Sunday, September 14, 2008

Some Things Grow Clear

I think I might have mentioned that I've been having trouble concentrating and staying with the work. I keep thinking of all these things to do besides write. And before it's time to write, I often get this feeling of oppression and discouragement. The feeling that the work is no good. That it will never be good. That no one cares. That it's all a failure. Why am I bothering, etc, etc. Unfortunately I don't usually take the time to focus on the specific thoughts behind the feelings, I just feel the feelings. And so I don't want to do the work.

Then when I do manage to get myself into the office and start to get settled, little thoughts keep coming in to get me off track. I should check the email! I need a pen. Then I go to get the pen, and stuff lying around the house in a different room distracts me and the next thing you know I'm organizing my stamps or cleaning spots off the wall, or doing something with Quigley.

Last week I asked the Lord what was wrong with me. I got the idea then that maybe all these thoughts didn't originate with me. I've heard that concept before -- Pastor has mentioned it off and on -- I just didn't really think it applied to me. Usually he mentions it in conjunction with concentrating in Bible class or praying... But now I thought maybe it could apply to my writing as well and that it wasn't all me. So I asked Him. "Do these thoughts originate with me, Lord?"

That very night, Thursday, He answered me in Bible class. NO! They do not!

Here are a couple of quotes from the speaker (Evangelist Scott Grande, standing in for Pastor McLaughlin who's had a back injury) first on the subject of concentrating during Bible class:

"When my mind wanders when I'm in class... those thoughts are distractions from the kingdom of darkness. You must CAPTURE those thoughts; lock them up in a prison in your mind... during the time dedicated to exposure to Bible Doctrine, concentrate on the Word being taught and block out all distractions. This takes mental discipline."


Even as I was taking notes, applications were rushing into my mind: all those thoughts to check the email, the blogs, to go do X (not writing) are NOT from me. And not only are those thoughts from the Kingdom of Darkness, but I'm certain the negative ones are too -- the doubts, the "what's the use" thoughts, etc. The word tells us that Satan wants to wear down the saints. We are told not to grow weary, not to lose heart, not to get discouraged. It tells us Satan and his minions will try to do that very thing, get us entangled in the details of life, try to persuade us that what we are doing in God's plan for our lives has no worth or purpose. Those thoughts have to be recognized, captured and replaced with truth.

Evangelist Grande went on to detail potential distractions, of which several struck me as being particularly fertile ground for my enemies to plant seeds in: the desire for something easier to do than struggle with this book, the desire for attention and approval, the desire for social interaction, the hypersensitivity of caring what people think, feeling sorry for yourself when you don't have all you want... but then he hit the last one and it got me all excited: Interruptive technologies.

Cell phones that interrupt you whenever as you are trying to focus. Or...

"I'm at the computer, looking something up and the email's on. Ding! You've got mail. Ding! Southwest Airlines flight specials. Shut the stupid things off and give 100% concentration to the work."

I don't have a cell phone. And I do not have my email open. I have to open it and push send/receive to check it. Those aren't really very strong barriers though. When I sit down and the thought comes, "I wonder if so and so replied. It'll only take a moment to check," and I believe that, and don't recognize that thought for the big fat worm on the hook that it is, I'll be lured away for maybe a couple of hours.

So I've decided to set aside time (sacred="set apart") devoted to writing, and during that time I will devote 100% concentration to the writing and allow no distractions. I'm also trying to come up with some sort of opening routine for my writing time, a couple of steps to go through every time to give me something preplanned to do that I can do whether I feel like it or not: pray, stretch and read through yesterday's work.

I've only adhered to this little change for two days (Friday and Saturday) but so far the results have been amazing. It just feels different. To really know those thoughts are not little harmless, it won't take long thoughts, but deadly enemies. Vipers. The little foxes that trample the branches and thus ensure that they will not be producing any fruit.

Of course the proof is in the long term, so momentary enthusiasm means nothing. It has to be day by day...

Oh, but that was another thing he said, again referring to the study of Bible doctrine -- the daily study of it, which is commanded by the word, and essential to our spiritual growth. But we're not supposed to be living in the future. We're supposed to be living in today. So don't think in terms of "daily intake," think only in terms of today. Today I will make sure that I get in Bible Class, because it's the most important thing I will do.

So it is with writing. Today I will make sure I get in my two hours, (in addition to Bible class of course) because that's part of my calling, and I have to be taking it seriously.