One of the great benefits of membership in American Christian Fiction Writers is Novel Track. It’s just an e-mail loop that lets us serve as accountability partners to one another. But despite its simplicity, it’s had a profound effect on my productivity. Just knowing that someone else is paying attention to my goal and whether I achieve it increases my desire to do the work.
Some Novel Trackers write on Sundays; others don’t. I try not to, but I will if I need to to meet my monthly goal. And honestly, sometimes I write just because — well, I like to write. If it doesn’t feel like work, why should I rest from it?
I struggled with sabbath-keeping for several years. Not that I longed to go downtown to the office on Sundays. Far from it. I severely resented the weekends I was asked to work for pay. No, refraining from the day job was never a problem. I must admit though, that as a freelancer I am sometimes tempted to check e-mail or do a bit of client work, “just to get ahead for tomorrow.” But that is rarely a difficult urge to suppress.
The struggle was with how to define “work.”
Is work our “labor and trade,” as Martin Luther put it? Is it only the work we get paid for? I’m not currently getting paid to write novels, but I hope to someday. Does it count as work if I might get paid for it in the future?
Here’s a whole other wrinkle: yard work. My neighbor will be out in his yard every spare minute, including Sundays, working in his yard. He’s a gardener. It’s his hobby. It leaves him refreshed. He enjoys it.
I, by contrast, despise yard work. Grubby, backbreaking, boring. Hate. It. So if I have to do yard work on Sunday (OK, I admit this rarely happens) I feel like I’m working. But when my neighbor does yard work on Sunday, he’s recreating.
I once heard a Messianic Rabbi say that ceasing work meant stopping all creative activities. Talk about spoiling my Sunday. I hate yard work, but with the exception of reading and study, anything I might do for recreation on Sunday would qualify as creative, including my top two activities, writing and knitting.
I talked this over with a friend who’s a retired pastor, and she reminded me that the sabbath was made for us, not us for the sabbath.
But what really helped me get the whole sabbath-keeping thing in perspective was Theodore Robinson’s commentary The Epistle to the Hebrews.
Robinson, in analyzing Hebrews 4:9-10, says “rest” not only describes the temporary cessation of labor for purposes of refreshment, but that the writer of Hebrews “pictures a period of toil which, though it may be long, yet has a definite end.” Robinson concludes that the writer, “imbued with the Platonic doctrine of Ideas,” is holding the “Sabbath-rest for the people of God” as an ideal that we have yet to see. What I get from this is that our Earthly sabbaths are a shadow of “a reality which exists in heaven.”
If that’s the case, then I see no doctrinal difficulties over my neighbor doing his yard work or me doing my writing as our sabbath rest. Our present creative activities may be only a shadow of the heavenly reality, but I trust that our heavenly rest will include them. I also trust there are neither weeds nor rejections there.
What’s your view of creativity and keeping the sabbath? Do you use Sunday as writing time?