I’ve been resting for the past several days. Watching movies mostly. Catching up on my sleep. And doing some chores. Taking my mind away from all the works I need to do.
That is, all the works I need to do by faith.
It does take its toll in a man’s heart. Believing in a vision. And working to achieve it. Having faith in a God who seems intent (at least to me) to always bring me to, and to test, my limits. Especially if there are very little visible rewards — for now.
Fiction. This has always been my escape when I am tired or hurting. Sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, action. Either movies or novels. Or anime. And when I definitely need the getaway (and the emotional distance), I can spend weeks, even months, lost in them. Of course, there is that feeling of guilt, that I’m wasting my time, and that I should be working, but I’ve learned to silence it. After all, no one is paying for my time, because God is my boss, and he doesn’t keep regular hours. And when I do work, I do work hard, sometimes even until I’m already running on fumes.
Well anyway, I’m done with my present rest, and tomorrow I’ll start again with my studies and writing. And I’m hoping that after all the foundational works I’ve done — like finalizing my websites’ designs and re-establishing my writing and publishing workflows — there won’t be any more distractions to take me away from them. At least for quite a while.
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I don’t know if this is true for other artists, especially writers, but I recognize in myself the need to be as free and as flowing as possible whenever I am in the creative mood. For there’s nothing more annoying than to be hindered in a creative work by a thousand small but essential things that should have been dealt with beforehand. Like running out of paint, if you’re a painter. Or running out of bond paper, if you’re a writer who prints out his works. Or misplacing that dictionary and thesaurus. Or having to find that elusive quote from your disorganized notes and books. Or having to go out to buy groceries because you’ve run out of food.
This creative mood is precious to me. It’s not my permanent state; it comes and it goes, and it doesn’t always cooperate with my “regular working hours”; and so I’ve learned to manage it well. That is, I’ve learned to give it as much freedom as possible when it does come. Like making sure the way is clear for its run.
Perhaps to the traditional writer this is easier. After all, he only needs to produce his content, and his publisher does the rest. But for the blogger, this process of managing his creativity gets even more complicated, because he not only writes his content, he also edits and publishes them himself.
One way I do this is to compartmentalize: First comes the Writer Me, the artistic one; and when he’s done writing, comes the Publisher Me, the analytical and technical one. And yet, the writing process is dynamic — there are no clear-cut boundaries between its stages — and so I still need to harness my creative energy even when I’m already publishing.
Practically speaking then, the way I give freedom to this energy — the way I make sure its path is clear and free of annoying obstructions — is to establish my workflows from beginning to end. From writing my rough drafts, to clicking that Publish button in the WordPress editor, and until I’ve archived my works. And these workflows include, among others, having all the needed software installed in my computer (or smartphone), having prepared templates and directions on how to do things, down to having my word processor customized just the way I like it.
Yes, it takes time and effort to establish these workflows, and because of changes in software, they need continual maintenance, but their rewards are worth their price….
Now, about archiving…. Like anyone who’s been using computers for a long time, I am deeply concerned about my data, especially my finished writings, and about the need to easily access them whenever I want to. And having them all just sitting on my websites and blogs, on servers I don’t control, and being totally dependent on the internet and tech companies to access them, are sure guarantees that I will lose them someday. And so I archive my works. Both online and offline.
Here is my advice to all new bloggers: Don’t use the WordPress editor as your word processor (use it only as a publishing tool AFTER you’ve written your piece), and always reproduce your works in simpler form — a collection of PDF files maybe, or a desktop wiki — somewhere that you can access even without an internet connection. For besides the obvious safety of your data, here are two more benefits of having an archive that you might want to consider. First, it is easy to get lost in writing blog post after blog post, and to lose sight of the big picture and of all the things you’ve already done, if you don’t keep track of your work. And second, it is easy to become discouraged this way, if you only look ahead and not back.
For now, because my PC is dead, I blog primarily using my Android smartphone. I write and revise my drafts using a simple note app (plain text only), and for formatting, I use markdown tags. For publishing, I use a couple of text editors and the WordPress.com app. (I copy-and-paste what I’ve written to templates I made, upload any picture, and apply formatting.) And for archiving, I maintain a markdown wiki in my phone using Epsilon Notes, and afterwards, my writing “construction files” go to Google Drive as ZIPs for storage.
Above are a few screenshots of my wiki. It has plenty of room for growth, and I just might make it my primary way of archiving my writings for a long time to come. (Underneath the hood, it’s just a bunch of text and image files, organized into directories of my own making.)
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Foundations. You’ve often heard me talk about the foundations for my works and my life, and so you can rightly say that I have a “foundations mindset” — a mindset that is only a reflection of how the very mind of God works, and how he’s been leading me all these years. Simply put, I believe in being prepared for the works that God wants me to do. And I am willing (and I’ve been willing) to spend much of my time and energy to do these preparations — to build the foundations of my towers, both material and spiritual — even though their rewards or their fruits would not yet be visible for a long time.
Of course, having this kind of mindset is just an expression of my faith in God. I believe that he has great plans for my life, and so I act accordingly. Simple as that. (And it goes without saying that if God is unfaithful, or if God is nonexistent, then all my hard work and sacrifices will be for nothing. But I have no worries about that. I know that he is, and is faithful.)
The archive of my writings that I’ve just shared with you, my friends, and my blogging workflows, are only small parts of my foundations. And so are the books and other references I’ve collected over the years. Christian books. Writing books. Computer books. And these are only some of the material things, the ones I can see. Beyond my full understanding and vision (I only get glimpses of them) are the spiritual foundations that God and I have been building.
The truth is, after these many years of following God, only he knows how prepared I am now to serve him, and only he knows how much work still need to be done. All I can do is to plan my studies and the other things I have to do, but it’s up to God to plan the rest. Like the trials I still need to undergo — the practical exercises of my faith.
Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1 ASV
We Christians often quote this passage, but I wonder how many of us truly realize what it means to walk and to live by faith. For sure, it’s not easy. And for sure, it’s a scorn-gatherer — for those who don’t understand and don’t see — for those who only use their eyes and look for signs before believing. A scorn-gatherer — when put into actual practice and not just talked about — even among Christians who boast about their faith.
Really? You’re dreaming of things far beyond your means, and you speak as if it’s surely coming to pass. As if it’s a done deal. Man, you’re crazy! And proud! But that is faith. Faith in a faithful God. To be assured of things hoped for, and to be convinced of things not seen. And the one who is truly walking its way has no reasons to boast, because he knows just how hard it is, and how utterly dependent he is on the grace and care of God.
You see, my friends, I look at my still-broken life, and I look at the people around me, and sometimes I do get discouraged, especially as I remember the many years I had already spent following God. And I ask him, How much longer God before you settle my life? How many more years must I wait before you bless me with the things I desire the most? How much longer must I continue to prepare before you judge me ready enough? No, walking by faith is nothing to boast about.
And you know what, my friends, it is only by looking at the big picture, especially at how God has been working in my life all these years — and by looking also at the choice fruits that are already there, like my blogging ministry, Swordsman of the Word — that I am able to calm my heart and hold on to my hopes and determination.
And I say to myself, God has been faithful to me until now, and he will continue to be faithful to me until forever. It is like keeping an archive of my writings to remind me of my labors, but on a much bigger scale. For it is looking back to all the good and wonderful things that God has done in my life. It is remembering the intimate and personal things that I already know about him.
Foundations. I’m talking about foundations. Material. And spiritual. The first category I’ve already shared a bit with you. My blogging archive and workflows. My books and references. The second one is mostly unseen, but its effects are greatly felt, because my personal experiences and knowledge of God are parts of it. Its costs has also been high. Very high. Blood and sweat and tears. Failures and triumphs.
The one problem of always looking ahead — of having a vision and of planning and working to achieve it — is that the present always seem to be only a steppingstone. Only a hurdle to overcome. And while that is true, in a sense, the present is also so much more, and I need to make extra efforts to remind myself of that.
The bottom line is… Yes, I still have a lot of things to do, but I also have already accomplished much.