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Making space

It’s the last week of school for my youngest, thank the Lord.  I don’t have one more single week in me.  I feel like I’ve been on autopilot for the last couple of weeks as it is.

I wish I was one of those moms who had a slew of things planned to do over the summer.    But I’m not.  Not even close.  I’m really just looking forward to not having get up at the crack of dawn for a little while.

One thing I do hope to be doing more of this summer is writing.  I recently joined a group called Hope*Writers and I’m already feeling more inspired than I have in a long time.  The group is made up of writers in all stages of writerhood.  (Probably not a word, but you know what I’m saying.)  Some haven’t actually started writing anything, but know they are called to.  Some have blogs, some podcasts and some are published authors.  Some write fiction and some write non-fiction and some do both.  One thing they all have in common is the desire to put words together to tell a story and to encourage other writers to do the same.

One of the things somebody mentioned in the group was how important they felt reading was to a writer.  Not just that somebody else reads your work, although that’s important and kind of the point of being a writer, but also that you are reading the works of others.

I’ve been an avid reader pretty much all my life.  I remember taking car trips with my family and bringing a book with me to read.  I’d barf my head off if I tried that now, but it didn’t seem to bother me when I was younger.  As an adult, I’d almost always have a book with me and often more than one.  If you asked me what I was reading, I’d usually have three titles to offer you because it wasn’t unheard of for me to be reading more than one book at a time.  Seems crazy I know, but I’d just read a couple of chapters out of one and then get distracted by another and just go back and forth, usually with non-fiction.  Most of the time with fiction novels, I’d devour them in a couple of days because I couldn’t wait to see how the story ended.  

But in the last few years I haven’t really been reading as much, neither fiction or non-fiction.  Out of habit, I’d still carry a tote bag of books, my journal, and my Bible around in my car just in case the notion hit me, but honestly I haven’t really read that much.

What I have been doing is watching a freaking lot of Netflix.  And Hulu.  And Amazon Prime.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that at all, but for me I’m realizing that it made me creatively lazy.  Part of reading is using your imagination.  Picturing the characters in your mind and imaging the things the author describes.  Allowing yourself to determine how something makes you feel rather than going with the interpretation of the actor on the screen.  Reading activates a part of my brain that TV and movies just can’t access.

Now I’m not saying that movies and TV are bad.  No way, man.  I love me some Jane the Virgin and rom-com movies.  I’m just saying for myself, I’ve realized that for creativity’s sake, I need to make my brain work out how I see the characters sometimes.  I need to make my brain do a little thinking about how things look or smell or feel.  And I need to get up off my couch and leave my house, which I can do more easily with a book than I can with Netflix.

A friend told me about a couple of books last week that she thought I’d like, so I went to Barnes and Noble and picked them up and sat down with the first one.  I had that thing finished in a day and a half.  Granted it was a good book, but also I’d forgotten how much I love to read!  I’d forgotten how it felt to get caught up in the pages of a story like that and not be able to put it down.  As soon I finished that book, I immediately picked up the next one and devoured it as well.  (I’m open for suggestions for what to read next, by the way.)

So what’s my point here?  Well, it’s not that you shouldn’t watch TV.  It’s also not that you should go out right now and get yourself a book to read.  No, you do you, friend.

My point is…is there something in your life that brings you joy or makes your brain flow creative that you’ve stopped doing?  Something that you love dearly, but just allowed to fall out of your routine for some reason?

Is it because you think you don’t have time?  Because I thought the same thing.  I got to a place where I thought I didn’t have time to read.  But then I somehow going forward managed to find the time to watch Netflix.  I realized that I was making time for the things I wanted to make time for and if I’m honest, I had more free time than I wanted to admit to myself.

Reading takes effort.  Writing takes effort.  I was choosing not to make the effort.

Stop for a moment and think about the things that maybe you’ve told yourself that you don’t have time for.  Evaluate your days honestly and see if maybe there’s more space there than you think.  Or maybe there’s something that you’re doing that you need to say no to for a while and give yourself that space for one of those passions of yours.  It’ll be worth it, ya’ll.