So as long as a person is capable of self-renewal, they are a living being. – Henri Frederic Amiel
All my life, I’ve had a range of quite disparate interests. In my last two years of school (what we call “sixth form” here in the UK); I studied English, Math, Physics, Politics and Philosophy. In more recent years, I’ve managed to combine two of my key loves – writing and computers – in my career as a blogger.
But my underlying need for lots of different interest and activities remains. I get bored quickly; I take things up for a brief, passionate spell, and then drop them. Often, I go through a cycle of activity followed by a long break in different areas. With the things which really matter to me, though, a renewed interest has always returned.
The Fallow Times
In order for productive times of growth and eventual harvest, it’s also necessary to have times when everything is silent and seems empty – when even the seeds haven’t yet sprouted.
I took a long break from writing fiction when I started out blogging. I loved the comparative ease of non-fiction writing, and the ability to publish posts and get feedback almost instantly. After months of this, I started an MA in Creative Writing in October 2008 with some trepidation: had my desire to write fiction gone altogether? Ever since being a small child, I’d made up fantasy worlds and stories –but now I felt no real desire whatsoever to write fiction.
The Conditions for Growth
Happily, my interest in fiction hadn’t vanished at all. With the support of fellow students and my tutors, and the creative energy of the university environment, I soon started on a novel – the “seeds” of which had been waiting patiently for years.
This is a pattern which I see in other areas of my life. When my spiritual life has felt dry and shallow, renewal comes through reconnecting with God: perhaps through a new church, a weekend retreat, or simply daily time spent in prayer.
If I want to rekindle a particular enthusiasm that means paying attention to the environment in which I’m living. Sometimes, particular pursuits simply aren’t possible because of the physical circumstances.
For example, one of my hopes for the summer (when my fiancé and I move to live near my parents) is that I can start learning the piano again: I enjoy playing it when I visit my family, but I don’t have a keyboard or piano at present. A part of me regrets giving up piano lessons when I was a child; another part of me is surprised that, more than a decade since I gave up learning, I can still play at all!
The Importance of the Dry Times
I have a tendency to worry when I’m not producing any obvious fruit in areas of my life. When I haven’t written fiction for a while, I miss the writing and I also get anxious about whether I’ll ever write again.
When I feel spiritually lost or alone, I worry that all my faith in the past meant nothing, and that I’ll never find my way back to God. When I set aside a particular hobby for a time, I’m prone to thinking that I’ll never want to go back to it.
Over the years, I’ve become more accepting of the ups and downs in different areas of my life. I’ve also found that a “dry” or “quiet” spell doesn’t necessarily mean that nothing is happening. When I take a break from my novel, I return with new ideas and refreshed enthusiasm.
When my spiritual life is not all I hope, it’s a cue to examine where I may need to make changes. If I’ve not touched a piano or picked up my cross-stitching for months on end, that doesn’t mean I’ve lost interest for ever – I often return with a new excitement.
I’m still learning to trust and to accept that renewal does and will come. When I look back on times which have felt empty, I’ve realized that they’re just as important as the times of obvious growth in my life. My interests and enthusiasms may wax and wane, but they don’t vanish: all the aspects of my life which matter to me always return.
Ali Hale is a freelance writer from London in the UK, and is currently taking an MA in creative writing. She writes for a number of sites, including her own Aliventures blog which focuses on getting more from life.