I leave in a week for a 3 week trip to Uganda. I got back a week and a half ago from a 10 day trip to the Bahamas (all work related). My daughter got married. My house is on the market. I injured my right (dominant) elbow. In short, my writing passion is at a fairly low ebb — not because I don’t have the story in my head or because I don’t think it’s going to be good. Rather, life has just been going at high speed since I left for Uganda in February, and taking time and mental focus to write has been very challenging.
My first boss had a saying, especially after interviewing prospective employees that seemed good to me. He’d say, “The world is full of people with talent. What I want is someone with tenacity, common sense, and stick-to-it-iveness.” That’s what my writing is right now – stick-to-it-iveness. While I can easily write 3000-5000 words a day when I’m in my regular routine (whatever that is now days!), I’m learning that anything written is better than nothing written. A couple of days ago, I wrote about 680 words. Yesterday, over 2000. I have to drive three hours today, then come back again tomorrow, so I don’t know how much I’ll get done today. (The good news is that my mind is always very productive in creating stories when I’m driving.) And while that’s not how I have been rolling the last couple of years, it’s what my life looks like right now, and that’s okay. I’m sticking with it, and I’ll finish the book on time.
A lot of us tend to see set-backs or not meeting our goals as a failure. Sometimes it causes us to give up. This is true in everything from dieting to exercise to learning new skills.
I’m here to tell you, it’s not failure. It’s life. And life is like the weather – you’d be rich if you could control it. You can’t, so quit trying. The old adage that it’s better to bend than to break is true, certainly in managing the curveballs that life throws at you. This year isn’t looking anything like I thought it would (except the wedding). I had a plan for 7 books. I had a work schedule that was really rocking until I left in February. If nothing else had happened, I probably would have met that goal. But we decided to put our house on the market (which is how I hurt my elbow in the first place); the wedding took more mental and physical energy than I expected; my nonprofit got the opportunity to expand into Andros, Bahamas, and that is a priority (yes, over writing!). None of those things, nor the myriad of small things — not to mention just enjoying my family over the summer — were things I counted on. But what would I give up?
- Would I have left everything to my daughter, and just showed up for the wedding weekend? Of course not!
- Would I have said “no” to Andros, not taken the two trips, not planned and done a youth camp, not impacted those kids, not gotten a vision for 2014 there? No way.
- Would I have cancelled my trips to Uganda, where we work with hundreds of people, to write? Uh uh.
- Would I have said no to listing the house and doing everything it needed to be market-ready? That’s a bit more iffy, but ultimately, no. (I love our house, but we’re trying to move to another town, so it’s necessary.)
- Would I have spent these weeks at the beach working and not seeing my kids when they were here, not making memories with them so I could write? No, absolutely not. Our family is big on making memories (we give our kids a trip instead of gifts for Christmas, for instance), and they’re almost all gone now. I wouldn’t trade that time for a million writing hours.
What it boils down to, I guess, is priorities. I love writing. I love publishing. I love creating. I love teaching. But it’s not my first life priority. Being present for my family, and bringing hope and help to people who are otherwise hopeless, are much higher on the scale. Life is about the opportunities you take, the relationships you build, and investing in those relationships with the only thing that will actually make a difference: time. I hear about writers who hustle books in local towns while on a family vacation, who spend 10 hours a day editing or writing on a family holiday, or who let their family go somewhere for an adventure while they stay and work. Mostly that just makes me sad, for the writers and for their families.
Life is short. A 17 year old friend of my son died last week. He was sideswiped by a car while he was on his scooter while coming home from a high school football game. He lived three days in a coma, then died. It could be any of us… I don’t want to look back with regret at all the times I passed up fellowship, fun, and love for work. I want to live this life fully, and have no regrets when it’s over. How about you?