What If It Takes 1,000 Days? (or, A Path Worth Walking)

Seems you turn around and there’s a new month, a new season, staring at you, like opening your eyes in the middle of the night to find one of your (now terrifying) children standing quietly beside the bed, waiting for you to wake up. Cade used to do that when he was three or four years old. Just about sent me through the ceiling.

These years will do that to you, the way they just keep showing up.

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I remember writing 10,000 words for the sequel to The Day the Angels Fell. Characters and scenes and settings. Then, soon after that, I finally discovered the whole point of the book, the questions that I had about life and death that the story will explore, and I realized all 10,000 words were wrong. They won’t be in the book.

Let’s assume I can write 250 first draft words per hour. This means I put in forty hours of work that were deleted. Thirty pages, gone. But this doesn’t alarm me anymore, not the way it used to when I first started writing, because I’ve learned that to get to the final story there are many, many deleted words that must be written first.

There is no path worth walking that starts at the finish. There will be steps that take us backwards. We will stumble, take a winding path when a straight one is available.

We all have so many miles left to walk.

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“Once you find (the problem with the work), and if you can accept the finding, of course it will mean starting again. This is why many experienced writers urge young men and women to learn a useful trade.”

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

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There are things we will do in this life that will seem impossible. We will start books we do not think we have the strength to write. We will start businesses that require every ounce of us just to begin. We will love people who will not love us back or, even worse, will deliberately hurt us, seek to destroy us. There will be deleted days, months that seem useless, years that pass under a shadow of rejection and pain and disorder.

I hope that if you have resolved to do anything, it is to try and be brave again, which is not the same thing as being fearless. The only people I know who say they are fearless also happen to be very good liars. They walk around with their heads held high, claiming not to know fear, but when they turn around you can see their fear clinging to their backs like an imp.

I hope you’ve also resolved to persevere, to be willing to wait. Sometimes it takes 1,000 days, and sometimes it takes 10 years, and I suspect that sometimes we will get to the end of our lives, still waiting, and realize the waiting was what was required, not that thing we were waiting for. Whatever you dream of doing, it’s worth walking the long road. It’s worth the winding and the seemingly wasted steps. When you get there, the path will make sense.

Today, take the next step. Be brave. Be willing to wait.

9 Replies to “What If It Takes 1,000 Days? (or, A Path Worth Walking)”

  1. This dovetails nicely with the devotional study my family have been going through on patience at bedtimes this pas week.

  2. Shawn-I was introduced to you and your blog by a good friend of mine, Jill Kane. I understand she’s also a good friend of yours! In 2014 I took a leap of faith. I began to write a story. So far it’s a bunch of dreadful words on paper strung together in *some* semblance of an order. I’m discouraged. But I have a story to share; I know I do. The perseverance, I can tell, will be the difficult part. Your post shed light right into that ugly place in my heart that’s been holding me back. Thank you!

    1. Thanks for joining me over here, Sara. Best of luck with your story – hang in there and stick with it for the long haul. You can do it.

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