minute segments, here and there), while I’m cooking dinner, and while I’m driving to work (just kidding on the last one, ha). I try to keep a notebook and pen handy at all times—I’ve been doing that since my first creative writing class, and it’s a habit I plan on keeping my entire life.

Also, pay attention to where you are wasting time. I rarely watch TV or spend time on the internet, aside from work, so that frees up a lot of time for me. I also don’t fold clothes very efficiently, iron EVER, pre-rinse the dishes as well as my husband does, or make my own bread from scratch—I’m ok with that.

Figure out what you are OK with cutting from or cutting back on in your schedule—you may have time for writing that you didn’t realize you had, if you make writing more of a priority.

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So that’s my secret, how I make time for writing. Using those methods, I typically write two to three poems a month, though my “goal”, if I have one at all, is only 1 poem every two months. I write less and have less time for it, but I use my writing time much more efficiently—when I sit down to write, I WRITE!

I hope that some of these tips will give you ideas so that you can do the same!

31  Days

What are your time limitations? What are some activities you could cut back on to make room for writing?

Making Time To Write (As a Mom), Part 1

The laundry turns over and over again, in the heat of the dryer, buttons clicking together in the tumbling. Outside, crickets—no heavy hum of cicada, now that fall is here. The children are finally sleeping peacefully in their beds, my husband is in the middle of his late-shift job, and I enjoy the quiet of the last couple hours before I sleep.

downloadExcept the “quiet” of those hours doesn’t mean that they are necessarily restful hours—there’s always grading to catch up on, and dishes, and preparing for meals tomorrow, work tomorrow, odds and ends of housecleaning I didn’t get to during the day.

Even when the girls are asleep and I have time to myself, it is difficult to use that time for writing. Men have their own challenges with finding time to write, I’m sure, and I can’t speak to those, but what I can tell you is that it is difficult to make time for writing, even if it is your passion, when you are a mom.

My family’s needs are more pressing—there’s keeping house, cooking, grocery shopping, and making time for fun, then add a full-time job on top of that and where does writing fit in? Is it that important?

I say yes. Not only as a spiritual practice, but, if you are made to be a writer, like me, then it’s something you need to be doing, it’s part of your DNA, your make-up, making and creating like our Maker, our Creator.

I realize though too that there are some seasons of life where it is easier to put more time into your art than others, and the years where Bryan and I are growing our family are likely Not going to be the years that I am most productive in my writing. At first this idea made me feel like a failure. If I was a man, I would be free to write like I was meant to. If I didn’t have a family, I’d be free to write like I was meant to.

But those are lies! Sure, I probably would have more time to write—but that is not the only thing God created me to do, and God takes as much pleasure in his creation creating at the snails-pace of a work-mostly-at-home poet-mom like me as he does in the super-charged career-poet guy who can wake up writing and go to sleep writing.

So, making time to write—while I do think it is important and can be done in the busiest of schedules, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how much art you must “produce” in a year.

No need to beat yourself up as an artist for not writing as much as so-and-so or as you used to, or winning that prize, or snagging that publication. No need to doubt your calling if you don’t write everyday.

Especially when you are busy raising blue-eyed, lanky-limbed poems, wild and running free.

God gave us art just like he gave us his creation—to enjoy it, and, in enjoying it, to worship and enjoy Him.

31  Days

tomorrow, part 2!

Writing Prayers

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace;
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

- attributed to St. Francis

Perhaps the oldest, most practiced form of writing as worship is writing prayers.

For lent several years ago, I wrote my prayers down every day, for forty days. Rereading it, I was surprised that most of my prayers were giving thanks and asking for more—I rarely prayed for others. Learning that about my prayers helped me to be more purposeful in my prayer life, and more globally focused rather than under-my-own-roof focused.

31  Days

Five Minute Free-Write: Write down a prayer for today—perhaps use this first prayer to start a notebook of prayers. See how what you pray for and how your prayers are answered change overtime.

Writing Exercise: Retelling the Story

Choose a story from the Bible—some suggestions: the story of Rahab, of Ruth, of Esther, Abraham and Isaac and the sacrifice, Jonah and the whale, the battle of Jericho, the plagues of Egypt, the feeding of the five thousand.

Reread the story several times, noting key elements of the story. Ask yourself who are the main characters? What is the conflict? Who is the antagonist, the protagonist? How does this story fit into the overarching narrative of the bible?download

Brainstorm a few different possibilities for modernizing the story—for example, placing the battle of Jericho story during the U.S. Civil War or in modern day Iraq or in the navy during WWII.

 

Once you settle on a setting for the story, start writing your short story! Try to incorporate as many details as possible from the original, while modernizing them. Keep in mind how the story shows the character of God and points to Jesus, and try to have your version do the same.

 

 

31  Days

What story are you updating? Feel free to post your stories in the comments below!

 

 

Modernizing a Biblical Story

Always, the day or two before the first short story is due, I’ll have a panicked email—Mrs. Emerson, I do not know what to write about! The advice I always give them: choose a story from the Bible and modernize it. It’s surefire—never fails. And often it is the very best story the student writes all semester.

Why modernize a biblical story? Just like persona helps us understand a character better by trying on their emotions and their experiences, modernizing a biblical story forces us to study what is at the heart of the story. To rewrite it, after all, you need to know what it is about!

Hollywood does this all the time with classic literature. O Brother Where Art Thou = the Odyssey. 10 Things I Hate About You = The Taming of the Shrew. Clueless = Jane Austen’s Emma. They take a storyline that is solid—can’t go wrong with Austen!—and put it in a time period that more viewers can relate to.

Francine Rivers does this in the book Redeeming Love. She take the story of Hosea and sets it in the wild west—it’s a best seller.

Sometimes looking at a story that you are familiar with—Cain and Abel in Genesis, for example—and setting it in the language, setting, and culture of today, can deepen your understanding of what is going on in the story.

31  Days

Five Minute Free-Write: List five stories from the bible, and write a two to three sentence summary of each—you are looking for the heart of the story. Brainstorm ways you could modernize each of these.


 

The Marriage of Text and Tune

Today is going to be a little different.  After a brief “how to worship God with our writing” exercise (song lyrics), I will be mainly exploring a way to take that writing a step further (setting it to pre-existing music).

In the last three posts, I introduced three different ideas to explore for possible song lyrics.  Today, I challenge you to implement one of these and write a song, but first it would be a good idea to brush up on meter.

For those of you who have never written lyrics before (and especially for those of you who don’t know anything about music theory), I would suggest sticking to an 8.6.8.6. iambic (common meter), 8.8.8.8. iambic (long meter), or 6.6.6.6. iambic (short meter).

Once you are satisfied with your lyrics, choose a tune from a hymnal you have lying around for the tune.  You don’t have a hymnal?  Go ask your pastor or music minister, chances are you will walk away with 3 or 4 different hymnals from the boxes and boxes of them your church has in storage.

In the back of the hymnal are several indexes listed the hymns by author, title, tune title, and tune meter (plus or minus one or two other criteria depending on the hymnal).  When you finish your lyrics, start looking through the tune meter index to find all of the tunes listed with the meter you chose.  Try singing your song to a few familiar and a few unfamiliar tunes (if you can’t read music, type in the hymn name into www.nethymnal.org to listen to a midi version).

It is very important to find a tune that matches the lyrics well.  You have a specific feel in mind when writing the lyrics, so you should find a tune that best gets that feel across.  One example I like use a lot is Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.  This link takes you to see the lyrics and hear my favorite tune for it: EBENEZER.  In 1991, however, the Baptist hymnal decided to change the tune from EBENEZER to HARRIS.  In 2008, the Baptist hymnal kept the HARRIS tune.

In my opinion, switching from EBENEZER to HARRIS was a huge travesty.  First of all, the lyrics to the song are filled with water imagery, and the rhythm of the tune EBENEZER feels like waves crashing on the shore.  The HARRIS tune, however, feels like a pub song.  It seems to me that the editors of the 1991 Baptist hymnal wanted to shy away from tunes in minor keys, so this song was given a tune that made it feel more upbeat and “happy”.  What it loses, though, with this is change is a proper marriage of tune and text.

When you are selecting your tune, do not think about which tune makes you feel happiest.  Think about which tune carries the same message that your lyrics carry.  Only then will a song truly work to speak the message it was meant to speak.

31  Days

Connecting Multiple Passages

While taking a single passage of Scripture and meditating on it (as we do when Christianizing the Old Testament and paraphrasing) is an excellent spiritual discipline, we can really learn how the Bible connects as a single work when we seek out connecting multiple passages together.

It has been said that the best way to begin interpreting Scripture is to take a look other passages of Scripture.  This can be seen most commonly by Christ’s fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies (a great place to start studying these is in the first few chapters of Matthew) and in Paul’s letters to the various first century churches.

One of the fundamental Christian beliefs is that all Scripture is divinely inspired and without error; that God wrote the entire work through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit by the hands of His chosen instruments.  If, then, the whole cannon has one author, it is only logical to believe that the best person to ask any questions about a particular passage would be that same author.

downloadWhen we seek to study the Word, then, we must look for these connections.  In my first post on defining worship, I used Romans 12:1 and John 4:23 to reiterate Deuteronomy 6:5.  This is but one example of how all Scripture fits together.  The more we study and the more content of Scripture we know, the easier we can make these connections.

This practice is one of my favorite inspirations for songwriting.  One of these song, Into The Water (actually written by Renee and me) takes the story of Peter getting his feet washed by Christ from John 13 and compares it to the walking on water from Matthew 14.  The connection we ran with was the fact that Peter’s feet got wet in both passages.

While this may seem too simple a connection to work with, we feel that it really brings out the main message of the John passage: “The maker of the water, the one who walks on the waves made himself into a servant and rescued me, a simple fisherman”.

 Peter’s objection to Christ washing his feet becomes more justified to us when we remember all that Peter had seen Christ do.  Christ, who had mastery of the laws of physics, had “no right” to wash Peter’s feet, but that act of washing shows us such a strong picture of grace.

I personally find that the more connections I see like the one above, the more beautiful God’s grace appears to me.

31  Days

 

Five Minute Free-Write: what connections do you find in scripture that you may want to write about one day?