Category: creativity

Chronicles of wasted time?

By , 18 May 2007 6:33 pm

I have had a couple of busy weeks in which it has been very hard to snatch time away from the real world for writing; teaching, marking, preaching, elders’ meeting, church weekend away, writing for Speculative Faith: all have eaten into my time. It’s not as though I’ve been doing other things: I think I have watched an hour of television and seen a single DVD in that time.

Now as an amateur writer it is tempting to lament this. It’s all too easy to say, if I could have had this time for writing I could have done so much more. I could have deepened the quality of my writing (and even my blogs).

This raises many issues. For instance, would I have used the time, if I had had it? In fact, in my experience even if you have an entire day free for writing, you don’t use it all. I find that even under pressure I just can’t keep going. Writing drains me and after a while I need to do something else. I think creative writing is particularly draining. Here, writers seem to conjure up the images and pictures and tales from nowhere. It is tempting to assume that because they bring them from nowhere they come at no cost. But all creativity costs. At the risk of sounding blasphemous I am reminded that even God took a break after six days (and no I’m not going to debate how long the days were).

Of course, I would like to have the writer’s life that we all dream of: a year made up of three months research, six months writing and three months holiday. If anyone wants to fund me on this I can provide bank account details. But in reality I am far from sure that the best way to write is to be at the computer or the notepad all day, every day. In fact, I am inclined to think that is actually a good discipline to be with people and away from writing for at least some of the time. If we are to write about people, we need to be with people. If you are isolated from the world I would suspect that your characters and plots tend to acquire an artificial nature. Like many other pursuits, writing needs to be earthed in reality. The danger of self-absorption is certainly true of academia, where many scientists devote themselves to the minutiae of rare academic details to such an extent that they become neither employable nor understandable.

This separation from reality is particularly dangerous in theology. I have, on one or two sad occasions, known keen Christians who have gone on to theological training and come out as real (or pseudo) intellectuals dedicated to proposing questions none of us are asking and then giving us answers that we do not understand.

When we read in Acts 18:3 that the apostle Paul paid his way as a missionary by making tents, commentators say that his motives were entirely financial: he was simply trying to spare the local church from having to fund him. I wonder if there might have been something else; I wonder if he realized that work kept him anchored in reality. If that is the case, then I feel I am in better company.

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