I step outside in the early morning hours, our eager dog by my side. We walk through grass glistening with dew past the barn and pasture where the horses are already grazing. There’s a bit of a chill to the air; the hay field ripples with the breeze. The sun’s first rays illuminate the mist hanging above the pond and as I make my way around it, frogs plop into the water from the reedy banks.
I haven’t yet had my coffee but nature demands that I open my eyes anyway. A rabbit scampers into a copse of trees ahead of the dog. Barn swallows swoop toward the field in graceful arcs. The sky stretches wide above the oak trees.
Summer on the Michigan farm is my chance to slow down, to pause my normal pace and give attention to the everyday ordinary beauty around me. It’s a chance to linger with the people I love. It’s my opportunity to refresh and restore my soul in ways that aren’t always available to me during the rest of the year in San Diego.
If I’m honest with myself, my writing life is what needs the most rest and renewal.
From big dreams to burn out
When I was in high school, I dreamed big dreams: a life of travel and adventure and doing big things for God. In college, I was ambitious, keeping my head down and studying for three teaching certificates.
“Where do you see yourself in five years?” the interviewing principal asked me.
“Teaching at the college level, helping to shape and lead the next generation of teachers,” I said without hesitation.
She smiled and said: “I have no doubt about that.”
Then the babies came and I started serving my church and writing, trading my dreams of teaching for publishing and speaking. In my mind’s eye, I was a recognizable household name, at least in Christian circles, gracing stages all over the country.
I worked and I built and I spread my message on all the virtual platforms. I published and I posted. I hustled and I hurried. I built up and burned out.
And then the long months of the pandemic showed me a different way:
The joy and contentment of my right-now life.
The good in the small.
The value of investing in the people directly around me.
I kept up with the dream of writing and speaking, kept up my pace of publishing, posting, promoting. But eventually my big shiny dreams started to lose their luster. Upon closer inspection, I did not want the life those dreams would give me. I already have the life I dream of. So why the striving?
Can I be faithful to my calling as a writer without the hustle and hurry? Without scaling and growing in all the ways the world says I should?
5 questions that lead to clarity
It’s as if I need to re-evaluate my writing life with a “State of the Union” address. Just like the president addresses Congress once a year with a report on the nation’s budget, economy, achievements, and agenda, I need to reflect and report on the “State of my Writing.”
Summer offers a natural pause for me to ponder the following questions:
- What goals have I achieved this year? What am I proud of?
- What parts of the writing journey bring me joy? What feels life-giving?
- What frustrates me about writing? What can I pause or even say no to?
- What is my ultimate goal for writing? Why do I do it? What am I hoping to achieve?
- How should I spend my writing time in the months ahead?
Maybe you, too, find yourself in need of reflection at this halfway point in the year. Maybe in your journey of faith, or motherhood, or homeschooling, or in whatever dream you’re pursuing, you could use some help in processing your next steps.
If you’re looking for a deeper understanding of yourself and clarity in the road ahead, I’d love to share these journal prompts with you! You can download them in the free for you library if you’re a subscriber to my twice a month newsletter, The Scoop. (If not, just enter your email address below and I’ll send you the password!)
My hope is that when I’ve thought deeply about these questions, I will have a clearer vision and renewed focus for my writing. Because I’m sure of one thing: I’m in this for the long haul, so I want to find ways to make my writing practice sustainable. To that end, I’ll be taking a break on the blog and on my social media channels for the month of July. I can’t wait to come back refreshed in August!