Have you ever thought about the difference between procrastination and creative thinking in your life? Procrastination is when you know you need to do something but keep coming up with excuses to put it off. I’m sure we’ve all been there! Some of us may even spend most of our time there, which surely can’t be too good in the practical day to day things of life.
However, if you are a creative person, then maybe at some point in your life you’ve been labelled or have labelled yourself as ‘lazy’. But is this actually the case?
Think of a project you’ve been working on for a long time, something that requires thought, focus, commitment, insight. Maybe you’re a painter, a sculptor, a musician / composer, working on a photography project, or like me, a writer. Has there been something that you have had as an on-going creative venture, that is very important to you, but that somehow you keep ‘stop-starting’ and yet with no intention of giving up?
Maybe you are overly critical of yourself about this. In a world that is fast-paced, filled with deadlines, and timelines, it can be difficult to see the positives in letting things rest for a while. Obviously, if you are working to external deadlines such as writing for a publisher / book deal, preparing for an exhibition with a set date, or working on a commissioned piece of art, then you may in fact be procrastinating if you are putting off what you know needs to be done.
But what if you are solely creating something with no other demands imposed other than it is something you feel you need to do and to express? I have been working on a novel for ten years, and it involves a lot of personal reflection, as well as progressing on my journey of processing and healing past experiences and present realities. I used to think, when I was younger, that I would have written my book by such and such an age. Is it failure that I haven’t? Or is it woven within the fabric of this ‘life’s work’ itself? Isn’t it the case that something coming from the deepest parts of me to find expression and life as I continue to learn and make sense of things needs and in fact deserves time?
When I am not working on my novel, which can be for months on end (I could look at this as because I am busy with other commitments, need longer focused periods of time, etc.) the creative process is still happening. It hasn’t stopped just because there is a pause in the writing, just as your creative process maybe continuing even when for a time you have put down your pen, pencil, paintbrush, composition notebook, camera, sculpting tools, musical instrument, or whatever it may be for you. During the ‘fallow’ periods of ‘not writing’ my novel, I still continue to write in other ways that require less focus and emotional and psychological investment which can actually be a relief from the difficulty and intensity of expressing in art personal pain and growth. My mind continues to process and ‘sift’ through experiences, gaining insight as I continue on my life path, and perhaps subconsciously working out ‘solutions’ to yet to be answered questions in my novel itself. I learn new things from my experiences, from people around me, from reading, and gain insight, inspiration and new ideas even when I am not working specifically on my creative project. And when I come back to it, I realise that I hadn’t actually ‘left’ it. Just as in music, those moments of silence, of pause, of reflection can be profound and imbued with power and meaning and emotion, so too can the times of rest in our creative journey.
Can you relate? Maybe if you are in a similar position and if it is the case that you are giving yourself a hard time over not investing time in something so important to you creatively, you could instead consider all of the many ways that the rest and silence is not in fact laziness or procrastination but a form of growth, insight, of learning, and exploring other people’s creativity, or reflecting upon and sifting through your own inner journey so that when you do once more give yourself to your creative work, things are more focused, have a greater depth, authenticity and sharpness to them.
It’s just a thought that I’ve come to realise gives me greater freedom from self-imposed expectations on my creative journey. What about you? Would love to hear your thoughts and insights into your own creative processes.
What is it about blogging – whether reading and following blogs, and / or writing and updating your own blog/s that keeps you coming back for more? It’s an interesting point to ponder, and one which I’d like to think about and explore in this post, and possibly subsequent posts. Now, I know some of you blog for monetary purposes, I’m personally a ‘fledgling’ blogger and it’s not something I do, it’s not where I am on my blogging journey, not yet at least, however for those off you who do, I’ve noticed a few things: 1. Your passion drives your blogging ventures as much as any financial impetus, and that’s what brings authenticity to your work. 2. Earning money is not your sole reason for blogging, there is clearly something more than that, whether that be self expression, sharing life lessons or displaying your creative talents, and this could be why you have readers coming back faithfully, sharing your journey.
With that being said, let’s erase any dividing line between bloggers who earn money from blogging and those of us who don’t. Having taken that away, we’re all just people on an ‘equal playing field’ so to speak, and it’s from here I’d like to explore some of the psychological benefits of blogging, irrespective of whether or not there is monetary gain.
Technology: Great Servant, but a Bad Master:
Author of ‘The Happiness Project’, Gretchen Rubin says that technology is a great servant but a bad master. I think this is a wonderful concept to ponder.
Often the discourse around technology nowadays includes the concerns that many people have about how the use and misuse or overuse of technology is negatively impacting relationships and individuals’ mental health. For example, children and young people are said to be so engaged in online words that they lack the ability to forge deep and meaningful relationships and friendships. We risk becoming less attentive to the people we are sharing our lives with because of an growing obsession to share pictures of our perhaps half-lived experiences online. We crave the instant gratification of ‘likes’ rather than quietly spending time to develop the deeper aspects of our characters that we ourselves can honestly like. We fall into the comparison trap whenever we see the amazing experiences of other people’s (perhaps filtered) lives and we feel a sense of frustration, overwhelm, dissatisfaction and psychological and emotional burnout that comes from information overload, negative input and lack of space and time (or failure to carve that out for ourselves) to process what we are taking in.
HOWEVER, these negative effects are not always the case. As Rubin says, bad master, good servant. So what of blogging? Why am I exploring the benefits of blogging when perhaps a lot of the discourse about our use of technology is tinged with negativity?
Can Blogging be Good for You?
I would say a resounding ‘YES’. I don’t say that it always is good, but that it definitely can be.
1. Everyone has a story to tell:
In all the rush and hurry of life, sometimes (or oftentimes) we can feel that our voices are being drowned out. Everyone has a story to tell, and everyone has the need to feel and be validated. However, we are not always given the time or space to tell our stories, to be listened to or heard. Yet, here as bloggers we have this little space carved out where we can do exactly that, and whether one person or a million people read our stories, we have a platform to share, to express ourselves, and the gift of being listened to.
Furthermore, we are able to give the same gift to others, when we take the time to listen to their stories, to hear what they have to say, to appreciate who they are as well as their work. The validation may not come in the way people expect on the more ‘instant’ platforms where for example we post a photograph and wait to see how many ‘likes’ we get. Sure, someone may ‘like’ a blog post, but they may not, and yet that doesn’t take away from the possibility that people are reading and appreciating what we and others do, whether or not they express that. The platform in itself is a gift in being able to tell our stories, with the possibility of being heard, because everyone in life has something worthwhile to share.
2. The luxury of time.
One of the psychological benefits of blogging that I find is that it is a slow and steady process. When I sit down to write my blog, I am not posting anything to be sent out instantaneously (not that there is anything wrong with that). I presume we are all quite similar in that respect, as bloggers. Even if your post is a picture and a snippet of commentary, you are still putting more time and thought into it than simply sharing or forwarding something that someone else has said.
When I write, I need to pause to think, to allow myself to explore what it is that is simmering under the surface of my conscious thought and to form those ideas into words, sentences, images. It means that as we do so, we put more of ourselves into what we are doing, and I believe that honest self expression and the time that we give ourselves to do that has real psychological benefits just as much as journaling might have for some people. The tangle of unexpressed thoughts within us can find expression, form and sense as we take the time to share them.
In a world where so much is driven by materialism, consumerism, trends, fashions, fads and influences, we can sometimes risk being ‘swamped’ or drowned out by other people’s opinions, ideas and ways of life. I find that blogging takes me away from that to a more settled, quieter, calmer space where I can be authentic, whether or not anyone else will see that. Having that space to express our authentic selves is a wonderful outlet with psychological and emotional benefits in a world that so often wants to press us into its mould.
4. You are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people…
Sometimes we can feel quite alone in this world. Even with people around us we might feel like a ‘misfit’ in terms of our age, stage of life, or experience. However, there are billions of people on this planet, and many who are fortunate and privileged enough to have access to technology. This opens up to us new vistas of opportunity and possibility – we realise that the world is far more interesting and diverse that what we have experienced first hand, and we are granted the exciting access of a glimpse into people’s lives from all across the world. We are also reminded that however diverse our experiences may be, there is something fundamentally familiar about the minds and lives of other people – something so distinct about being human that we all share. And even if the people in your daily life that you meet and talk with face to face don’t share what you are going through, there is bound to be someone out there in the blogging world who does, and who could even offer you hope that you can, for example, get through a difficult situation when you see that they have been through similar, or encouragement and inspiration for your pursuits and opportunities for learning and growth in areas of expertise. Blogging also provides us with the opportunity to help and encourage other people with what we ourselves have learned in life. It brings together people of different ages, nationalities and interests. You are not alone, we are not alone, and the world is full of interesting people, and blogging opens up the opportunity to learn so much more about that which surely is a good thing for the mind and the imagination.
5. All the Little Things…
Sometimes I find that blogging helps me to stay ‘on track’ with certain aspects of my life. Even if I go through a spell of being busy or not blogging regularly, I can still come back to it and record whatever I’m thinking, talk about any aspect of my life, discuss projects I’m working on, and even the little day to day things that we need to keep motivated on such as home keeping, having a good attitude at work, maintaining routines, health and nutrition and all of the other ‘little things’ that make up the fabric of life, as well as those more interesting experiences such as travel for example.
It’s nice to know that these little things are shared by other people, and blogging can benefit us psychologically as we use it as a space to remember that the little things matter, they’re not insignificant, and it can be fun and helpful emotionally and mentally to be able to look back on our year, our lives and journeys through our blog posts to see how we have grown, changed and how our ideas and interests have developed.
So what about you? What are the benefits you find of blogging? And how has blogging helped you to develop and grow as a person? Something to think about and thank you for your wonderful posts and insights into life as you see it 🙂 x
Lunchtime is a helpful divider within the day. Being creative and freely exploring our creativity is often, as contradictory as it may seem, benefited by having boundaries. Even if you don’t have an ‘itinerary’ as such for your personal retreat to begin with, you can develop flexible plans as you move through your days.
As to lunch, food and sustenance in general during a personal retreat it helps to do a bit of preparation beforehand, or to cook something you can eat over two or three meals, have something you can easily make, or buy some sandwiches from a shop and to keep your fridge stocked with what you will need. It’s helpful to minimise the time spent having to run errands because we necessarily will be compelled to engage and interact with the world in a way that may interrupt what we hope to experience on our retreat.
Not only that, but if you’re like me, when you get absorbed in a creative project you can ‘forget’ to eat, or if there’s nothing readily available you might just ‘power through’ and your creative work might actually suffer because you are low on energy, tired, ‘hangry’ or lack concentration. So keep things ready so that you can grab a bite and continue with your project uninterrupted.
It is nice though, not to rush through lunch, but to use it as a time to rest, relax, maybe look at other sources for inspiration (I was listening to some music, and looking up retreat videos on YouTube – I didn’t quite find what I was looking for in terms of the retreat videos, but it was good just to move into a state of mind where I didn’t have to concentrate so much).
Now that I’ve eaten, relaxed a bit, I find myself beginning to ponder my next steps. Yesterday I met my ‘writing goal’ of 3,500 words, and slightly exceeded it. This morning I was intentional to not set any writing goals, and focus more on slowing down and engaging more fully with myself and the process. I had some prayer time, and some quiet reflection.
Having had personal retreats before, I am aware that the final day, which in this case is tomorrow, requires a slight shift in gears. If you are on retreat somewhere away from home, then you will have to pack, tidy up and make your journey back home on the last day. If, like me, you are having your retreat in your own home by yourself, then you may find that you have a bit (or a lot!) of tidying up to do, and preparing for the day ahead if you happen to be going back to work, or ‘re-joining the world’ in some other way.
I recommend valuing your purpose for your retreat and allowing yourself not to focus on tidying up unless you naturally keep everything neat and clean as you go along. It’s important to have a clean, neat retreat space, but if you’re like me you do have that, but you also have dishes piled up in the sink. Your focus is your time alone to reflect and work on your creative projects or self development, etc, and you will have to attend to the housework afterwards anyway, but don’t let it distract you or interrupt your creative flow, as quiet times can be hard to come by in our busy lives.
As to flexible planning, I’m aware that tomorrow I don’t want to use the whole day for tidying, so I want to set aside some time later today to do a bit of that. I also don’t want to do anything too ‘heavy’ in terms of writing, as what I am working on involves being engaged emotionally and mentally on a deep level. I like to keep the final stages of a personal retreat for something lighter, more care free, with times for prayer, thanksgiving, gratitude, reflecting on what I have learned and planning ways in which I can take forward some of these lessons into my day to day life where possible. As such, I have made a preliminary decision not to work on writing my novel tomorrow after morning time, so that I can ‘decompress’ and gently change gears.
Therefore, to avoid unfocused and unstructured time today, my plans are changing somewhat organically as day two progresses. I may not get time like this for a while, so I am reinstating my ‘goal setting’ with my novel writing this afternoon. This is what I love about a personal retreat in contrast with group activities which have their own unique positive aspects – when your time is your own you can work with the ebb and flow of your own creative processes, ongoing learning, and practical concerns, rather than having to adhere to a set timetable.
So to make the most of the remaining time, and to have a lighter more carefree day tomorrow, I am going to work creatively within some parameters this afternoon, being flexible once again with those plans.
It’s 2.50pm now, and the sun is shining, but I have chosen to stay inside and focus, and set aside novel writing time from 3pm to 6.30pm. In that time I can take my time, linger over words and ideas, look up sources for inspiration, take short breaks, but that time is a gift that doesn’t come often. Knowing that, I will savour it, and whether I write much or little that is fine either way.
At 7pm the coach will turn into a pumpkin! 🙂 Just kidding, by 7pm I will down tools with writing my novel for the rest of the retreat time, other than if I have anything I feel I want to do tomorrow morning, but that leaves me free the rest of the time to work on some less mentally and emotionally challenging projects and prepare for concluding the retreat time on a reflective and carefree note.
Well, my friends, the first few hours of this 3 day writing retreat have been a learning curve already. In my last update I wrote about finding balance when absorbing oneself in a creative project. However, I also need to qualify that with ensuring that in seeking balance we don’t forget our purpose, especially when our ‘set aside time’ is for a short duration, such as three days like mine.
I took a short break – I am now fed, watered, and a little rested. The sun is shining (which is not the most common occurrence where I live), the thought of sitting in the park or taking photos is appealing to me. I have dishes needing done, tidying up to do, exercise that I wanted to do, and my other creative projects to dip into.
I am more than half way towards meeting my goal of 3,500 words for today. And yet…
During my short ‘down time’ while looking up writing retreat vlogs on YouTube, I came across one in which a young woman and her writer friend were on a 4 day retreat, and she failed to meet her goals, partly because she took breaks and treated herself to a refreshing visit to the nearby beach when she had only made inroads towards meeting her writing goals. She regretted not focusing on accomplishing her daily goal before treating herself to a longer leisure time.
It got me to thinking just how important writing is to me, and how I don’t get focused time to do it often, and one of my goals / dreams since childhood has been to be a novelist, and now it is at least to write the one novel that has been birthed in my soul through some deep, painful and inspiring experiences that if I don’t write it, part of my ‘life purpose’ would have remained unfulfilled. By the grace of God I will accomplish the dream put upon my heart.
So I need to remind myself that while it is good, healthy and desirable to take breaks and find balance, the sun will shine another day, I will definitely spend time in the park again, the dishes will be washed and the house tidied and other little creative projects done, and I will find and make time to exercise and keep well.
But for now, I will choose to honour the gift of this time and the purpose I have chosen for this time and get back to writing, and enjoying doing what I love.
Which leads me to ask you, is there something, some dream, goal or project, however modest you might think it seems, that you would like to accomplish? And if so, are you giving it the time, care and attention you feel it deserves? Or are other distractions, priorities or tasks that can wait for another moment or another day keeping you from accomplishing your goal?
Well, that’s my ‘post-break’ update, and as it’s 1.33pm, I am going to get back to it.
Let’s stay on course, and accomplish our goals! 🙂
P.S. Apologies that these notes are fairly ‘rushed’ updates, I spend more time crafting the prose in my novel while here I can just share as things come to mind, and I am appreciative of that. Thanks for reading 🙂
It’s 10.05am of day 1 of my writing retreat, and so far the morning has been reasonably productive. I have written 355 words of my novel since 9.40am, and although this may not seem much I am pleased with it, and have felt content inhabiting the time to think and to focus. So far, cumulatively since last night I have written 1,485 words.
For me, progressing with writing my novel is not about word-count. However, that being said, I do realise the need to hold myself accountable and make sure that I use my time productively. Having taken 3 days unpaid leave from work is another additional reason for me to be disciplined with my time, and especially as focussed writing and creative time is a rare opportunity for me, other than blogging and business writing for work. I am finding that blogging in little ‘snippets’ about my retreat experience also helps me to stay focused, productive and accountable.
I have set myself a minimum ‘target’ of writing for at least 15 minutes at a stretch within one hour, and to do this at least 7 times each day for the three days. Personally, this really is helping me as when I sit down to write, I feel a lot more focused, I am not overwhelmed by the thought that I *have* to write for an hour or several hours, and therefore, I am finding the creative process enjoyable, satisfying and productive, which really should be a central component to creativity, rather than any pressures we or others impose upon ourselves. We need to linger in our creative space and explore the internal dynamics of what it is to be human, and somehow to translate that into what we create. These relatively small targets feel very manageable at the moment, and it also frees me up to stay within the creative space while affording myself the opportunity to do other things, the variety of which I feel will help maintain the creative ‘flow’ and interest.
As such, I know that I can intersperse writing my novel which is the focus of this creative time, with other ‘lighter’ creative projects that I have going on, including some adult colouring in and working on a photography project. Personally the variety keeps me from feeling ‘stifled’, stuck or overwhelmed.
I wonder if you have gained insights you can share about your creative process? What works for you? What doesn’t? Does this change with circumstances and opportunities, or have you established a set pattern that helps you with both your creativity and productivity?
For now, I will aim to write for another stretch of 15 minutes, and then take a break and do some exercise, so that my body and brain will be in ‘tip top’ condition and keeping those ‘creative juices’ flowing! 😉
Well, my friends, I have successfully traversed from Sunday night into the early hours of Monday morning. It is currently 12.07am, and as such my ‘official’ set aside retreat time has started.
I was able to settle in on Sunday night and do a bit of re-reading of the last section of my novel. This was followed by distraction and procrastination by way of looking up vlogs on YouTube from other people who have been on writing retreats. I haven’t actually ‘gone’ anywhere, I’m being cosy and reclusive in my own home, but I have taken time out specifically to write.
Procrastination was followed by cups of tea, a snack, cooking and eating pasta (with fried mushrooms, sweetcorn and red pesto) for dinner, and more re-reading. I finally got caught up with reading the last section of my book, and was able to settle down to write.
I managed to write 528 words, and reach a significant point of development with one of my characters, introduce a new character and establish an unexpected and new part of the plot.
It was a little emotional to read over some of what I had written, but these new developments see some positive changes, so I am excited to see where it all leads tomorrow (or, I should say ‘today’ as it is now technically the very early hours of Monday morning).
I am pretty tired now, so this may be a bit incoherent, and apologies if so! 🙂
I think I shall settle in, have a hot chocolate and wind down, and maybe watch something or do something creative before I go to sleep.
Lesson from this note are if you are going to have a creative retreat, make sure you have snacks, caffeine, inspiration and focus – and most of all enjoy doing and creating what you love.
When I was a little girl, I had a vast and vivid imagination. If it was a rainy day and I didn’t have anyone to play with, I would create stories in my mind and go on imaginary adventures. When I was in primary school I had a dream that when I grew up I would be an artist, a painter or a cartoonist…this gradually progressed to me wanting to be a writer (as well as all of the above 🙂 ), and I busied myself with creating short stories. When I was in primary school at around 8 or 9 years of age, my class was asked to write a short story. I was an avid reader as a child and drew inspiration from a book I was reading and a television programme that I watched. Inspired by these wonderful imaginary worlds, I created a story all of my own and enjoyed doing so. It turned out that my teacher enjoyed my story too, so much so that she complimented me on writing to the level of a first or second year high school student – which when you are 8 years old is a massive compliment because high school students are so far removed from our little childhood world that they seem almost like adults! For those who have different terms in your education system, the equivalent would be a student aged between 11 to 13 years old. My teacher gathered the class to sit in a semi circle on the floor around her as she sat on a chair. You can imagine the scene, a group of kids sitting cross legged looking up at their teacher, so glad that their maths time is over and they can enjoy being read to! This was the normal way we’d sit when the teacher would read to us as a class from some fiction book. Only this day, she chose to read my story to the class instead! I was a humble, quiet child, but I was so happy on the inside, and it is a pleasant childhood memory that I am glad to have.
As I moved schools at age 9 and went to a new primary school I found things difficult for a while and leaving all that was familiar to me behind I became a lot quieter having lost my close friendships and finding myself as the new person and having to start all over again. Being a visible minority also made it harder for me but eventually I found my fit and was respected amongst my peer group. I continued to enjoy reading and writing and although I was always in the top groups for other subjects such as maths, it was a lot harder work for me and I struggled and remember tears being shed over fractions and long division. I could get very good marks, but not without the struggle and tears and a bit of stress. English however, that was a dream to me. I enjoyed writing poetry, prose, short fiction as a child and all but the poetry has continued into adulthood.
With my move to secondary school aged 11 years old came another big step out of my comfort zone as I had to go to a school outside of the catchment area of my primary school because a family member was already there, and this meant leaving behind classmates once again. As you’ll know by now if you’re a regular (and much appreciated 🙂 ) visitor to my blog, this was a traumatic time for me, and I was bullied physically, verbally, mentally, socially and emotionally by my peers as well as being unfairly treated by a couple of teachers. This totally scrambled my mind and my emotions and has left me with a lot to work on well into adulthood, but by the grace of God, He Is bringing out things from it for His Glory, and my restoration and for the good of other people.
Writing became important to me on a much deeper level. I was alone, scarred, scared, terrified, shy and friendless and felt I had no one to turn to, other than my family, but even then I couldn’t articulate the enormity of what I was going through so I became quite withdrawn. I was inspired by reading Ann Frank’s diary ‘whom’ she named ‘Kitty’ and as a child in school I poured out my heart to my ‘only friend’ at the time, a notebook of my own ‘whom’ I also named as a friend to comfort myself that I had ‘someone’ to turn to. My short stories turned from imaginary worlds to exploring ideas of people like me who were bullied for their appearance or something ‘different’ or seemingly undesirable about them, how it felt and also touching upon mental health, depression and suicide, although I wouldn’t really know what to call it all at the time.
I devoured books. I shone in my English classes, although a quiet student, partly because of my nature and also because I was traumatised and ‘stuck’ and not as comfortable with myself, and often hating myself for being so ‘repulsive’ which actually wasn’t true but it was a result of the emotional and psychological scars from the cruel treatment I experienced. Yet my passion for literature, and to be a writer only grew. I read classics and I found myself imagining being like one of the female writers of times past, pouring out her soul onto paper as it were, because without doing so she couldn’t function, and literally for a while I felt I had to write to live. I excelled in writing and gained academic recognition in high school and went on to study English Literature in University for my undergraduate degree, along with Politics. I then went on to study a Masters course in Gender Studies, Human Rights and International Development and won the prize for the best written dissertation on my chosen subject of human trafficking. This came after a time when my dream to get into the postgraduate creative writing course in my university burst and my application was rejected due to the high quality of the many candidates who applied. Basically, they were telling me I wasn’t ‘good enough’. And that did discourage me for a while.
Yet, glancing back to my late teenage years, just before I embarked upon University I was at an age, 17 to be exact, when I like my peers was looking to the future and wondering what we’d become. I had worked hard in school to gain good grades and do well, and tried so hard to ‘get away’ from the emotional and psychological trauma and distress buried deep within….yet I was still so broken despite things looking positive outwardly to some extent. People told me later that in my final year of school they admired me, wanted to be me or were jealous of me – quelle surprise! If only they knew the troubled soul beneath the surface, surely they would change their mind. I was admired physically as well which was confusing to me after being taunted mercilessly for being repulsive in my earlier high school years, and having equated my self worth with their comments and feeling worthless. I had fought hard internally to get to where I was and yet the emotional pain was severe and I hid it well. It didn’t just go away but actually became more apparent later in adulthood, when it all came to the surface and ‘exploded’ in I guess a cathartic way in breaking down, the pain couldn’t stay stuffed within anymore, but I had to face it to begin to heal.
Aged 17 I was still passionate about literature and passionate about becoming a writer. It was also a form of escapism for me. When you’ve been made to feel like you are ‘nothing’ sometimes you turn to the imaginary world to dream of some kind of success or the person you’ll eventually become…only on the hard rugged road of real life it is seldom that easy unless you are particularly fortunate to tread a gentle and happy path. I was broken and I wanted to write…but not only did I want to write novels, I wanted to write ‘self help’ or ‘self care’ and spiritual books…because I wanted to help other people. I was *so* broken that even though I wanted to be able to help others, I could not reach out because I barely had the strength to get through my own emotional pain and that was so demoralising and frustrating for me….was it all for nothing? I wanted to help….even ‘just’ one person, because I was one person, and I needed help.
Someone did stop to help me, to tell me about the Lord Jesus, and I just couldn’t fathom why someone was being genuinely kind to me, and I didn’t feel worthy of kindness because I was so hurt. I was like a wounded little bird tied up in chains unable to escape the inner pain and mental fear – fear was something that everyone who came across me would notice – I was sweet, and kind and gentle and creative, pretty and loving, but I was consumed with fear and unable to break free, barely able to make eye contact or hold my head up.
More than someone stopping to tell me about Jesus, I came over time to know that Jesus Christ, The Good Shepherd of the sheep, as the parable says left the 99 sheep that were safe to come to look for the one that was lost – and that one was me. Perhaps today, you identify and see that it is you. He didn’t merely come to rescue me but to lay down His Life to Save, Forgive, Cleanse, Heal and Restore me, and give me hope in this life and an eternal life of pure love in His Kingdom to come. Glory. Self help and human advice can only go so far, the love and restoration that Jesus has for us is so very real, and it may take time as you cry out to God asking why did you allow me to feel such pain, but He suffered the most to set us free.
When I was saved, God led me to lay down my writing and my dreams of being a writer as an idol. This was not an easy process, and I didn’t accept it easily until finally I did. I surrendered, and I wasn’t able to write for a long while. And all the while He was changing me from the inside out. I had started writing a fantasy adventure novel maybe the year or a few months before I was saved. And so I had to give this up. But God in His great love and wisdom had better plans. I used to imagine becoming a well known and respected writer, and opening up a box of my very own published works and being able to dedicate them to family and friends and share them with people. Was this the illusion, the escape, the reclusive ‘fame’ even that I sought? Yet over time, God changed me to want to do everything for His Glory alone because of the greatness of His Sacrifice of Pure Love for me. We all are sinners in need of a Saviour, no matter how ‘good’ we think we are, and I thought in my foolishness that I was good, until God showed me my heart and convicted me so that my very ‘bones cried out’ for mercy. Only the righteous blood of Jesus Christ can cleanse us and forgive us for all sin, He had to endure the cross, and suffer the wrath of the Father so that we, the guilty, could go free….and be considered blameless and righteous ….and only because of Him. And after some time I gradually began to write again. There were people and friends in my life who were doing well with their writing and getting published, and I was struggling with life and a whole host of things going on that I was just trying to survive and so much felt utterly broken so I was pretty dejected and I guess in my heart my dreams were broken, and I didn’t feel like I mattered so much…it often feels like that when we are going through particularly intense hard times while those around us seem to be blossoming with the happiness of life and good circumstances and blessings. Yet God does not have favourites and that was a painful lesson for me to walk through as I felt that I wasn’t among them.
So, fast forward a few years, and now we have this term ‘Millenials’. According to my age group, I come within this category of being a ‘Millenial’ although I’m not sure how fond I am of terms that lump people together in such a way, as I am able to connect with people from across the generations, younger to older. As a millennial, in terms of the time frame I grew up in, I am towards the middle and older end of the spectrum as I can actually remember a time before mobile phones did anything more than call and text, and before the internet was much of a thing. The internet was around when I was in school but it was only just gaining in popularity and people were still getting to know what it was all about. I realise some of the younger readers won’t be able to imagine such a ‘land before time’ ….a time before the internet, would they even know what a ‘dial up modem’ is (anyone remember those?).
As such, when I dreamt of being a writer, my dreams were written with pen and ink on paper, were treasured in notebooks and drawers (yes, I did not have a laptop as a child or teenager…can you imagine? 🙂 ) and my inspiration was drawn from the Brontes, Jane Austen, ‘Jo’ from ‘Little Women’ who had to write in solitude and courage in the hope that one day their dream to share their heart and writings with another human being might actually come to fruition once they had found favour in the publishing world – which of course was not an easy journey.
Which brings me once more to the title of this blog post: “Do you notice your dreams coming true?”. As human beings, because we are on a journey through life, we are often so caught up in what happened before and thinking about what is to come that we seldom truly appreciate where we are right now, and the dreams we once had that are coming to fruition ….no matter how seemingly ‘small’ or ‘inconsequential’ they might seem to others. Someone might have the dream to walk again if that has been a challenge in their life…so while those around them might be dancing, running and leaping and may not even know how big a ‘step’ they have taken if they finally do accomplish their dream, it doesn’t make the fruition of their dream any less special, beautiful or significant.
Once upon a time, I dreamed of being able to write to help somebody….even one person…because one person matters. I could barely find a way through my own pain so I didn’t know how this would come to pass. I dreamed of someone, somewhere being able to read my words and be touched by them…and even though I’m a ‘Millennial’ I dreamed these dreams before the days of the internet and blogging were common place and as part of our daily lives as they are now.
In the past few days a friend of mine who has gone through a lot of difficult things in their life, who has accomplished much, and is yet working through the effects of their earlier life experiences, gave me the gift of sharing that they had read my blog and had been impacted by it, had appreciated my writing and had found help in their own life and would continue to read it. Now this is no small thing, for it really is the fulfilment of a dream I had many years ago…to write, and to help, even one person.
I have been working on a novel for a number of years, and write for the glory of God and not my own ambition anymore. For when you are known and loved and noticed by your Creator, you don’t strive after recognition or validation by people in the same way anymore. You are freer to live out your dreams for the right reasons. So I will keep writing, and keep praying that I do all that I do because He Is Great and merciful, and the Love of my life, and so Worthy of honour, and glory and praise. I will keep writing and leave the rest with Him, whether or not people see what I create, that is in His Hands….Hands that were pierced for me, that hold me through all of life and eternity, Hands that I can fully put my trust in.
What are your dreams? While you continue to plan for your future goals, is there anything you need to take the time to stop and think about and appreciate today? Max Ehrmann in his beautiful prose-poem, Desiderata, wisely advises to ‘enjoy your achievements as well as your plans’. Sometimes we come to things after a lot of struggle and difficulty ….it is worthwhile taking the time not to compare, but to appreciate and be thankful for the unfolding of our own life story, and what we have managed by grace to achieve. I’d love to hear what dreams you have noticed are coming to pass in your own life. xx