Writing Inside The Lines

I’ve written and rewritten large chunks of my book five times now.  I’m doing it again.

My fear of failure and inability to finish anything that I know won’t be perfect are mostly to blame – along with poor time management skills, a lack of discipline and a dozen or so more character flaws that I’ll keep between me and the other folks in my head.

But then there’s this too…

Seth Godin writes about my predicament today in a piece called Coloring Inside The Lines:

People who want to do a good job are more likely to follow instructions that they know they can successfully accomplish, while they’ll often ignore the ‘softer’ tasks if they can.

If you’re marketing a product or an idea to a group of people and you juxtapose two ideas–one obvious and simple while the other is challenging and subtle, you can bet the mass of people will grab the first one (if they don’t ignore you altogether).

Example: it’s easy to get people to wake up early on the day after Thanksgiving if you offer them a TV at a discount, the way Wal-Mart does every year. It’s a lot trickier to challenge consumers to figure out which one of the eighteen refrigerators you offer is likely to offer the best price/performance ratio.

The first task requires nothing much but effort and that effort is likely to be rewarded. The second task takes judgment, and the opportunity for failure is much higher…

…People want to feel successful, but they’re often unwilling to invest the time in doing something that might not pay off.  It’s not fair, but that’s the way it works.

I’ve read dozens of books on the beatitudes and the Sermon on the Mount and I’ve been unable to pair it all down to “eight steps to a better life” or “your best life now.” There are books calling the beatitudes a ladder to success but they’re written by therapists and ignore large amounts of writing on the subject dating back more than a thousand years.

Truth is the beatitudes aren’t linear.  Well, they are and they aren’t.  You start at the first blessing sure and move to the next but you keep a leg on the first as you progress to the second, and on the first two as you progress to the third and on and on and in the end you’re a big eight-legged freak walking up and down and all around the ladder of the eight blessings (beatitudes). 

It’s just not simple.  It’s not this step then that then that…

There’s no tangible right now kind of pay off I can promise readers either.  Except persecution and an invisible kingdom in your heart and maybe, hopefully, someday here on earth.  Live the beatitudes to some degree and you’ll imitate Christ to some degree – I can say.  That’s all.

And there’s no litmus test, no true false quiz to help us determine if we are or aren’t living the beatitudes either.  It’s more mysterious than that, a bit more like reading reams of the Consumer Reports to compare the functions and durability of refrigerators than going to WalMart and getting the cheap TV clearly marked for us with “SALE.”

No wonder I’m tempted to reduce our mysterious and complex faith to God saving me from a future hell for a future heaven.  No weirdo kingdom talk.  No disciple business.  No denying self.  No difficult mercy showing and peace making and ambiguous purity of heart nonsense. No paradox: God is loving Father and God is demanding Master.  Keep it simple – I want to say.  But I can’t.  I know simple isn’t the whole truth.

How do you write/communicate in any way the mysterious, hard to swallow, sometimes confusing, delayed gratification and truth of God to a species that loves the path of least resistance, that wants to act now with as little thought as possible, that’s drawn to the easy money, the quick fix the linear spelled out programmed four step approach to happiness?  How do you do that when you’re the same way?  How?