As many of you have heard me muse about, one of the projects I am working on in my “spare” time is writing a book. It’s a memoir of sorts about experiences of grief and a look at the topic of grief from a pastoral perspective. When it will be done, who knows? But in the meantime, the project makes me smile just to think about it. I am a writer as much as I am a pastor.
However, as excited as I am about the writing process and eventually the publication, I have an equal amount of fear. I can’t believe that I’m actually doing this. And I can’t believe that it will ever be done. And I also can’t believe that anyone will like it as much as it brings me personal pleasure to write down.
The best metaphor I have for this project is it is like running a marathon. It’s one of those things that often people say they want to do or need to do, but rarely see to the finish line. It’s a discipline that requires constant attention– work that is often solitary that no one sees or affirms as you “train.” It’s a BHAG that seems impossible in the beginning, but gets a little easier the more you attend to it. It’s a task of building discipline muscles every time you engage in it– strength that gets you back on track in the writing direction sooner between drafts.
So, as far as I can tell right now, I’m about 1/3 of the way done of this marathon training. But, sadly, it seems I have little to show for it. Though I know what I have is more than those who haven’t yet decided to show up at the start gate. At the gym where I actually work out, there’s a sign on the front door which say’s, “Half the battle is just showing up.” I’m hoping this is true of writing too.
Writing a book, like training for the mammoth of all races can be a lonely task. For hours at a time, you slave away at your computer not quite yet to share your prose with others until it is just right. You keep working and wait for the moment when you can present your offering of “this is my story.” Some people are better at the waiting than others. I am not that kind of person.
I don’t love long solitary days, especially if they come back to back in a given week. I need more company than just words on a page. But commitment to completion of this project requires me to remember that sometimes I have to say no to what in the present could be a lovely invitation to a hang out with a friend for the sake of the project. If I’m doing this, I really need to do it. These moments of discernment are hard to adjust to.
For personal encouragement to keep going, I often print out rough drafts of the chapters I complete and place them into a stack with the rest of the finished but unfinished project. Somehow as the pile of papers gets thicker by the week, I feel like one day this just might be a book. A real book. My real book!
Sometimes if I am desperate for some cheers, I’ll post on twitter my chapter count in hopes that other writing friends know what a big deal it is to move from completion of chapter 11 to chapter 12. While it may not seem like a big deal to those on the outside, for me, that one increase in chapter completion is a testament of hours of discipline, focus and resolve to just get it done. It’s much like a runner who goes from completing a 10 minute mile to a 9 minute mile. While, yes, it is just a minute, this one minute is a huge accomplishment.
So, I’ll keep running (aka book writing) with my eyes on the finish line which I hope I’ll get to soon– at least sooner than never!