I just finished reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert (which I don’t highly recommend, by the way). Usually, even if I end up thinking a book is a lemon, I find at least one gem I can take with me. And this was that gem:
For most of human history…the vast majority of people have made their art in stolen moments, using scraps of borrowed time… (p. 171)
I thought about those two phrases – “stolen moments” and “borrowed time” – because they describe exactly my life as a writer. I suppose what is most consoling about consulting other writers is discovering that most of us don’t really operate as creative professionals full-time. Instead, we create in between doctor’s appointments (as in my case) or after a day job or on the weekends.
Interestingly, people ask me all the time, “How do you do it all?” This is not an easy question to answer, because I find that most people are superbly busy without any time for leisure or hobbies. If we all look at our lives, we will likely notice that we do far more than we realize – yet somehow the life of an artist somehow seems set apart.
Life, for me, is a conglomerate of my primary vocation as a wife and mother, in addition to creating work that (I hope) glorifies God. My spiritual director once told me that my everyday life actually feeds my writing; without my crazy family life, I wouldn’t have any new content to work with!
Even so, I often daydream about having a quiet, designated time and space every day to allow my thoughts to be poured out onto the page. Taking those stolen moments and borrowed time can be harrowing at best, draining at worst. But it’s all I have right now – and may be all I ever have.
As one who longs for structure and thrives on regimen, living creatively can be challenging. It’s because inspiration and intuition do not often converge at convenient times. The Holy Spirit whispers to my heart with an idea at very inopportune moments – which become my stolen moments to scribble down the idea on a piece of scrap paper or maybe the margins of my journal.
Days or perhaps weeks later, I revisit that initial inspiration, and sometimes it is just gone forever. But there are other times the Holy Spirit revives the thought and stirs my heart with a particular conviction. Then, I write on borrowed time.
It’s stolen moments and borrowed time that add up to a book, or several articles, or this blog post. Much of my life is fragmented and interrupted, anyway, since I spend an inordinate amount of time wiping noses and changing diapers. But I try to remember that these days are fruitful, that they provide the “stuff” that makes my work authentic and honest.
And they, too, shall pass. With every season of life, there is both difficulty and delight. I am challenged as a mother, exhausted every day, but also renewed by the beauty and simplicity of my daughters and all that they teach me. This life humbles me. It keeps me grounded. And it is the only way I can create something beautiful that will last.