I’m coaching my oldest son as he writes an entry for his first-ever essay contest. The process is a struggle for him. His knowledge of the subject isn’t deep, he struggles to organize his thoughts, and he doesn’t know how to develop an idea once he has one. And this all makes him a bit reluctant to keep at it.
This is normal. He’s twelve.
I’ve coached him on how to brainstorm with a mind map, and then I’ve told him to simply sit at the computer to start typing his thoughts in sentences and paragraphs. He’ll start, and then pretty quickly he’ll get stuck and discouraged.
“Mama, I don’t know what to write next. I don’t know how to start my next thought.”
“Don’t worry about starting it. Jump in the middle if you need to. Just write down the ideas you do have. You can go back over it and add transitions, expand your ideas, or cut things out later. For now, just write.”
When the words came out of my mouth, I realized that I needed to hear them myself.
How often am I the twelve-year-old who kinda wants to but kinda doesn’t want to sit down and do the work? I think I have some ideas worth sharing, but when I try to organize or articulate them it’s hard. I don’t know where to start or jump in, so I feel stuck. And I’d much rather go do something else than apply myself to my current writing project–whether it’s a small essay-type-post or a long-form writing goal.
Being a writer means, of course, that you actually write. But how often do I run from the process? Just like my son would do if he didn’t have Mom around to structure his day and coach him through the rough spots.
My son would rather write a silly poem about animals. Or play legos.
I might rather read other people’s articles and comment on other people’s posts–anything that is easier and makes me feel productive while ignoring the real work to be done.
The struggle with temptation to do something else haunts my housework, too, but that is a topic for another day.
…Or is it?
Perhaps I shouldn’t view my writing or my housework as two distinct and separate categories. Both are things I feel called to do for the glory of God. So if I see a similar preference for distraction pop up when I ought to be folding laundry to edify my household, just like when I ought to be working on a writing project to edify my readers, maybe I ought to tug on that common thread for a bit. Figure out where it leads.
It seems to me the common thread is faithfulness (or a lack of it). Am I willing to do the right thing at the right time? And to continue to do so through all of the mundane moments and ups and downs of my feelings and performance?
Writing and laundry both reveal our character, don’t they? Whether we’re a seasoned 36 year-old or a budding 12.
>Intermission: Got to go make breakfast and enjoy it with my family. Writing is right when kept in its right place. But wrong if it becomes the distraction from the right thing at the right time.<
Aaaannnd we’re back.
Sometimes I need to tell myself, “Just write. Don’t worry about whether or not it sounds great now. Do the work, even if you have to severely edit it later.”
Or, “Just fold the clothes for crying out loud. Don’t fret over the the fact that it will just be undone a day later. Do the work, even if you have to do it again next week. (Because you will.)”
When I read well-established writers commenting on the writing process, they invariably say the same thing. It’s hard. Show up anyway. Do the work. Just write.
When coaching my son, the advice is the same, albeit gentler and with a much heftier helping of sympathy for the hardness of it.
I used to imagine that writing would get easier with age, that somehow I’d find my stride and the words would flow. But it’s still work. It’s still intimidating. And nothing gets easier without a lot of practice.
And feedback, if you can manage to get some.
That’s why I’m writing this post today. It’s admittedly a bit more stream-of-consciousness, but that’s partly the point. It’s good to just write. And I hope to start doing a lot more of it.
Above I alluded to a long-form writing project I’m supposed to be working on. I’ve come a long way on it, but I have a long way to go. I’ve held most of my work on the subject in reserve, not really sharing it anywhere–not even on my blog.
But it turns out this process is big and hard and intimidating, and I need to break it down into smaller chunks.
And I need feedback.
That’s where you come in, dear reader. Behind my writing, even behind what you might read as a confident voice, is a very human, very just-like-my-12-year-old author: me.
I want to put aside my perfectionistic hang ups and just write. And I hope to do so more often.
But I don’t have a mom to organize my days or coach me through the ups and downs. That’s on me.
My husband is a great sounding board and a great encouragement, but I still need feedback from those who actually receive my work.
I need to know when my ideas fall flat. I need to know when they resonate.
I need to know when something excites you, challenges you, or confuses you.
So please, let me know.
And especially as I churn out more articles for women like me who are walking with Jesus, dealing with sins and messes and hang ups, and seeking to live joyful, obedient, God-honoring lives…please, tell me what you’re thinking. Ask me your questions. Add your insights and experiences. It would be a great blessing to me.
I’m not just saying “I’d love to hear from you.” I really would. You can be a part of my process and spur me on to create something that will, I hope, be a blessing to you and many others.
I’ll try to just write. Would you please write back?