Thursday, January 26, 2012

Race to the Finish

by C.J. Chase

I’ve been sprinting the past week or so. No, not running. For some reason, I’ve never enjoyed running. These are writing sprints.

Okay, don’t tell my editor, but there are days I don’t enjoy writing either. Some days it’s drudgery trying to create people and conversations from nothing but my imagination.

You see, creating a book isn’t a 100-yard dash. It’s a marathon—and often a lonely marathon at that. Sure, it’s easy to start strong, with energy and enthusiasm. But what about after 100 pages? 250 pages? 400 pages?

Just like the runner runs a 26-mile marathon one step at a time, the novelist types the entire story one word at a time over the course of hundreds or even thousands of hours. Oh, how easy it is to skip an hour here. Who will know? And then another hour there—until finally, a half-finished manuscript languishes on my computer. Which is why I find writing sprints so helpful.

Writing sprints work this way: several writers meet in an Internet chat room. The moderator sets a timer, and everyone writes for the specified time. When time is up, we all report our progress. We chat and brainstorm for a few minutes--then we set the timer and off we go again.

I often accomplish more on my sprint days than those days when I write alone. Why? Those other writers provide me with encouragement and accountability.

Hebrews 11 is often called the “faith chapter.” The writer presents us with example after example of Biblical figures who remained faithful through hardship: Noah retaining his righteousness in a sea of wickedness, Moses’ parents refusing to follow Pharaoh’s edict and kill their child, Rahab daring death to hide the spies sent from God. 

These examples of old “did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11: 13 NIV) And yet, they remained faithful to God.

And then we come to Chapter 12:

Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls! (Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG)

The Christian life is a race—a marathon, not a sprint. It requires day after day after day of trusting God even when we feel surrounded by depravity (like Noah) or discouraged by unfulfilled dreams (like Sarah). There will be times when (like Abraham) we don’t know where God is leading us. There will be times when we feel caught between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army. And there will be times when we face seemly impregnable walls like Jericho’s.

The race is long--but we aren’t running it alone. Imagine! That long list of faith heroes is to provide us with encouragement, inspiration, and accountability. We are to keep our eyes on Jesus, who endured persecution and for our sakes, and then we "will not grow weary and lose heart." (Hebrews 12:3 NIV).

One step at a time, one day at a time. And then we can say with Paul, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." (2 Timothy 4:7)

Have you felt weary or discouraged in the Christian race? Who are some of your favorite faith heroes who inspire you to keep running? (I'll be sharing some of mine in the comments, so you'll have to check there!)

After leaving the corporate world to stay home with her children, C.J. Chase quickly learned she did not possess the housekeeping gene. She decided writing might provide the perfect excuse for letting the dust bunnies accumulate under the furniture. Her procrastination, er, hard work paid off in 2010 when she won the Golden Heart for Best Inspirational Manuscript and sold the novel to Love Inspired Historicals. Redeeming the Rogue was an August, 2011 release. You can visit C.J.'s cyber-home (where the floors are always clean) at


  1. No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins.

    That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

    Two great lines compliments of The Message translation to ruminate today. I love the way that version sparks things to life in my mind.

    It's sort of the athletes version of my "Learn to live freely and lightly" and "The unforced rhythms of grace" that I love so much as a dancer. In fact, I blogged on those scriptures this week over at Laurie Alice's blog.

    Thanks for the encouragement today, CJ.

  2. Dina, the other versions I think use the term "weight," and I always picture a runner carrying weights. Hard to get very far that way.

  3. Weights we can set down and leave behind...Weight on the other hand, when it's part of us, can't be set down but can be reduced (the unwanted stuff) as we continue the race. Both examples are good symbols of what we tend to carry.

    In the TV show The Biggest Loser, the contestants near the end have to try to run or do an activity wearing or carrying the lbs of weight they lost. They are often shocked at how difficult it is and to realize that was the burden they'd carried. An excellent reason not to 'gain it back' or symbolically pick it up again.

    Maybe that's why God keeps us moving uphill and downhill when we let him lead. To keep us from picking up the burdens he's teaching us to leave behind.

  4. I learned the value of writing sprints while doing Nano. The writing a sprint produced was far from my best, but it forced me to think about what came next. It's a great tool for when you're stuck and not sure where to take a scene. Even if I have to do several to explore a variety of options, it helps me to hone in on what will work and where I want the story to go.

  5. Great post, CJ. I needed the reminder to just keep on moving--spiritually and in my writing! Thanks.

  6. Ooo, Deb. I love your thought about God keeping us going up and downhill to keep us from picking up the weight again. What a way to look at life's ups and downs.

  7. Suzanne,

    Yes, the sprints force you to write even when you aren't sure what to write, so that you get something down on the page. Of course, it helps if you have an outline ahead of time -- kind of like life, I guess.

  8. Susanne, isn't it so easy to atrophy (in our writing and in all aspects of life, including spiritual) if we don't keep plugging away?

  9. This is the time of year, when the days are short and my vitamin D starts to lag, that, instead of sprinting--or even plodding--I want to hibernate.

    Writing sprints might help. Going to have to try that. And then I need cleaning sprints, laundry sprints...

  10. Ugh. Atrophy. So very, very easy to do.

    I like the idea about the writing sprints!

  11. DeAnna, did you say you had trouble posting a comment? I see it worked.

    Oh yes, the Vitamin D problem. We've had a lot of gray days and no snow. At least the snow might 'reflect' a little sunshine on us.

    Time to take those supplements, girls!

    I have been doing the writing sprints via a FB group. It certainly helps. I can only do it when I'm writing first draft, though, because I can't figure out how to count words when I'm editing.
    In the last two days I've read through and edited my 98k novel twice. I certainly can't count that in my @1k1hr group!

  12. Barb -- laundry is definitely a marathon. Every time you think the finish line is near, there's another load ready to be washed.

    My husband's doc suggested vitamin D in winter. Fortunately, we live in a place with quite a few mild and sunny days. Where my in-laws live, ugh. Very cloudy, especially in the winter.

  13. DeAnna & Deb -- I don't do the sprints the way you're "supposed" to. I tend to prefer to write slowly and then have very little revising to do. But it still works for me. The sprint makes me focus intently (let the answering machine get the phone, no email allowed, etc.) for a block of time. And it adds accountability.

    So, I have much lower word counts than most of the people in the sprint, but I'll have very little revising later. Hopefully, it all works out.

  14. CJ, this is great, and I love the idea of writing sprints. Very cool. I'd love to try this with anyone who's interested.

    Oh, and I love the Biblical tie-in.


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