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Stick to it!

Today wasn’t one of my best writing days. Although I hit my word count goal, I didn’t stagger away from my computer until near three. Since I normally start novel work by 7:30, that made for a long day. One with editing and publicity work still waiting to be conquered. In light of my rather murky muse, it’s no wonder I considered a major gear shift. In fact, as I puttered around the house, sweeping away the mountainous cobwebs that had gathered on more creative days, I plotted and planned another book entirely. And even convinced myself I needed to set my novel aside–the one I’m 45,000 words into and planned to have completed by the end of January–to start on a fresh book. Ah, a blank notebook, a blank screen, with ideas popcorn kernelling through my head.

Good thing I’m a praying woman. Hesitant to veer too far off my schedule without clear confirmation, I spent the afternoon in prayer. And nope, I never did get the novel-chucking, muse-chasing confirmation. So tomorrow, I’ll plunk back in my office chair, poise my fingers over my keyboard, squeezing out another 2,500 words (I upped my daily word count goal this year), whether they fly or crawl. Because sometimes we need to persevere and not everything comes easy, even when God’s behind us. (Like my old track coach, I believe occasionally  He makes us sweat, not because he’s mean, but because He loves us and wants to help us be our best.)

Tonight as I sat and evaluated my behaviors, I realized how easy it is to chase one idea after another. After all, a novel sounds so exciting when its first birthed. Not so much when you’re halfway through, staring at a stack of notecards wondering if you’ll ever make it to *the end*. But if we keep sifting through ideas, we’ll end up with a lot of starts that sort of fizzle out. With anything, but especially with writing, there are times you’ve got to muddle through. Those great ideas can wait. Jot them down. Chew on them. Pray about them, then when you finish the project you’re on, go back to them. They’ll still be there, only now you’ll have a finished book behind you, giving you the confidence to push through when your muse decides to take another nap.

I challenge you to make that a goal this year—to finish what you start. It doesn’t matter if it stinks. You can always rewrite it, or delete it. Shred it? Feed it to your puppy? Douse it in lighter fluid and have a winter bonfire?  And your time won’t be wasted. No time spent writing ever is. You’ll have learned a little more while developing perseverance—grit, and you’ll have gained confidence.

What Keeps You Going When You Hit the Wall?

On Wednesday, Mary Hamilton talked about the “why” of writing–that inner drive that propels us forward and clarifies our message. Today she’s here to talk about reasons to stick with it, despite obstacles, disappointments, and set-backs. Once again, the question I posed in the title points back to your why. For me, I write for Christ, the Creator of the universe, the risen King, the bright and morning star. This encourages me to continually seek excellence, because He deserves no less than my absolute best. This week I’ve had some major rewrites and other responsibilities land on my desk, requiring long days. One afternoon, needing a mid-day refresher, I retreated to my “prayer closet” and proceeded to tell God how tired I was. As I prayed, I thought of Moses, and his forty years in the desert. I thought of Paul, and the intense and continual struggles he faced. I thought of David, fleeing from Saul. By reminding me of these stories–of these courageous men who continually poured out all they had to give–God showed me fatigue, at times, is part of the deal.

Why I (Still) Write by Mary Hamilton

It occurred to me that there might be something worse for a writer than not getting published, something that would make me lay aside my pen or pencil, turn off my computer. What is it that stops me from writing? What kills my motivation, drowns my inspiration, to the point that I am convinced I have nothing worthwhile to say in print?

It is when my work doesn’t measure up. Even sought after, well-intentioned, constructive criticism can sap my confidence at times. I work on a piece for weeks or months, spend long hours going over the content, the sentences, the grammar, making it the best piece of writing I’ve ever done. Then, I find out the characterization needs deepening, the dialogue doesn’t sound different from one character to the next, the plot doesn’t quite follow—that’s what stops me. I want to chuck it all and go back to my knitting. At least there, I have a tangible product. Like maybe a cozy afghan to pull over me while I curl up and cry.

Why do I write even when it feels like I have nothing worthwhile to say? Even when the world seems to tell me it’s futile? Even when I’ve rewritten the same passage eight times and the editor sends it back again?

In my last post, I mentioned my son’s losing basketball season. Several years after that, he and I watched a game where the team’s 3-point shooter consistently missed his shots. The team was behind, but they kept giving him the ball. And he kept missing.

Frustrated, I asked, “Why do they keep giving it to him? He hasn’t made a single shot.”

“Eventually, it’ll go in,” my son said. “Just gotta play through it.”

Sometimes, as writers, we’ve just gotta play through it. We can’t see the excellence when we’re staring at the mediocre. But we keep playing through it, keep writing while the inspiration is dried up and our motivation is flatter than the floor of a basketball court.

In life, the hardest times result in the most growth. The Bible likens it to the purifying process for precious metals, applying heat so that the dross rises to the top to be skimmed off. Is writing any different? If we keep writing through the disappointment and discouragement and hopelessness, the impurities will slowly but surely be left behind. One day we’ll look back and see how much stronger our writing is, how much closer to excellence we are. Because we’re still writing. We’re still in the game.

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A homemaker for almost 30 years, Mary L. Hamilton has been published in several Christian periodicals. She also wrote “Homespun Angel,” a Christmas play, and is currently working on a middle grade contemporary novel. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, reading, and exercising. (Well, maybe not exercising.)

Mary lives in the Houston, TX area with her husband, three nearly-grown kids, and a dog. You can find her on:

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/M-L-Hamilton/167765133302978

Blog: http://marylhamilton.wordpress.com/

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