Today’s guest post is by Courtney Ellis, author of the recently released Happy Now: Let Playfulness Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit.
Courtney is one of Bob Hostetler’s clients and lives with her husband and three children in southern California. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook.
There’s no cliché for a cheerful writer. We all know the unhappy writer tropes—the moody misanthrope, the coffee-addicted insomniac, the introverted naval-gazer. Steinbeck sharpened dozens of pencils before he began his work each day. Emily Dickinson rarely left her home. Hemingway drank heavily. (This is not recommended.)
For the Christian writer there is the tension between the hard work of craft—writing isn’t just inspiration, after all, it is also sweat and toil and ruthless editing—and the scriptural call to “Rejoice always!” (Phil. 4:4). Can we truly do both?
My latest book explores God’s gift of playfulness as a vital source of fuel for our joy, connection, and creativity. It is nearly impossible to stay sad while engaging in play! The universal lessons contained in Happy Now: Let Playfulness Lift Your Load and Renew Your Spirit apply to the writerly life too.
First, we are invited to rest well. The importance of the call and command to practice Sabbath rest is as important for authors as it is for anyone. A frazzled, exhausted writer will struggle to find happiness. As we engage in “praying and playing,” as Eugene Peterson once put it, God renews us for the work ahead through the joy of the Sabbath. Write with all your heart, then rest, relax, recreate. Read widely and not only (or even mainly!) in your genre.
Secondly, we are given permission to do useless things. Perhaps you love jigsaw puzzles or baking French macarons or racing BMX bikes, but you rarely allow yourself the opportunity because there is work to do. What if I told you that engaging in a bit of play—just for the pure fun of it—could help refill your tank for the work ahead? Play provides a wonderful source of energy.
When all our writing is driven toward a goal—that hoped-for book deal, perhaps, or a blog we keep faithfully, or maybe a publication we pitch to faithfully year after year—we can begin to forget what first drew us into the world of words in the first place. Sometimes, write only for fun. Create a whimsical Christmas card, write and illustrate your own children’s book with a Sharpie and a handful of crayons, or give a few minutes to that passion project that no one else will ever see.
There are eight more writerly invitations into play contained within the pages of Happy Now. I could share them all with you here, but … where’s the fun in that?
There are those who think it’s sappy,
or that I am over-trying,
when they hear me say I’m happy
even though they see me dying.
“You can barely walk,” they cry,
“and gasp through your sentences;
is this really just a lie?
Why the prideful pretences?”
To that there is just one answer
that I wish that they might hear,
that even in the midst of cancer
there’s still choice ‘twixt joy and tear,
and even under tumours’ prod
I’ll dance, like David, for my God.
When the rays stream down like a rainbow display.
When the sky brightens up to welcome the day.
When the clouds get puffed up the way they do.
You know in your heart the sun shines with you.
When the rain cloud and storms have passed on their way.
When the thunder stops rolling and packs up for the day.
When the sparrow looks out and doves grace the sky.
You know in your heart the sun’s shining and why.
Because life is a blessing to see and to know.
Because life can be stormy, thundery, and slow.
Because life’s not always pleasant, a bit rough.
You know in your heart the sunshine brings love.
The Mighty Jehovah in his wisdom well knew
the difficulty we’d face just muddling through.
He knew when he spoke we’d not heed his Word.
He knew from the beginning we’d think Him absurd.
So just to remind us His silence is true.
He set in the sky to remind me and you.
His blessing of goodness the sunray you see.
To remind us below he loves you and me.
Manahdueah Scribe, this is so lovely!
Kristen Joy Wilks
This reminds me of my husband. He is constantly working as a camp director and the jobs just pile up, too many to finish. But when people show up and need to connect, he sets aside the busyness of his job and concentrates on the connecting with people part of his job through playing strategy board games or just going on a walk. Play is an important part of living and working well!
Thanks for the reminder to rest and enjoy life. I believe that combination makes us better writers.
Loved this article! Planning on prayerfully pursuing playfulness. Oh, but wait, why plan? Play is spontaneous is it not? Thank you, Courtney, for reminding us to balance work with a healthy dose of play.
Loved: “Create a whimsical Christmas card, write and illustrate your own children’s book with a Sharpie and a handful of crayons, or give a few minutes to that passion project that no one else will ever see.”