Faith and Writing #5 – If it’s worth doing…

13 Jul


I have heard it said that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well.  My response to that is… Nonsense.

If something is worth doing, then it’s worth doing badly. 

Particularly writing.

If you spend too much time agonising over every word, and getting it just right, then you will never finish anything.  There is a story told of James Joyce that one day a friend arrived at his house and found him crying over a manuscript.  He asked him, “What’s wrong.” 
“I wrote seven words today.”  He replied.
“Seven words?  But that’s good for you James!”
“Yes,” he replied, “but I don’t know what order they go in.”

writing We often get what might be called Paralysis by Analysis.  Where we are so intimidated by choosing the right first word, that we can’t even get to the second one.  So decide to use the wrong one, and then take it from there. Ray Bradbury said “Your creativity know what it wants to say, don’t get in the way.”

This I believe is the way to go forward.  People accept less than perfection in other areas, why not writing?  If I tell people I paint in my spare time, they are all impressed, regardless of the result.  If I take them to my study, and show them my paint-by-number set, they smile and say, “At least he’s happy.”  I play the guitar.  Really badly.  And people are okay with that.  As long as I don’t try and play for them.  So why do I feel I have to be perfect as a writer?  Why can’t I make mistakes, and learn from them.

The same with our faith.  Why do I feel like I have to get it right every time?  I know God told me to be perfect, but seriously! That’s not going to happen overnight.  If I make a mistake, and slip backwards, I beat myself up, and think I not be a real Christian, because I can’t get it right.  So what do I do?  I stop trying.
I fall back into an old habit or sin today, so I don’t even try and avoid it tomorrow.

But the secret is to keep learning and moving forward. 
To see every split infinitive and sin as an opportunity to become better.
Not to wallow in self-pity over spilled vowels and impure thoughts, but to vow to do better, recognising that nothing comes without effort.
To recognise that if I try so hard to be perfect, I will set myself up for a fall.
To know that if I wait until God’s voice is audible, or my creativity dictates the perfect book, I will have a long wait, but in the meantime, to just do the best with what I think I hear, and let him guide me to hear better next time.

So get out there and do it, even if you do it badly.

1 Comment

Posted by on July 13, 2009 in Faith and Writing


Tags: , , ,

One response to “Faith and Writing #5 – If it’s worth doing…

  1. Rick

    July 14, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    It’s important, especially for Christians, that the expression of the Holy Spirit live and breathe in the world, even if at the moment it’s seven silly words.


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