On Writing…

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[stamp by Amanda Rose]

I’ve published exactly zero novels in my life so, naturally, I’m here to write about writing.  It’s a misconception, you know, that writer = published.  You’re a writer because you write.  Some people want to be a writer.  What’s stopping them?  It’s the sitting down with pen and paper or at  a computer with a blank word document and a glaring blinking cursor.  That’s all… but it’s the absolute hardest part.

I often wonder what quality it is, what that spark looks like, that gets a person over the threshold from not doing to doing.  I just attended the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit and Jim Collins, author of Good to Great and Great by Choice, said something that really stuck with me.  He said,

“Creativity is natural; the human state. Discipline is NOT. The real skill is marrying creativity to discipline so it amps up your creativity.”

He called it “Fanatical Discipline” and “Empirical Creativity.”  Empirical as in tested, calibrated, something with some bones to back it up.  And there it was, the answer to my question.  DISCIPLINE.

It’s pretty hilarious to me that one of my top StrengthsFinder attributes is discipline.  While their definition of discipline rings true for me in the need for predictability, order, precision and structure (the silverware should be organized by type and size in the dishwasher people!), I have a hard time applying this discipline to some of the most important things to me.

Often, I sound like the Paul of Romans 7:15, I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do (NIV). I think this every morning that I pass up the exercise bike in favor of 15 more minutes of sleep that leaves me feeling more lousy than if I’d just gotten up.  If I was doing what I want to do, I’d write, not watch another episode of Doc Martin only to be disappointed with the sorry excuse for a season finale.

So, discipline… it’s why I’m sitting on my couch right now writing this annoyingly long blog post that I’m sure you didn’t sign up for…but, hey, if you’re into this long winded thing I’ve got going on I have this novel idea I want to pitch you… but I digress.

I’ve always written.  It’s one of the few things I can remember doing my whole life.  I have folders full of little stories and poems in my earliest printed handwriting, complete with illustrations.  It’s strange and perfect that this thing about me, that’s woven into my DNA has taught me so much, especially over the last few years.  Writing with my sad semblance of discipline has taught me HOW to write.  I’ve learned that the pushing through, the writing when it’s hard, easily bears the most impressive results.  It’s when I really don’t want to write a scene or I’m just not in the “writing mood” and I do it anyways, sometimes huffing and whining the whole time (sorry, Tynisha), that great writing happens.

Last night was one of those nights.  I’d been battling with what I know needed to happen in the story line and just not wanting to got there, not knowing if I could write it, it was just too big and scary for me… but then… I did.  This is the first story I’ve ever stuck with, persevered with, struggled and beat and deleted and rearranged and argued with.  It’s made me a bit crazier than I ever used to be but I’ve never felt more like a writer.  A REAL writer.  No just someone who wants to be a writer.

After spending some time wrapping up that tough scene and cleaning up the outline for the remaining chapters, I started writing a new scene.  The final scene.  It came out seamlessly, all at once.  (You need to know this rarely happens.)

I even had to hop on Facebook and proclaim to all the nations my friends:

“Just typed the words “The End”… But before you get excited, I’m the type that skips to read the last page when things get intense…

Apparently I write the same way.”

(See, always learning something new about myself along the writer’s way.)

I have typed the words “The End” with sincerity for the first time and I saw a vision of the novel coming to completion.  I can see the finish line and so I pray for more and more of that fanatical discipline to get me those last few miles and, Lord willing, for it to become so ingrained in me that I never lose it again.


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