On a tiny shelf in my writing space sits an even tinier piece of cardstock. One word is spelled out in beautiful calligraphy, though the cardstock is worn and faded.
Ten years ago, the leader of my women's weekend retreat walked around our closing circle with a bowl containing strips of cardstock, each bearing unique words or phrases. We were instructed to center ourselves and make a thoughtful selection from the bowl, as it would be the word “we needed to hear.”
As the leader came closer and closer to me, I anticipated which “word” I would get. I was coming away from the retreat refreshed, optimistic about my life and my writing prospects, and excited to take my dreams by the horns. At last she stood in front of me. I closed my eyes and reached in. I waited for several seconds before allowing myself to read it. I prayed about the good things that would be in store for me. Then I opened my eyes.
I stared at the word, full of indignation, and thought, “Why on earth do I need—” WHAM! Before I could finish my thought I was spiritually slapped across the face.
Oh, I was going to need endurance. Lots and lots of endurance.
The creative journey is a long one for most of us. Training for endurance—that marathon of bringing a creative project to fruition—is the only way to succeed. I’ve spent the last several months talking about long-term planning. Visions and detailed plans are critical, but they are only the building blocks of forward movement. The work must be completed. Over and over. Even when no one is buying it. Even when it’s just “not quite right.” The creative mind must keep churning out the material, and we must continue to siphon those ideas off the tops of our brains before they clog up. We must write the pages, sift through revisions, and fill in the character sketches.
24 Carrot Writing is about dreams, goals and rewards—and encouraging small celebrations when we overcome a fear, step out and take a risk, reach toward a new aspiration or take on a new challenge. We’re also about big celebrations when we hang in there for the long haul. For slogging on. For doing something that matters—to us, to our families, and to our readers. For enduring.
As we head into the last few months of the year, holiday stresses and family demands make our shoulders sag. But don't forget we also enter the most popular month of writing and illustrating challenges! This is not the time of year to shrug and say, “Maybe next year.” This is the time to give ourselves the gift we can’t find in a store—time with our pages, plots and characters.
Eight weeks is eight weeks. Sixty glorious days. Numerous writing hours. It’s time to show everyone what we’re made of.
My once-black “Endurance” reminder has faded to a pale yellow over the years. I can only hope to realize the long-sought goal of publication before if fades completely to white. Until then, I will keep taking the challenge, lifting the pen, powering up the laptop, writing notes to myself in the middle of the grocery store, and celebrating the small milestones along the way.
This November set a small milestone for yourself. Then be sure to celebrate your endurance at the end of your challenge!