When I started to pursue writing full time, the first three years were filled with one punch to the gut after another. I genuinely wanted to know why in the world God would give me such a drive to write and then place nothing but disappointment and frustration in my path.
I wanted the quick fix.
I wanted immediate success.
I share in my latest book Write without Crushing Your Soul that writers have to embrace the process of writing drafts, editing, revising, and enduring rejection. There is no other way.
Even the writers who rise in the charts with a sensational first book release either spent many, many years working on their writing out of the public eye or faced a lot of rejection before finally breaking in.
The process doesn’t have a quick fix or a fast way to hack the system and win.
I have been obsessed with the quick fix.
The quick fix isn’t just tempting when it comes to a career or personal finances. The allure of the quick fix slips into our marriages, our friendships, our spirituality, and our health. In each case I am drawn to the glossy book, revolutionary app, or the sharp pen and journal set promising INSTANT RESULTS.
It’s true that an app or a journal or a book can play a small part in setting you on the right course, but I have hit nothing but frustration when I’ve expected a ten-year process to unfold within a year or two, a year-long process to unfold in a few months, or a life-long process to take shape within a week.
Perhaps my quick fix fantasy is fueled by the supposed success stories and exceptions to the rule—especially when they write books promising to unveil the secrets of a meteoric rise to the top.
And here is the worst part, the absolute worst part, of slow, imperceptible, almost stalling growth: you have to fail a lot along the way. In fact, sometimes truly growing means you have to classify a failure as a step forward nonetheless.
I can’t tell you how many times I have struggled to pray and wondered if anything happened before I started to find a sense of peace and connection with God. It’s not that I had to do anything special or please God in a certain way. I just needed to learn how to quiet my mind in order to listen.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to cut a run short because I ran out of energy or a snack at the café beckoned, only to leave me with regret and guilt ten minutes later. In each case, these small steps forward, struggles, and failures are signs that we are changing and evolving.
There will be epiphanies, “lucky” breaks, or unexpected windfalls, but I run into trouble when I expect them to be the norm.
Most importantly, if we have to really fight and claw our way toward strength and health in our relationships, work, or spiritual life, we’ll actually have a strong foundation in place in order to maintain the change. We’ll have to make all of the tough choices and make all of the day-to-day changes that will make them sustainable.
I didn’t enjoy my first three years as a freelance writer when I struggled mightily to earn a stable income and have to constantly battle insecurity.
I didn’t love a crisis of faith where I felt like prayer didn’t work, and I didn’t know where to turn.
I don’t crave conflict in my relationships where deep problems and insecurities are forced to rise to the surface.
In each case I had to work through my low points before I could take steady steps forward. The seasons of struggle unearthed so many parts of myself that I continue to deal with and need to deal with if I want to be a follower of Jesus, committed husband, and writer who remains faithful to his calling.
I don’t think I would have chosen the tough seasons of life. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to hit so many low points in my writing career. However, each experience, good and bad, has laid a foundation I find invaluable today.
I used to “theologize” about my career.
Maybe God wanted me to do something else with my life?
Maybe I needed to give up on the supposed call to write?
Was writing or publishing just a self-serving desire on my part?
Was God really in this if I was struggling?
I don’t ever want to speak for God, but the place where I’ve found the most peace today has been acknowledging that “struggling to write” is just plain and simple writing. It is what it is. If I hit a low point, it wasn’t necessarily because I hadn’t prayed properly or God wanted to crush my supposed calling.
A struggle could very well be caused by the simple fact that life is hard. Writing is hard. You can’t build anything of value in life without some struggle, failure, and missteps. You can’t make progress without hard work, discouragement, and more hard work.
I don’t know if there is an actual “quick fix” for a career or a marriage or spiritual growth. I used to believe in the quick fix, and now I’m agnostic about it. I can’t say for sure, but it’s not likely—at least for the majority of us.
In the midst of the failures and dark valleys, I am learning to see that God is with us in each one. I am trying to stop asking God to solve all of my perceived problems and to simply be present with me.
I need God to be present to give me wisdom and strength to stop thinking about my needs above those of my family and friends.
I need God to be present to save me from the traps of envy, resentment, and discouragement in my work.
I need God to be present to save me from the running leap of the quick fix so that I can be fully present for the small steps I need to take today.
Read a bit more about a building a healthy writing career in Write without Crushing Your Soul.
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