I made a big decision this week (well, not big as in life changing, but big in regards to progress on the novel). If you read last week’s post, you might remember me mentioning that I had completed the third revision, but I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted to retype the entire manuscript into a new document or simply enter the rewritten sections and make the revisions in the previous document. I decided to go ahead and take the full retyping route. As it turns out, after having spent a month and a half on the revision, I am finding that I had forgotten many of the changes I made at the beginning of the document and this path has so far been useful in reminding me of those early edits.
Something else that has accompanied this draft—as it had during the second—is an alternating feeling of awe over the improvement of the work as a whole and doubt regarding my ability because there is still so much work to be done. From what I’ve read about other people’s experiences, this doubt doesn’t ever go away and in fact, even many veteran writers struggle with it. But what I have learned that helps tremendously and is an area of my life that I continue striving to make progress in and that is having faith.
I have to admit that I do feel like a bit of a hypocrite even discussing the topic of faith because I am a serious work-in-progress in this area. But on the heels of that doubt is the reminder that the entire ABCs of a Purposeful WIP series is focused on one main aspect: Progress. God didn’t make us perfect and He didn’t expect us to become perfect, which is lucky for us because none of us can ever achieve such a thing (whatever it really means anyway). But what we can do as purposeful WIPs is grow into better versions of ourselves and that kind of progress—whether in terms of improving as a Christian or writer or spouse—requires Fueling Faith.
I won’t deny that such progress can be made in the absence of faith—my own has ebbed and flowed a great deal over the last year—but I do feel that the places where I have made the most progress (the novel manuscript, included) have come as a result of faith. Over the last fifteen months or so I have seen remarkable growth in this area and I attribute that growth to habitually taking part in four key activities:
- Filling up my mind and spirit with uplifting people and media. We live in unprecedented times, having so many different types of media available to us at all times: TV, movies, books, music, podcasts, YouTube videos, blogs, etc. So one change I made was incorporating inspiring and encouraging versions of these options into my daily life as much as possible. Instead of watching old television reruns while working out in the morning, I listened to an uplifting podcast. Instead of tuning into my usual playlists while mowing the lawn, I tried a Christian music channel. These small tweaks, done even occasionally, made noticeable and positive changes in my faith.
- Gratitude. Gratitude is something that I talk about often and a subject to which I have devoted hours studying and researching. But while it is still a difficult practice for me, I do make an effort to keep gratitude at the forefront of my mind—like creating a gratitude jar, wherein I drop a weekly note about something for which I felt truly thankful—because when I have a grateful heart and I approach life with gratitude, my perspective toward others and my writing and myself improves.
- Reading the Bible. Reading the bible often feels overwhelming to me, so I invested in a study version that includes life application notes. And although I don’t always relate to every verse, it’s hard to miss the overall message: that we were made to love unconditionally and serve unselfishly. I don’t know about you, but those are reminders that I need often and being immersed in them on a daily basis really deepens my faith.
- Prayer/Journaling. I’ve heard there’s no wrong way to do either of these things, but my prayers and journal entries are as rambling and busy as my thoughts. So something I’ve started doing when I can’t seem to settle into a conversation with God, is use other’s prayers. I have dedicated a page in my planner where I write down any prayers that I come across that I relate to and that express the feelings in my own heart. Oftentimes, I will memorize these prayers and repeating them becomes a sort of meditation, which along with journaling, slows the chatter in my mind and returns me to a more centered mindset.
None of these things takes much time—it takes seconds to remember blessings or to show gratitude to another person, mere minutes to pray or journal or read a bible passage or two, and if listening to a podcast or reading a book anyway, why not make it something that uplifts and inspires at least some of the time?
It sounds so easy (and it should be), but even something that I claim to be an essential part of my life is still difficult to do with any regularity. Even knowing that these practices improve the quality of my life and my general outlook, they are things for which I need to intentionally make time. And when I do, when I actually live out my faith in these four ways, not only do I feel better and love better and serve better and even write better, but I also feel more connected to God, to other people, and to an overall sense of purpose.
What about you? What fuels your faith?