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Writing is More Than A Work in Progress

After I completed my Master of Fine Arts in creative writing, I went through a four-year period where I didn’t write anything—or at least anything that I considered noteworthy. This induced a lot of self-directed negative emotions, mainly a deep sense of shame. Shouldn’t I have a new project to work on by now? Wasn’t I letting down my professors, colleagues, and those who invested in me? What if I couldn’t create independently without my grad school community?


I hated the fact that I had no project—no novel that was actually good. Not like my failed NaNoWriMo book that started with a good outline but eventually devolved into Bruce Springsteen fan fiction. Then, I tried my hand at writing a Christian end times novel, which, not surprisingly, failed. (You can read all about this escapade in a past blog.)


I tend to refer to this as my “lost period,” and I still think that’s accurate. But it means something different to me now than it did then.


I lost the opportunity to be faithful to create even though it didn’t look like what I expected. I erected idols to those expectations, and when I wasn’t able to live up to them, I chastised myself, and unnecessarily so.


I see many authors and fellow editing companies post about having a “work in progress” (#WIP). Everything is about the WIP—tropes from your WIP, the evolution of your WIP, comparing your WIP to other things you’ve read, and encouraging followers to share.


On one hand, this is really cool. Sharing about your projects and giving others a chance to respond can be an awesome way to encourage each other and even brainstorm. It’s also need to watch the progression of a project over time so you can celebrate an author’s successes.


But for others, it can trigger the comparison trap, the shame spirals, the self-criticism. And it’s those people I want to talk to today.


Because I see you. I’ve been there. I know my productive season will end someday, and then I’ll be there again.


What I want to do is encourage you that if you don’t have a #WIP, you’re still an author.


And here are some reasons why.


You Can Write for the Sake of Writing


Embracing writing purely for its own sake offers a profound sense of freedom and fulfillment that transcends the conventional goals of publication or recognition. It rekindles the inherent joy in creating worlds derived from our Creator, whose image we are made in.

It's a celebration of our innate desire to tell stories, to explore the vast landscapes of emotion and thought through our craft. It lets us shed the weight of expectations, liberating us from the constraints that can sometimes stifle creativity.


In doing so, we can nurture our creative spirit and keep the flame of inspiration burning. These values transcend any personal expectations to create a larger project.  In this light, writing becomes not just a means to the end objective of a final book-length product but a personal journey of growth, reflection, and joy.


We can’t let manmade expectations of what success looks like define the creative process or instill a sense of competition. This will steal your joy.


Write as an Act of Exploration


Writing invites you into a profound journey of discovery, exploring our inner landscapes and engaging with the world around you from a perspective only you can see. It serves not merely as a medium for storytelling but as a conduit for navigating the complexities of our emotions, insights, and imaginings, transforming them into narratives or musings that resonate on a profoundly personal level.


Through creative writing, whether short stories, essays, or even lyrical pieces, you can find the freedom to probe various styles, themes, and voices. This experimentation is also about honing your craft and uncovering new depths of your artistic passion and talent.


Most importantly, engaging in shorter, varied writing endeavors enables writers to take bold risks and refine their skills. Such ventures, though they may seem modest in scale, are instrumental in shaping a writer’s voice, broadening their storytelling palette, and enhancing their overall creative output. They underscore that the journey of writing is as much about the paths we explore as the works we produce.


You can, of course, embark on this same journey by writing a novel and developing a work in progress. But do not despise these smaller efforts. They often lead to something bigger.


Remember—It's Supposed to Be Fun


Did you tell stories as a kid? I did. My American Girl dolls, toy dinosaurs, and Barbies became the stars of epic adventures that often played out over hours and days. I never knew where the story would lead or how it would end.


It was fun.


When did we let writing become about having to produce something of significance instead of having fun?

Why do we forget that sense of childlike wonder and play that we often lose as expectations and competition get in the way?

This should never be.


I often imagine what it would be like to be a fly on the wall during the world’s creation. We know from scripture that all persons of the Trinity were involved, the Father speaking all things into existence through the agency of creation—Jesus Christ, His Word. We know the Spirit was hovering over the waters and that all three collaborated in the most significant expression of God’s image and character: the creation of man and woman.


God created with authority in His glory, majesty, and omnipotence. But at the risk of sounding like I’m diminishing His glory, I also believe He created with wonder. As we write, we are meant to exercise this same wonder as image bearers to fight against the creative legalism resulting from living in a fallen world.


If we don’t, we are missing so much.


A work in progress is a good work that we should be engaged in. But the smaller efforts, experimentation, and play we must partake in are no less important.


Want a Resource for Small Assignments?


Check out the Ultimate Writing Project workbook!


This free resource contains writing tips, prompts, exercises, templates, and more for brainstorming your story and bringing it to life.


Whether you are working on a novel or want to start small and write a story, this workbook is for you!


Click the button below, fill out the form, and I’ll send one to you!

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