The summer view from my backyard...no copyright violations here!
The Bible tells us that Creation (capital-C intended) involved six days of labor—dividing the waters, flinging the sun and stars into orbit, seeding the dead earth, and stitching together a strange little hominid named the human. After that, God took a break. On the seventh day he rested (Genesis 2:2). Isn’t that the impression some of us get from Scripture, that God was tuckered out from all the making and finally decided to collapse on heaven’s sofa?
I remember a joke from my elementary school days: “Your mama’s so fat, it took God six days to make her, and on the seventh day he RESTED!” Leave aside for a moment your joy that public school kids would be so familiar with Genesis. Realize instead that people often assume creation—whether by God directly, or by him through us—involves exhaustion…depletion…weariness…
But if God is infinite (Psalm 145:3), then how could he get tired as we limited beings do?
Either his storehouse is not as endless as the Bible tells us (in which case God would be finite, and thus not God), or else God rested on the seventh day of creation for some reason other than catching his forty winks.
For the sake of metaphysical sanity, let’s assume the second possibility is true. So why would God rest if he’s not tired? This rest, I think, is a different kind. God’s rest means ceasing from labor, a rest in quiet, a season of allowing himself to be satisfied with his work before he goes on to shape it to his ultimate purpose.
Does that remind you writers of anything?
A close friend and teacher of mine advised students to stash their “finished” manuscripts in a drawer, not looking at them for a week if possible, then returning to them with eyes that would quickly search out ways to prune and polish. This drawer strategy entailed a period of letting the writing rest from you, in other words—a common bit of wisdom from English teachers.
In some ways, this mirrors God’s creative rest (except for the shoving-your-work-in-a-drawer part). Taking time off from your masterpiece-to-be doesn’t mean you’ve run out of energy or that you’ll never return to it. In fact, as with divine creation, rest is a vital stage in writing that no amount of furious corrections can replace.
Rest from this creative act involves two factors:
1. Satisfaction with the work thus far. This does not mean the work is perfect or that it has reached its full potential. It only means that you appreciate your writing as it is, where it is, and love the glimpses it gives you of where it’s headed. “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31, NIV).
2. Commitment to return and recreate the work. Rest from labor is pointless without promising that you’ll come back and finish what you began. Cut, revise, rearrange, add, subtract, multiply, and whatever the fourth operation is (math wasn’t my top subject in school).
Remember that every time you change your piece, you create a slightly different one. That fact relates to how God works with the universe. Creation continues until the book is bound and we realize that “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
Do any of you have trouble letting go of your work for a season? Might there be drawbacks to this strategy?
Anthony Otten has published stories in The Jabberwock Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Wind. He has been a finalist for the Hargrove Editors' Prize in Fiction. Still: The Journal has published an excerpt from his novel. He lives in Kentucky.
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