FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! We’re happy to bring you these links by some wonderful writers and thinkers and hope they’ll add beauty and encouragement to your day.

Love and blessings,

Lisa and Prasanta

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“Tripping Over Joy” via Daniel Ladinsky (a poem)

Considering the Trees on Ash Wednesday via Isaac S. Villegas (an essay to help us prepare for Ash Wednesday)

The Gate of Heaven Is Everywhere via Fred Bahnson (is this what’s missing from contemporary American Christianity?)

Art + Faith: A Theology of Making, with Makoto Fujimura via The Trinity Forum (a conversation on the theology of the act of creating)

Calvin: Refugee and Pilgrim via Randy Blacketer (learn about the theology of pilgrimage via the life and writings of John Calvin)

7 Letters from Famous Authors Sharing Fantastic Writing Advice via Nicole Bianchi (find inspiration from these authors)


The 7 Habits of Highly Inefficient Writers

I’m always hooked by articles about becoming a more efficient writer. Most of them don’t disappoint: they’re full of good practical tips – for example, stay focused, avoid negative self-talk, find your best time of day to work, and so on.

The other day, while thinking about this issue, I looked up the word “efficient” and read the following definition: maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort. I have to say that it made me shudder. It made me think I don’t want to be an efficient writer after all.

The fact is, I am not productive to the max in the sense of being prolific. I’m not able to churn out books and articles one after the other, no matter how often I write at my best time of day. It takes time for my ideas to steep, like tea leaves having a long soak to produce the richest flavor. Sometimes, I put a piece of writing aside for a while. I daydream a lot. I rest.

Here’s a confession: I just released a book, and I don’t have a new book proposal ready to go out. I don’t even have one in the works. I feel like I should, but I just don’t. I need a little time to lie fallow.

Photo by Keira Burton on Pexels.com

But in the end, I’m not too bothered by this because I believe that steeping and daydreaming and waiting are key parts of the writing process. I’m going to go a step further and say that I’m being productive when I engage in these activities. Simply put, they help me produce. My writing will not go where I want it to go without them.

A few years ago, author Leslie Leyland Fields wrote a post entitled “The Slow-Writing Revolt.” Her words resonate with my thoughts about efficiency (or the lack thereof). She encourages writers to “slow down. M a r i n a t e. Wait. Sometimes even—stop. Sometimes even—say No.” Leyland Fields calls it “marinating” while I call it “steeping,” but the idea is the same. It takes time for the good stuff to come.

I recently talked with Jonathan Rogers of The Habit podcast, and during our conversation he said something very interesting: Being too efficient can stifle creativity. Going straight for that one source you’ve pinpointed for your project means that you may miss other sources and ideas along the way. One of the best ways to aid new discoveries is wandering the stacks in a library. I did this many times during my graduate studies at the University of Chicago. On my way to a particular book, I took the time to let my eye wander over nearby book titles and discovered valuable information I wouldn’t have found any other way. It was time consuming but completely worth it.

Fellow writers, be encouraged that inefficiency is a virtue. Steeping and daydreaming and resting are legitimate parts of the writing process. Even if words aren’t flowing from the pen (or marching across the computer screen), things are likely happening behind the scenes, in your heart and mind.

A couple caveats:

  • Please note that I’m distinguishing steeping from procrastination. They are very different things. Don’t procrastinate—even though I do it all the time.
  • I understand that the need for a paycheck may complicate my arguments. Sometimes a writer may have to be efficient to put bread on the table. But I still think all writers should take time to daydream and wander through their mind palaces.

I summarized my points in this list – The 7 Habits of Highly Inefficient Writers

  1. Steep (your ideas) – let them develop a rich flavor
  2. Wait – it’s ok to put your project aside for a better time
  3. Daydream – get lost in your mind palace and dream up new ideas for your writing
  4. Rest – fill the well by taking time off when you need it
  5. Wander (the library stacks) – see what you discover by exploring with no particular goal in mind
  6. Say no – feel free to decline a writing project if it’s not the right one or the right time
  7. Live life – writing is intertwined with life, so don’t hesitate to enjoy your friends and loved ones, laugh, and be fully engaged in all the pleasures and responsibilities of daily life

Write on — inefficiently. Creatively. And well.


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we continue along in the first month of the new year, enjoy these posts and podcasts that will help set a good tone for living faithfully, creatively, and communally. Praying that 2021 will be a good year for all of us.

Love,

Lisa and Prasanta

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10 Fresh Ways to Read Your Bible in 2021 via Traci Rhoades (practical ideas for getting started or picking the Bible back up again)

What Are We Expecting in the New Year? via Ed Cyzewski (are we expecting to find God each day? or are we expecting the worst to happen?)

Homesick via Elizabeth Gatewood (finding home and rest in a community that is bound together in mutual concern)

Hospitable Hospitals and Space to Grieve What’s Lost via Lore Ferguson Wilbert (finding space to doubt, fear, and grieve all that has been lost)

And All Shall Be Well via Marjorie Maddox (a poem with no beginning or end)

Creating Courageously During Difficult Days via Shawn Smucker and Maile Silva (how should creative people engage with culture during these difficult days?)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! As we prepare for Thanksgiving (here in the U.S.), Prasanta and I recommend these posts on giving thanks, prayer, creativity, and grief. Wait a minute – grief? Yes, amid the thanks and hope, we also remember the many people we’ve lost in the pandemic. Grief, hope, and thanks go hand in hand this year.

We’ll be on break next week — see you again in two weeks.

Meanwhile, we’re thankful for each one of you! Be blessed this Thanksgiving.

Love, Prasanta and Lisa

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Thanksgiving; a Sonnet via Malcolm Guite (the English poet writes a sonnet for his American friends)

We Need Your Positive Thoughts and Prayers via April Yamasaki (a selection of thoughts and prayers we actually need)

A Nonet for Morning Prayer via James Laurence (a nonet poem for your morning)

On the Last Day of Class… via Hannah P. Keller (a prayer for students as they leave campus and head home)

How do we grieve the hundreds of thousands of people the COVID-19 pandemic has killed? via Reggie Williams (five writers weigh in on grief for Christian Century magazine)

Making Art in the Midst of Crisis: Pandemic and Tolkien’s “Leaf by Niggle” via Sarah Sanderson (remembering your identity as an artist/writer during chaotic and unproductive times)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! The links Prasanta Verma and I found this week help us explore our deepest self in relationship to God. What has God given us and who has God created us to be? We hope you enjoy digging into these. Remember, always, that you are the beloved of God.

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As a Child: God’s Call to Littleness via Phil Steer (a new podcast that unpacks what it means to “become like little children”)

We Have Today via Arlisia Potter (living in and thanking God for this day)

Cindy Bunch on Self-Kindness as Spiritual Practice via Casey Tygrett (being kind to ourselves as a way forward to loving others)

Through a Looking Glass Darkly: How (and how not) to be certain of yourself via Jessica Hooten Wilson (we are pilgrims and wayfarers who need one another as we find our way home)

Evensong via Peggy R. Ellsberg (a poem)

Boils & Possums & Kierkegaard, Oh My! via J. Lind (on creativity, writing, redemption, and and the difficult task of faith)


FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to Friday Favorites! Prasanta Verma and I hope you enjoy this week’s roundup, which includes wonderful words on creativity, kindness, poetry, saints, and spiritual practices. Enjoy and be blessed.

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Touching Sacred Earth: Expressive Art and Spiritual Practice with Christine Valters Paintner via EarthRising podcast (disciplines that cultivate a connection with creation and the Creator)

A little more kindness, a little less madness via Cara Meredith (could this kindness be the Christ?)

Seven Suggestions for Living a Creative Life via Dorothy Greco (creativity is part of our spiritual DNA . . . get inspired with these suggestions)

The Return via Marilyn R. Gardner (holy moments and the peace of belonging)

Beyond Juan Diego and Kateri: Meet other indigenous American saints via Meg Hunter-Kilmer (learn about lesser-known saints who embraced Christianity without rejecting the beauty of their own cultures)

Book Launch Interview with Luci Shaw via Writing for Your Life (hear the prolific poet read her poems and talk about writing, divine creativity, and advice for new writers)


False Self and Creativity: A Guest Post by Ed Cyzewski

I’m pleased to have Ed Cyzewski back at The Contemplative Writer with a guest post this week! Ed is an author and a contemplative who writes with great wisdom on topics such as prayer and the quieting of our soul. Today, this wisdom comes in the form of a post based on his recent book, Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration From Digital Distraction. Reconnect helps us learn to be present to God rather than to the constant call of technology. If you struggle with distraction or the need for validation, both of which can result from social media use, I really recommend Ed’s book.

Below, Ed talks about the effects of social media not only on our souls but also on our creativity.

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Leah is highly accomplished programmer who has worked on some of the most important features on one of the most widely used social media platforms in the world. Leah also pays someone to manage her social media accounts, especially her Facebook pages.

Why would prompt someone with her credentials to take such a drastic step? Is she naïve to the many benefits of social media? Is she a workaholic who can’t make time for social connections on line?

Actually, Leah is protecting herself from a social media feedback loop that is addicting and destructive. She knows that because she helped create it.

This “Leah” is Leah Pearlman, the co-creator of the red notification button on Facebook.  She had to hire someone to manage her accounts because the red notification button was too appealing and became linked to her self-esteem and daily moods (as of this writing the notifications are a red bubble on top of a bell on the Facebook home page). She went on to say:

When I need validation – I go to check Facebook… I’m feeling lonely, ‘Let me check my phone.’ I’m feeling insecure, ‘Let me check my phone.’… I noticed that I would post something that I used to post and the ‘like’ count would be way lower than it used to be.

Leah even used the word “addicted” in assessing herself: “Suddenly, I thought I’m actually also kind of addicted to the feedback.”[i] 

Even for those generally unworried about the response of peers, social media still prompts us to curate our identity, selecting the “best” parts of ourselves to share with others. This sets a perfect trap of sorts in terms of spirituality, as we have more than enough opportunities to present or live under the influence of a fabricated false self already.

This can be devastating both for our souls and for creativity:

Do we find our affirmation in the integrity of what we create or in the chance reactions of distracted people, many who barely know us, on social media?

Do we find our worth in the chance feedback of social media or in the loving presence of God that doesn’t rely on careful programming, alluring designs, and enhanced algorithms?

When I speak of a false self, I mean that kind of mask or identity we imagine for ourselves. Henrì Nouwen wrote in The Way of the Heart about the pressure in ministry to be relevant and competent, rather than embracing the brokenness we find in silence and solitude.[ii] Whether we try to project ourselves as successful, organized, creative, wise, or smart, the false self steals the security and affirmation we could receive from God. Instead, we face the pressure to maintain and even protect the false self rather than discovering who we are in God.

Social media provides an opportunity to make the false self more concrete—at least in the sense that it becomes something you and others can see. It literally can become an avatar that is projected, and as we become entangled with our online personas and false selves, it may become quite difficult to discern who we are in the security of God’s love.

As more likes and followers amass in approval of the false self, we may fear the loss of this steady stream of affirmation and may do what we can to ensure that it continues to grow. That isn’t to say that every social media user is at the mercy of a false self. Rather, social media offers a perfect opportunity to “incarnate” the false self and to build relationships around it.

Are we truly seeing people as they are? Or are we only seeing a projected image that is meant to appeal to us? As algorithms help us find people who are most like ourselves and as social media results in people migrating toward divided echo chambers, we are at risk of losing touch with the complexity of each other while also reducing people to simplistic labels based on what they reveal online about themselves, such as their religious or political preferences. 

While there are opportunities for connection, community, and encouragement via social media notifications, those notifications can also serve as a source of insecurity that drives us back to social media for another hit of affirmation. This ready-made, daily affirmation from friends, family, and even complete strangers can make it difficult, if not impossible, to give up a social media affirmation hub like Instagram or Twitter—although services like Facebook, YouTube, and SnapChat offer many similar quandaries for users seeking affirmation. You could get “amazing feedback” at any moment if you keep checking, keep posting, and then keep checking. This feedback loop runs counter to the vision for content offered by Thomas Merton:

In order to settle down in the quiet of our own being we must learn to be detached from the results of our own activity. We must withdraw ourselves, to some extent, from the effects that are beyond our control and be content with the good will and the work that are the quiet expression of our inner life. We must be content to live without watching ourselves live, to work without expecting any immediate reward, to love without an instantaneous satisfaction, and to exist without any special recognition.[iii]

The feedback on social media is quite immediate, especially if you compare it to the older publishing processes, such as a magazine article. We immediately know if our ideas, images, videos, or favorite articles resonate with our family, friends, and colleagues. The elation of that feedback can become addicting.

At the same time, we can also enjoy reading updates, viewing videos, and browsing photos from our friends, which go on in an endless supply. We have no end of sources for comparison and envy. The more we fill our days with the parade of images and videos on social media, the less likely we are to turn to God for our affirmation, identity, and security.

This post has been adapted from Reconnect: Spiritual Restoration from Digital Distraction by Ed Cyzewski (Herald Press, 2020).

Learn more here and get a free study guide.


[i] Hilary Andersson, “Social media apps are ‘deliberately’ addictive to users,” BBC, July 4, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-44640959.

[ii] Henrì Nouwen, The Way of the Heart: Connecting with God through Prayer, Wisdom, and Silence, 19-21.

[iii] Merton, No Man Is an Island, 127.

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome to the first of this fall’s Friday Favorites!

Each week, Prasanta Verma and I bring you a collection of posts, articles, and podcasts. They include poetry, personal essays, spiritual formation, and articles on the craft of writing. We hope they’ll give you nourishment for these times.

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Rest Is Resistance to a Do-It-All Culture via Grace P. Cho (we rest because we have limits and because we can trust God with all that needs to get done)

Intended for Joy via Emily Polis Gibson (“if all this is made for joy, then maybe so am I…”)

Marlena Graves: The Dangers of Money, Power, and Influence via Julia Walsh (on the Messy Jesus Business podcast, Marlena Graves discusses the message of her recent book)

Mary Oliver: Listening to the World via On Being (Krista Tippett talks with Oliver about replenishment, words, poetry, and the natural world)

Some Trees, Too via Andy Eaton (a poem)

Imagination, Creativity and Spirituality (They Go Together Well) via Carl McColman (cultivating the sacred imagination)

Validate Your Idea to Produce Your Best Project via Ann Kroeker (valuable writing advice for the beginning of your project)

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Welcome, friends, to Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up our favorite links related to prayer, spirituality, and writing. We hope it will enrich your life and help you to find the best the web has to offer.

Do you have someone else’s article or post that you’d like to see on Friday Favorites? Find me on Twitter (@LisaKDeam) to nominate your favorite articles, blog posts, etc. by Thursday noon each week.

Read, be encouraged, and be blessed.

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Kyrie Eleison: A Prayer for Heavy Times via Jessica Sanborn (when you have a hard time praying, try these ancient words)

Friendsgiving and Why It Matters To Me via Elizabeth Ríoѕ (the beautiful tradition of yearly friendship gatherings)

David K. Weber (in what ways does the ascetic practice of pilgrimage bless the pilgrim?)

My Advice to Struggling Artists: Seek First God’s Kingdom via Andrew Peterson (the key to creativity is worship and prayer)

Time, Space, and Materials via Austin Kleon (what artists and children need to do their work)

Is Multitasking Ruining Your Productivity? via Sarah Bolme (the myth of multitasking; or, do less and accomplish more)

 

FRIDAY FAVORITES FOR PRAYER AND WRITING

Thank you for joining us for Friday Favorites! Each week, Prasanta Verma and I round up our favorite links related to prayer, spirituality, and writing. We hope it will enrich your life and help you to find the best the web has to offer.

Read, enjoy, and be blessed.

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Writing–

For Those About to Write, I Salute You via John Blase (commit to becoming and staying a good writer–and a good human)

Why Letter-Writing Is Essential to the Good Life via Michael De Sapio (the benefits of reviving a “forgotten” art form)

31 Days of Writing Tips via Kate Motaung (check in daily for this series brought to you by Kate’s Five Minute Friday)

 

Spirituality–

Reflections via Curt Thompson, M.D. (what a great resource — three-minute reflections to help you re-focus and re-center, based on where you are spiritually right now)

Unnoticed in a “Notification” World via April Fiet (on wanting to be noticed, wanting to be invisible…and being seen by our Creator)

Practices to Awaken to Hope in the Chaos via Ashley Hales and Catherine McNceil (a conversation with author Catherine McNeil on the Finding Holy podcast)