The manuscript languishes. I have not touched it in three months. I wrote 25,000 words on my latest book and then got stuck. In the last ninety days a close colleague passed away, my boss of ten years moved on, and I escaped Hurricane Matthew. Over these last few months I've felt as if I'm swimming in the ocean at night. There is no sunlight penetrating the depths; there is moonlight, pale and smoldering in the darkness. I hear my breath as I turn my face to the side, taste salt on my lips. My feet make subtle splashes as my body undulates across the murky waves. My arms keep moving; I try not to think about the creatures beneath me. Sharks. I force my mind to concentrate on the shoreline in the distance. I know it's there. I'm convinced I'm swimming in the right direction, paddling under the specter moon, my sole companions the constellations overhead--the grace of God my buoyancy.
Sometimes when experiencing difficult circumstances, it is easy to look at what I haven't accomplished instead of focusing on what I've managed to keep doing--the way I've been able to keep swimming. While I haven't been able to see the shoreline, I've continued the American crawl. And I haven't completely abandoned the page. I've journaled daily, I've written weekly blog posts, I've attended two writing workshops and made three essay submissions. I've continued to walk as much as possible, because walking invigorates creativity. It's as if I'm declaring with each stroke of my arms, "God is kind, and supports me; each difficulty can be used to strengthen me." Breath. "God takes my accumulated sorrows and buries them in this expanse of ocean." Breath. "He brings me to sunlit waters." Breath. "He calms me with His love and sings over me in this wide sea." Breath. "No despair." Breath. "He is present." Breath.
All these strokes and breaths eventually bring me to serene waters, turquoise and clear. I turn on my back and float, arms behind my head. I breathe deeply, my face turned toward the sun. I observe the shoreline on the horizon. Clown fish dart amidst purple coral. I have persevered through the dimness with each stroke and breath. And that incremental persistence leads me to this enticing environment. Back to the manuscript. Daylight.
What is one thing that you can do to keep swimming toward your shoreline? It's not how far you go; it's about one more stroke and breath. You can do it. Your art is valuable; you are worth it. God is for you.