Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Stopping and Starting

As I was driving home from work the other day my thoughts started to wander. I was tired and there was nothing interesting on the radio, so I just started noticing things, including how many times I had to put my foot on the brake. Stop signs, traffic lights, roads clogged with traffic--I just wanted to go home, but I kept having to put my foot on that darn brake and wait.

As my car came to a stop at an intersection with a busy highway, however, I realized how grateful I am for my brakes. Without them, I would have shot right out into that traffic and gotten creamed! Sometimes it's far more important to be able to stop than to be able to go. As much as I'd like to dash straight home from work without a single obstacle in my path, I'm not going to have a successful journey by just pressing my foot down on that pedal and refusing to let up until my house is in sight. I have to slow down at the school zones, jam on brakes if a pedestrian steps into the street, stop at the lights and wait my turn.

So why is it, I wondered, that in my writing journey, folks seem to advise me to head for that goal (finishing a manuscript, publishing, whatever) full speed ahead. Don't slow down. Don't let obstacles get in your way. Divide up that word count and produce what you are supposed to every day, no matter what. Don't ever quit. Press on to the finish line.

Advice like this can be energizing. But sometimes it causes me some guilt, and I'm not sure it's always right. I have several email buddies who are also unpublished writers, and I noticed something strange. Without comparing notes, all of them have mentioned to me in the past week that they feel God is telling them to slow down or stop altogether for a time on their writing. He's calling them to do other things for awhile--concentrate on family, or jobs, or other good works for his kingdom. Since I've been having the same experience, I thought this was a pretty amazing "coincidence."

I believe God definitely does call us for different activities and priorities in different seasons. A lot of us aren't going to get that first publishing contract in one year, or with the first manuscript. We're going to be in this for the long haul. That doesn't mean we aren't going to reach the goal. But we may have to stop at some stop signs, or sit backed up in traffic. We may have to talk to a hurting friend for a couple of hours instead of turning out that thousand words we had planned. I don't think God will mind. In fact, that's probably just what he had planned for me that evening.

So my prayer for all of us is that we allow God to show us the right road--and the right speed--for our journeys.