Axe sharpening . . .

I was introduced to Ecclesiastes 10:10 the other day—Using a dull axe requires great strength, so sharpen the blade.

The verse was used in the context of faith, how it can be easy to go through the motions, to seem fine when really you’re discouraged and struggling. How instead of taking strength, joy and peace from your faith, sometimes clinging to it can seem like drudgery. The speaker went on to talk about how to sharpen your blade and the importance of doing so.

I appreciated the message and felt the verse applied to a lot aspects of life—relationships, jobs, writing. Almost everything in life, no matter how passionate we are about it, has seasons where continuing on just feels like work, where we wonder if what we seek is actually attainable, where we question whether there is anything special or valuable in what we’re trying to hold on to…

If you’re like me (and since you’re probably a writer reading this blog before getting to down to work, I suspect you are), you’re no stranger to hard work. You’re used to sitting down whether you’re inspired or not and putting words on the page. You’ve steeled yourself against rejection. You will keep wielding your axe because it’s what you need to do—and let’s face it, in the end, a dull axe does the same job as a sharp one. And for that pragmatic attitude and ethic, we should be congratulated. We rock!

Thankfully, not every writing session fit the description above—far from it. We know flow. We’ve embraced the muse. Had those wonderful times when the stories and thoughts in our heads pour out faster than we can type, those moments when we finally glance at the clock we can’t believe that we’ve been writing for hours and we still feel so energized. All is right in the world. All is right in our heads. We are writers; we pour our inky-hearts out on paper—we rock!

I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, persevere when the work is hard and it’s all sweat and fear. But yes, double-yes!—seek those things that remind you that writing is your passion, that make your time spent at the computer less like hacking and more running a warm blade through butter that has fresh bread waiting for it.

Here are a few of the things that sharpen my blade and make me feel that I’ll burst with contentment because I get to write: Spending time with my opera-singer sister and laughing about the angst of the artist’s life. Keeping close contact with writing friends, through e-mail and an online forum. Reading good books. Writing things that are just for me, like poetry. Doing writing exercises and taking “no pressure” classes and workshops—and, maybe ironically, giving workshops. Playing outside, rain, snow, or shine. Making sure I have do-absolutely-nothing slouch time. And (again, perhaps ironically) writing through those uninspired dull-hatchet times.

Have a wonderful writing week, fellow axe-wielders! And if you have time to share, I’d love to know: What sharpens your blade?

8 thoughts on “Axe sharpening . . .

  1. Thank you, Ev, and I wish you the same right back.
    This is a tough question for me at the moment. I think the answer to this is really just writing. Whenver I feel tense about my writing I sit down annd write. How I feel when I write is why I write.
    But there are those times….we all know them. Movies, books, but nothing quite like the outdoors for me.

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  2. Brilliant post. Thank you Ev. And, “since you’re probably a writer reading this blog before getting to down to work”… You mind reader, you.

    Reading great writing inspires me to write. Reading something that is wonderful for one reason or another makes me want to create something that would treat another reader just as much. I didn’t really realize that until you asked, but there it is.

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  3. Ev: I can answer that question with two words — time and community. A stretch of time that isn’t filled up with “to-do” lists, time that I can appropriate for wandering around in a meadow looking at the landscape (while my mind wanders through words and images), time that is open to allow new ideas to percolate while I scratch any old thing down on a piece of paper; that is where all my best ideas for writing come from.

    Interacting with a community of writers is another wonderful source of inspiration. Whether it is a reading a writer’s book about writing, a friend emailing a newly written poem, a literary reading, or a writing group (where the writers actually talk about writing rather than their mothers or gall bladders), the outcome is the same. I rush to my computer or pencil and paper and start to write. I think that is why NaNoWriMo is so powerful for me. It is a chance to be part of a community of writers focused on writing.

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  4. Dear Jennifer,

    >>>I think the answer to this is really just writing. <<<

    Yeah, I think you nailed it. No matter what else we wax poetic about, that's what it all comes down to. 🙂

    Have a wonderful week. I hope you get some concentrated writing time in!

    ~Ev

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  5. Dear Jen,

    “You mind reader, you.”

    Heh. Yes. I’m thinking of starting my own call in show.

    “. . . makes me want to create something that would treat another reader just as much.”

    Isn’t that a cool and crazy thought! Imagine–one of our books could be someone’s favourite book someday. Is that possible?!

    Happy writing!

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  6. Dear Gideon,

    The time to do nothing but let our brains wander while we do the same is crucial, eh?

    “Interacting with a community of writers is another wonderful source of inspiration.”

    Absolutely!

    Thanks for commenting–I hope you have a week with moments just like you described in your reply.

    ~Ev

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  7. Like Jen B. I sometimes find that reading good writing inspires me to want to create but sometimes I just have to dig out a pen and notebook and purge on the page. I get out all my whining and insecurities and anything else that’s on my mind. I write until I’ve released all that negative crap. I write until my last sentence reads, “I feel better now.” and I don’t write it unless I absolutely feel it.Then hopefully, I’m ready to sit and create something new.

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  8. Dear Laura,

    “. . . sometimes I just have to dig out a pen and notebook and purge on the page. I get out all my whining and insecurities and anything else that’s on my mind. I write until I’ve released all that negative crap.”

    Absolutely–it’s not part of my daily process, but it’s a regular thing. I just shared that very thing with at a writing workshop, in fact: spend time journaling to get rid of the angst, everyday troubles, and whatever-else that can clog up a head, so that your fiction can be filled with the bigger things you dream about, worry about, think about, care about . . . We don’t want our characters to spend all their time wimping about, moaning over the visa statement and their husbands’ vagabond socks. 😉

    Thanks for commenting and happy writing (and purging!),
    Ev

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