An Ode To Stickin’ Around

Man in striped apron paints canvases in Bardolino
Eddy Klaus, Unsplash.com

I’ve been married for about thirteen years, been at the same company for nearly twelve, and pursuing the same art (writing) for twelve.

This may seem long or short depending on your perspective. All of those years in those areas of life have not been meadows filled with daffodils, but through the grace of God, mountains of encouragement from my writerly and non-writerly friends, I’ve stuck with them.

Recently, I wrote about how I haven’t been writing. How I’ve been uninspired and if I’m honest I felt that I wouldn’t miss much if I stopped. This would not be true but it’s how I felt.

This feeling has occurred multiple times with my art. But because of an awesome community and this nagging in my mind that just won’t go away I keep huffing and puffing along.

The reason I started writing again is twofold. One, because I want to publish a work of fiction. I have two books that I’ve been attempting to ship for a combined eight years. The second is because recently, I looked back at what has happened through the ups and downs of twelve years of chasing my craft.

I was astonished at their cumulative weight

Reading that list may have made you feel gross, like I was boasting, and I apologize. But what I wanted you to take away was that all of those mile markers happened because I stuck around.

There were failed starts, massive struggle, five kids being born (zero upon negative-infinity-absolute-zero hours of sleep) and all the while managing a full time job, and making sure that my wife and I have a strong marriage.

I wish life could be straightforward. I learn something, improve, and then move onto the next thing. But what I’ve come to understand is that sticking around for a while, staying in the game, and being downright stubbornly consistent can offer an opportunity to build a foundation then a first and second story and so on.

Are you thinking of stopping your art? I’d encourage you to keep working.

Who knows where you’ll be in twelve years?

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Writers And Entrepreneurs Need Rest Too

When I was in elementary school, I broke my foot. I flipped off my bunk bed, landed on the ground and all of a sudden my foot would not work without a piercing pain. I hobbled to the kitchen where my parents played cards with my aunt and uncle and informed them of what occurred and soon learned how to use crutches.

I remember when I tried to place pressure on my foot prematurely that it hurt and I was angry, but not because of the pain. I was upset because my foot did not function like it did before. This was my first experience with the injustice that not only can we break our bikes and every door in the house if we kick them, (sorry mom and dad) but also ourselves.

Painter sleepingI mentioned before that the most recent season at work was brutal. I thought I broke myself mentally. I could not remember simple tasks. I had little to no energy to play with my kids when I got home. And writing? The thought of spending another moment with a computer made me ill. It was rough all around.

A week ago, after things slowed down at work, I became angry that I could not just dive into another blog. I needed to get going because I had books and a website to launch. The more I thought about it the more I stewed. The angrier I was at my inability to write, the more I became frustrated that I was doing nothing. It was a vicious cycle. The pressure to produce weighed on me and I could not shake my lethargy, or so I thought.

It’s taken sometime to learn a lesson that I should have learned when I was young – I am not a machine. I can break – emotionally, spiritually, and physically. The stories of Sherlock Holmes living off no sleep and cocoa leaves are just not possible. Sure you can go on little sleep for a while (I have four kids) but sooner or later you crash.

There are different seasons of life. Some of planting, harvest, and rest. I needed to let my mind settle and heal by simple reading and planning.

Grace is what I needed most in the aftermath of a stressful experience.

Grace to be.

Grace to breathe and not feel the stress that comes from the need to produce.

But as with all seasons there is also a time to move on to the next one.

Now, my workload at work is back to a normal pace and I have more bandwidth for other projects at home.

This past Friday night, I did not feel like mush. So we ordered pizza. Then my kids got into their pajamas and we turned up the music and resumed our long-missed after dinner dance party. Then, by the encouragement of my lovely wife, I went to the bookstore to write. 

And you know what? Just like when my foot healed and I did not need my crutches any more it felt amazing to write again.

If You Don’t Succeed Is The Journey Worth It? Lessons From A Failed Novel

Over ten years ago I had a grand vision for a book series. I still do. I wrote the first book over and over again until I had about seven drafts. After much toil I decided to lay the book to rest. It was hard but it was time to move on.

Have you ever experienced this? Great expectations followed by severe disappointment?

I ask this not just to writers or artists but to anyone in any walk of life.

Often we have a grand vision for how something should go, but all we end up with is a horrible mess.

This prompts a question that can only come from retrospect.

Was the journey worth it?

Photo Credit: jimcrotty.com via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: jimcrotty.com via Compfight cc

Leaving with high hopes and coming up with nothing may seem like failure. Perhaps it is the Top Five Strength of Positivity shining through right now, but I firmly believe it doesn’t have to be this way. We can have fresh restarts and life giving lessons from these experiences.

Take my novel for instance. I worked for over a decade on it and poured hundreds of thousands of words and thousands of hours all for a novel that ends terribly.

But I learned that finishing well is important. That a book cannot end openly, even for a series. I had outstanding critiques and input from friends that shaped it in a beautiful way and learned about the joy of community that every writer needs.

Most of all, failure made me a better writer.

Now, I have a new project. One that has a solid ending, good characters, and a focused POV from the start.

And I wouldn’t have any of this if I didn’t go on the previous novel writing journey.

So I’ll let you decide. Was it worth it?