Why LOSS Comes Before Excellence

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“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

– Dylan Thomas

 

Things broke this week.

It was pathetic.

FullSizeRender (1)Blessings like a tidal wave have poured in and yet I still got sucked into the undertow of work this week, my legs swept out under the weight of holding so many writers visions.

After all this talk of fear and pain, and even knowing this work of editing and coaching is an unbelievable opportunity to connect with people, make lifelong friends, improve the world—my own self—it also kills me, the sheer struggle to speak clearly and take out the garbage, one horrifying sentence at a time.

The work is a mess and simply endless, a Sisyphean mountain to climb over and over again. And as soon as I finish one, 2 more are already due back, no time to think, let alone celebrate. My whole mind, my insight, my eyeballs are needed immediately again.

And I already know it won’t be enough, not enough to make readers buy what they should and make our investment worthwhile. I can count the number of times a book I’ve slaved over, accepting too little pay, has broken even, let alone made money. And all of me could explode for not being enough, but even that could never be enough. The need is simply too great.

IMG_7080I could withhold, not give all, but if I don’t invest everything, I’m only treading water, selling my soul and forfeiting all the sacrifices we made to leave the industry to train and coach writers….

And I just don’t see how I can go on believing this is the best thing I could possibly be doing with my one short life.

But I still believe.

So greatly, in fact, that when an idea about this commitment flashes up on the screen of my mind while running one morning this past week, I slow to a walk to capture it. I record all I can, preserve it for this post, and to remember it myself. We’re the sum of what little we manage to capture, after all, and for years, my mind has been fixed on figuring out exactly what pursuit will leave the least regret in the end.

I can’t imagine a higher purpose than this.

I mean, I’m resigned to the fact that we all have doubts at the end. We’ll all wish we’d fought harder. But to know I gave all I had to produce the most good for the most people? Could there be any greater satisfaction or comfort than knowing you’ve spent in the best possible way, and left the world better?

There’s a deep paradox here. It involves holding tightly to what matters most and also learning to completely let go of it. 

I once attended a Christian conference where the ministry’s founder waited until the final session of the final day at this giant church to confess his uncertainty that after everything he’d done, dedicating his life to teaching the Bible and to knowing God, he wasn’t sure he’d be let into heaven.

FullSizeRender (2)Is this what it comes down to? I’d thought. The very treasure he’s been offering–assurance–we don’t even have it ourselves in the end?

How are you spending your only short life?

Is your work helping? Or has fear made you forget others? Are you choosing sides, trying to convince people’s heads while letting their bodies and their hearts break?

Is there a way to accept that we’re all dying and maybe the only way out of fear and pain is to learn what it means to live in unconditional love?

Can our words show readers what that is—this unbounded, measureless response of gratitude in spending our life learning to love like Him?

At the same time, for called writers, technical excellence must be a moral imperative. How else can we compete but to pursue excellence and promote the highest quality art?

I’ve seen being “set apart” become a blinding, isolating ideal. But unless we commit to excellence ourselves, we’re a child shouting at a storm.

FullSizeRender (3)Life means loss. Losing status, jobs, finances, security, health, friends, dreams, time—everything—ultimately, the goal of life becomes learning how to respond. And that inevitably forms our character.

You will lose inspiration. Once there, now gone.

The secrets are capricious—and they protect themselves.

How many times will it happen? 100? 1000? In bed, while driving, or during a moment fully unsuited to writing, I’ll think, I’ll remember this time…

But I won’t. I’m forgetful and overconfident. The proud, chin up, never see the pit until it’s too late.

Oh God, cure my ignorance. Help me stop denying my limitations!

Inspiring readers to the better, it requires not just critique but inspiration. And inspiration usually shows up as inconvenience. This much I know. Moments when I have something important to do, they’re a test to see if I yet realize that maybe my whole job is less about persisting onward, and more about becoming willing to be interrupted.

To allow the Inspirer to break my narrow focus and redirect me, if I want to write what’s truly worth listening to, isn’t this the paradoxical anti-persistence I need most?

And am I inviting it or just resisting by persisting in my self-important work?

Because there will be repercussions. I either choose to live open to these regular inspiration-interruptions, or I’ll lose my most important possession: my primary connection to God. Is my commitment my foundation, or Him? Am I in charge or is He?

Can I forfeit what I believe is sustaining me in the moment for the greater that often looks like the lesser? Can I be taught to stop resisting loss, denying my limitations, and learn to receive this, my very breath?

What if I knew my very life depends on it?

Maybe what we’ve lost isn’t what matters. Maybe letting go to receive what’s better is what we’re meant to capture today. It isn’t certain–don’t stake your life on it. But as much as it might be possible to know what truly matters in life, maybe there’s never anything more important than remaining open to receiving whatever He inspires today.

One day, it’s all returning to Him. And more than anything, we’ll wish to have used it well.

For the higher purpose,

Mick

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4 thoughts on “Why LOSS Comes Before Excellence”

  1. I’ve often thought that I would NOT want to be an editor. What a tough job! But what a gift you give to others! Thank you for investing in me and my book–our story hasn’t ended. I love this that you wrote: “maybe there’s never anything more important than remaining open to receiving whatever He inspires today.” Amen

    1. Luci, I’m so glad God brought our paths together. You are going far, my friend! Never doubt it. All for that higher purpose…. -M

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