Resisting Drift: how small strokes keep us on course
Margaret Thatcher once said, “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become.”
Lately, I’ve been struck by the subtle power of the tiny habits that determine a person’s life course. Whether it’s deciding what to eat (the apple v. the bag of chips), what to listen to (truth v. ad campaigns), how to spend my free time (watching TV v. writing), or how to use my money (planned purchase v. spontaneous spending), all these little decisions can eventually add up to good health, a peaceful mind, a completed project, and financial solvency ... or not.
When I’m less mindful about my thoughts and fail to educate them when they get out of line, I'll start coasting on my whims and drift into unhealthy places.
This applies to all areas of life. If I don’t actively choose to spend time sharpening my craft, I'll start getting rusty. If I don't select a reasonable portion, I’ll slide into overeating. If I hold onto a grievance instead of seeking reconciliation, I’ll lose relationships. And if I don’t spend time talking to God or reading Scripture, I’ll become a passive reactor to life, tossed on capricious waves of desire and doubt.
The same is true of writing. It's easy to let a story lay for a week or two and then totally lose motivation to finish it. But on the flip-side, compounding interest on regular investments is a beautiful reality. My fellow author and friend, Joyce McPherson, gave me the best writing advice I’ve ever received: “Every day, write a paragraph.” That's it. Just a paragraph. Even with the demands of housework, family, school, and other relationships, I can usually crank out a paragraph. And Joyce understands outside demands — she’s a mother of nine.
While spending a whopping ten minutes a day on a plot may not sound particularly impressive, I’ve found that simple consistency does wonders for my creative thinking. It keeps my writing fresh. It inspires other thoughts throughout my day. And often, when I sit down, it's easier to write a second paragraph. And a third.
For thoughts become words. Words become sentences. Sentences become paragraphs. Paragraphs become pages. And pages become books.
As a caveat, making good decisions does not mean we always choose what is most “efficient” or “productive.” There are times when it's appropriate to rest, celebrate, splurge, and be entertained. But when we don’t make intentional investments in our spiritual lives, relationships, health, finances, or writing, we naturally drift – and can sometimes run aground. On a personal note, I'm grateful to have an anchor in Jesus Christ who holds me fast even when I'd naturally coast off course. This year, as I take up my literary oars, I look forward to seeing what's around the bend in 2020.