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The Beauty of Creating in the Fringe Hours

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 HANNAH

I'm a writer, author, and online educator who loves helping others build intentional lives through the power of habit and meaningful routines.

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fringe-hours

I wrote The Unplugged Hours in what I’ve fondly learned to call “the fringe hours.”

At the beginning of the writing process, I felt stretched thin and overwhelmed. I had no idea how to write a book and raise a baby who only went to school for a few hours each week. It felt like my brain was constantly trying to move back and forth between diving into the deep end of the creative process and playing in the kiddie pool with my little girl. I felt stuck trying to be everything at once– mother, wife, friend, writer, business owner. How did people manage to do all this?!

The term “fringe hours” came to me during a time of prayer, when I felt God nudging me, telling me I would write this book during the fringe hours.

The word was so foreign to me that I had to Google it. Fringe hours, coined by author Jessica Turner, typically refer to the hours just before and after the peak or busiest times of the day. These are the less flashy periods surrounding the most congested or highest-demand times of the day.

And that’s what happened.

I wrote the book in the least expected pockets of the day.

Between carpool lines.

Sometimes, in the carpool line.

In the naptime hours, when my brain was tired.

In the late evenings where all I wanted to do was curl up on the couch and watch a show.

I felt pressed and tucked away, pinned tightly into secret places no one knew about. Each time I was tempted to share a part of the writing process, to let others in, I would feel this pause in my spirit telling me, “No, it’s not time to share.” The work was scrappy and unglamorous (and a little bit lonely), but it filled my spirit with joy and intensity. I was learning how to savor the process for myself—how to love the creative work rather than the affirmation or feedback that might come from sharing the words.

And in those unexpected spaces, those now beloved fringe hours, I learned some profound and valuable lessons that I’m adding to my writer’s toolkit:

A lot can happen during the fringe hours.

    Before this writing process, I might have been tempted to discount the fringe hours. I wanted peak performance times. I wanted efficient timeblocks. And yet, nothing about writing the book and raising a toddler who only goes to school a few hours a couple of times a week was conducive to that efficient method.

    Parts of me want to take back any writing advice I gave before having a child because I know now it’s not easy to write with a little one. I constantly felt pulled in different directions, and my brain often felt scrambled. I struggled to be consistently present with her and spend time with the muse calling my name at all hours of the day. 

    But I also learned, through the fringe hours, that you can accomplish more than you ever expected if and when you’re willing to sacrifice: time spent sleeping in later or scrolling mindlessly. Or time bingeing old episodes of Survivor. Or time when you want to do literally anything but that thing you promised yourself you’d do.

    I learned to boast in my weakness.

      The verse I’m referencing comes from 2 Corinthians 12:9: 

      “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NIV)

      Before this writing process, I would never have put “weakness’ and “boasting” in the same sentence (at least not to describe myself). But every writing session started almost the same. I would sit on the couch in my office and be honest with the scribbles in my notebook, often saying, “God, I don’t have it, but I’m here.”

      My brain was often tired. I didn’t feel like I was on my A-game. I wanted to quit at least a dozen times. And yet, even at my weakest points, God showed up, and he showed up strong. I felt his presence coursing through the words. I felt new ideas rushing to the surface. In the hours I would have been tempted to discount, God worked through me, and I don’t think I would have been able to say that if the book were written on my timetable.

      In the fringe hours, I learned to be weak.

      In the fringe hours, I learned to lean on the presence of God.

      In the fringe hours, I learned to borrow strength like a library book.

      In the fringe hours, I found a strange joy and new freedom in letting go of my need to appear self-sufficient.

      The fringe hours are now some of my favorite parts of the day.

        I won’t sugarcoat the idea of fringe hours. I don’t think there was a single writing session that I wanted to attend.

        More often than not, I had to mentally prepare myself just to get in the headspace to enter the writing room.

        And yet, looking back on those hours, I realize they are some of the most sacred experiences I’ve ever had. It felt like I was both getting back to the roots of why I started writing and also getting back to my love for God– the one who placed the passion for writing in me in the first place. It felt like reconnecting. It felt like stumbling upon something sacred and precious I wanted to protect. My office still feels cloaked in strange holiness from all the hours I spent tucked away, undocumented, just laying my soul bare into this book.

        And reader, that’s what I would give you if I could. I wish I could give you my experience with the fringe hours and the resilience that formed in me. It’s a deep well of beauty that I now cherish so closely, but I’m afraid it’s not something I can pass along. 

        But I can pass along the idea of the fringe hours to you. 

        I can rave about it from my corner of the Internet.

        I can invite you not to discount the fringe hours of your day but to try to show up in the spaces of the day when you think you’re at the end of your rope and see what God can do with your sacrifice. 

        I can do all these things, but you must close the door and turn off the devices. It’s must be you who sits in the writer’s chair and dares to ask, “Could something be waiting for me within the fringe hours?” 

        Yes, yes, I think it might be.

        p.s.

        My new book, The Unplugged Hours, comes out on September 17! Preorder your copy and I’ll send you the first 40 pages today.

        LEAVE A LOVE NOTE +

        1. THIS is exactly what I needed to hear tonight. The scenario doesn’t have to be perfect for me to show up and God will meet me there. Thank you!

        2. Emily says:

          I sat down after my boys’ nap time and thought, “What I would give for uninterrupted writing time.” It was about an hour I had to work, but it didn’t feel like enough. Then I opened this email and it was exactly what I needed to read! Juggling writing and parenting is a challenge. It’s so nice to not feel alone as a writer with a kid. Thank you, Hannah!

          • Hannah Brencher says:

            You are so welcome. I think it is a mindset shift in a lot of ways. One hour doesn’t feel like enough but then again, when focused, one hour can hold so much power!

        3. Janelly says:

          Thank you for this message! Couldn’t have come at a more perfect time. Especially as I’m writing my debut novel!!

        4. Nikki says:

          love it Hannah! well done, good and faithful steward 👏🏾❤️

          And congratulations on your book

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        Hi, I'm Hannah

        I love writing about all things faith, mental health, discipline + and motherhood. Let's be penpals!

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