Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Have a little faith today.

"The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."

~Franklin D. Roosevelt

I have been debating whether or not I should enter the NaNoWriMo contest again this year.  It is a month long writing contest where a writer starts a book and finishes it (minimum 50K words) in exactly a month.  The month of November, to be exact. That is precisely where they get the crazy name from. NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth.  Check it out on line if you wish.  This is the link.

Last year I joined the party and I even finished my novel.  It was my fifth complete novel that year.  (You can find a little blurb about it on the OtherProjects Page.  It is aptly documented under the number five heading.)

I had assumed it would be a lot easier than my contest I do each year to write a whole novel in 3 days.  After all, I had been writing large chunks of words for 10 months prior to that and thought 50 thousand words would be a piece of cake.  

Well ... It wasn't.  

The whole point behind the month long contest is build a new habit. 
They target writers who want to write a book, or talk about writing a book, or have started a book but never seem to take the time to finish it.  Then they politely force them to sit down and write – everyday; butts in seats and hands on keys.  That is how full-time novelists make a living.  They do it by writing words - every day.

How is that tactic different from mine?  I was getting really good at pushing out a complete novel every 2.5 to 3 months during my first year.  Although I didn't write every day.  Whenever I had the time I would type frantically.  Most of those writing sessions, if uninterrupted would produce around 5-10 thousand words.  

NaNoWriMo is different – it is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.  They want to produce a habit in you that is more about consistent output every day than a finished manuscript. (Interestingly enough, if you do it correctly and put the cart behind the donkey, then you get the completed manuscript anyway.)  See, if you do the math it is only 1,667 words a day.  That seems a little more doable when you break it down.  However there is no getting around the fact that you are doing that much each and every day for 30 days.  That is the part I failed. 

I may have finished with 51,000+ words at the end of the month but I probably only wrote for a total of 10 days.  (I tried to find my last year’s stats just to prove it but I couldn’t.  Sorry.  You will just have to take my word for it.)

My hesitation this year has been stumbling me.  I keep asking myself, do I really want to put myself through that again this year?  Am I really cut out for that kind of “literary abandon”, as they call it.  I have decided to look outward for my answer instead of inside my messed up psyche.  I must involve my readers and followers in making this decision.  So, I made a Pros and Cons list.  Tell me what you think.

My PRO list
  • I will have another novel completed (or almost)
  • Every time I write I get better (or so they say)
  • Every time I carve out time for writing I get further along the path of this journey.  No one likes a fuddy-duddy who talks but never does.
  • It is a proverbial kick in the pants when you commit to a goal.  People hold you accountable to it.  (Even if they are just virtual people on my lap top screen)
  • I have so many stories that need to be worked on.  There are eighteen plots to choose from.
  • I found a publisher a couple days ago who is looking specifically for new authors but my novels are too long.  I need one between 55,000 and 60,000 words.  (That’s only 1,835 words a day roughly)
  • I have a sister who is my writer in crime - she could do it with me.
  • I want to write anyway, so why not set a goal. (Goals are good, right?)  I might even push myself more than that.

My CON list
  •  It sucked the life out of my writing last year to HAVE to write.  (I made the temporary leap from hobby to job.  It didn’t go very well for me.)
  • The more I plan to take time to write, the more things got in the way.  Isn’t this the Murphy’s Law with a twist?
  •  I cheated – I may have finished 50K words but in major rocket bursts instead of slow and steady wins the race.  Truly, when you read the Tortoise and the Hare, who wants to be the Hare?  Be honest.
  • I already committed to my husband to spend the next two months editing and preparing a novel all the way to actually be sent out from my computer to an agent.  (I have been blowing a lot of hot smoke lately).  I have to email it by the end of the year ... or else!
  •  I have two stories that are partially complete and need to be finished.  Starting a new one looks like I never finish what I start.  So say all of you that are still waiting for the last five chapters of Cathie and Quinn.  (For this particular contest you have to start with a fresh new story.)
  • I really should spend my “free time” (LOL) on my actual paying job – my business.

There you have folks, all my internal monologue of the last few weeks.  Should I or shouldn’t I?

However with a little closer examination I find the root of the problem.  That darn pesky root that is under everywhere I look these days.  DOUBT.

The dictionary lists ‘doubt’ as being uncertain or sceptical about something.  It also says doubt is a tendency to disbelieve or fear.

That is my problem and I cannot seem to shake it.  It is why I have troubles editing my past manuscripts.  It is why I have slowed down my output of stories.  It is why I have not sent a single one away for publication.  Doubt is the very reason so few people even know I write.  I am a doubter.

The Bible has countless stories of when people doubted God.  For example, when God told Sarah and Abraham she would conceive.  He told them he would give Sarah - a barren, old woman - a child.  It defied logic and reality in the minds of Abraham and his wife.  However God doesn’t rule on our plane of reality.  He has His own.

The Bible also tells a story when the exact same thing happen many years later to Zechariah and Elizabeth.  Luke 1:18 tells us that when the Angel told Zechariah he would be a daddy, he questioned it.  ‘How can this be?  I am old and my wife is old?’

Do you know what happened next?

Instead of reassurance.  Instead of compassion.  Instead of a rolling of the eyes and a little chuckle, God punished Zechariah.  God took away his voice, not allowing him to speak until the day the birth became real.
So why did God show patience to one doubter and not to the other?  I do not know exactly.  Perhaps some bible scholar does.  However I can venture a guess that God knew their hearts.  He knew Abraham would be tested many other times and show courage.  Abraham left his home and his belongings when asked by God.  He also nearly sacrificed his own son when asked by God.  We do not know much about Zechariah’s life other than God was pleased with him.  So to hazard a guess why God punished his unbelief is too hard from where I stand.  But I can’t help thinking that Zechariah would know well the story of Abraham.  He should have known better.

So where does leave me?  Or us?  We know both of those stories, right.  Should I know better too?  Yes.

Just in case you were feeling lonely I have a list of a few other doubters you can research:
  • Moses – when God told him to return to Egypt (Exodus 3:10-15)
  • Israelites – practically every step of the journey through the desert (Exodus 16:1-3)
  • Gideon – When he was called by God to be a leader and a judge (Judges 6:14-23)
  • Thomas – when the disciples told him Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:24,25)
  • Jodi – when God told her to write his stories down

Here’s the thing that makes the difference with doubt.  A lesson I am learning from the story of Thomas.  If our doubts draw us to Him, and provoke questions in our spirit, then doubt can be a good thing.  However, when doubt becomes a lifestyle of stubbornness, our faith suffers.  Instead of coming to God with questions about his ideas and his plans, we come to him with ultimatums or defiance.  That is when doubt is wrong. 

Here is my advice to myself (you are welcome to it):

Jodi, when you feel yourself doubting, don’t stop there.  Keep walking forward.  Keep asking questions.  Let your doubt draw you into the Saviour’s lap where you can ask him anything that worries you or concerns you.  Let the questions (and the answers you find) deepen your faith in His ultimate goodness and grace.

“Stop doubting and believe.”  John 20:27(b)

Lord forgive me for my doubt and my fear.  Wash those sins from my body and my mind and let me dwell in your peace and grace instead.

By the way, this post is exactly one thousand, six hundred and sixty-seven words. 

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