In a world where doing more in less time is valued, it’s difficult to slow down. I struggle with this myself. Thoughts like “I haven’t published anything yet”, “I haven’t recorded nearly enough music”, “So many friends married in their twenties, why not me?” and “How do I make a place feel like home?”, have in the past had an almost permanent residence in my mind. But what if I could convince myself there is no hurry to do these things? Because, there really isn’t. And, at least for me anyway, rushing leads to me doing the thing slower in the end, and can lead to messy mistakes.
I love writing, the entire process of it. It isn’t always easy. Editing is a long and arduous activity if you really want the writing to stand out to those reading it. My blog posts usually take about an hour to write, and thirty minutes to edit and publish. When I focus on the writing and crafting the piece to say what I want it to, it seems to have more of an impact on the people reading it. Sometimes this is arranging one particular sentence well to articulate a key point. Sometimes this is scrapping entire paragraphs that actually belong in different blog posts. Sometimes this is putting a particular post to one side for a later date, and writing a different one instead.
A few months ago I finished writing the first draft of my first novel manuscript. This was a marvellous achievement but it’s really only been the start of the hard work to get it ready to publish. Each chapter requires refinement to be a useful part of the greater whole. (Much like our lives are lots of little gems of goodness weaved together.) When I try to do this editing quickly I only end up shooting myself in the foot by having to come back to it later, and rewrite my rewriting! Whether I have five minutes or five hours my process must be the same. Critically assess a section, cut anything unnecessary, expand parts that don’t make sense, and simplify the writing so it says what I mean. In five minutes I might have time to edit one short paragraph. In five hours I might have time to edit several scenes or a whole chapter. Whatever I manage, it’s all progress.
Recently I’ve started to get more serious about recording music. It’s heaps of fun and if I have a deadline it helps me abandon my perfectionism to help me finish things. This might seem counter-intuitive to the subject of this post but hang with me here. I’ve written a decent selection of songs, and very much like a number of them. The only thing that stops me taking them from this written form to a recorded piece to share most of the time, is me. I’ll say it again, to both you and me, there’s no rush. Pick one song and work on it until it’s done. I don’t need to have six different song projects on the go to feel like I’m making progress. Plus, I’m not going to be the best recording engineer I can be straight away either. If I give myself time to learn what I don’t know, my recordings will be better for it.
Quite a number of my friends got married in their twenties. As well as “social norms” implying getting married at that age was the thing to do, my friends getting married had me thinking it was the time of life for me to do the same thing. But we are all different. Our lives aren’t made by filling an exact mould of what has come before. Having goals to achieve is healthy, but for me, the idea that I wanted to be married before I turned 30—arbitrarily decided by me—wasn’t a helpful one. We don’t know who we’ll meet in life, or at what time in our lives we’ll meet them. We also can’t predict what we’ll be working through which might require a decent amount of our time and energy. During my twenties I struggled strongly with depression. Loneliness was a part of this, but so was feeling a lack of purpose, struggling to feel anywhere I lived was home, seeking my identity in sport and work and video games instead of in my relationship with God and the gifts He’s provided me with. Two of these gifts being sharing stories through writing and music.
If I had tried to force myself to feel better, to push through the darkness that seemed ever present at that time, to try to function like what I thought was “a normal human”, there is every chance I wouldn’t be here today. It sounds dire, but they are words of truth. Instead of trying to do what I thought I should have been doing, I worked on figuring out what it was that I needed, and set about putting plans in place to make it happen. It’s been a long process so far and I’m still very much a work in progress, but with God at the centre I feel much closer to being me.
Hamish Thornton: author and musician, sharer of stories, learning to talk less and listen better.
When I look in the mirror I feel like home is not a particular house (though living in a healthy place can definitely help!) it is being ok with who we are, and how we live. At times it’s tough, it always will be, but we can do it.
Peace to you, dear reader.