A Word to Writers: On Changing Your Mind

After reading your comments on Monday’s post, In Celebration of Slow, I realize with great relief how many of us are rowing gently down the same stream. We sit side by side, shoulders touching now and then, gaze set in the same direction, and we row one slow stroke at a time. We must refuse to feel ashamed of our pace. The goal of our life isn’t always to rush ahead to someplace different. Sometimes we simply need to learn to settle in where we already are.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetWe know this. I like this about us. I want to continue to create space here for our souls to breathe in that truth because it’s too easy for me to forget.

During that post on celebrating slow, I shared with you how I started a series in January that I never completely finished. It happens a lot here, actually. It isn’t always because I take a long time to process or need more space to gather my thoughts. Sometimes it’s because once I get started on something and begin to dig in to it, I realize I want to change course.

Last year I planned to start a series inspired by Oprah’s What I Know For Sure column in her magazine. But when I sat down to write an introduction to that series, it turned out I didn’t know much. Not for sure, anyway. Woops.

So I changed it from What I Know For Sure to Artists & Influencers, turning the focus from what I knew to what other people were teaching me. We did that series once a week for a month.

artists & influencers :: a series at chatting at the skyEach week I chose a specific area of life and the artists and influencers who were teaching me in those areas: writing, church, love, and home. I enjoyed writing that series, specifically because it focused on what I was learning from others rather than what I knew for sure myself.

I had intentions of continuing the Artists & Influencers series and maybe I still will. I could easily write about the people who are teaching me about marriage, community, hope, and art. But once I finished that in early February of last year, I wasn’t motivated to continue at that time.

If you are a writer, on a blog or otherwise, and if you have the freedom to make these kinds of choices, please forthelove don’t continue something just because you said you would. I’m not talking about committments you’ve made to other bloggers, publishers, or editors. But in our own spaces where we have the final say, it’s important (at least for me) to write not only what your reader wants to read but also what you want to write about. If I continually have one without the other, the result is frustration for everyone.

Once Artists & Influencers ran its course for me, I set it aside with freedom, knowing I could pick it up again if I wanted to. Then at the end of February, I was still thinking about the What I Know For Sure concept but decided to try not to take myself so seriously. Instead of coming up with what I thought I knew for sure, I shared a simple list of things I learned that month: 10 things I Learned in February. This was the first thing on my list on that post:

1. Mae Whitman (Amber from Parenthood) played Bernice in Hope Floats. She also played George Clooney’s daughter in One Fine Day. She was ALSO the little girl selling brown bird cookies who wanted to go to space camp on Friends. You’re welcome.

Mae-Whitman-Amber-young-parenthood-2010-30450941-610-410The other nine things I learned that month had varying degrees of impact in my life but were equally simple. It was light-hearted and breezy, two words that don’t always describe me or my space here online.

I liked it so much I did it again at the end of March, April, and May. Finally someone suggested I make it a link-up so the whole community could share what you were learning as well. What a great idea! (I’m slow, remember?) In June I invited the Chatting at the Sky community to join me in sharing what you learned and 150 of you did. As I read through your posts, I decided this linkup is one of my favorites simply because it is so much fun.

If you have ever started something you didn’t finish or started something and totally changed it, take heart.

We can’t always plan out exactly what we want to do and then execute it exactly how we want to execute it. We start with a scrap of an idea, sit with it, stare out the window for awhile, write around it, beside it, beneath it, and finally choose a direction. Sometimes what we find is just what we expected. Other times it takes two or three (or forty) different paths before we realize where we’re actually going.

It doesn’t mean we’ve failed, it just means we have further to go.

Tomorrow marks one year since my first Things I Learned post. This will be your first chance to link up since December, as last month I wrote 10 Things I Learned in January: Uganda Edition and didn’t have the presence of mind to make it a link up because time zones and midnight posting and Coke without ice. I’m back in my own time zone now with ice and everything so I’m happy to host a place for us to come together and celebrate what we’ve learned this month. I hope you’ll join us tomorrow!


  1. says

    Thank you for this, Emily. I recently did the same thing on my blog. I had big plans for a 4-part series on being rooted in our faith – a very noble topic to write – but realized after writing – and posting – the intro, I didn’t have it in my heart. My big stumbling block was I didn’t feel I could write deep enough, heartfelt enough, to make it worth my reader’s time. It would have ended up surface-level, un-intimate, dry. Eventually, I gave up and deleted the intro post altogether and a passionate, intimate cry for the hearts of women post came out, ready to give birth to a new avenue of adventure into God’s will. It was exactly what my heart had been heaving for years. What my soul cries out each day to accomplish. And I’ve never regretted deleting that old post.

    Maybe someday I’ll get back to it. Maybe someday I’ll have matured more in my faith and my understanding of God’s ways to let the words flow out me. Maybe not. But I sure am glad I listened to that small, still voice who loves me so. His direction kept me from veering away from His plan.

  2. says

    I didn’t get the chance to respond to Monday’s post. So I’m glad I get the chance to say “thank you” here. I resonate so much with your need to take some time. I am a slow processor and a slow writer myself. Back in December I publically (foolishly) stated my intentions to post with a certain regularity on my new blog. But for one reason and another, I haven’t been able to meet my own expectation. Feeling any measure of shame over that fact has not been helpful. Instead, I’m trying to give myself the grace and space to hear from Him and keep His pace.

  3. says

    Coke without ice really shouldn’t be happening in this day and age. Neither should blogging without inspiration and heart. I’ve toyed with the idea of a linky for ages, but I can’t make it happen without it feeling totally contrived. Happy accidents like “10 Things..” give me hope that someday I’ll stumble on the right thing after all:)

    • says

      Yes – I agree. Freedom. Just decided last week that I’m going to look around for all the self-imposed somethings in my life and un-impose them. We could pull out the childhood stand-by…. “you’re not the boss of me!”

  4. says

    I love this! And again you’ve given me the “okay” to not be so stinkin’ hard on myself if I decide to change directions in what I want to write about : ) I, too, do love your “What I’ve Learned” series and enjoy tagging along with a link up most months.

  5. says

    Wanna talk slooooow? Does working on a cookbook with my granddaughter since she was in middle school and still in braces and now she a sophomore in college and we are only six recipes away from being finished and we can’t seem to fit it in count?

  6. says

    Good words today Emily. It is so easy to feel like a failure for not following through when in fact not changing directions would be the real mistake. I am thankful for the freedom to change course. Even in my hardest days of writing…I still get to write whatever I want in the comfort of my own home. What a freedom! I don’t want to forget that! xo

  7. says

    Thank you for your words, Emily. I needed to read this today as I am constantly in my head about what I should do, feeling like I’m a failure if I change my mind. This post felt like freedom!!

  8. says

    I meant to come back and comment on your other post this week but…you know. It impacted me so much and I love this post equally. Thank you for freedom and permission. I don’t know why, but sometimes I just need it.

  9. says

    “We must refuse to feel ashamed of our pace.” Thank you for those words. I so often feel wrong, sinful, broken because I value slow. I felt physical relief as those words entered my eyes, my heart, and my soul.

  10. says

    “We must refuse to feel ashamed of our pace. The goal of our life isn’t always to rush ahead to someplace different. Sometimes we simply need to learn to settle in where we already are.”

    I’m tearing up because this is exactly what I needed to hear today. This morning I was trying to work on my novel, which is in the frustrating place of being so close to finished but not there yet. Writing this novel has been painful and slow, all due to a slow healing rib injury.

    Instead of celebrating slow, I’ve fought it. Hated it. I want my life to move, to begin. So I sat again today, trying to write with self-imposed pressure and a self-imposed deadline choking my creativity and word count. I felt like a failure, ashamed of my slow pace. I was ready to push through another hour, despite the pain, make the words come.

    Then I took a brief break to check my email and found your post. A God-appointment if ever there was one.

    Now? Now I’m going to put my work away–even though my word count goal wasn’t met and my chapter unfinished. I’m going to read and rest and pray for God to help me learn how to let the pressure go and settle my heart.

    Thank you, Emily.

  11. says

    Thank you for sharing this, Emily! I needed to hear that another blogger/writer changed their mind about a project after talking about it. I do that all the time and was feeling like a failure for not following through.

    You are one of my shining stars of inspiration when it comes to the art of writing, so again, thank you so much from the bottom of my inkwell for encouraging me once again! <3

  12. says

    I’ve always said the only thing I’m consistent at is being inconsistent. :) Thank you for this reminder that we don’t have to be bossy with ourselves if things just aren’t flowing the way we thought they would.

  13. says

    I thought of you the other day when my kids and I were watching Tinkerbell (the movie) – Mae Whitman is the voice of Tinkerbell! I was watching the movie, recognized the voice, looked it up to see Mae Whitman, and thought of this post so long ago!! Haha!

  14. says

    Awesome. I love this link-up.

    And thanks for giving me the permission I didn’t know I needed to let a good thing go. {Truth be told I often don’t even start a good thing because what if I don’t maintain the inspiration to finish it? It’s a sickness.}

    Several years ago I gave myself permission to stop reading a book if I just wasn’t feeling it. Best decision ever.

  15. says

    This is all kinds of goodness here. (And I’m not just saying that because – for once – I sort of kept a list running through part of January and have a Things I Learned post half written in my drafts… not really waiting on you per say, on but some sort of inspiration to finish it even though it’s now March. And no, I did not keep a running list in February – so it seems we’re all back on track! LOL!)

    I just love you. That is all.

  16. says

    Thanks Emily, I really needed this. As a new blogger, I sometimes struggle with whether I should follow through with some of the things I said I would on the blog. You are right – I shouldn’t continue something just because I said I would, if I don’t feel passionate about it anymore.

    I really enjoyed writing and linking up to your “the things I learned” series so much that I’ve continued to post it every month on my blog. I just posted one for February, so you know I’ll be here tomorrow! oxox

  17. says

    This was like water in a desert for me. Thank you. I often feel like such a failure because I come up with an idea, jump in with both feet, commit to posting “this new feature” every Wednesday from now till forever, and then fizzle out a few weeks in. In a blogging world where consistency is key, I often feel like I’m not enough. Not cut out for the task. But I’m quick with ideas and slow to process and I’m just now figuring out how to be okay with all of that and forget all the “supposed to’s”. This was encouragement in freedom. Thanks. :)

  18. says

    You inspire me Emily, to slow down, to savor life, to just be who it is God created me to be. In my season of not blogging and being still, I have learned a few things. I may come out of hiding and link up, or maybe not. Thank you for giving me the freedom to be me. P.S. I sent you an email. I hope you received it. I was hoping to blog through “A million little ways” on my blog soon. It has encouraged my heart so much in this season. But I wanted to gain your permission to use quotes from your book. Blessings!

  19. says

    I totally cannot believe this. Permission to ‘fail’/discontinue/change course..let people down..? I just put out an invite on my blog for a Lent series…& I am shaking with fear that I cannot deliver!! God is not nervous about it I can feel- so I’m just pleading He holds me through it. Then, I read this. It’s comfort sister! Thanks.

  20. says

    OMG! That is the little girl from Hope Floats? Blowing my mind right now…That is one of the movies that I own on DVD but if I see it playing on TV I will watch it, commercials and all.

    Anyway, you are so right about writing what you want/need to in your own space. You should never write something ‘just because’ you think you should. It’s your space. Your voice. I struggled with this for a long time. I thought, “This is what people want to read on blogs.” So, I would write it, but it didn’t fill me up. It was boring to me. It wasn’t meaningful. So, now I try to write from the heart, something that inspires. I try to say something, not just anything.

  21. says

    I read some of the comments–yes freedom! How can we push and produce something worth while? Then again–how can we push against all those telling us to “build your platform” or you will never be published, noticed, liked.
    If only my sisters read my blog, and God sees, that should be enough for me.
    Thanks Emily.

  22. says

    Emily, I am new to your blog and have found it SO. REFRESHING. Thank you. I was a “31 days” failure. And lately my husband and I have been talking about taking the word “failure” out of our vocabulary. Thanks for breathing a little more freedom into my soul. :)

  23. says

    Emily, I so love following your blog. I feel like I’m taking glimpses into my own soul, although yours tends to seem a bit more put-together than mine is most of the time. I’m starting to realize the importance of slowing down and allowing my soul to breathe. I need slow. So much. You have helped me in my journey to finding space for that. Thank you for helping me give myself time to figure myself out, and for God to breathe His sweet life into me.

  24. says

    isn’t it amazing how neurotic we can be about the goals we place on ourselves?!?! Even with own personal guidelines, boundaries, dreams we carry such a load. How is it that we are so hard on ourselves? thanks for your reminder to row slowly, without hearts set in the right direction. we will all just be fine.

  25. says

    “Sometimes we simply need to learn to settle in where we already are.” This line is making me think.
    I read this post when you first published it, then looked at it again today. This line grabbed me both times and so I need to explore why (I have an inkling). Thank you, I think!?!

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