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Saturday, January 27, 2007

Sunday Devotion: It's not as easy as it looks

Janet Rubin

This morning, my walk took me to the shore where I stopped to watch a mallard. Against the gray winter backdrop, his green feathers provided a delightful shock of color. He and his mate glided silently down an unfrozen corridor in the otherwise icy cove. The V’s spreading out in the water behind the ducks intersected and formed a W, the outmost edges of which widened until they were halted at the ice borders.

Web-footed labor concealed in the blackness beneath, the birds’ movement seemed effortless. Heads, necks, wings, all still, as if they were children’s boats pulled along by strings. Yet I knew of the unseen work that propelled them forward, the ceaseless paddling below.

When reading masterful writing—the sort of prose that flows poetically across the page, rich with texture, layers, and metaphor—I sometimes forget about the painstaking work behind the words. Such writing flows, seemingly without effort, and I imagine the words rolling from the author’s imagination, through his or her fingertips by way of a keyboard, falling into perfect order on the page. Envy turns me greener than the mallard as the desire to write something just as good stirs within me. I feel so inadequate. I could never write such prose!

But the truth is, the story did not form without labor. It undoubtedly came to be through a process marked by crumpled papers in a wastebasket, deleted paragraphs and chapters, edits, rewrites, and emptied bottles of Tylenol. While the work progressed, the writer may have experienced days devoid of inspiration, moments of self-doubt, and thoughts of giving up. He probably had to struggle to conquer some weakness- a propensity toward over-using adverbs or a tendency to “tell” rather than “show.” To bring the work to its polished end, there were most likely editors, critique partners, and people who helped in the researching of topics or places described in the book. And preceding the masterful writing were works of lesser quality, much of it unpublished, that brought the author to the place where he or she could pen something so good.

I should not be discouraged by the false belief that such marvelous writing comes effortlessly for some. Nothing great or beautiful comes without work.

How much of God’s work is unseen, going on beneath our skin, in the deep regions of our hearts and minds? Though we do not see or understand His ways, it is His work in us- the work He promised to bring to completion—that propels us forward on the straight and narrow path and draws us closer to Him. Even our salvation, which we come by so easily- by simply accepting His gift—was accomplished by Jesus’ work on the cross.

Father, Thank You for the unseen work You are continually performing in me. Help me not to be discouraged when I see the work of someone much more experienced and skilled that I, but to remember that beneath the surface of every great work there is blood, sweat and tears. Give me the strength I need to persevere, investing myself in the work I need to do in order to be the best writer I can be. Amen.

Proverbs 23:12 Apply your heart to instruction, And your ears to words of knowledge.


  1. Janet,
    I loved this. Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
    We all need Gods help to complete our tasks, whether they are something as wonderful as your writing, or just caring monotous filing in my office!
    Keep perservering!

  2. Janet, you're an amazing writer. In fact I snuck a peek at your latest chapter and thought, wow, she's getting really good! Thank you for this devotion and for your teachable and teaching spirit.

  3. Thanks, Gina. That means a lot coming from you- a writer I so admire. God bless your busy week:)

    Thanks for being such a faithful reader, Pat. Love ya!

  4. Beautiful writing, Janet! I really liked the image of the mallards and how that applies to our writing. I'm like you - I turn green with envy often. Thanks for the reminder that the pros had to work hard too in order to get where they are.


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