This is the time of year when I start to feel a little bit grumpy. The holiday fun is over. The decorations and all the sugar have disappeared from my house. I’ve optimistically set new goals and eagerly created a plan to start making things happen. Everything is quiet, and my computer is calling me back to the writing projects that spent December collecting dust in a dark drawer.
So I sit down at my desk and blurt out a four-letter word.
It’s a word used on construction sites, in shipyards, warehouses, and everywhere in the world where people are getting stuff done. Even at writing desks.
When I started writing seriously about a year ago, I had no idea how much WORK it would be. I thought the act of creating something – anything from a painting to a novel – simply flowed from the fingertips of an inspired artist. Not without effort and struggle, of course. I’ve read enough accounts of the “tortured artist” to know that pain is sometimes involved when bringing art into the world. But it never occurred to me that the real struggle might be just showing up. Over and over again. Keeping my butt in the chair. And doing the work.
I’ve shared with you how much I love planning. Envisioning a new project and creating a detailed checklist for getting it done is my sweet spot. If I could, I would probably spend all my time dreaming and making spreadsheets and calendars. Buying the necessary guidebooks and supplies. Attending workshops and lectures. Basically, I’m a project prepper. Much like the doomsday preppers featured on reality TV, but without the end of the world to motivate me.
But spreadsheets and calendars don’t produce good writing. So it’s back to that four-letter word: WORK.
I know that getting back to work is the only way to get from where I am to where I believe God wants me to be. I understand that to take my goals from dreams to reality, I’ve got to do the hard stuff in between.
But after the high of planning and the thrill of fresh starts, I resist hearing the word WORK like a kid returning to school after the holiday break. I want to pull the covers over my head in the morning and say, “I don’t want to.” But just like that little girl, who secretly loves school, once I get there, it’s kind of awesome.
So for all of us who love dreaming and planning a tiny bit more than jumping in and getting our boots dirty, here are a few ways to get back to awesome after the promise of a fresh start is swept away like so much New Year’s Eve confetti. (Dramatic, I know, but that’s grumpy me talking.)
Know the WHY
Remember why you started. Who might be helped, inspired, comforted, or reminded that they are not alone when you’ve completed this project? When they see what you’ve created? And I’m not just talking about art here, but every good work that comes from your hands.
It’s easy to get distracted. There are so many good things we could be doing, getting sidetracked is almost inevitable. But if we keep our eyes fixed on the goal God is calling us to, we can get it done. Don’t let everything you feel like you “should” be doing keep you from doing the most important things.
Look for inspiration
Find what inspires you. Creativity doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It needs to be sparked. So spend time with sparkly people. Online. In their writing. Or in person. Join forces with others who are creating their own work and build a tribe to share the journey. (Be careful to guard against comparison – it kills creativity!)
Keep showing up
I used to believe that great artists were born with talent in their DNA and that mere mortals like the rest of us could only plod along, never making anything truly beautiful. But I’m learning that talent is only part of the equation. Much of what goes into making beautiful things is the effort. If you keep at it, honing your skills, practicing your craft, and never giving up, you will do this thing God has set in your heart.
As the first days of the new year slip by, and it’s time to get moving on the plans and promises I’ve made, I’ll be here at my desk. Blurting out the four-letter word that will get me where God is leading. I’ll be doing the WORK to accomplish the vision that God has put in my heart. And guess what? I feel a little less grumpy already. Because it is kind of awesome to see our dreams become a reality.
How will you stay focused on the WORK God is calling you to? What motivates you after the promise of a fresh start begins to fade?