A Tool to Use or a Gift to Steward?

Intention #3: Write Often

Discipline.  I’m not a fan.  And yet discipline is a crucial aspect of my third intention: write often.

I doubt anyone would describe me as a disciplined person.

For the twelve years I studied piano, I never practiced on a consistent schedule.  Scales?  Pass. Instead, I crammed the few days before a recital or competition with hours of ruthless practice.

I’ve never really had a “daily quiet time.”  During my freshman year of college, my routine looked like this: leave Spanish class, buy a Coke and a muffin, head back to my dorm room, listen to an Elizabeth Elliot message, read the Bible for seven minutes, journaled for seven minutes, and pray for seven minutes.  But when my schedule changed, so did my quiet time rhythms.

Discipline Brings Freedom
Older and wiser, I now know that discipline can bring freedom.  The jazz pianist who practiced the scales, the cadences, and the rhythms can improvise with ease.  The person who read the Bible and prayed consistently knows God deeper and reflects his character effortlessly.

Discipline begins at a young age.  Our parents and caretakers discipline us to train our character.  Our teachers discipline us to train our hands to write and our brains to spell and add.

In many ways, discipline makes some practices and habits second-nature so that we have freedom for other endeavors—freedom to turn words into poems, numbers into lunar orbits, and notes into smooth sax solos. In other words, discipline pays off in the long-run.

I write often because I hope that the discipline will pay off.  Perhaps the Perhaps it will pay off in a book deal, or a life changed by something I write.  Perhaps the payoff will be smaller—better word choice, stronger verbs, or less clutter.

Discipline is Stewardship
Why writing though?  Why not concentrate my efforts on being disciplined at something else?  Why not running or playing the guitar or cooking the perfect white sauce?  I chose writing because I felt called to write more.

I didn’t discover this calling at the end of 2017; rather it had been bubbling up to the surface every now-and-then for years.  Don’t get me wrong.  I had been writing.  Writing had been part of my curriculum development, consulting, and teaching work, but I approached writing as a tool to use rather than a gift to steward.

Thinking about writing as a gift to steward means I need to invest in it—I need to commit time, energy, and resources to develop my writing.  Here are a few of the investments I’ve made already in 2018:

  • Started reading and applying concepts from On Writing Well
  • Attended a writing conference
  • Put my writing “out there” on my blog and in other publications
  • Practiced storytelling through #StoryTweeting
  • Bought new software, apps, and tech tools to increase my productivity

We invest because we hope for a return.  Again, we’re back to the idea that discipline can pay off. But when?

Honestly, I have not seen much payoff yet.  It’s only May.  I bet, however, that the payoff will come.  When I write often, I relentlessly push the flywheel, hoping for a breakthrough.

Discipline Leads to Development
When I think about giftedness, I think about all of the inventories and lists created to help us identify our gifts.  Few, however, direct us in ways to develop our gifts.  (StrengthsFinder 2.0 is one exception.)  Our gifts need nurture and care so that they can grow.  We need to learn how to use them well so that God can use our gifts for the benefit of others.

What are some of your gifts?  What have others affirmed in you?  When have they noticed aptitude and potential?  Do you treat those gifts more like a tool to use than a gift to steward? What might happen if you applied a little bit of discipline and development to that area of giftedness?