I’ve been listening to the Hamilton soundtrack (again) this week. The lines that have always stuck out to me are in the song Nonstop. Do you remember it?
How do you write like you’re running out of time? Write day and night like you’re running out of time? Every day you fight like you’re running out of time. How do you write like tomorrow won’t arrive? How do you write like you need it to survive? How do you write every second you’re alive?
I have written before like I needed it to survive, because I honestly do need writing to survive, at least to survive as my best self. Writing helps me process and get to the bottom of my feelings. Writing is also one of my ministries. It is through writing that I point people to Jesus and the work He is doing in and around me.
And my fiction? Well, I see God there, too. I see God in other people’s fiction all the time. I like to use fiction – mine and others, written and on the screen – to explore the relationships we have with each other and ourselves.
I started thinking today, after hearing Nonstop again, about what it would be like to write like I were running out of time, like tomorrow won’t arrive. I started a personal writing challenge last December, to write 500 words of something every day. Since December 1 I have written 115,297 words. Book reviews, emails, devotionals, prayers, and correspondences don’t count. I track the challenge with a spreadsheet. Because I am such a lists and organization person, spreadsheets are a super effective way to keep me accountable.
In the beginning I would beat myself up for missing a day. I wanted to make that word count goal every day and every month. I wanted to develop myself as a writer and to not keep or guard words or stories in my heart. I wanted to live free and light. But in an effort to live free and light, I was carrying around an immense pressure I had put on myself to meet those word count goals. It wasn’t fun or healthy, or even a discipline. It was a burden. I would internally beat myself up for not meeting my goals.
It didn’t take long for me to decide to let go. To write when I wanted to and keep track of it for fun, just to see. In the ninth months of the challenge I have met my monthly word goal (500 words-a-day worth of words, even if I didn’t write every day) three times, the last being the month of April. Last month I almost wrote 8,000 words, just a little over half of what I “should’ve.”
And that’s okay. I was feeling too much pressure to write every day I cut myself some slack. But now I want to put a little more pressure on, to not put pressure on myself, but to develop a habit, to practice discipline.
What would it look like for me to write like I were running out of time? What if I knew I had a limited time to write everything I ever wanted to write?
I’d write about Grayson and Finn. I’d write about Hark and Katerina. I’d write about Birdie and Fred, Charity and Gaither. I’d definitely write about Raymond. I’d write about fear in the Bible and how we are called to fearlessness and freedom and what that looks like. I’d write about how sin is so personal and so not-a-list and how as my relationship with God gets deeper and better things like “sin” get harder and harder to put into a box. I’d write about gratitude and all of the things I’m grateful for. I’d write about nature and animals and how healing and beautiful they are. I’d write about adoption and my desire to mother and my complete lack of desire to ever be pregnant.
I’d write about my parents and how I wish I would have skipped the dramatic, holier-than-thou attitude to get to this good parents-as-friends part that we get to live in now. I’d write about falling in love with friends and students and all the kinds of love that exist besides romantic love. I’d write about romantic love and how my faith is so deep and wide that I will get to live it one day. I’d write about the shift in thinking about time and aging that I’ve undergone. I’d write more about loving my body, so that you can be encouraged and inspired to love yours, too.
I’d write about the power of organization and list-making and problem solving and self-awareness. I’d write novels based on stories in the Old Testament! I’d write children’s books and poems and stacks of flash fiction. I’d write beautiful words about how much God means to me and how much healing and strengthening He has done in my heart and life. I’d write about the woman I was created to be and how I get to become her more and more every day.
I’d write about every movie I’ve ever seen and every book I’ve ever read and how they all changed me a bit. I’d write about music! Did you know that I love music? I’d write about how wonderful it is to be a part of a choir, to add your voice to make something beautiful. I’d write about money and managing it and not managing it and wasting it and spending it all on pizza.
I’d write about teaching! And learning. And discipline and homework and lesson plans and student-based instruction. I’d write about being bilingual and teaching bilingual (sometimes multilingual) kids and the beauty and complexity of language.
It’s not practical to write every second I’m alive. I will probably never be as prolific as Alexander Hamilton. But I want to write like I need it to survive. I want to write like I’m running out of time. At the very least, I want to write 500 words a day.