Developing Daily Disciplines

I realized the other day that I have not written a new poem in two months! That’s a long way to go between poems – drafts at least – it takes me a while to complete a poem. I’ve spent a lot of time revising old stuff, partly for my spring class and partly in getting ready for my thesis semester of my MFA.

Anyway, my point is that I’ve slacked off in making writing a daily discipline. Many writers say that they write every day, even if they don’t feel like it, and even if no good writing comes from that day, it is important to develop the routine of writing. Now, I can make all the excuses in the world, like I’m a working mom of two and I took a lit class this spring on top of my poetry class, and I’m taking a summer lit class now, etc., etc. But when it comes down to it, a person who wants to be a writer needs to write. Every day. Just as an athlete needs to practice, or needs to condition even when his/her sport is not in season, I need to develop the daily discipline of writing.

This struggle is not unlike the struggle of developing the daily discipline of prayer. There are just some nights that the kids don’t want to do prayers, and there are some nights that I just don’t want to do prayers. When I was a kid/teen, I spent daily time reading the Bible and praying, and now, my life is busy and I’ve got a million things to get done, and other than the semi-regular family evening prayers and bedtime prayers and a quick “Keep Steven and the kids safe today” on the drive to work in the mornings, I really don’t pray much.

I think that there is a connection between these two things – writing and prayer. Madeleine L’Engle said that creating art is incarnational. . . “to paint a picture or to write a story or to compose a song is an incarnational activity. The artist is a servant who is willing to be a birthgiver. In a very real sense the artist (male or female) should be like Mary, who, when the angel told her she was to bear the Messiah, was obedient to the command.” (From the book Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art – by the way, she talks about Eastern Orthodoxy and icons in this book, too! She talks about the artist’s need for obedience to his/her craft as a way of both honoring God and listening to God.

This listening to God reminds me of another quote from Anthony Bloom’s Beginning to Pray. (Bloom is an Orthodox Archbishop). He says, “The day when God is absent, when He is silent – that is the beginning of prayer. Not when we have a lot to say, but when we say to God, ‘I can’t live without you, why are you so cruel, so silent?’ This knowledge that we must find or die – that makes us break through to the place where we are in the Presence.” While this may sound shocking at first, I think Bloom has a point. We have to start with silence, not only to calm our own thoughts, but also to prepare ourselves for listening and obedience. Bloom also talks a lot about time – not just finding the time to
pray, but he really address chronos and kairos – chronological, linear time, versus a more undefined time in which something meaningful happens. (Click the link for a better explanation.) By the way, Madeleine L’Engle deals with chronos and kairos too! (Random sidenote: I always wanted to name a son Kairos.) The time for prayer becomes kairos time, time outside of linear time, a moment in which God can work.

So, one of my personal goals it to develop the daily disciplines of writing and prayer. Baby steps, of course! Maybe 15-30 minutes per day of working on new writing, and maybe a short time of personal prayer after family evening prayers or in the mornings. I also plan to re-read the Walking on Water book as it addresses both writing and prayer!

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