How to Measure Your Own Magic

Ring the Bells

Why is there such a large gap between setting goals and completing them? Some writers vow to write every day and then give it up before the week is out. Some writers swear that this is the year they finish their novel, and then the novel sits in the drawer for the next two years. We know that we truly want to fulfill these dreams, but still we procrastinate until things feel hopeless. Why is it so hard?

It’s because there is always lag time between inner changes and outward reality.

Your internal state is like a star, burning bright and hot. But external reality is more like the earth. Time is measured in slow years and layers of sediment. Sometimes it takes the light of a star ten years to reach the earth. That doesn’t mean that the light of that star isn’t beaming, it just means that we can’t see it yet. Not with our little earthling eyes.

The same process happens when an individual embarks on inner changes. If you set yourself the goal to write for one hour a week, and at the end of a week you’ve only produced 10 pages it doesn’t seem like very much. But the pages you produce are your layers of sediment. 10 pages a week for a year becomes 520 pages.

This is why faith is so essential to the working artist. Faith is the lens we look through when evaluating our 10 pages so that we can see it as a decent layer of solid sediment on which to keep building. Faith is the promise of trust we put in ourselves, the resolve to continue pushing forward on our writing path.

Faith is challenging to cultivate. We live in a materialistic culture that uses cynicism as a constant defense. It’s hard to tell the world that you believe you have a book inside you waiting to be written, when you haven’t even put down the first chapter yet. And that’s where faith shows up again. You don’t need to tell the world. You only need to tell yourself. Faith ensures that you will tell yourself what you know to be true, again and again and again.

When we commit to making changes in our life, or in our writing work, we cannot be dependent on the symbols and outward signs of success. These external indicators take time to make an appearance and when they finally do, their presence is fleeting. All the awards in the world are not going to convince you of the merit of your writing.

If you don’t believe in what you’re doing, even a Nobel Prize will only reassure you for a very short period of time, and then you will go right back to anxiety again.

The way to gain faith is to follow your heart into your writing. You have to write the things you want to write, the stories that make you happy. If you want to write about aliens but your writing program is pushing you to write literary realism, then you need to find a different writing program. If you’re discouraged from writing about the romantic vampires you love because you keep reading online that the market is over-saturated, then stop reading those articles.

Your job as a writer is to adapt your writing talent to you. Not to what other people think, or want, or to what you think they want.

Your destiny is to uncover your own soul, and let it burn just as bright and hot as a brilliant star. Every day, pour your energy into one action that feeds this flame. Write a poem. Start your first chapter. Outline that character you see in your head and invite him or her to step out of the shadows.

With every one of these small actions you perform, have faith that your inner light will show up in your outer reality in its right time.

Have the courage to turn your focus inward, stargazing into your own infinite night sky.

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7 Comments

  • Reply Chris Creed 28 May, 2014 at 9:41 am

    Love this! I’ve been struggling with finishing several projects because I haven’t been seeing the results I want yet. But the results I want will come through the changes and daily decisions I make. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 28 May, 2014 at 11:31 am

      Thanks for reading Chris. I get so much help from your blog and the bursts of inspiration it gives me that I’m glad I could be of help to you 🙂

  • Reply RAM 28 May, 2014 at 9:50 am

    A nice dose of inspiration and sanity – thanks.

  • Reply Jon Simmonds 29 May, 2014 at 5:24 am

    Great piece Lauren. It’s so easy to get side-tracked by the apparent demands of whatever’s commercial or popular, but the true art will only come out when you believe in what you’re producing. The ‘star inside’ metaphor is a really nice one.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 29 May, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Thanks Jon! It’s a struggle I go through all the time, which is why I wrote this post. To remind myself to keep the faith, too.

  • Reply hilarycustancegreen 30 May, 2014 at 2:17 pm

    I’m not sure it it is lack of faith that holds me up. Though I find that even when the novel is supposedly finished, I can see stuff that could be improved. I am now in the process of self-publishing (the current one has been on the go for five years), but it is difficult to promote or sell a book wholeheartedly when you can see the flaws. As this is never going to change and I want to get on with the next one, I am going to go for it anyway.

    • Reply Lauren Sapala 30 May, 2014 at 2:19 pm

      I can definitely relate. I have finished once and for all with my very first novel (after revising it more than 10 times), but even now when I read it over again I always still find things that could be changed or improved. I don’t know that any writer is ever 100% satisfied with the finished product.

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