Why Writing Means Abiding

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Of course, I’d heard the word for years.

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Discipline.

But as a lifelong rebel, I’ve always associated it with restriction and not getting what I wanted.

I gave my mom the hardest time trying to train me. It’s a good thing I turned out so awesome so I can prove how hard she worked.

Discipline is like editing. Mom was my first editor.

I was making—ahem—garbage every day and she cleaned me up.

The reason for discipline is simple. There’s no other way to create what’s good.

There’s no big difference between behaving well and writing every day. The reason we have to write every day is because it’s the only way to start producing what’s good, to be disciplined by the work. And without writing every day, we forget what it feels like to really live in the work.

I know this truth in my bones. I want to do it. But I often don’t.

It’s hard. I forget how important it is for what I really want. And I’m awfully lazy.

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Try this: hold your hands over your eyes for one minute, then open them. What happens? They need to adjust before you can use them again, right? They get used to the darkness.

Writing is like that. When you haven’t used your eyes in a while it takes time to remember how to see.

It takes time to remember how to write when you don’t do it at least a little every day.

There’s always this gap between what we want to say and what we know how to say. And practicing every day is absolutely the only way to close that gap. It was true with walking and with learning to speak and play a sport or learn piano. It was true with everything hard Mom had to teach us to do.

You miss two days of writing and it’s like missing 2 days of exercise. You have to climb that much harder to get back into it.

We know this.

Yes, take Sundays off. But never skip a weekday or Saturday.

That’s what we need first. Not conferences. Not gurus or books. Not editors or a computer or even a good idea yet. Find your answers. Then write what you found.

You are what you eat. If you stop eating or all you eat is utilitarian casserole, then what you’re missing out on is taste.

Sure you can live that way, maybe for longer than you think. But you’re in real danger of forgetting what flavor is.

Bite into life. And write it.

a woman and her chicken
Consider the devotion of a woman and her chicken…

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the keeper of the vineyard. My Father examines every branch in Me and cuts away those who do not bear fruit. He leaves those bearing fruit and carefully prunes them so that they will bear more fruit; already you are clean because you have heard My voice. Abide in Me, and I will abide in you. A branch cannot bear fruit if it is disconnected from the vine…”

–John 15

There’s a key word in this famous chapter between the “love” and the “fruit.” It’s an unusual word. You’re given love, you want to bear fruit. And nine times each, Jesus uses the words and connects them with the word, the one word he uses 11 times:

Abide.

Some translate it “remain,” Peterson called it “making yourself at home.” But the word entails action, and it’s really about the activity required of all of us: discipline.

Discipline. It isn’t restriction; it is freedom. It is how we get what we really want.

We stay.

That’s the work. 

And as we stay, disciplining ourselves to abide, to remain, he prunes us. He edits those he loves. It’s so simple. Why do we make it hard?

We get tired. We forget. We have to get back into it.

Don’t let discipline scare you. It’s for you.

You can trust me. My mom taught me this.

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9 thoughts on “Why Writing Means Abiding”

  1. Oh, but it’s hard some days to weed out or compress the other stuff to make the time. Clients, kids, business, clutter. I need a wife! That said, well said Mick, and happy is the writer’s life wherein abiding in Him, is highly concordant with abiding in the work He has given.

    1. So true! Wives are the best! Actually, MY wife is the best–other guys just have to take second best. I only get to do this because of her. Simple as that.

      Yet as far as that gets me, I still need reminding that writers must abide in–stay connected to and disciplined by–God.

      “Highly concordant.” I like that. :)

  2. Yes I agree. It’s frustrating when I can’t (or won’t) write something everyday. I try to stay connected to the Source for inspiration, and sometimes it just takes will power to prime the pump.

  3. “Discipline is like editing. Mom was my first editor.”
    never thought of it like this. one of your savviest statements.
    i am in florida because i swore i needed to get away to edit my first shitty draft and i am reading you and commenting on your blog instead. why? because i’ve laid down my WIP for over 8 weeks and piddled around blogging weekly and now i am terrified to get to the edit. gulp. i gotta do it. gotta start IT NOW!!!!!!!!! pray for me!
    love
    suzee B

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