“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25–26.
I don’t run marathons; the only running I do is from the couch to the fridge during Super Bowl ads. But I have a friend who does. And he says that in a marathon, he can’t focus on the finish line lest he get overwhelmed by the size of the task. Instead, he must stay in the moment and focus just on the current mile, one step at a time.
Writing a book is like that. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon—a long, exhausting, brain-cramping marathon. If I focus on the finish line, I’ll get overwhelmed and never make it. Instead, I must stay in the moment and focus just on the current chapter or paragraph—one sentence at a time.
The writing process can be rich and inspiring, but it can also be slow and grueling. Frustratingly tedious. Mind-numbingly painful. Sometimes the ideas come in rapid succession; other times, the brain is a dry lakebed. Times of writer’s block—when my fingers desperately want to tap-dance their rhythms across the keyboard, but the hand-to-brain connection is frozen—are more common than rare. Even if ideas are flying around in my head, sometimes my fingers just can’t get them out.
My ultimate objective is to complete the rough draft of my current book manuscript this spring or summer. My daily goal is a minimum of five hundred words—roughly two pages. Five hundred measly words a day. For someone delving into a writing career, this should be a cinch. How hard can it be?
This month? Very.
Ideas crash around in my cranium like kids in a bounce-house. They want to be put to paper. They want out.
But my fingers are on strike.
Thus begins a spiral: the more my fingers refuse to cooperate, the more frustrated I become. The more frustrated I become, the more the ideas shrivel. The more the ideas shrivel, the more desperation sets in. And the more desperation sets in, the more my fingers refuse to dance.
Then it hits me. I have shifted my focus to finishing the whole manuscript, making it harder to concentrate on the current sentence.
All of this brings me back to the marathon as a metaphor. In fact, it’s more than a metaphor for writing; it’s a metaphor for life.
This month marks the ninth anniversary of the date when my academic life disintegrated within the rich, dark walls of a British university. Since 2008, I have prayed about, begged for, and sought after the next open door—any door—that God wants me to walk through. Yet I can’t find it. A teaching career seems out. Ministry opportunities seem rare. I have engaged in a great inner battle over whether I am really qualified to do anything.
And now I am 50—in a world where most institutions and organizations would prefer to hire someone with similar education in their 30s.
It would be inaccurate to say that doors are closing all around me. Rather, it feels more like I am walking down a dark hallway with no doors at all.
So, for nine years, it seems there has been only one thing to do: writing.
Yet my writing is not supporting me. My wife is. Ultimately, of course, God is – but he is using her to do so.
Today, writers can write and publish whatever they wish—but of all the hopefuls, relatively few make a sustained living at it. The pursuit of writing does not guarantee success by any concrete measure, including the measure of guaranteed publication—or income.
This situation is unsettling, especially as the specter of “retirement age” looms ever closer – and even closer for my wife than for me. What will happen after she retires? How will God provide for us then? I’m worried about retirement. I’m worried about provision. I’m worried about everything except the next step, which still seems to be: Keep writing. Unprofitable or not, it’s still the only thing God seems to be telling me to do.
The more I try to guess the end result without being able to see it, the more frustrated I become—and the less I focus on the needs of the current moment, like completing a chapter.
I must stay in the present. If I try to look too far ahead, I’ll go into a spiral.
So the longer I walk down this endless hallway with no doors, the more I can’t help but think this is where God still wants me right now. As moments of desperation overwhelm me and frustration stifles my spirit, God’s voice leaks into the heaviness I feel over not knowing what else to do. And he says…
“Keep walking. I will provide the path.”
“Keep writing. I will be your muse.”
“Keep going. I will take care of you and your wife. I will take care of the rest.”