Making Room

Me with Tania Runyan, getting into the spirit of faith and writing

In the days preceding my attendance at the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference, I found myself needing to release a dozen or so expectations and obligations in order to make room. If you’ve been hanging around here long enough you know that I am a classic over-committer. What else can I say yes to? I ask, often before consulting with the list of tasks I’ve already said yes to.

But I live with a guy who gets this about me, who happens to be around a lot more than he was this time last year, and he sees me straining to pack every minute with productivity. “You know this isn’t sustainable, right?” he asks, and I grin like he just made the funniest joke.

“Yeah, yeah,” I assure him, but one of the talks I was to give this weekend was about making room for writing in your daily life, which requires a certain degree of unsustainability in order to fit everything in, right?

Yeah, yeah. Yes. Sure. I can do that. Let’s do it! Great idea, I can do that. Yes.

This week was a week of nope. The number of commitments I had made accumulated until there were no seconds to carry them, and so, nope.

I don’t love backing out of things I’ve said yes to. It’s always easier to say “no” at the start, which is why when Brandon gives me that one-eyebrow-raised look like I’m crazy for thinking about adding this or that to the calendar, I’d do well to pay attention more often, so I don’t have to back out or add a lengthy explanation or apology.

After the weekend conference, I felt zombie-ish Sunday. I caught up on some sleep and then caught up on some more sleep and then fell asleep during the World Series. I set aside any other tasks or duties or obligations and made room, for sleep (first), and then for our kids, and food, and friends, and family.

Making room for writing in your daily life requires both filling the minutes you have in the most productive ways and also opening those minutes to emptiness and rest. If you don’t occasionally Sabbath, then all becomes frantic. Weary. Strained. Yesterday was a true Sabbath, a necessary and urgent lead-in to a new week, filled with its own demands and obligations, some of which I will need to say no to and some of which I will need to say yes. I will do what I can to make room for whatever comes, and try my best to let go gracefully of those things I let spill over.

And drink more coffee and water.

What’s been going on

Besides speaking in Indiana this weekend, I also had the opportunity to read as part of the first National Nonfiction Simulcast, right from my own living room! I read four pieces from the Beautiful Things column I co-edit for River Teeth as well as two essays of my own–“Field Guide to Resisting Temptation” and “Human Resources Training.” You can watch the reading here (along with this unfortunate cover image of me scratching my head):

I’ve also continued to write for Off the Page. Here’s what you might have missed:

The Problem with “I once was lost but now I’m found”

I have written a lot about my marriage. A lot. My husband is the central character in a book-length memoir I’m trying, with the help of my agent, to get published. He has appeared in short essays and long essays, funny essays and terrifyingly close to cracking essays. The memoir ends after celebrating our tenth year of marriage, and we are now celebrating our thirteenth year together. Still married. Read more…

The First Day, the Fifty-Fifth Day, and the Turning of the Seasons

It’s the first day of kindergarten for my last child, and he and his older brother walk in front of us down our driveway with backpacks on, roughhousing like tiger cubs. Brandon and I snap the requisite first-day photos and wait. When the bus pulls up, Henry gets in line with his older brother and looks for the signal from the bus driver to get on the bus, marches forward, and climbs the stairs, not once looking back or jumping to a window to plaster his face against the glass and wave vigorously. No tears, no hugs good-bye.

It’s the first day of kindergarten for my last child, and he’s like, “No big deal.” Read more…

The Way of the Warrior: A Review of Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton

When Glennon Doyle Melton first announced the release of her memoir, Love Warrior, I was sickly jealous. I read her book description and cringed. This was my story, only what she wrestled with and what she overcame with her husband seemed ten times bigger than my narrative arc. I half-joked with friends that I had written an almost-compelling story. “In this story, Sarah Wells almost becomes an alcoholic…but then she doesn’t, and Sarah Wells almost gives in to temptation…but then she doesn’t, and Sarah Wells and her husband almost separate…but then they don’t. Watch Sarah Wells almost do a lot of things but then manage to keep it together in this unflinching story of love almost lost, longing almost resolved.” Read more…

Love Letter from a Millennial

In elementary school, science lessons taught me to pick up and package our plastics, our papers, our cans, and our glass, so I went out into the world on hot summer days with a trash bag to clean out the ditches. We lived in the dirt road and chip-and-seal part of the country, so it was no big deal to spend a few hours wandering down Stafford Road with a trash bag. I rinsed out the glass jars and, even though we had no roadside pickup, put them in a bin. I sang along with Garth Brooks and his gospel choir, “When the last child cries for a crust of bread / when the last man dies for just words that he said / when there’s shelter over the poorest head / we shall be free.” Read more…

Looking Back, here’s what was up this time last year, and the year before that, and the year before that…:

2015: You Should Read This, and This, and This

2014Breaking the Workaholic (this clearly isn’t a core issue for me)

2013: Bad People Go to Hell and Other Parental Panic Moments

2012: Flavor Enhancement

2011: Creativity in Worship

2o1o: Twelve Apples and a Blog

2009: That Crazy Thang Called “Plans”

2008: Revision of Hoarding Any Memory

Published by Sarah M. Wells

Sarah M. Wells is the author of The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Gospels to Help Kids and Parents Love God and Love Others (2022), American Honey: A Field Guide to Resisting Temptation (2021), Between the Heron and the Moss (2020), The Family Bible Devotional: Stories from the Bible to Help Kids and Parents Engage and Love Scripture (2018), Pruning Burning Bushes (2012), and a chapbook of poems, Acquiesce, winner of the 2008 Starting Gate Award through Finishing Line Press (2009). Sarah's work has been honored with four Pushcart Prize nominations, and her essays have appeared in the notable essays list in the Best American Essays 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2018. Sarah is the recipient of a 2018 Individual Excellence Award from the Ohio Arts Council. She resides in Ashland, Ohio with her husband and three children.

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