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Keep Writing – Especially When It’s Hard

Being a writer can be weird.  Last week I wrote a 700-word piece and it took all my gumption, brain effort, and about 18 hrs of work.  I probably wrote 4,000 words in the process of eeking out a mere 700. By the time I finally hit the “send” button on the mini-project, I was barely moderately happy with the result. It was definitely not the best thing I’d ever written, but I had to stop editing just hit submit.

Fast forward to this week, and in two hours, I just rattled off 700 words that I’m really pleased with. I’m not exactly sure what the difference was between the two projects other than my mojo was working for one and not the other.

But that’s life, right?  

Sometimes things come easy, but sometimes we have to work for them.  The contrast in my easy writing day versus hard writing day is a reminder to me (and hopefully to any writer) to keep working. 

Keep writing even when writing is hard and tedious because the result is at least three-fold –

1. You finish the written product, so your imagined book or blog becomes a reality.

2. You’re building discipline, which will help hard writing days get easier. 

3. You’re building skill in your craft. 

Press on in the tough writing days and be grateful for the easy ones.  You’ll never regret the effort. I’m cheering you on. Cheer me on, too.

Books

So you want to write a book? Two tips. Just two.

Since publishing my book Joyful Momentum: Growing and Sustaining Vibrant Women’s Groups with Ave Maria Press, a lot of people have approached me with their book ideas and have asked about how to write a book, how to have a book published, and how to approach writing amid life’s competing priorities. I’m glad to have these conversations, and I’m learning as I go.  

Thank you for reaching out to me and trusting me with your ideas.  It feels pretty sacred to be able to talk through some absolutely beautiful book ideas – from memoir to children’s book, religious to non-religious.  I know what it feels like to have a conviction in the pit of your stomach to share your words and thoughts with the world.  And I know how vulnerable it feels to share those thoughts with another person.  

When I was finally ready to write Joyful Momentum, I was going to write it whether a publisher was interested in it or not.  In fact, before I pitched the book idea to my wonderful editor, I had already written three chapters and had been spending my days off writing in a cubicle at the public library until it was time to pick my son up from school. 

I was leafing through my journal from several years ago today and came across a page where I was wrestling with whether to write Joyful Momentum. I’m usually a paragraph journaler, but on this day, I wrote two numbered lines. 

1. Circumstances are never going to be perfect for writing.

2. Ora et labora. There is a reason that prayer comes first.

If you want to write, those are my two tips.

Circumstances are never going to be perfect for writing. 

When I first started writing Joyful Momentum, I had visions of writing with a cute computer, likely a rose gold colored MacBook Air because they are adorable.  I imagined writing in a posh little coffee shop at a leisurely pace, and wearing a fashionable outfit that included a chartreuse headband holding my curls out of my face, a navy blue and white polka dot sweater, coral lipstick, and Kendra Scott earrings.  And I contemplated sipping foamy lattes sprinkled with nutmeg from a porcelain mug that would make a perfect clinking sound when replaced on the saucer.  I see you rolling your eyes. But it’s my daydream; I get to daydream whatever I want.

In reality, I wrote on an old Acer laptop with a cracked screen.  I spent hours typing at my dining room table or at the public library. There were no cute outfits, and definitely no lipstick.  On fancy days, I sported tinted chapstick.  I wrote in my favorite 20-year old College of William and Mary sweatshirt.  It’s faded, has frayed cuffs, and more than one food stain, but it’s the coziest article of clothing in my closet.  I sipped McDonald’s coffee out of a styrofoam to-go cup with “caution contents hot” printed across the rim.  I often rose at 4am to get two hours of writing finished before starting my family’s work and school day and set an ambitious goal of finishing a chapter every three weeks to meet my deadline.  

Far from an idyllic daydream, those early morning writing sessions while the house slept, or Saturdays at the public library, were my perfect writing circumstances because that’s when I got the job done.  

If you want to write a book, make room for writing exactly where you are.  Don’t wait for the “perfect” circumstance because the perfect circumstance for writing a book is just that – writing it.  Even if you write for only 20 minutes a day, you’ll be making progress. 

Ora et Labora. There’s a reason that prayer comes first. 

The Benedictine motto is “ora et labora” – pray and work. I’m a mom, a wife, a lawyer, an over-volunteerer, a writer, a hiker, a baker.  I’m a lot of things, and one of the threads through all of my various roles in life, is that I’m a diligent worker – perhaps even an over-worker.  I labora my heart out! 

However, writing Catholic things is more than just work.  Whether you’re writing articles, books, or blogs, Catholic writing is sharing the Gospel.  There are many alluring distractions in this Catholic writing world, and the only way to stay focused on writing what you are uniquely called to write is to ora and labora.  Ora first, then labora.  This way your work is prayerful.  

Don’t skip out on the prayer just because you want to jam out a few more sentences.  In the end, you’ll find yourself frustrated and writing in circles. Trust me on this point.             

As I reviewed my old journal, I did not remember writing those numbered thoughts. However, based on the date and context, I do remember that I made that entry while standing against a pillar in the bustling Southwest terminal at LAX, waiting to board a flight to BWI. I wrote because I had a few spare minutes even though I was surrounded by distractions. I certainly did not imagine expanding on those thoughts years later, but writing them down created the opportunity to share them today. 

If you want to write, start writing.  Like mastering a workout routine or learning to play an instrument, writing a book takes time.  It’s hard, and it’s rarely pretty.  But if you start with prayer and put some words down on paper, you’re on your way.  If you want to talk about your ideas, I’m happy to listen.