By Jody Collins
I hate schedules. I guess being retired is mostly to blame. After 20-plus years in private and public schools where my days were managed by someone else–often in 15-minute increments–I bristle at the manmade constraints of time on another person’s clock.
I prefer to live my days with a loosely woven loom of play and rest and work and Jesus woven throughout the mix.
However, I decided recently that if I wanted to be more productive in this creative calling of writing I would have to come up with a Daily Plan. In the past, I have complained to myself–and anyone who will listen–that “I just can’t seem to get my writing done.” There’s a semi-valid reason for this–I don’t have the alone time I’d like since my husband and I are each retired. We are home together nearly all the time.
My husband’s idea of retirement, though, is to keep himself busy with projects–often projects involving cordless drills, hammers, and saws. He’s a noisy guy. And while I love the end results–a new sliding door!–the racket is unnerving. How can anyone concentrate?
I suppose at the heart of it, I’m merely looking for an excuse for why I haven’t finished that poem or submitted that essay or posted to my blog.
God is wildly invested in creating through us, though, that we might be windows for others to see Him. He often answers the unspoken prayers of our hearts in subtle ways. I hadn’t really prayed about how I could be more creative, but God’s whispers came nonetheless. At the end of last year, I sensed Him gently prodding me to carve out space and time for the creative endeavors I wanted to pursue. Thus began a daily outline with a schedule–in pencil, of course–for coffee and quiet to begin the morning, followed by a break and then 2 whole hours of WORK. (Every time I see that word I can hear Maynard G. Krebs’ squeaky voice in my head saying –“Work!”)
Afternoons include a 2-hour window for errands, tasks and appointments, i.e., grocery shopping, housework and doctor visits. Then it’s a walk, followed by a 30-minute block of painting or quiet time, an intentional full stop in my day without a book, without my phone, just to listen. I sit with a mug of tea outside on the patio (under cover from the rain) and focus my eyes and ears. This is creative, too, as God uncovers His work in my heart and I hear His voice in new ways.
If I decide to make it a painting day, I’ll look for some flora or fauna during my walk or in my front yard. When I return home, I spend time at my work table, after I move the laptop out of the way, and do a small study of that particular plant in various watercolors. Not because I know what I’m doing, all artist-like, but because I know that creativity, especially with a tactile medium like clay or paint or fabric, often begins with play.
For this spontaneous gal who has relied on sporadic bursts of inspiration throughout the years to write a poem or essay or blog entry, scheduling time to be creative seems far too mechanical. Where’s the freedom in that? I’d rather just go with the flow.
The ironic truth is, creativity actually grows within constraints. Boundaries are good and, in fact, bring a kind of freedom, giving us form to fill our days. An empty square on a calendar or the lines we draw around our days can provide the space for, “here is when I expect to __________,” then we stand back and get to work (or play).
God is, after all, the Creator and our work with Him is collaboration–co-laboring–in the process so we may give Him the glory in what we do.
In the year ahead I’m going to continue yielding my paintbrush and my pen (and eraser!) to God to see how He fills my days. And while I still bristle at the idea of having to be more disciplined, I know my decisions to be productive in the time I allow for it will yield a body of creative work, whether in paint or on paper, even if I’m the only one who ever sees it.
Jody Collins is a writer, speaker and retreat facilitator whose print and online work is featured or forthcoming in Refine Journal, iola magazine, (in)courage, The High Calling, SheLoves Magazine, and BarrenMag. She and her husband call the Seattle area home where she enjoys gardening, reading, writing and spending time with her grandchildren. Jody’s been penning words since Smith-Corona typewriters graced the desks of her middle school, but nowadays you can find her at www.jodyleecollins.com and on Twitter @jodyo70 and Instagram @jodyo52.