For the first time in (many) years, I decided to give something up for the season of Lent. Actually, I was forced into it, but I did manage stick with it. And, even though my forty-day sacrifice wasn’t related to writing, it did have an impact.
As someone who grew up in a (moderately) religious family, sacrificing for Lent was something we were all encouraged to do. My friends and I would often joke about giving something up that we really didn’t like, because it would be easy. Inevitably, the adults would catch onto us, and we would have to take it seriously. Not surprisingly, I would cave sometime around the first week and feel the need to confess thereafter.
(Ah, the joy of religious guilt.)
When I finally became old enough to make my own decisions, I gave on giving things up. The pressure was too much and the stakes were too high. So, while others politely passed on things like alcohol, chocolate and bread(!) during family gatherings, I accepted all. I was a Lenten rogue and did so without regret.
This year was to be no different. As Lent rolled around, I once again proudly declared my intentions to everyone who asked. But, on the second day of Lent, something unusual happened…I got sick. This wouldn’t have be an extraordinary event except for the fact that I’ve never been sick. If it weren’t for allergies, I wouldn’t even know what it was like to have a sore throat! So, when I was diagnosed with strep throat, I immediately assumed it was Divine intervention.
All those years of giving up on giving things up finally caught up with me. As the doctor issued the prescription, his words hit me like lightning bolt:
“You cannot consume alcohol while taking this medicine for the next ten days.”
There I was, a new writer on a journey to finish writing a novel and I wasn’t able to drink alcohol. In that moment, the struggle became real. Not just because I had purchased a new bottle of tequila the day before, but because the relationship between writers and alcohol is infamous. Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Parker and dozens of other authors have made their love of drinking public.“Modern life is often a mechanical oppression and liquor is the only mechanical relief.” –… Click To Tweet
As an emerging writer, I’ve also indulged in what I call “creative drinking”. And, thanks to the doctor, I was forced to endure ten whole days without it. It was a new challenge, but then again, the novel journey is all about challenges.
The ten days passed with ease, and brought on a new sense of clarity. Not only did I find myself writing more, but I also began developing new ideas for my novel and website. I started a daily walking routine (with my notebook) which helped inspire new ideas. It was a refreshing feeling, and I decided to extend it beyond the ten days.
When I finished the antibiotics, I took on a juice cleanse, joined a new gym and started a diet. I began to notice changes to my energy levels and my focus. As the days turned into weeks, I realized I was participating in Lent…and it was working!
Here the three ways Lent improved my life and writing:
- Overcoming Writer’s Block – An “inspiring” drink used to be my solution for writer’s block. One would inevitably turn to two and so forth, ending with a great buzz but no writing. When I stopped drinking, I had to find another way to deal with writer’s block. Now, rather than leave my work, I stay put to either write my way through it or start another piece and come back.
- Setting Productivity Goals – Despite knowing effects of alcohol and depression, I continued to drink. This often led to days (sometimes weeks) without productivity. But over the forty-days, I developed a routine for productivity which includes setting weekly goals, drafting new post ideas and a social media strategy. The results have been great so far!
- Bringing Writing Everywhere – I used to think I could only write at home (see Number 1). After eliminating the temptation, it was easy to recognize the infinite possibilities to write. Now I bring my notebook and tablet everywhere including on my daily walks, while getting coffee, and even to the pool.
In the past, I was skeptical about giving something up for Lent. After seeing the results, and the impact it has made in my life, it was definitely worth the sacrifice.