I wrote my dissertation, Womanish Ways, in about a year. I had the funding to concentrate on it completely without working or teaching, and I had the motivation to get it one before I started my first position as a professor. As a graduate student, it was a privileged position to be in. But as a writer, I have been questioning lately if it was a good thing. Completing that work was probably the last time I had a consistent daily writing practice.
Dissertation writing was a weird and intense time. As the years go by, I have probably made it more romantic and idyllic than it was, but I remember with fondness the way my days revolved around the work. Wake up, eat, write all day and night, sleep in, wake up, eat, write, etc. I lived at home that year, so my responsibilities were few, and my mother was incredibly generous in creating a space for incredible focus. Much like having a baby, the painful parts of that writing labor do not dominate my memories of that time. In fact, if it wasn’t for the retellings of others (one of my mom’s friends, for example, would ask, “How’s the vampire doing?”), I probably would have convinced myself by now that it was all pink, fluffy unicorns dancing on rainbows.
Now that I’m writing again more regularly as well as writing in community, I have been working through a lot of ideas (and, frankly, baggage) around my writing and my relationship to it. I have gained increasing insight on the ways my dissertation writing still impacts my process and progress today. As a result of that season, I had created limiting expectations about the conditions I needed to write. It focused me on my ability to create significant output while obscuring the process and years of input that came before those months. It shaped my perception of audience, voice, value, and so much more.
As I am working through these things, it has been great to know that I’m not alone. Many of the writers I am connecting with now have expressed all sorts of wrestling with expectations, process, progress, and product. So my prayer today is for myself as well as all of us in the work of writing, creating, and surrendering all parts of every process we’re in to Him.
Creator God, You give good gifts. Writing (creating), with all its ups and downs, is one of Your good gifts to me, and I am grateful. Please make of my writing–this gift–what You will. Help me to see it with Your eyes each day. Encourage my heart to embrace the process, celebrate the progress, and dismiss that expectations that are premeditated disappointments in my work. Give me the strength to release patterns, conditions, habits, and goals of the past and cling to just You for what is to come–for what we will make today. I want You to take the lead here. Walk me into new words, new dreams, and new creations that honor You. You have already equipped me with what I need. Thank You, Lord. Cultivate in me a spirit of boldness to try new things as well as a spirit of discernment to hear Your voice and guidance for direction. I am so thankful for every opportunity You give to collaborate with You in the beauty of making.
Grow in me Your fruit in this creative process. Refresh my love of writing each morning and point me to joy in the insights and connections we make together. Allow me to enter my creative space daily with Your abiding peace and patience. Direct the kindness You’ve instilled in me to those You would call me to serve with this art. Cast each piece in goodness, and may You get the glory in my faithfulness. Restore in me a spirit of gentleness at the end of each night that I may be satisfied with (and not critical of) my progress for the day. In You, may I find the power to be focused (self-controlled) in stewarding Your great and amazing gift.
In Jesus’ Name,