Sometimes in life, we feel as though we're spinning our wheels, revving our engine but getting nowhere. It sometimes happens to writers; we certainly are not immune to the problem. I've been there, many times, in fact.
Upon reflection, I've often realized that I was going nowhere, making little or no progress, simply because I was working on the wrong thing at the wrong time. My priorities were disordered. I was exerting effort and energy on some task that brought no results when I should have been working on a different task.
Once I rearranged my priorities and got started on the right task, then results came. The logjam was broken. Why didn't I do this earlier? I asked myself.
It's so easy to get sidetracked from one's mission. Perhaps you're busily engaged in your mission when a friend comes along and, thinking they're being helpful, says, "Oh, I think you should write an article about [fill in the blank]. That would be so cool and interesting!"
Are you going to leave your mission and pursue your friend's idea? Too often, I'm afraid, we do.
While drafting this post, I received an email from a writer's e-zine that asked, "Are you ready for your next mission, Dennis?" And what was that new mission? "Write a short headline and [ad] copy selling a blender." It even dangled a carrot as enticement: "The prize money: $200."
Nope. I'm not going there. Not doing that. Why? Because that's not my mission. An extra $200 would be nice (although there's no guarantee I'd get it), but I'm on a mission, and that's not it!
I was again reminded of such distractions recently while reading the opening scene in the Old Testament book of Haggai.
The prophet was given a divine message to deliver to Zerubbabel and Joshua, the secular and spiritual leaders, respectively, of Israel. Sixteen years earlier, Medo-Persian king Darius had released them from captivity and ordered them to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Instead, they had busied themselves constructing their own homes and developing their own farms and businesses.
Haggai told them, "Consider your ways." He told them to do a cost-benefit analysis, to assess what they had achieved for their efforts. He helped them do this by pointing out the facts that they had "sown much" but "reaped little." They had eaten but never been filled. They had made money hand over fist but had figuratively put their earnings into bags that had holes in them. Again he told them to consider their ways and see how they had fared. And their conclusion was that they had gotten off track with their mission: to rebuild the temple.
Aren't we often the same way? We have a mission and perhaps begin well in its pursuit. But then we get sidetracked. Our priorities get out of kilter. And we lose sight of our mission. We have to reach the point of realizing where we've gotten off task, rediscover the mission, and get back on track. Only then will we begin to see results for our efforts.
The thing is that reaching that point often takes time (more for some of us who are more hardheaded than for others who are more sensitive to reality). Haggai didn't get an instant response from his audience. He repeatedly had to point out the Israelites' misplaced priorities. For 24 days he did that before the people finally responded (see Haggai 1:1 and 15).
Have you lost sight of your mission? Have you been following someone else's mission for you rather than your own? Reconsider what you're doing, reassess your priorities, and then act according to the results, realigning your efforts to match your rediscovered mission.