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Ride on!

Did you take time off for a vacation over the December holidays? My son is a high school teacher, and after a week or two away, he finds it a challenge to harness his students and settle into grading papers. How do we transition back into the saddle early in January?

During December I typically set aside all my regular writing assignments and focus for a month on preparing a series of 24 Advent devotionals that center on a single theme. The devotionals are a wonderful distraction, but when January comes I find it hard to climb back on the horse and resume my earlier writing projects.

Part of my problem is that devotionals require such a different style of writing from my novels and non-fiction projects. The devotional pieces must be brief and tightly written. If I am writing a novel, I don’t have to resolve the main character’s problem in 250 words or less. After a time away, the saddle feels foreign, heavy, unwieldy. The cinch feels constricting.

Rather than buck and kick, I pick up chapter 1 of my novel and reread the entire manuscript from the beginning. As I read, I start to make small edits – a word here or a phrase there. This superficial step gets my mind in gear. But as I go, something deeper happens. My heart responds. My characters come alive and I enter their world. I remember that the project is not merely a writing exercise. It is my response to God’s prompting.

What obstacles do you face getting back into your routine? Does it help if you remember that God is holding the reins?