Keeping a Sabbath (Sabbatical)--by Ellen Jensen Abbott

For the past seven and a half weeks, I’ve been luxuriating in time. I know that sounds ridiculous--even a little hostile--given that it’s the holiday season, and most of the posts this month have begun with an admission that the writer has less time than usual. But for the past weeks, I’ve been on sabbatical from my job as a teacher. No paper grading, no lesson planning, no meetings, no dorm duty. It’s been just me and my computer and my steadily growing if terrible first draft of a new novel. It’s been bliss.

Of course I have asked myself if this is what it’s like to be a full-time writer, but I think the answer is no. The key to this sabbatical has been its limits. I have eight weeks. During that time, my priority has been my writing. “Sabbatical” shares the same derivation as “Sabbath”--time set aside. Because this time has been set aside for writing, it’s been easier for me to prioritize it, to say that I won’t do the laundry or send the Christmas cards or bake the cookies until I have fulfilled my daily goal--in my case, six pages a day. Because this time has been set aside by someone else, it’s easier to see it as sacred. I had no problem saying no to hosting our family’s Thanksgiving celebration because “I was on sabbatical.” The official-ness of the statement kept my goals clear.

Now, as I approach the end of the sabbatical, I find myself wondering how I can hang on to this sense of time set aside. Can I have a daily Sabbath--even an hour set aside with a commensurate goal--one page? Two pages? Can I import that sense of rest, luxury even sacredness that I have felt during this eight week period? Or will “writing” become just one more item on my list of things to do every day?

I don’t have the answer to this question yet. I’m still luxuriating. But I guess I have just set a New Year’s resolution: hold on to the sacred in that small slice of time I do find to write--and carry it with me out into the world of paper grading, meetings, dorm duty and lesson planning.


  1. I'm so glad you had the opportunity to do this, and I like the idea of establishing some kind of Sabbatical in the new year, even if a few pages a week.


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