If You’ll Accept the Struggle

Sharing is nice

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

– Rumi

Writing is hard–for so many reasons. Is it worth the effort?

I get so many manuscripts from new writers asking me if it’s worth the effort to invest in. I used to try to convince them, but I don’t anymore. Instead, I turn the question around, the way I feel God has done in my life whenever I’ve asked him that question (and I’ve asked it a lot):

Can you accept the struggle?

We’ve all committed ourselves to things that haven’t ended up worth the effort. But it may be that just asking the question proves it could be worth the effort to commit and fight for–if only we’ll accept the struggle.

Maybe it’s always true–sometimes the results won’t be what you’d hoped, but the struggle will always produce positive benefits if you commit to embrace the struggle itself wholeheartedly.

And that’s a bit different than embracing the hope of a positive result, or some specific outcome. And it’s going to be difficult to do. Because a good embrace always involves being grateful.

Being grateful is open-handed, receptive, nonresistant. And only from that place can our art respond to what’s truly relevant about a subject, a theme, a story.

Why does it take such effort? Dang, I wish I knew! But my guess is exertion is just what life requires; effort is where life happens.

And I had it confirmed again recently: it’s struggle that creates the best fruit.

Did you know good grapes come from stressed vines? I learned this from a winemaker. Stressed vines give good fruit, and if the vines have too much water and not enough heat, they won’t produce fruit. They don’t have to struggle to hold on to their water, which makes them not work on creating fruit. Why? Because life requires exertion, I guess.

When he said it, I thought of how baby chicks have to struggle to peck out of their egg or they’ll be prone to “failure-to-thrive” syndrome. How many natural examples of this required exertion are there? Thousands? Millions?

It was just more support for the theory I’ve been slowly coming to: if you want to move forward in your writing, you’ve got to challenge yourself to be grateful for the struggle itself. Maybe that means we’ve got to think more intentionally about the purpose of struggle, and the benefits it brings to our life. And maybe that will convince us instead of trying to defeat it, resist it, run from it, or ignore it, we need to seek out deeper appreciation for it as an essential tool–and a gift.

Instead of defaulting to complaining and looking at the pain of struggle, maybe we can look further. We know pain lies to our brains and says fighting isn’t worth suffering. But there’s so much that is worth suffering for. More than avoiding pain, there’s experiencing joy.

You can’t avoid pain anyway. Life will bring it no matter what. You can’t choose not to experience it–might as well make it good for something and choose to be grateful for the struggle.

And the benefit for making that effort will be good fruit.

Maybe anything less is a waste of time.

I think my earlier mistake was thinking this effort had to be so serious and heavy. It felt hard and not widely appreciated, so I’d push and try to force myself to invite pain through willpower. But in fact, not letting the struggle steal your sense of fun seems much of the point.

Maybe joyless effort was inevitable for me, part of my journey. But I’ve found when you do find gratitude for the hard things you’re up against, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to preserve joy. You’ll see that opposition and resistance isn’t hateful—it doesn’t care. And you taking personal offense as though you’re too special to have to experience this pain, that’s you caring way too much. So you can help yourself out and stop wasting your energy. 

Let yourself off the hook for misunderstanding and taking offense. It’s the most natural thing in the world to resist and get angry. But you can break that habit with a little effort. Yes, you can.

Ask me how I know.

And you’ll be released from having to fight so hard. You can understand that your natural response is unhelpful and unneeded. Don’t curse your nature—just let it go. It can have its uses, just not here.

Struggle, pain, and suffering are inevitable. Don’t be afraid. And don’t waste them.  

“The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s indifference.”
Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

For the higher purpose,

Mick

Sharing is nice

18 thoughts on “If You’ll Accept the Struggle”

  1. “Because a good embrace always involves being grateful.”

    I know you wrote a whole lot more after that sentence, Mick. But that one sentence? It was a virtual stop sign in your blog post today. Yes, I read the entire post — and it’s a good one. A keeper. (I do have an Evernote file for what I call the “Best of Mick Silva” posts.)

    Thanks for the reminder to make our challenges good for something and the be grateful for the struggle. And I’ll make sure to apply this to writing, too.

    1. Beautiful observing, Beth. I loved the line too and it stopped me but I sped right by it–better places to go and vistas to discover. But you’re right, the gratitude in an embrace is absolutely wonderful, and it’s worth stopping on! I hope you’re making edits on those “best of” posts so you can take the good and discard the blather. ;) So appreciate your kind words and continual friendship in this whacked-out writing thing. I hope you do apply it to your writing–it’s inspiration and light to so many readers, even if your talent does depress some of us. – Always, for the higher purpose, M

    1. Yeah, but I prefer the way I said it. ;) something about being taught to trust platitudes without being encouraged to question or test them… I don’t know if everyone can relate, but that struggle has kept me busy. Love you, LPF!

    1. Ooh, I love that. So true. I read recently that sometimes you have to lose your mind to find your heart. Or something like that. Definitely fits my experience with church. :) Love and joy in the struggles!

  2. Great post Mick.
    I have struggled with the question of even attempting to write ever since my first Christian Writer’s conference classroom session where nineteen of twenty attendees “always wanted to be a writer.” One guess who was number twenty. :^)

    Even after we won those awards, I struggled with the concept of being a writer. Thankfully, God made me an Irishman, and we’re all storytellers.

    Perhaps it’s my military background, but I am used to 100% mission success. With rockets, anything less usually blows up.

    Creative friends tell me “You think too much.” There’s a reason we ask Jesus into our hearts, not our brains. Even so (here goes the thinker), we have “the mind of Christ.”

    It’s a never-ending balancing act. With your continued encouragements and efforts, I’m at last learning to enjoy the heights – even the net-less circus that is publishing.

    We must simply do our best and the results are all His.

    1. ❤️ The reminder: We accept Jesus into our hearts, not our minds.” Thank you!

    1. Me too. We’re never alone! Thanks, Sherri. And may God bring the inspiration you need. -M

  3. “You can’t avoid pain anyway. Life will bring it no matter what.” AMEN! Regardless of one’s faith struggle knows no stranger. Our culture is on mission to avoid struggle which means avoiding growth. Not too many years ago, but more than I care to claim, I realized the beauty is in the struggle. It’s a refreshing affirmation to read your words on this culturally obscure concept.

    1. Confirming the importance, the vital importance of relying on the one who has already overcome it all, struggle encourages and motivates, from the mind and heart that’s been opened to it. Sometimes I still catch myself thinking suffering always means sin/badness. Thanks, Julie!

  4. “And you taking personal offense as though you’re too special to have to experience this pain, that’s you caring way too much. So you can help yourself out and stop .” Ouch. That stings, but it’s true. Accepting the struggle is a discipline I need to subject myself to daily. Thanks, Mick.

    1. You too? :) I didn’t like that either. But if I can care less about having to experience pain, maybe I can know it’s for my good and ultimately far more than that. Thank you, Marla!

Discuss...