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Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Awful Draft

As a writer, I love to work at my own pace and style. No deadlines. Just living in the story. Loving creativity. But that doesn’t work so well for making me finish what I’ve started. Or reaching a deadline.

If a group of writers compared notes over coffee, each one would have their own writing style. I bet we’d see . . .

The always-outline girl.
The freestyle-never-outline writer.
The stay-up-late-and-crash-through-the-draft guy.
The sit-down-when-inspiration-hits and type-as-many-words-as-possible lifer.
The I-can-write-anywhere-anytime-just-do-it gal.
The wish-I-can-wish-I-might procrastinator guy.
And so many more.

Within each of our styles and personalities, our writing changes and grows. Maybe in the beginning we were the optimist, hoping our first layer of words would come out perfect. (Oh, how I wish mine would!) But then we change and become determined to write more or better or faster, therefore we force ourselves into a different technique.

Delivering words can come with moments of dazzling inspiration. Or nothing emotionally charges us, and we have to push and prod and squeeze creativity out of our mind and heart. The task can be as grueling as digging a ditch or as freeing as leaping off the edge of the diving board into cool, invigorating water.

My writing style is typically circular with lots of backtracking. I write a few pages, then edit, change things, and eventually, move forward. Repeat. A day or two might pass without me writing, therefore when I start up, I have to go to the beginning again. It’s a constant circular progress, moving forward in meager portions.

It’s me. It’s what I like to do. But . . .

At that rate, it takes a looooooong time to write a three-hundred-page rough draft. Sometimes, years. Especially, considering how fond I am of waiting for inspiration. However, this year, I'm trying something different. I decided if I want to take writing seriously, and I do, I had to stop waiting for the creative bug and realize I’m a writer who can write. Therefore, I need to move forward every day.

Get the first draft done! has become my motto. Thus my title—The Awful Draft—because it is pretty terrible.

However, I’ve broken the circular pattern. I must confess to using the old technique in the first thirty pages of my WIP. But since breaking through the need to deepen the story first, I’ve made myself write forward, only reading the previous two pages each day. My goal is to throw down the first draft and finish it before a personal deadline.

And—hallelujah—it’s working.

There are days I’ve typed out twenty pages—that’s really humming for me—and days when I'm happy with three. I still come up with times of zero inspiration, when I don’t feel like writing. Nevertheless, I can always write something. And so can you! Who's going to see that first draft, anyway?

The need to start editing now is powerful. It grips me, and I almost surrender. But I refuse to yield. So far, I’ve reached two-hundred pages much faster than I ever would have writing the old way. I’m trusting that the ragged edges of my initial attempt will transform into beauty along the way. And in the end, hopefully a quicker end, I’ll finish the race and have a meaningful story to share.

Here’s to many more awful first drafts!!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Follow Your Heart

If God has put something in your heart to do, I want to encourage you to stop putting it off and just do it. Too often, I ponder the thoughts of my heart way too long without taking action. I allow self-doubt or fear or worries to rob the good thing I would have done if only I’d listened and leaped forward.

I wish I were bolder. Braver. More willing to take risks. Or to believe in myself. Or in God’s ability to help me.

But there are times when something holds me back. Do you ever feel that reluctance to give yourself the freedom to follow your heart?

When we try something new, our first attempts can be pretty sketchy. Sometimes, awful. Like rough drafts. That’s why they’re called “rough” drafts, right? Thinking about my lousy first attempts at writing could keep me from trying again. What if fear crippled me and I stopped writing altogether?

Even though I believe we should do the thing we were made to do, to follow God’s nudging, there are times when I don’t listen. I overlook, or ignore, the longings I feel.

Do you ever feel that way?

Sometimes we have to give ourselves a gentle kick. To be open to failing, if need be. If we don’t, we’ll never know what we could have accomplished with God’s grace and goodness fueling us.

“I might fall on my face.”

It’s true. We might.

Starting something new can be scary. However, one step leads us to draw the next foot forward. Writing the first sentence makes the second one easier. Speaking the first line eases the way for all the others to be said confidently. But that first step, that newborn effort, however big or small, can be the most daunting.

We have to kick fear out of the picture. Be willing to take the plunge. Dream big. Follow through. I challenge you, and me, to take that first step, and see what happens.

Panic can cripple creativity. We might feel momentarily frozen. Thus, stage fright.

But, please know, you can do it. I can do it. We can take that fumbling step forward, and the next step will be easier.

If you feel a call to do a thing, and it’s pounding a wild drumbeat in your heart, telling you over and over to try, to take that step, then squash fear and doubt. Sweep it out the door, and welcome the chance to follow a dream.

If we should falter, let’s not wallow in misery and allow one misstep to keep us from trying again.

Instead, be bold.
Take a step.
Do what’s in your heart.
Faith is all or nothing.

Start that new thing. Write a book. Paint a picture. Move to a new place. Look for a different job. Teach a Sunday school class. Start a youth group. Preach. Become a missionary.

Follow your dream. Which really means follow your heart, believing that God, who loves you so much, is leading you.

Just do it. And be glad you did.