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SLANT LETTER: Ready to Reclaim Your Creative Focus?
Reclaiming Your Creative Focus
Friends, it’s been a minute, and that’s on me. In the lift from spring-to-summer, I’ve been working to wrap up a semester in my seminary program, and step into a new role at my job, where I’ve been promoted to associate publisher. More about that here!
Thank you for your patience with these letters in the meantime. My goal has always been to release a monthly letter, though there have been some veerrry generous months in there, so I’ve decided to update this to a pop-up newsletter. This is less of a schedule change and more of a title change to be more accurate! I’m so glad and grateful to have you show up, every time. Thank you! And as always, keep your fabulous ideas for future issues coming. We’ve got a great list to cover together, thanks to you.
As an editor, I often get asked: what kind of content are you looking for?
The short answer is a simple one. Frankly, I don’t care what you write about. I care about the deep well it comes from. I am looking for writers who write out of a carefully cultivated inner life.
Annie Dillard wrote about a chance meeting with a weasel in the woods. Marion Roach Smith wrote about a post office holiday errand. Robert Farrar Capon wrote an entire essay about an onion, which made me tear up as onions do. They all earned my interest and emotion with a hard tackle, making me care about such "simple" things. Why? Because they’re writing from a deep well.
There’s a line in Luke’s gospel that says it well: “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
The internet is endless deep sea dive, isn't it? It overwhelms because every time we click, every time we toggle, our brain sinks a tiny hook in a new place...then another...then another, until we are spent and our focus is fried like a circuit breaker.
A deep well is hard to cultivate these days. Multi-tasking is one of the greatest myths of the modern age.
We think of oceans as teeming with life and likewise deep sea danger—much like the internet. The good news, the wild card: you possess more. The infinity within you is no match for the click-scroll-double-tap “race to the bottom of the brain stem” that the world wide web presents on the daily. No question. No contest.
This is a truth to pin your life to, when you remember there is an active, all-out campaign to imperialize your imagination. When the digital frontier overwhelms you, stake your hope on this: it’s no match for the depth inside of you [tweet this]. Then set your practice here as well: we do well to tune in here first. To the unsung corners of your soul that no stranger will ever click-heart-double-tap.
Let’s name another truth, while we’re at it: no one will protect this vast inner space for you. The task of protecting your creative core is no one’s responsibility but yours. So we’d better learn to get Guardian-of-the-Galaxy-style serious here to protect the most valuable asset we possess [tweet this].
Great. Got it. But the real hingepoint here is how? So let’s bring this to brass tacks.
If YOU are the one who has everything to gain or lose here, YOU are the one who gets to set the terms. After all, it’s YOUR creative lifeblood on the line. If your attention is divided and it’s stealing your creative thunder, it’s time to stage a coup and get it back.
Here’s five things I’ve found to help:
1// Aim for Analog
I’ve often found that for all life’s digital innovations, sometimes the way back to simplicity is to strip it down to analog. You don’t need a fancy focus app when you already have one: it’s called the sleep switch. The off button. Airplane mode. Take your pick. And even when you’re powered on, turn off all your mobile and desktop notifications. Take ownership of your creative focus. You set the terms.
2// Learn the Spiritual Practice of Unsubscribe
Several years ago, I discovered the Unroll.me option. This tool funnels all of my subscription emails into ONE daily email, and prompts me daily to review and one-click unsubscribe from new subscriptions that crop up. It’s so magic, I tell you, it should probably be illegal. Bottom line: get rid of everything that is not serving you in your inbox. You will have no regrets being ruthless here.
3// Edit Your Energies
Several years ago, on the edge of a creative flame-out, I made a list. Actually two lists: 1) What is draining you right now? 2) What makes you come alive? Then I made a resolve to do less of the former and more of the latter. Time is only one currency consideration. Energy is another. If you want to invest your best energies in your writing, take your creative pulse and weed out what drains you. Then resolve to do more of what makes you come alive [tweet this].
4// Make It Weird
The most creative people I know have made some ultra-unconventional habits, because that’s what it takes to restructure your lifestyle around your prime creative output. Bob Goff famously quits something every Thursday. Neuroscientist Moran Cerf always selects the second item on the menu when he goes out to eat, in the belief that automating our decisions can free up more creative space. Blogger and author Erin Loechner sets her bedtime at 6pm, so she can claim those dark early morning hours for writing and work of her own.
5// Embrace & Resist
By now, you’re likely sensing a pattern here. is about choices of embrace and resistance; saying yes to that which matters and no to all else. These twin practices are your creative life preservers.
When it comes to protecting and channeling your very best creative work, you set the terms. Try it, will you? And let me know how it goes?
Until next time,
Take heart. Write on. You got this.
P.S. // A Prayer for Writers
SLANT LETTER is for the craft and soul of what you do as a writer. So for each issue, I want to focus on an element of the craft as well as a prayer for all of us anxious, ambitious, internet-exhausted writing folk. I hope this will refresh you as it does for me. Read it, print it, share it, and I hope you find some encouragement here.
P.P.S. // Find a Good Thing Here?
This letter is this editor's off-hours labor of love. If you've found something useful here, please pass it on! You can forward this message to a writer friend, share this post, or the subscribe link here.