Sharpen the ax and get out of your own way


Why is it that some writers write and some don’t? I often come across individuals that seem to have great ability. They certainly have a “want-to” attitude or at the very least, a lot to say. Yet, for the writer who won’t, I am left to wonder if putting pencil to paper or fingers on a keyboard has caused them paralysis.
This topic came up in our writers’ group one Monday morning. Every week, a group of writers gets together for a scheduled teaching, then a critiquing of any submitted work. We also search for different contests that people can enter, or research various avenues that allow one to get published.
Just like the hazards of any work, writers sometimes experience writer’s block. This happens when a writer has trouble focusing on or materializing a story. Equally, there are those who develop writer’s fatigue, the point when telling a story becomes more burdensome than finishing it.
But there is another issue that I believe to be a far greater showstopper — confidence. Writing is artistry, a creative skill. When I write or create, I find that my work parallels with where my heart is. It can be intimidating, even scary. Putting my thoughts on paper to be potentially judged by others? It stands to reason why confidence retreats.
“What if I don’t know what to say? What if my writing is trivial?”
Those questions are benumbing at a minimum. Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Perhaps we should be asking, “Is my ax dull?”
Have you ever tried to chop firewood with a dull ax? The amount of energy expended and the amount of time exhausted is inefficient, even ineffective. Writing, as with any other form of art or skill, is no different. It is only when we sharpen our talents, like an ax, that we find we can accomplish our task with less effort and greater reward.
Personally, I have found that my inability to write at times is rooted in my lack of ability to focus. Now try to use that same dull ax, to chop that same firewood, with unclear vision. A person could hurt themselves before too long.
I write because I am compelled. I love to write. My mind never stops thinking about a next article or next chapter for a book. Something funny will come up at a family dinner or I’ll dream about different characters and story lines. Life is full of content waiting to be portrayed, but we have to first pick up the pencil.
Every writer I know has asked themselves at one point in time, “Does my story lack significance? How will my story read, what does it say about me?”
Sometimes the journey toward building confidence in writing is just a matter of racking up miles, repetition, sharpening oneself. Ecclesiastes 10:10 says, “If the ax is dull, and one does not sharpen the edge, then he must use more strength; but wisdom brings success.”
It is easy to fall prey to discouragement or script a naysayer’s response before we have written even a single word. In fact, we do that in many areas of life. Who gets a pass from the occasional self-defeat or self-doubt? It is only when we fully exercise our abilities that we become emboldened with what we can produce.
We know from history that many people of great stature had to embrace adversity, overcome fears or practice (sharpen) in order to achieve what they wanted. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “I run thus: not with uncertainty. I fight, not as one who beats the air.”
Beating the air? Now imagine swinging your ax when you haven’t even approached the tree.
Final brushstroke: We are sometimes driven by desires to express ourselves, but cower by our own hand. Sometimes we need to get out of our own way and just put ourselves out there. Sure, we will swing and miss a few times. Everyone does. But eventually, we hit our target or find our groove. It is then that we produce that which is already ours to share.
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