Monday, June 20, 2022

A Rule of Life: Following our dreams

I once wrote about the importance of prioritizing our priorities; of making the time and space for the different things that are important in our lives--even when those look different from the priorities and values of other people. In that post, I mentioned that my husband and I practically accomplish this through our Rule of Life (a basic framework for how we want to live). I thought it would be fun to write a small series of posts that dive into a few different elements of our Rule of Life. As is typical, life happened and somehow over an entire year has passed since I first decided to do this! But, better late than never, right? ;) 

Today, I'd like to take a moment to share one element of our family's Rule of Life: Follow your dreams.

My mind churns, kneading together ideas as I process events of the week. My fingers tap, tap, tap away on the keyboard. I bite my lip, furrow my brow, and search the coffee-infused air around me for just the right word. Sometimes, it dodges, evading my grasp.  But other times, it briefly dances by before I catch it with my tapping fingers, seizing it and marking it on the page. 

On and on, I write. 

Some people marvel at the way in which I make time to write, and other people express surprise that my husband makes time for video games. Yet, as I discussed a few years ago, making time for hobbies and leisurely activities is important--even for parents. Furthermore, my husband and I have found that making time and space for our dreams is important. 

So, we included this as part of our Rule of Life. "Follow your dreams" is on the short list of particular values and practices that we want to live out individually, as a couple, and as a family. This items on our Rule of Life are priorities for us, and we find ways to make them happen. 

This may seem like an insignificant, Disney princess movie aspiration, yet I believe it's important to consider, especially from the perspective of a parent. As we raise our children, many of us encourage them to both make goals and work to achieve those goals. Right alongside that, we tell them to "dream big," and sometimes even dream with them, as we ponder what we'd like to do, even if it's unrealistic. Sometimes, we even help our kids look at their "big dreams" and find ways to adjust those and make them practically and realistically achievable. 

We read our kids inspiring books, share meaningful stories with them, and help them participate in a variety of activities as we help them become holy, healthy, educated people of integrity. But, if we preach the message of "dream big" to them and don't actually live it out ourselves, will our children really believe they can work hard to achieve their goals and dreams? Or will they begin enthusiastically, but then--months or years down the road--grow cynical and jaded as they see that in the "real world" of adults, people don't get to follow their dreams? 

Mortgages happen, bills happen, busy work schedules take over--and dreams can wither and die. 

But does it have to be this way?

It's true that different seasons of life come with their own demands, and we need to be prudent with what activities we choose to do. Yet, my husband and I have found it beneficial to pursue our passions in some way, no matter what season we are in. We each have passions, desires, and interests that aren't bound up in the normal routine of everyday life and parenting. We've learned that God has given us certain gifts in our interests, and that we can use those to glorify Him, no matter what life looks like. 

Sometimes, writing looks really pretty-and other times,
it looks like a laptop and coffee
at the table as the kids all run around nearby ;) 

So, we allot time, space, and money to this goal. My husband is creating a video game, and I pursue writing--with my book project (which may or may not ever be published), blog, other articles, and a range of creative writing projects (I have a couple of fiction ideas that I've slowly been developing)

We are creatives, each working in our own way to develop the gifts that God has given us and to share those gifts with others. 

When we make our schedule for weekends, evenings, or random days off from work that my husband has, he typically asks me "when do you want to write?" and I ask him, "when do you want to work on your video game?" We coordinate to make a plan so that we each can have time to pursue our dreams. When my husband took the whole week of the Easter Octave off work this year, we had a fantastic schedule where almost every day, I would go write at a coffee shop for a few hours in the morning, we would do family activities together for a few hours, and then my husband would get a few hours in the afternoon to work on making his game. It was a fun, energizing, really fantastic week!

However, most of our life does not look like this; between office work, commitments, and a growing brood of small children, "normal life" can be fairly exhausting at times. Even if my husband will happily hold down the fort while I hide in the bedroom for an hour to write, I may not feel like writing. Sometimes, I push through and work on whatever project I have, regardless of how I feel. Other times, I decide that it would be better to recharge by reading a book. And other times, I fall back onto freewriting: an exercise my college writing courses brought in a couple of times, and one which I have brought into my life again. 

In freewriting, I set a timer (or I just write until I think I've reached a good stopping point) and write whatever pops into my head. Anything and everything goes down onto the paper, unedited, as thoughts pour out. In May 2021, I decided that I would bring this practice regularly into my life, and I opened up a blank document on my computer for "freewriting." It's now been just over a year since I began this practice, and there are over 82,000 words in this document. 

Some of the words are prayers that have travelled from my heart and soul to the page. There are also sentences that simply narrate what I've done in a particular day, what I've noticed, or what my frustrations are. There are rough drafts that have since turned into articles, blog posts, or sections of book chapters. There are sloppily-written phrases that will never see the light of day, and other phrases and observations that I've captured on the page and hold there, waiting to bring them into my public writing someday. 

This freewriting document has been a gift to me. It's a dumping ground for my thoughts, hopes, frustrations, creative impulses, and project ideas that I can come back to again and again. If I have just a handful of minutes before the kids rise from naps, I can pound in a couple hundred words of gibberish and leave it for another day. It's one small way that I can practically work towards my writing goals and see actual, encouraging progress. 

Having a Rule of Life is a huge gift, because it helps us clearly delineate what our particular priorities are. We have friends who love to travel and go on vacations or long weekend trips fairly regularly. In order to do this, they budget time and money to planning and then embarking on their trips. We, on the other hand, have different priorities. While travelling can be fun, our big priorities right now involve our creative projects. So, we budget time and money to work on those, rather than travel. 

In closing, I'd like to share a gorgeous quote from Evelyn Waugh's book, The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold, which really captures what a writer's life can look like: 
"As the wood crackled and a barely perceptible warmth began to spread among the chilly shelves, Mr. Pinfold sat down to work for the first time since his fiftieth birthday. He took the pile of manuscript, his unfinished novel, from the drawer and glanced through it. The story was still clear in his mind. He knew what had to be done. But there was more urgent business first, a hamper to be unpacked of fresh, rich experience--perishable goods. He returned the manuscript to the drawer, spread a new quire of foolscap before him and wrote in his neat, steady hand: The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold..."


  1. Wow, I LOVED this post!! It is so interesting to have a peek into your Rule of Life (love that!) and how you and your husband carve out time for your hobbies and passions. It's so important! Though I feel called to write, sometimes I feel my blogging feels insignificant or not needed. Your blog and example of how you prioritize your writing is so very encouraging to me. I also love that idea of free writing, now I want to try it out! That's amazing how many words you have written down already!

    1. I'm so glad that you liked reading this, Elisabeth! I definitely have gone through moments of thinking that writing/blogging is a waste of time or unnecessary because it doesn't bring in money. But I've been thinking a lot about how that can be a fairly utilitarian outlook, and that there's lots of good and important work we do even if it doesn't make money or seem particularly worthwhile to other people. And I definitely recommend freewriting! Before I started that freewriting document, there were times when I'd sit and write and keep deleting what I wrote because it didn't seem quite right...and then after my writing time, I'd feel bummed that I didn't have any visible results from all that time and work. So, if anything, having a freewriting document is a nice motivator, because I can see that I HAVE written something, even if it doesn't seem very coherent or polished ;) And sometimes, I just need to write out a bunch of thoughts before I finally hit something that I didn't even realize I wanted or needed to write about!