A while back, I acted as the builder in an improvement project on our house. I dug out the foundation and framed it, framed the new house, resided the old house, replaced all the windows, put on a new roof and did quite a bit of the plumbing (of course my family was there to help). It's incredible how impacting the experience of remodeling our house and adding on 900 square feet has been on my life. I really came to know God in a deeper way than anything else in my life up to that point--except the day I came to know Christ as my Savior.
I thought it would be helpful to others to pass along some of these lessons as they apply to the art of writing, and maybe, in some small way, help out other writers. I'll do this in a series until I've said what I want to say.
The first thing I learned was to see the tree and not the forest.
The job of refashioning our house was enormous and I found out I got discouraged real fast if I thought about just how much work was ahead of me, because there were no building crews--I was the crew. As a matter of fact I didn't realize I was developing high blood pressure until after I'd been working on the house for about a year. I came in one night with a headache and checked my blood pressure and it was way higher than it should have been. My blood pressure was high because I had become the kind of person who looks at the forest and not the first tree. It wasn't just my house, it was everything in my life--I was always looking at how big something was, how much was left to do, how much work I had ahead of me. It kept me unhappy.
If you look at writing this way you'll be unhappy too--you won't enjoy it. I believe God gives us gifts to enjoy and writing is a gift from God. It's not a gift of the Spirit, it's a gift of the heart. If we approach it right, we'll be happy and fulfilled. If we approach it wrong, we'll be unhappy and worried.
One night I was framing under the stars--I sometimes came home from work and then worked on the house until eleven or twelve o'clock (my neighbors loved it!) under my portable lights. I took the time to look up at the stars and for a moment I just enjoyed being there. It was a breakthrough moment for me. I realized I'd been robbing myself of enjoying working on my house. I learned to enjoy each job I had before me, just by making up my mind I was going to live a thankful life before God. Instead of complaining to Him about how much work I had to do, I thanked Him for each job I had to do along the way--building the walls and setting them, building the individual headers for the windows and doors and then framing them--I even cut the stringers for our new staircase. I thanked him for the smell of the wood and the feel of it in my hands. When I finished framing the big addition (there were two) and began on the sheathing, I stood on the peak one night, arms stretched up and fists pumping, like I'd just conquered Everest. Then I moved on to the next job. But it happened one small job at a time.
Writing is no different. A sentence becomes a paragraph, a paragraph becomes a scene, a scene becomes a chapter, a chapter becomes a draft, and a draft becomes a book--then on to editing, and it all starts over.
Take writing one tree at a time and enjoy the trip through the forest. The day will come when you'll finish and move on. The question is, did you enjoy the view along the way?