Harriet Auber found herself without writing materials. Rather than risk losing the words of a new hymn forming in her mind, she is said to have scratched them on a window pane with a diamond ring.267
I always take a pen and paper with me. It’s cheaper than a diamond and people show an embarrassing amount of interest in what you do to their windows. Ideas have a habit of not waiting until I’m at my desk. They rarely wait till I’m out of the shower or until traffic lights stay red long enough for me to scribble furiously. (Why is it you can never find a red light when you want one?)
Whenever ideas flow – in my case, drip and dribble – record them. I have been thinking lately about how to write. Thoughts have formed about how to teach this subject. It’s unlikely I would ever be asked, but why waste ideas? It takes almost no time to scrawl them. And even I can afford a scrap of paper. I’m sure to lose forever some good ideas if I don’t record them, and if I am ever approached about the matter, I’ve saved time. All I have to do now is find a way of not losing the piece of paper . . .
Frances Ridley Havergal, an effervescent girl with golden curls, sat before a painting of Christ. Inspired, she grabbed a circular and scribbled on its back. Displeased with her effort, she threw it in the fire, then on impulse, retrieved it. She carried the crumpled, singed piece of paper in her pocket until showing it to a woman she judged too ignorant to see its flaws. The old woman’s reaction moved Frances to retain the poem. Eventually it was published. This talented girl went on to write many fine poems and hymns, yet this product of her youth is ranked with the most popular she ever wrote. Thank God she reluctantly kept that ‘useless’ poem!268 ccWhenever a brainwave hit Frank Boreham (1871-1959) he would jot it down and file it away. Even after he retired as a pastor, ‘he was still getting literary dividends from ideas he had noted years before.’ So precious were his notes that every time he went on vacation he buried them in his backyard in case his house caught fire.269 I don’t know how he deduced that disaster could only hit when he was on holidays. (I’d avoid his travel agent.) Maybe vacations were the only occasion he let all his family out of the house at the same time. Maybe he conducted drills every week to ensure if fire broke out at 3 AM his family would instinctively charge through the flames, grasp his notes and carry them to safety before fully waking up. And maybe I am bone lazy, but the alternative of storing a duplicate set of notes off-site seems preferable. With the advent of photocopiers and computers, keeping copies of precious scribbles at a friend’s place is too easy to even consider not doing it.
Smell the ascending smoke. See the crackling flames hungrily chomp the canvas. With a thud, two chattering sisters cheerfully toss another pile of Max Raffle’s ‘worthless’ paintings on the fire – paintings that would have made them millionaires if only they had known. I think I’ll stick to burning money.
You may be strongly pressured to under-rate your efforts, but don’t be frivolous with the talent entrusted to you. Where appropriate, store your work. Record ideas. Don’t destroy them in a fit of depression or spring-cleaning madness. One day you, or someone else, might recognize their worth.
There’s something else I suggest you should record and horde.
I submitted to two publishers a book about principle of Bible interpretation. Both replied that they wanted me to consider serious discussions with them about publication only as a last resort. Another time, I received an editor’s scribbled note at the bottom of a standard rejection form from an international magazine.
All three letters were a disappointment. I stuffed the letters into a filing cabinet and tried to forget. Years later, those same letter became prized possessions, nerving me to keep writing. Although not the response I had hoped for, I discovered that each of them contained favorable comments about the value and quality of my work.
Often words of encouragement are spoken rather than written. It takes a little more effort to jot them down while they are still fresh in your memory, but doing so could break depression’s merciless grip at a later, critical moment.
Towards the end of his life, a famous author began to drift from the style that had set him apart. Publishers should have told him. He could have corrected it and maintained his high standard, but the publishers lived in fear of him. His books meant big money. One hint that his work was not the epitome of perfection and he would storm out, taking his business elsewhere. So he remained oblivious to his decline until it was too late. His failings were exposed to the world.
Perhaps pride was his downfall, but feelings of inadequacy can be equally dangerous. I’m usually so weighed down by negative thoughts I can barely stay afloat. It takes little extra to send me to the bottom. If anyone suggests the slightest flaw in something I do, it’s as though every doubt and destructive thought is instantly confirmed. ‘It wasn’t your imagination after all!’ says the evil one. ‘You really are as smart as a pork chop in a Jewish sandwich.’ I take it as final proof that I have as much potential as a moth taking swimming lessons. Why suffer more pain for something doomed to fail?
Knowing the negative spiral it frequently produces, I would rather tongue-kiss a crocodile than hear constructive criticism. There must be people who know more than me. Heeding their advice would improve my ability to serve, speeding my entry into effective ministry. Yet fear of correction numbs my mind to common sense. But it cannot rewrite the Bible. Scripture is adamant that we should seek and heed godly and practical counsel.a
The enemy has declared war on me in this area. It’s deliciously easy to wave the white flag, dishonoring the victory Christ won. I must counter-attack, praying in the Spirit hour after hour until Satan withdraws.