Yeah, But . . .

what i talk aboutOne of the great things about being a pastor (and there are many), is the opportunity to do a lot of writing.  I enjoy writing and the places that it takes me, but I am constantly wanting to take it to the next level.  I want to publish the non-fiction book I just wrote. I want to write novels. I want to publish more short stories. I want to develop a unique voice that moves people, etc.  I do ok and I realize the only way to become a good writer is to write.  There are other factors such as reading the works of good writers and setting aside a number of hours a day to write, even if I just end up staring at a blank page the whole time.  As much as I know all this and realize that I can probably become a fairly capable writer, there is always this nagging, “Yeah, but . . . “ going on in my head.  In the end, I am my own biggest critic and hurdle to overcoming mediocrity. 

“Yeah, but I have nothing important to say.”

“Yeah, but I can’t write like the great or even good authors.”

“Yeah, but I just don’t have the natural talent.”

“Yeah, but I will never be able to write anything worth reading.”

“Yeah, but I don’t even know where to start.”

You get the point.  Despite reading that a writer’s first draft is hardly “worth a damn” (Hemingway) and that it takes lots of practice, that nagging voice is still there.  Knowing that a disciplined writing regimen would elicit results that I can’t even yet fathom still sometimes leaves me paralyzed. Hearing writers like Stephen King say that even an average writer can get good merely by writing frequently (but a bad writer doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell – thanks a lot, Stephen), I am still plagued by a lack of confidence.  Even when folks are kind enough to tell me that I’ve got a gift for writing, I usually figure they’re just being kind.

On occasion, though, I hear something that gives me a burst of confidence or at least a glimmer of hope.  I hope these little nuggets will reach you, too, wherever you are and in whatever struggle you are plodding through.

I just finished a book by one of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami.  He is not only a good writer, but he has an imagination that is second to none.  Whenever I pick up one of his books, I can be sure that I won’t be disappointed.  The book was called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  It was a memoir of sorts of his dozens of marathons and triathlons and a little bit about how he got into writing. 

The book has energized me not only for writing, but I’ve also increased my running as a part of my daily workout.  I am amazed by the fact that, by tuning out my negative mind with music or podcasts on my iPod, I am able to run a lot farther without thinking about how my legs hurt or telling myself that I’m not a runner.  Instead of thinking about running, I just run.

According to Murakami, he was sitting watching a professional baseball game in Tokyo when he caught a foul ball and at that moment had the epiphany that he could write a novel (I don’t see the correlation either, and neither did he). He had no experience writing whatsoever and was running a small jazz bar with his wife at the time.  On his way home from the game, he bought a fountain pen and some writing paper and got to work.  Over the course of many months of writing from 3 am when he got home from the bar until the sun came up, he completed his first novel.  He submitted it for a contest and won.  The next year he released his second novel that was also written in the wee hours of the morning.  He sold his bar and convinced his wife to move out of the city so he could embark on a full-time career as a novelist.

What struck me the most was that a man who had no writing experience whatsoever put his mind to writing and got to it.  He stumbled along the way and had plenty of excuses not to write, but he was determined.  So determined, in fact, that he did his writing after a full day’s work when most of us are dead to the world.  He honed his craft and, through perseverance, became a very good writer.  His mindset about hard work paid off in his career as a novelist.  Having completed over 40 marathons and two ultra marathons (62 miles) as well as being strict about his allotted time for writing, translated into some very fabulous books that have brought joy to many readers.  It wasn’t so much that he had a savant for writing (although he obviously had to start off with some aptitude), but rather his mindset and discipline that helped him live his dreams.

The other part of the encouraging equation is something that my son’s coaches say at almost every practice.  It has been attributed to a number of motivational speakers and athletes, but rings true regardless of who first uttered it.  “The two things in life you are in total control over are your attitude and your effort.”  Here, here.

I may or may not have an aptitude for writing that is any better than anyone else’s.  But I am quite sure that, with a good and positive attitude (meaning kicking the yeah, but right in the yeah, butt) and giving all the effort I can (I will reap in direct proportion to what I sow), then I will succeed at making my dream a reality.

This is not only true for me, but it is true for YOU!  Is there something that you’re aspiring to do?  Is your mind trying to tell you that you’re any less than you really are?  Do you feel like life is dragging you down and keeping you from being who you know you were made to be?  Then don’t take it lying down!  If you’re reading this now and saying “Yeah, but . . . “ then I’m saying right back at you, “Yeah, but it’s who you were made to be!”  So don’t settle for anything less.

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One Response to “Yeah, But . . .”

  1. John Lovestrand Says:

    Fictional Coach Eric Taylor from Friday Night Lights would be proud!

    Levity aside, ’twas similar encouragement from you during a particular sermon about a year or so ago that prompted me to curb my own “yeah, buts” and sit down last fall / winter to write my own story.

    Thoughts that had been percolating for some years, ideas that I had always assumed I would eventually get down on paper, but it was ultimately you hitting this same note a few times, over a few Sundays, that inspired me to push past my reservations.

    No coincidence that I found Sunday afternoons most conducive, typically when I had the living room to myself, with soft instrumental background music, and buoyed by your Sunday message.

    So, yet another example of you practicing what you preach!

    Thank you Brother! JL

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