Moment-mosting in pursuit of our calling

Dec 28, 2022 | INSIGHTS

There is only one thing in life that can never be redeemed, and that is wasted time. Every day is a gift to treasure: a unique chance to love and cherish others and to use the time we have been given to create something beautiful.

Are you one of those people who instinctively incline to leaving till tomorrow things that could and perhaps should be done today? If so, it pays to remember that procrastination is the thief not only of time but of much else too! As Edward Young warned and urged in his poem ‘Night Thoughts,’

Be wise to-day; ’tis madness to defer;
Next day the fatal precedent will plead;
Thus on, till wisdom is push’d out of life.
Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene.

Because putting things off until the final moment greatly reduces our chances of doing things as well as we could – or even getting round to doing them at all – it can never be too soon to heed Paul’s command to ‘make the most of every opportunity (Col. 4:5). ‘Moment-mosting’ and ‘Overcoming our excruciating excuses’. Although I wrote both this and ‘Excruciating Excuses’ with would-be authors in mind, they are equally as relevant for all of us as we seek to be both more efficient and more God-led in the use of our time and energies.

This is about more than efficient productivity however: it is also about relationship. The man who led me to the Lord, David Watson, was so intent of fulfilling his God-given calling to be an evangelist to the nations that he had no hobbies at all – but as he neared his homecoming the Lord said powerfully to him one night following a serious asthma attack, “All your preaching, writing and other ministry are as nothing compared to your relationship with Me.”

Here is a phrase that struck me recently from Acts 10:23b:

 

Since most of us lead pressurized lives, we are deluding ourselves if we hope to be able to find enough time to write. We need to be more pro-active than that and make it. This is a vital distinction.

As so often, the big picture is best achieved by making the most of the small opportunities that come our way. Award winning writer Rachel Simon describes how a former French Chancellor, d’Aguesseau, used to spend a quarter of an hour each evening writing, while he waited for his wife, who was regularly late for dinner. How much more creative than calling her names because the soup was getting cold! When his book was complete it proved to be a best-seller!

We definitely feel better about ourselves and about life in general if we manage to complete the targets we set ourselves each day. One hour a day may not sound much, but most of us have to juggle competing commitments to the point where this slot needs to be factored in carefully. Two things will help us to achieve this:

  1. The ability to prioritise
  2. The flexibility to write (pray etc) wherever we are

If we are making pursuing some task or craft our priority, we will find that far more activities than we would ever have thought possible can be postponed or set aside. The world will not come to end. Just as families routinely where both parents go out to work find themselves obliged to make complicated child-care arrangements, so we must look upon this writing hour as a priority engagement.

We are writers, and we must give ourselves permission to escape for our hallowed hour away from the television, the kids and everything else. Politely but firmly we may sometimes have to insist on being ‘antisocial’ and turn down attractive-sounding invitations. We know from much experience that we will never complete our quiver-full so long as we remain set on leading a full social life, rushing after many things that, in reality, are peripheral to our real calling.

As surely as that is true with regard to our outside appointments, internally we waste time and energy when we start rehearsing endless ‘what if’ scenarios in our mind, trying to fathom out issues we may not actually be needing to face right now. Real pondering and reflection are valuable – but when our thoughts become circular and over hypothetical, it is time to leave them to one side and to get on with our real work instead.

As for trying to meet everyone else’s expectations for our lives, unless we set the boundaries carefully, we may be on a hiding to nothing and sentencing ourselves to being on an endless merry-go-round. It may be that we offer others may be very much what they need to hear – which in turn will increase our own store of wisdom and experience, thereby informing and enriching what we come to write in later. It may also, however, be that we are seeking, deep down, to take care of other people’s needs and feelings in order to boost our own sense of self-worth.

Psychologists call it ‘co-dependency’ when we transfer our attention away from ourselves and focus instead primarily on the needs of others; but when we turn to help others out of true love for them and at God’s call then, this is right and proper burden nearing. That is why it is so important to continually be seeking to sharpen and fine tune our discernment.

In pastoral and relational terms, our empathy with others is proof of a generous and sensitive spirit. In terms of pursuing our chosen craft, however, leaping to meet the needs of others may give us the excuse we were subconsciously looking for to avoid putting in the long hours of hard work that are needed to bring our projects to completion. It also runs the risk of making make us not just inefficient but prone even to burn out.

Moment-mosting is all about putting the stray opportunities of life to good use and turning wherever we happen to be a special place for writing, reflecting, writing and praying. Many are the times I have sat on benches in shopping malls and leisure centres revising texts, while family members complete their activities – just as I have scribbled countless ideas on trains, planes and buses. I have even spent long hours in freezing cars revising texts in the chill of the pre-dawn hours, afraid to turn the engine back on once the motion has finally rocked an all-too-wide awake baby back to sleep. For the record, I began this section as part of my publication ‘The Craft of Writing’ in a leisure centre in Shetland, waiting for my son to finish his kayak session. I revised it later on a ferry boat outside a fog-bound Aberdeen Harbour, waiting for the fog to clear sufficiently to enable us to proceed to our berth.

If we find our home environment too constrictive for much in the way of creative writing, why not ring the changes and see if you can make use of a friend’s house instead? It can be an excellent and a quieter alternative to a cafe or a public library, and may prove to be a real haven of peace during the working day. If we find other places conducive, it repays the effort involved to make the effort to go there as often as you can.

As we progress farther into the calling, the distractions become more sophisticated. Because writing is such a solitary calling, it is only natural that we should seek out like-minded people. Before we know where we are, however, we may find this leading us to share what we are planning to write in such detail that we never actually get round to writing it! Attending (or teaching) too many writing classes and conferences can likewise cause us to end up mistaking our first-hand acquaintance with the literary world with actually doing the nitty-gritty hard work of writing.

Pause and Ponder

Make a simple audit over a four-week period of how you spend your time. This will quickly show you whether or not you are on track for finding the sacred hours you need to write – seven for the amateur perhaps, but more like twenty-five or thirty for the professional.

If you are regularly failing to meet your quota, what activities are there that you can legitimately shelve or jettison? Is there anyone who can be recruited to help you with your non writing activities? Or perhaps to type in your revisions?

No matter what challenging and constricting circumstances we may have to contend with, there are always ways to make the most of the time. Take a look at how you plan your holidays, for example. Are you able to make them ‘combined affairs’ – necessary time-out to recharge minds, bodies and family life but also a priceless opportunity to see new sights and to record fresh thoughts and experiences?

The following thought is the nearest we can get to a magic shortcut for achieving a finished result. When leaving a piece of work, make a mental agreement with yourself to return to it again soon. Respect this engagement as a firm commitment, and treat it as a high priority, lest we leave a project so long on the back boiler that we lose heart and interest for it. Such a firm arrangement not only increases our output, it maintains the unity of thought and tone in the writing – and proves to ourselves if to no one else that we are committed to becoming a ‘real’ writer.

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

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