Life is what happens while you’re making other plans. –John Lennon
I started teaching college level sixteen years ago after a two-decade career as an editor. My goal was to train–and motivate–future Christian writers. Most of the students I deal with find writing a bore, a chore, and would rather be playing basketball. Once in a while I find students who get joy out of writing. And once in a great while, I find those who show promise.
Promise means more than having a talent for writing. Some of the students I have taught, I feel, already write better than I do. Promise means having the drive to follow through with that talent. Writing as a vocation–or even an avocation–is often like running uphill. Many times it it like running uphill while chained to a car driving in the other direction.
I think today of two students who have shown exceptional promise in the past five years. Both have talent; both are motivated. Both had writing projects they had started and were determined to finish. They graduated from college with their eyes opened and a determined look on their faces.
And then life happened. One got married and landed a teaching job, and immediately was beset with the challenges of paying bills, meeting the obligations of a daily job, and being a newlywed. The other is still looking for work. They were two people that I felt I was pretty close to, but they dropped off the map as soon as they graduated.
But I don’t blame them. Life has a way of taking over. Right now I am kicking myself because I can’t get motivated to finish the second half of my current project. It is simply, as they say, a matter of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair. But after all my brain cells are used up in teaching all week, it’s tough to get the motivation to dig in and reinvest in a creative project so similar to teaching.
“If a person is going to write, he usually finds a way.” That’s what my friend and colleague Randy Maxwell told me one time. And that’s true. Another saying I share with my students is: “A mediocre manuscript handed in is much better than an excellent manuscript never finished.”
So stop worrying about the quality of your manuscript and worry more about just finishing it. Worry is a good motivator, I have found. Stop looking for an excuse to keep from writing, and just do it.