Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.
I have to admit: this writing thing ain’t easy. Writing is as much an exercise in mental conditioning as it is in physical execution, and many times I’ve taken to heart Jesus’ lamentation to His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane: “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41b KJV). Yeah, I’ve got some weak flesh, but don’t we all?
After I pressed “Publish” last Tuesday on my 147th blog post, almost twenty-three months after I launched post #1, I wondered about my sagging spirit as I continue to persist in this vocational marathon. Even though I have a reputation for dogged perseverance (just ask my wife), recently it’s taken every drop of motivation to coax my imagination toward the finish line . . . wherever that is. But yet I go on because I don’t want to miss the blessings—I love how God lines my path with hidden treasures for me to find along the way, some big, some little, some subtle, some downright amazing. God is so doggone good!
When my seven-year-old daughter, Hannah, was a competitive gymnast, she spent 25 hours a week in the gym honing her skills and building her body. Her goal was the Olympics and Mary and I promised we’d never stand in the way of that dream. We always assured her that somehow we’d manage both the time and the financial commitment. Her job was to work hard and have fun. For six years she persisted under the determined tutelage of coaches who believed in her more than she believed in herself, and in November of 2014 their hard work and perseverance paid off: Hannah became the North Texas State uneven bars champion for her age and division.
Throughout the years leading up to this accomplishment, the coaches constantly reminded Hannah and the other budding Olympians to scratch one word from their vocabulary: “Can’t.” “You can do it,” the coaches would admonish the girls when they used the “C” word. “Just keep trying.” As a result, many of the young ladies placed well in local, state, regional, and even international competitions. They trained despite the soreness, despite the desire to give up, despite splitting the beam or over-rotating a back handspring. Always they brushed themselves off and finished the routine. Always they smiled through the pain and embarrassment. Always they demonstrated perseverance and validated the timeless words of the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans: “we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (Romans 5:3b-4 NIV®). And the fulfillment of hope does not include the insidious word “can’t.”
So when I pushed that “Publish” button in WordPress last Tuesday, I sat back and reflected on what I can do—what we all can do—and how building this blog has helped me to persevere in my call to write. Here goes . . . .
- Writing is difficult but worth it.
For a season I managed to write full time, and in that time I cranked out two blog posts a week, wrote and published two books and edited several other books, one of which became both an Amazon.com and a USA Today bestseller. As the jaws of financial reality began to close on me, however, the Lord provided a stunningly well-timed (and blessedly flexible) opportunity to re-engage with my inner electrical engineer, preventing my family from selling the house and living in a second-hand refrigerator box under a bridge.Even after 38 years of writing, though, the road to publication (and sales, especially sales. Like Pi Patel screamed onboard the lifeboat: “I surrender! What more do you want?”) continues to be a most challenging, tiring and thrilling byway to navigate. Writing is the second hardest thing I’ve ever done (marketing is the first and most mysterious), but it’s truly the most difficult thing I’ll ever love. As Thomas Edison once said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” I guess two out of three ain’t bad.
- It’s a great way to write a book. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ve had the opportunity to read most of the original manuscript for The Epiphany of Joy, half of The Other Side of the Covers and, in some form or another, the entire manuscript for A Matter of Perspective (you probably didn’t recognize that one. Now you’ll have to wait for it to come out to see what I’m talking about!). Blogging is a great way to write a book. Why? If you’re anything like me, once I commit to doing something, I usually do it. I do my best to walk the walk and talk the talk.Two years ago I committed to posting regularly, and that commitment keeps me coming back to my desk, sitting down, turning on my computer, and writing. There are days I don’t want to do it, but I do it anyway. There are other days I don’t feel creative, but I write anyway. And there are days the prospect of cleaning commodes is more appealing than researching an article, but I reluctantly put down the toilet brush, pick up a pen and dive into the world wide web anyway. And before I know it, I’ve got a manuscript, and what’s even better, it’s been test-driven by readers in real time. It truly is a great way to write a book.
- It’s an excellent way to keep you writing rather than simply talking about writing.
I’ve discussed this before, in my “Motivation and the Writer’s Life” series (first post 27 October 2014), but I’ll reiterate: writers write. Simple, eh? But how many writers do you know who talk about writing all the time, but have never written a darn thing except their signature on the rent check? Are these folks worthy of the moniker “writer?” I think not, but that’s just my humble opinion. And you know what they say about opinions . . . .Regularly tending the garden of your blog site cultivates not only a commitment and a desire to write regularly, it also plants the seeds of creativity, experimentation and—dare I say it?—fun! And who knows? Maybe the fruits of your labor will inspire another person to put their hand to the plow and begin tilling their own field for the benefit of others. Okay, enough with the gardening metaphor . . . .
- It’s a fun place to experiment with different writing styles. Way back when Sonny and Cher were still a couple and dirt was all we had to play with, I wrote humor in the style of Erma Bombeck. In fact, my ninth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Carr, once told me I was the Erma Bombeck of the adolescent generation (this was in the late ‘70’s). I relished her comment so much I neglected to point out to her that I was a guy, not a girl. Being compared to Patrick F. McManus of Field and Stream fame would have been way more appropriate.As I grew in my craft, I experimented with writing and illustrating a comic book, then I began delving into horror after I discovered Stephen King, Robert McCammon and Dean Koontz. For years I wrote horror, poetry, newspaper articles, and a monthly column for an industrial newsletter. Later I dipped a toe into essays, then finally jumped feet-first into Christian inspirational writing, children’s picture books and chapter books. I love experimenting with different styles and forms, writing in first, second and third person, telling stories from both female and male points of view, and writing prose poetry. I can’t get enough of it! And what a better place to play with words than in a blog post?Blogging in different voices, styles and forms is not only good practice to keep the creativity muscles flexible yet strong, it’s also a fun environment to let loose your wild and whacky. As Erma Bombeck once said, “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’” Amen, sister Erma!
- It’s inspiring and exciting to receive comments from readers all over the world. As I’ve mentioned before, when asked “Why do you write?” my response is always the same: Because I have to. I write because that’s what I’ve been built to do. In my younger, more idealistic years, I told my parents I’d write even if I ended up selling my work out of the trunk of my car. Now that I’m older I sell the work out of the trunk of my SUV. I’m still hoping for a 1967 Ford Country Sedan. Sure did love those station wagons back in the day.I’d be lying, though, if I said I didn’t give a wit whether or not anyone read what I wrote. First of all, I couldn’t make a living giving everything away, no matter how altruistic that may sound. But in reality, I’m in this not only because it’s my calling, but also because I have hope that one day I can make a decent living at it. What did the writer of the Book of Hebrews say? “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 NABRE). And I’ve seen lots of evidence indicating I’m living out my calling. Just look at my smile! And my 98/67 blood pressure. I sure didn’t have that when I worked for the aerospace industry.That being said, I appreciate it when readers not only take the time to read what God has moved me to write, but also when folks type up a comment, a word of encouragement, or an opinion to contrast or complement (or compliment) my post. Those little sacrifices of time remind me that I’m touching at least a few people out there who took a moment to read my heart’s outpourings. After all, words are the most powerful force in the universe (just look at what God did with the Word!); I write not only because I have to write, but because I also hope to inspire my readership and somehow touch their lives in a positive, life-changing way.
So there you have it. Blogging has kept me consistent, structured, focused, inspired, and persistent. It fits well with my personality of fierce commitment and quiet perseverance, and it has been an anchor upon which my writing determination is moored. It has opened the door to being creative, and has closed the door on the fear of failure. It has provided a platform to present my talent and a tool to promote my work. Above all, blogging has given me the opportunity—even permission—to let go and let God in a very powerful, very real way. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” If blogging allows me 1,000,000 ways that won’t work and one that does, then it will have all been worth it. After all, I have no doubt the next blessing—and blog post #148—is just around the corner.
Copyright © 2015 by David C Hughes