Today I Get to Write: An Annual Review
Written by
Caryn Riswold
January 2016
Written by
Caryn Riswold
January 2016

Do you have a job that requires some sort of year-end evaluation? At my place of employment, we are asked to do an annual reflection on our work during the preceding year as part of being evaluated by department chairs and deans. In addition, I’m currently on sabbatical from teaching, and at the end of this period of time, I’ll be asked to write a report of the professional work that I did.

When I think about ways of discussing what I’ve been writing, a few options come to mind. Of course, there’s the list I could make of the number of Patheos blog posts, articles published on other blogs, chapters in books, articles in journals, queries to agents and editors, and op-eds in local newspapers.

But I think there’s a more interesting way to talk about that work.

I’m currently reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s newest book, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. So far, I love it. (So does my cat, as the picture clearly shows.) One of the things she says is this:

“Defending yourself as a creative person begins by defining yourself. It begins when you declare your intent.”

This is a sentiment echoed in many books on creativity, including a little one by a former student of mine, Jeff Goins, who wrote an ebook titled You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One).

I began thinking of myself as a writer, that is, saying “I am a writer,” to myself and to other people, about five years ago. Note: By that time, I had already published three books and probably a dozen academic articles. But I hadn’t thought of myself as “a writer.” I thought of myself as a scholar, a professor, a teacher, a theologian, a feminist … a whole lot of things.

Being a writer actually unifies all of those things.

I write academic books because I have extended ideas about religion and feminism that merit consideration.

I write journal articles that are pieces of larger conversations about theology, higher education, and gender studies.

I write blog posts to occasionally reflect on things that interest me in politics, religion, and pop culture.

I write fiction to have creative freedom to explore crazy ideas and what-ifs that circle around my interests in gender and religion.

I write syllabi as frameworks for introducing people to ideas, texts, and conversations about religion and gender that inform their lives.

I write op-eds in order to talk about community issues and to shape public opinion.

I write Facebook posts and tweets as a way to connect with people I know and people I might want to know.

One of the things I learned from my vocational soulmate before my sabbatical started was to start each day with the statement: “Today I get to write.” Over the past six months, I’ve learned how this helps me create a mindset of opportunity rather than obligation (when in fact I do have a lot of things I need to be writing). It also takes the power of Gilbert's identity declaration and weaves it into each day.

Today, I got to finish writing this blog post and share it with you.

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