inch by inch
Yesterday, after church, I stood in the foyer with two of my friends. We'll call them "Olga and Natasha." (When I told them I thought there was a blog in our conversation and I'd probably be writing about it, they each asked that I name them something exotic. So there you go.) I mentioned that I've been reading Sugar Blues, a truly horrifying book. It's a well-written book, but still horrifying, because now that I know sugar is as addicting and as dangerous as opium, I really have no choice but to empty my cupboards and get myself to the nearest SA meeting.
Olga said, "I couldn't do that. I love sugar too much."
I agreed with her.
She went on. "I try to eat better. I try all the time. I start out well--I mean, I have the apple, but then I want the chocolate too. I'll eat good all day long, and then at night I just blow it. So I figure, 'Oh, well. Might as well start tomorrow--today's shot.'"
Wise Natasha jumped in. This woman just oozes sound counsel--all day, every day. Sunday was no exception. "Olga," she said, "it's all just God calling you. He's calling you to a healthier lifestyle. Don't give up."
I agreed with Natasha. And then I told them what I'd just been thinking about the whole diet and exercise thing. I said, "I want to do it all at once. I want to stop eating for twenty-four hours and lose all the weight I want. And I want to not have to walk or go to the gym or do anything work-out-ish all year--and then go out and run a marathon. Just get it over with all in one big effort."
Of course, that's not how it works. Instead, every bite counts. Every trip to the gym counts. Every day makes a difference. Since you can't do it in one grand gesture, you have to do it in a thousand tiny gestures.
Writing is exactly the same. You cannot write a novel overnight (unless you're aiming to write a really poor novel. In that case, let me start a big pot of coffee and clear the desk for you). You have to write word by word, sentence by sentence, page by page, chapter by chapter. And just because you don't have time today for a marathon writing session doesn't mean you get to toss the day. You still have to take a step in the direction of your goal.
In the middle of my last book, a giant case of sailor-lost-at-sea panic set in. No matter how many words I put up on the screen, my destination seemed no closer. In the midst of such musing, I had an impression from the Lord. I always know it's Him when it's something wise. And this was. He made me think again about that sailor, the one drifting out there in the vast and endless sea. And He said, "No sailor can cross the sea in an afternoon. But every wave crossed brings him closer to shore."
I realized then that progress is made even when I don't feel it. If I'm faithful to sit down at the appointed time and strike the keys as I'm inspired to do so, words will appear. When enough do, I'll have a sentence. If I keep it up, I'll have a paragraph. And before you know it--certainly by April 15th, my next deadline--those paragraphs will have knitted themselves into chapters that will congregate into a whole book.
Kids know this helpful little saying: "Inch by inch, and it's all a cinch."
That's true. Except for dieting.