March 04, 2017

Moving Past Failure by Susan Barclay

This month’s Inscribe writing prompt asks the following:
  • Do you struggle with unfinished projects?
  • How do you stay on task until your project is completed?
  •  As you think of this topic, how is God prompting you to finish the unfinished?
This is about how old I was when I started (ugh).
Do I struggle? Ha! Journey with me over the last number of years I’ve been a contributor to Inscribe Writers Online and you will see that I’ve been talking about this for over FIVE years!! In fact, I mention it over TEN times in my posts over that period. Here's a sampling:

Jan 30, 2012 “As for the novel, I'm in the home stretch, and started it about eight years ago, so it's definitely time to wrap it up.”

November 30, 2013 “I've recently pulled out my unfinished novel and begun to write the pivotal, climactic scene.”  “As I push toward completion of my novel's first draft…” 
May 30, 2014 “my focus this year has been on the novel I started ten years ago… While I had hoped to complete the novel by the end of June, it looks like I'll have to extend my deadline to the end of the year.”

October 30, 2014 “I was hoping that this would be the year I'd finish it so I could move on to the next stage of getting it ready for publication, but a couple of major things have happened to make that improbable.”Sept 30, 2016 “As far as my writing goals go, I’m still hoping to finish my novel this year.”

Yes, I am still "working" on it.

Now for link two in the chain of questions: how do you stay on task? 

Clearly I don’t!

Totally a fight to do the right thing.
In September 2011, I talked about "bum glue" – “you must apply the seat of your pants to the seat of your chair… If you want to succeed in the call that God has placed on your heart, you must make the commitment to apply yourself daily to the task He's placed before you.” Good advice, if you follow it.

In January 2014 I wrote: “I knew where things were going to end up; I just didn't know how I was going to get there. So I wrapped [the novel] in blankets and focused on other projects, including picture books, short stories and personal experience pieces. From time to time I'd hit on an idea, pull back the covers...try out some thoughts, and put it to bed again.”

In May of that year I confessed: “I don’t work from a detailed outline and tend to go with the flow, an approach that has both its challenges and its joys.”

But enough! How is God now prompting me to finish the unfinished?

I’ve been reading David A.R. White’s book Between Heaven and Hollywood: Chasing Your God-Given Dream. In it, he devotes an entire section as to why some never succeed. In short: they give up when it is harder than they thought it would be; they are indecisive, lack confidence, or are unwilling to adapt; or, they are experiencing spiritual warfare. White (of God's Not Dead 2 fame) points out that hard times reveal who you are, and can also serve to improve or train you.

What do these thoughts from the book have to do with me finishing the unfinished? For starters, they prompt me to identify what may be holding me back: 
  • Writing a novel is hard work. I'm not sure it's harder than I thought it would be, but it's certainly taking longer than I thought it would;
  • I've shown a lack of decisiveness in my ability to clear out the physical clutter that gets in the way of creative juices; 
  • I've shown a lack of decisiveness in my ability to commit to a structured writing schedule;
  • I've failed to protect my writing time by taking phone calls and getting side-tracked by frivolous online activities.
If I take care of the latter three points, the first may take care of itself! These are changeable things - not easily perhaps as they mean breaking bad habits, initiating good ones, and working to prevent interruptions - but it can be done. 
Today I choose to move past failure, the failure to complete. I determine to put my writing time into my weekly calendar and to protect that time. I determine to clear away book and paper clutter. Now to find accountability partners to make sure I do this and stay on track. If you are in need of a partner to help you in similar ways, please contact me through the Inscribe Facebook group and let's move past failure together!
Please visit Susan at


  1. I loved this post, Susan! believe it or not, hearing your voice over the past five years was so inspiring and encouraging. (I'm sure many will feel the same way.) You might ask, "How could that be since I haven;t completed my goals?" The fact is, so many of us struggle with these same issues, insecurities, etc. And we beat ourselves up about it. You're proof that we are all in this together! You're not alone!
    FYI, it took me 16 years to complete the first novel I'd started and then another 4 or so to polish and shop it around. it was a solid 23 years from when i first started writing that first novel to when I saw my first book contracted. (And that wasn't even the same book!) THE point is, GOD's timing isn't the same as MY timing...
    When your book is ready, you WILL finish it! Take heart!

    1. What an encouragement from someone who took to took many years to finish a first book, Tracy! We all start with great expectations and a short timeline to complete our works, but then the process takes so long. I'm reminded of one of my favourite short stories--the author said it took ten years to bring it to completion. But then she was rewarded when it won first prize in a contest.

    2. Thanks for the encouragement, Tracy; I must say it feels good to walk this journey with others who've had, or are having, the same experience. In so many areas of life (every area really), it's true that God's timing isn't the same as ours. If it were, it would mean just a snap of the fingers and it would be accomplished. But then we wouldn't grow through our struggles or be refined in any way. Personal and spiritual growth are worth waiting on God for, even though it's hard.

  2. I love your honesty, Susan! I find it quite encouraging, somehow. Thank you! :)

    1. You're welcome, Kathy! Thank you for this note, which encourages me. As Tracy indicated in her comment, we're all in this together. And honesty is always the best policy :)

  3. I think many of us can relate to your post, Susan. I, too, have a novel that's waiting to be completed. I finished the first draft in one year, the goal I'd set for myself. But it's now languishing in the second draft phase. It's not really due to bad work habits. I write something every day. It's just that I keep getting sidetracked by other writing projects: articles, short stories, blogs, speeches, workshops, editing, etc. So much to do; so little time!

    1. Way to go on meeting your goal of drafting your novel in one year, and for having good work habits (even though you're also distracted by other writing projects)! I agree: so much to do, so little time!

  4. Thanks for your honesty in writing about why you haven't finished your projects. "Today I choose to move past failure" caught my attention. We can give all kinds of reasons for not finishing, but determining and choosing are key components in moving past failure.

    1. Amen, Sandra! And although I haven't had any takers on the accountability partner part of my post, I'm going to open up my online calendar right NOW and block out those writing times for the next month!

  5. Thanks to you, Susan, Sandra, Tracy, Glynis, and all of you who have written so clearly, constructively, and convincingly on this issue of procrastination and unfinished symphonies that has built walls around us. May God help us all blow our trumpets together to make these walls of Jericho come down. As the bricks and mortar crumble, may we truly honour our Heavenly Father by using the gifts he has given us. May we, like Susan, forgive ourselves and offer God our past failures and attempts.

    1. Thank you for this beautiful prayer, Sharon. I am blowing my trumpet right now. Everybody blow on the count of three: one, two, three - BLOW!!

  6. Yes, I can totally relate Susan - thanks! I love the journal/commitment entries where your desires and goals are taking shape - there is this pursuit that is beautiful to see. This End Goal coming into sight. So good!!

    1. Thanks, Dayna. Praying you are right!!


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