7 Days to Less Productivity and More Creativity

by Allen Arnold
Seven Days to
Less Productivity
and More Creativity
I’ll be honest. I’ve never been a fan of man-made rules.
Especially when they come from authority figures
that promise life but deliver heaviness.
At my son’s 4th grade basketball game
last week, this poster greeted those entering the gym:
4 Questions
What are you
What are you
supposed to be doing?
Are you doing
What are you
going to do? When are you going to start?
What??? Far more damaging
than the sign’s bad math (there are actually five questions – not four) is the
assumption that “doing” is the main thing. In a world of “doing”, we have lost
the art of “being”.
Notice what effect the sign’s words have on your
heart. Do the questions stir feelings of joy and life (it is, after all, posted
outside a place to play games)…or
evoke a sense of shame or blame because you aren’t doing enough.
When it comes to your writing, man-made rules can
have the same effect. Authors regularly tell me they enter writer’s conferences
or read books on writing full of hope – but by the end, they are simply
This can happen because man-made rules and systems tend
to overcomplicate, over control and over systematize things – especially when
the subject at hand is God’s gift of story, imagination and ideas. We have to
be careful of anything that pulls our eyes from the Giver of the gift to the
gift itself as our primary focus and identity.
Sometimes an analogy helps:
Imagine you are on a field. God has given a ball to each person there. Most leave the ball on the field and walk away. Others polish the ball and display it in a glass
case. Some see how far they can throw the ball. They
develop rules and exercises and disciplines to be the best and master the game.
But all of them missed why God invited his children on the field. He stands on the field waiting. He is looking for
those rare ones who want to play catch with him. Who enjoy his presence even more
than the game.
He is waiting on you as well. 
He’s invited you onto the creative playground. Don’t run off with your story. Or get busy trying to write for God or minister to others with it. He most wants you to write with him.
So here is my invitation.
A week of writing different. For seven days, I invite you to experience creative disruption. Forget word count goals. Unplug from social media. Quit reading industry stats and trends.
Instead, spend seven writing days free from all the
man-made rules and industry assumption you’ve held sacred. While you’re at it,
abstain from all the unique habits (quirks?) you’ve depended on to maximize
your creativity. For one week, lay all those things aside and walk into this
new frontier with no expectations, demands, or sacred cows.
As you start, the only goal is this – greater intimacy with God in your creativity.
I know, I know. This can be a feel a bit unnerving.
Unproductive. Impractical.
Perhaps overly simplistic. What if God doesn’t show up? Or what if he does … then what?
The enemy will try anything to prevent you from
discovering how your calling is an invitation into greater creative intimacy
with God.
This is not a time of stained glass, head bowed prayer.
It is not a time of silence or solitude. Silence and solitude are what you get
when you write alone.
This is dynamic, eyes-open, unpredictable
interaction with the God who created beaches, lightning storms, ice cream, the
human form and starry skies. He invented worlds and words.
Story? That was his idea too.
Rather than spend another week writing by yourself,
you get to ask the Creator questions, listen, talk, laugh, play and dream
This is not a side benefit or add-on to how you
write. It is not an “I’ll give this ten minutes but then if nothing happens, it’s
back to what works”. No, this is the go-for-broke approach of Moses in the
desert.  “God, if you don’t show up,
let’s call this whole trip off.”
What will happen in those seven days?
You may get a new story idea.
You may get several chapters written.
You may get massive breakthrough for your career.
Or you may get a blank screen because God invites you to walk with him, dance with him, or lean on him. Maybe he wants to play a game of catch together … this
time with ideas instead of a ball.
Regardless of anything else, you always get
God when you pursue him.
And His presence trumps all productivity. Just as your story with him trumps any story you could write alone.
Seven days. That’s the invitation. Then compare the week with him to the prior week of
 creating alone. See which approach
offers more freedom and life for you as a storyteller. See which rhythm leads
to greater creativity.
This isn’t some new rule or man-made system. You’ve likely tried enough of those already. This is about letting go and following God into the creative wild.
I have no idea what he has planned for your seven days together. Nor do you.
But don’t you want to find out?
Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the
mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart
Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian
Publishing – overseeing  the development of more than 500 novels as
founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW
Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But that doesn’t really describe the man.
Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass,
is hooked on the TV series “Once Upon a Time” and is passionate about
helping storytellers tell better stories from an awakened heart.