Monday, October 18, 2010

Work, Hope, Trust

Today at Novel Matters, Patti Hill posted about one of my favorite books for writers, Steven Pressfield's The War of Art. If you haven't read this book, and you're an artist of any ilk, might I take a cattle prod to your backside and (gently) encourage you to do so?

Partly spurred by The War of Art, partly as a result of a recent conversation with a wise and godly writer friend, I've been thinking a lot over the past few weeks about work ethics and hope and expectations, and the wisdom of ceasing to hope in my expectations, but rather to hope in God, who because of His good nature has good plans for me, plans that I can trust even if they don't line up exactly with what I think is best, or the timing in which I think it should unfold.

Here's the comment I posted to Patti Hill's blog post at Novel Matters today:
I read Pressfield's book a few months ago and it changed the way I approach sitting down to write each day. Since 1991 I've faced down (and sometimes been beaten by) that nebulous resistance, almost daily. My resistance isn't usually one thing or person, but innumerable little distractions, laziness, the desire to be entertained rather than to work. Now I have a name for it, a better understanding of it, and am stronger to overcome it.

[insert segue]

God has whispered to my heart lately about laying down my expectations when it comes to a writing career (and anything else, really). I'm not to be hoping in my dreams, or my own notion of what would be best for me, but in Him. If I hope in Him and trust to His good plans and loving nature, and continually lay down the burden of my own expectations and desires, I find I'm much less tightly wound about it all.

Just like overcoming resistance, I relearn this almost daily. :)
I hadn't thought it through until I saw the phrase flow from my keyboard, but the burden of my own expectations is exactly what it is. When I'm holding on tightly to a hope, a dream, a desire that God either sees isn't good for me, or the timing's not right, it becomes a burden, because I'm left trying to make it happen in my own strength and wisdom. Or else I'm fretting over it, obsessing about it, cherishing it like a toddler with another child's toy.

MINE! That's a recipe for burn-out and frustration.

Not that as writers/artists we aren't to work, and work hard, at the craft we've been called to. I want do my part (showing up each day on time to write; read as much as possible and study other writers' craft, and at the same time fill my creative well; learn the industry as well as I can; keep a teachable spirit when it comes to the writing craft; give my agent what she asks for when she asks for it). But even more I want to let God do His part. That means giving over the outcome of my work to Him, trusting that whatever comes, it's come through His hand, and it's something good for me. Conversely, if I don't get something I want, when I want it, then that wasn't good for me just then.

It makes this whole up-and-down writing journey a lot smoother, at least in my soul. While I want to give my characters a roller coaster of an internal arc, I'd prefer my own be a bit more even-keeled.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

I so enjoy, learn from, and appreciate the Novel Matters ladies and their blog. If you haven't checked them out yet, well... where did I put that cattle prod?


  1. Excellent post! It has always amazed me that just about the time I'm cluing in to the fact that God is trying to teach me a new concept, someone from halfway across the country expresses the same concept as something God is teaching them, too.

    We do want so much, don't we? Health for ourselves and our families, success in our work, financial security, happiness, and all the latest trinkets that represent the American dream. If God doesn't come through with all we ask, we feel cheated somehow, and are tempted to question His goodness. But if He is Lord, I exist for His glory and not the other way around. That's sovereignty, and it requires the daily death of my fleshly expectations as I learn to find satisfaction in Him alone.

    ...but the journey is worth the effort.

  2. Hi Lynn! Thanks so much for dropping by. Love all that you shared. God IS sovereign, and He's good. I so want to trust in that more than I do. How awesome that God is showing you this, too. Laying down my expectations and trusting in God's goodness has been so much on my mind since I had that conversation with a friend a couple weeks ago. This friend always inspires me and stretches my thinking, and I could probably do a running blog series on the nuggets of wisdom I go away with after a few hours with her.

  3. Oh my Lori, beautifully said! This speaks to so many areas of life, and is something that God has been working out in me...I think that phrase "laying down the burden of my own expectations" is so key. Where I get frustrated is exactly because I'm continually trying to carry my burdens, to work them out myself instead of giving them over to God...but He in his infinite patience and wisdom knows what I need, when I need it, and He hasn't abandoned me to my own devices yet, nor will He. Thanks my friend!

  4. And your comment has really blessed me today, Ruth. I'm so glad this resonates with you. It's so easy to forget that we don't often know what's best, or what's even good.

    I'd have gotten back here much sooner to comment, but while I was out running errands earlier two of the new cast of characters I've had waiting in the wings decided to muscle past the stagehands and start acting out a scene in which they argue about why they got married (married!!?? picture me driving along, trying to obey the traffic lights, frantically looking through the pages of the script in my head, searching for some trace of the word "marriage."). Then like a rock slide coming at me I was hit by plot twist after plot twist explaining just why their script is the right one, and I'm wrong.

    So of course I've spent the last I don't know how long getting all this down into a file. It's going to be a struggle not to be swept away by this rowdy crowd before I finish Willa. :)

  5. Lori, this post really blesses and challenges me. This is a lesson I find I have to learn and relearn day by day--not my will, but Yours. I think I've learned it and am living by it, and then I realize I've not only picked up the burden again but am clinging to it even more tightly than before, and God has to pry my fingers off it once again. How I appreciate His patience and his grace in time and again bringing me back to the foot of the cross! Thank you so much for this post!

  6. I'm learning to live life through the lens of humility right now and a lot of that has to do with my writing. This post is a blessing!! =)

  7. Joan, you and me both, my friend. Praying we both grow quicker to do our best and trust Him with the outcome.

    T. Anne, thanks for stopping by, reading, and commenting. Good to meet you here! So happy this post was a blessing.