Faith: Living Water – Ch1: Repentance

Living Water

Living Water by Brother Yun is a book that has sat on my shelf for years. I have started to read it a number of times and have put it down because it was special. It was a meal to be enjoyed, not gulped. It wasn’t a casual read on the bus; I wanted to read it with a notebook handy and time to properly digest its message.

This post is my thoughts and related experiences on the first chapter Repentance. (I normally try to keep my posts between 500 and 1,000 words. This is a longer post at over 2,000 so make yourself a cuppa and settle in for the read).

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Picking up the Tools

It’s six o’clock and I’m expecting the wife home in ten minutes. At which time I need to fulfill my promise of making us dinner. That could be a problem considering there is no meat defrosted and no other preparations underway. Simple toasties or two-minute noodles will not suffice… not after the  promises I made. Dining ‘out’ or takeaway is not going to cut it either; they should be treats to her, not an antidote for my laziness...

The above is not a true story (well, not today anyway) but an analogy for how I feel I have treated you, my readers. I know we aren’t married and most of you peruse my blog like a casual night out… But still when I promise something, I need to deliver. And the deliveries haven’t been on time lately.

Recently I’d been going through a hard patch where my stress levels were getting out of control. I needed to take some time off and change my routine, so I did. The problem was, I never really came back. Like a guy sunning himself on annual leave, I just forgot to come back to the cubicle.

Publishers and readers will have a right to expect professionalism from me, and that involves delivering on promises.

I am reminded of something on one of the Writing Excuses podcasts: If you want to be professional at writing, then be professional. Treat it like a job. That means:

  • writing when it’s hard, or
  • writing when you’d rather be doing something else

I would never stop working while I’m on the company’s time; and so I shouldn’t stop working when I’m on my ‘writing time’.

I am going to start planning my writing time in advance, and sticking to it.

I’d love to stay and talk philosophical, but I’ve got writing to do.

Strange Behaviour

Firstly let me say that I don’t have any authors that I follow really closely.  There are certainly many authors whose works I enjoy and want to read more of, but I’ve never been one to write novel release dates on a calendar and run out and get them when the day comes. Sorry, but its non-discriminatory: I don’t really have fixations on anyone: writer’s, musicians, other celebrities…

Which only makes some of my other behaviour seem all the more stranger.

I’m not sure why but when I enjoy a book I tend to google the author. My primary reason for doing so is to read up on the author and in far second place see what other books they have written. The more I think about that the weirder the behaviour sounds.

I think it’s because I have just spent dozens of hours propelled along by their imagination and like meeting someone at a party whose company you really enjoy, you feel as though it would be good to get to know them more.

Or perhaps I am just curious what mix of experience has led to them being able to construct such a story, and so go looking for their author bio for clues.

Is my behavior strange or do you do it, or something similar, too?

Writing-Life Balance

It has been my intention to write a long post about writing-life balance, but I have decided against that. Something as complex and variable as “life” can hardly be discussed in a single post. Instead, let me address the issue of priorities and efficiency.

How much of a Priority is Writing?

Writing is a priority for me, but it is not my highest priority.

As a Christian the expression and growth of my faith must take pole position. As a married man I must take proper care of my wife (which is a joy), by earning a wage and contributing to the home-work. Wanting healthy relationships, and personal sanity, also means giving time to family and friends not just spending my life putting words on a page.

Writing must be maintained as a priority however if it is to become more than a side-hobby or not be lost among other pursuits. To this end, I am trying to avoid the other recreational activities that I know will suck the hours out of my day.

I remember hearing a (highly successful) man I respect say,

Work-life balance isn’t about always having balance; but about having balance on-the-whole.

You might have periods when the writing fever takes you, hot and sweating into the cave of isolation. But that period will only last so long. You don’t have whole-of-life balance during that period, but when the fever lifts you regain balance by investing heavily in your other priorities.

In the same way, if your other responsibilities are being “taken care of” a short period of neglect is not disastrous. As a simplistic example: If I mow my lawns, a weekend or two of writing isn’t going to result in an overgrown yard. Be generous with your other priorities, and they in turn will be flexible when you need them to be.

As the good book says,

“There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

Be diligent in both making hay while the sun shines and taking care of the other things when the sun doesn’t shine.

Writing Effectively

Time is precious so it’s important that you are efficient with what you have. If I want an effective day of writing I must follow the pattern I know works. It starts with:

  1. Getting up at a reasonable hour (0830 at the latest),
  2. Shaving,
  3. Showering,
  4. Eating a mid-sized breakfast, and finally
  5. Spending some time in personal devotions.

Reading that list, you might think I’m wasting a whole swag of time. If I’m not intending on going out on the day, why shower? Why shave? That’s time better spent writing, you might think but you’d be wrong. After 13 years of work my brain is hardwired that being dressed and shaved means “work time”. I find I can focus more when I have acquired the worker bee mindset.

I also know what not-to-do in the morning. I can’t watch TV, read the newspaper or browse through my “regular” blogs. If I watch TV my brain is dulled to a state where I just want to be spoon-fed entertainment all-day. If I start browsing, I find that time will evaporate and I’ll be wanting to go back for a “fix” or “update”. As a bit of a news junkie this can be a weakness for me – However, if I don’t know the day’s news I can’t be interested in it.

It also helps to know in advance what I am going to work on. If I can I will do some “recon” and decide what comes next at the end of my previous writing session, Doing so lets my brain think about that in the background and gives me clear goals for the day.

Make the most of the time you have. If I have only an hour there’s no point in trying to work on my novel. I can however proof-read it, work on a short story or blog post. I can puzzle away about plot problems / issues and try to solve them.

A day is wasted as a collection of wasted minutes. (me)

Make every minute count!