by Kathy Harris
As young as seven or eight years old I knew I wanted to be a writer. If I could somehow transcend time and pay a visit to my younger self (hmmm, this sounds a lot like a recent James L. Rubart novel), I would probably find that I was dreaming of lazy days spent pouring my heart out on paper. And it really was paper then.
Through the years a lot more has changed than our writing tools. And, in the present day, I have learned that writing isn’t a languid task at all. It’s hard work.
Really hard work.
Sure, there are times when the words flow faster than we can write them. But there are also many difficult days, when characters refuse to develop, plots fail, and action ceases.
We’ve all had times when we’ve slammed against a wall and the only way to scale it is to stay focused, butt planted firmly in the seat, refusing to give up. That’s when dedication to our calling really counts, because it takes more than discipline to work through tough times. It takes fierce determination. Stubborn commitment. Even foolhardy grit.
On a private writing loop recently, Christian communicator Kathy Carlton Willis asked how many of us had ever thought about quitting. Almost everyone who responded said they had, citing a number of reasons — from lack of time to lack of inspiration. No one complained that writing was boring or too easy.
“I’m quitting because it’s no longer a challenge” are words you’ll never hear from a writer, whether they’re speaking about finishing a manuscript or maintaining a viable career. Every aspect of our vocation is challenging, from conceptualizing a commercial, yet meaningful story, to marketing the final product. Not to mention marketing yourself, a concept most writers dislike even more.
Commitment is the key to hanging in, the engine that keeps the train on the track of “I think I can, I think I can.” And our reward often comes right after the toughest battle. Not only do we learn something from working through a difficult spot in a story (Willis says it’s usually the “messy middle” that gets us down), we set ourselves up for the emotional roller coaster ride of the writing life.
It was shortly after I uttered the words ‘I quit’ that things began to happen in my writing career. A friend introduced me to an agent. That agent encouraged me to finish my manuscript. And he eventually sold it.
Seeing your name on the cover of a book is a powerful motivator. But even after you’ve reached that milestone, you’re not immune to discouragement. The reason? Because writing will always be hard work, whether you’ve sold one or a hundred books. You’ll only do it if you’re committed.
I shared a meme on Facebook last week that applies to writing: The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.
Perhaps another way to put this is from the Book of Luke. “Risk your life and get more than you ever dreamed of. Play it safe and end up holding the bag.” (Luke 19:26 MSG)
If, as a writer, you have a message to share with the world, stay committed to it. Risk your time. Reach for your dreams!