the work of writing :: a guest post

When I moved from Massachusetts to Nebraska in 2001, I found gargantuan grasshoppers and looming grain elevators. I also found God. Now I’m raising two rambunctious boys with my husband, Brad, working part-time for Nebraska public television and radio, laundering Sponge Bob briefs, and writing about faith in the everyday at Graceful. And I’m so very grateful to be here at Emily’s place today!

Fifteen years ago my husband Brad and I backpacked through part of Yellowstone National Park. I’d reluctantly agreed to this adventure, knowing that Old Faithful Inn – or any place with plumbing, for that matter – suited me better. A 25-pound pack and a two-man tent pitched on pinecone ground were not my idea of a vacation. But I agreed, largely because I was newly married and very much in the compromise stage.

We hiked through a barren landscape, charred husks of birch and pine standing like totems, the ground prickly with new-growth brush. A rampant forest fire had ravaged Yellowstone a few years prior, and the burned landscape was still stark and desolate like a moonscape.

As morning turned to noon the sun seared sharp. Pack straps burned ruts into shoulders, hair stuck to nape, boots chafed blisters, and I grew crankier with each mile, weary of the sooty landscape. As we rounded each rise I expected to glimpse our final destination, a campsite nestled beside a glinting lake in a valley below.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, at the crest of each hill I saw only another rise ahead, hope of shade and cool water crashing as one false summit gave way to the next.

“I want to be there now,” I complained mercilessly to Brad. “How much further? When are we going to see the campsite? Why are there so many hills? This is horrible!” I continued. “This isn’t what I expected at all! I’m not having fun!”

Brad was remarkably patient, especially given that instead of chortling songbirds and burbling brooks, all he heard was the relentless griping of a grumpy wife.

“We’re going to get there, honey,” he soothed. “Just try to enjoy the hike.”

I thought about that Yellowstone hike recently as I found myself bemoaning the writing process, the uphill climb toward publishing. The similarities between hiking and writing are not lost on me.

There’s the relentless grind, for starters. Writing requires discipline, which means I write when I’d rather be sipping Chardonnay on the back patio or browsing for a new purse at TJ Maxx. The process isn’t graceful as I grunt out choppy phrases that fall flat, or circle an idea round and round, unable to nail it down. Writing is work, putting one foot in front of the other – one word after the other – and staying on the trail for the long haul.

And then there’s the finish line, the final destination. I want to rush the process. I want to be there now – there being a published writer. I don’t want to face yet another mountain, another false summit – the research, the rejection, the writing and more writing, the hope followed by crashing defeat. I don’t want to hope for sparkling lake, only to find desiccated emptiness once again.

“How much further?” I whine to myself. “When am I going to get there? This isn’t what I expected at all!”

The Bible tells me a lot about time and process, planning and controlling – about how God’s timeline may be different from mine: “You don’t get to know the time. Timing is the Father’s business,” Jesus tells the disciples, when they clamor to know when the kingdom will be restored (Acts 1:7).

Honestly, this isn’t what I want to hear. I want to control the process; I want to create the timeline. Often I don’t want to heed God’s plans for me, because I fear they differ from what I might have in mind for myself.

There’s much for me to learn about what God wants with my words. Perhaps it’s not about publishing at all. Perhaps it’s about this present hike – this climbing and seeking. I admit, the pack feels heavy at times; I am weary. But God tells me he wants to lighten my load. I simply need to hand over the burden.

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.” Psalm 143:8, 10

**I know I say this with every guest post, but seriously. Visit Michelle at Graceful, because every word of hers is just that. I love her vivid descriptions, her regular-girl perspective, and her growing heart for filling the hole.


  1. says

    Wow, that is so true what you said about fear. We are so afraid that God’s will for us will differ from our own that we are reluctant to submit and then we find ourself regretting having gone off on our own without Him. When will we learn.

  2. says

    What a great reminder, Michelle. Every pursuit (even God-given) can turn into a drudgery if we allow it to. The key is taking the step and as your husband wisely advised, ‘enjoying the hike.’ I can’t speed it up, but I can slow it down (or at least make it SEEM slower). I have to trust, but at least I get to be with Him through the journey.

  3. says

    Thank you, Michelle! You put it so well. I will be coming to visit your blog and cheer you on as you pursue publication. I’m in a similar boat, mostly just talking about writing and imagining how it will fit into my life once school starts. Your description of it as a long process reminds me to enjoy this part of the journey as well, the Becoming. “At the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Have a great day.

  4. says

    Michelle, how I hear you!
    I spend too much of my time wishing for what I want to come next, instead of enjoying the journey God gives me. I’ve been praying lately to cherish each step–or at least SOME of them. It’s hard (impossible) for me to fully let go, but I want to get better at it.
    What a great post!

  5. says

    thank you, Michelle. As the wife of an avid hiker, who, for the love of a good man, has tried VERY hard to love hiking (but still whines about how much farther it is), and as a would-be writer who can’t always get her words to line up and do what she wants them to do (and who envies you just the tiniest little bit because you actually have a newspaper column) but, most importantly, as someone struggling to set aside the envy and figure out what Jesus would have her do with her words–thank you! BTW–my daughter spent a summer working at Yellowstone. After hiking there with her daddy and whining most of the way.

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