Monday, January 08, 2007

Course correction - Part 2

In yesterday's post I spoke of the need of making course corrections, periodically -- of recalling one's objective, then looking at the fabric of one's life to see how much it is focused toward that objective. My primary objective is to fulfill God's plan for my life, which means to stay consistent with the perception and application of God's word, and to function in my spiritual gift and talents to proclaim who He is and what He's done. I think I have a talent for writing fiction and a gift for communicating spiritual truths. I don't know exactly what that gift is called. Teaching? Encouragement? Ministering? I only know I'm supposed to be writing novels, so that has got to be a major focus of my life.

My eternal distraction seems to be marketing and networking. There is always something new to do, and many people telling me, either directly or indirectly that I MUST do it. The implied threat is that if I don't, I will fail. My books will fail. Readers won't like me and then my books will really fail.

Besides the negative pressure, there is also positive pressure. Some of the things I need to do are fun and appeal to my approbation lust, and my desire to communicate. These things are rarely intrinsically wrong, like, say robbing a bank. They make a certain amount of sense and from the perspective of sight, the success of my books in the market place, while not a total disaster, could certainly use some help.

But God keeps telling me over and over, "I will do it, you will not." I keep trying to take it back after I've given it over, arguing and fretting and rationalizing until finally I reach the point of leaving it alone again. Then something new comes along and I start it all over again. I think I've reached the end of one such cycle now.

The conclusions that I've come to, again, are that I write long books. And with a market that wants an author's books to release at relatively short intervals, I know I can't write the books I write in the time given if I'm doing all kinds of other things. Particularly things related to writing. Like blogging, for example.

I decided last fall to join two team blogs because I thought it would be fun. I remember reading several different team blogs and wistfully wanting to be part of one. When an opportunity came up, I believe it was the Lord's answer to my request -- not necessarily because He intended for me to do it on an extended basis, but so I could see what it was like. Not long after that, a second opportunity came up. I said yes to that one, too. Because after all, I find that sort of writing easy, and being on different blogs is a way of gaining "exposure" for my books.

But then everything got hard in the writing of Return of the Guardian King's final draft. Suddenly the words were incredibly slow to come. It was like pulling old labels off a box -- only tiny scraps at a time would come out. In between I felt blank and drained. The deadline stretched on and on and my ailment spread from writing fiction to writing blog entries -- at least for the team blogs. I managed to write several entries for one of the groups but for the other, not a one. I thought once the book was turned in and I'd had a rest, the ideas would return. It's not happened.

For one thing, there's been little rest. As soon as I stopped writing the book it seemed a hundred other tasks presented themselves: update my website, write a long overdue newsletter, interviews, email, update my blog's format, back cover copy of the book, the christmas letter, tour the lab, Christmas, leave town to visit relatives, go arrange for a spring booksigning... And the drought of blog ideas continued. Finally it dawned on me that maybe I'm not supposed to be doing them. That perhaps I've gotten in over my head, and am drawing water from a well that has been depleted by my real calling, which is writing novels. That in doing all this other stuff I am not letting that well refill, stealing creative waters what should be saved for the next book.

Blogging also takes time. Already I've spent a couple of hours on this post. I may spend another hour by the time it's all over. And when I post on the team blogs, I'm even fussier. Afterwards there may be comments and I get distracted going back to look for them; the comments may spark thoughts or, worse, angst, and then I've used up more hours on something that really hasn't contributed to the writing that I KNOW I'm supposed to be doing.

Furthermore, since I'm part of a team, I think I should read what other members post and that takes even more time, in the reading, in the thinking about what was read, and maybe in following various links. This is an especially insidious temptation when I don't want to work on what I'm supposed to be working on. And sometimes the reading draws me off into places that don't help me with my work in progress at all, but disrupt my thinking and mood.

Finally, the more tasks you add to your regular list of things to do, the more stuff you have on your mind. I'm a firm believer in simplifying your life, though I seem to have to keep on doing it. Maybe everyone does. Especially in this time when there are so many, many things available to do.

In any case, as a result of my yearly reflection and evaluation, I see that once again, I've spread myself too thin, and have compromised the amount and quality of the time and effort I can devote to my true calling. No matter how fun or even useful an activity is, if it draws you off course from the central calling, it has to go. So I'm turning the wheel back toward that calling now... I've already resigned from one of the teams. The other only asks that I post when the Lord lays something on my heart to post, so I'll give it a little more time and see if He does...

Meanwhile I want to look for ways to streamline other things and work more actively on refilling my creative well...