“Getting the Max from your Ax”

I stared into the kind eyes of my Youth Minister and waited. He cleared his throat and leaned forward, resting his forearms on his desk. “I’m thrilled you believe God wants you to preach His Word. But,” he said as he leaned back in his chair, “while I admire your passion to go from town to town and preach on street corners and places like that, it’s probably not the best strategy.”

“What do you mean?”

“Let me put it to you this way,” he said. “there’s an old saying, you can cut down more trees with a sharp ax than with a dull one. Do you understand what I mean?”

“Kind of, I guess.” Actually I wasn’t sure.

“It means that you need to take time to prepare…to stand over the stone and grind a sharp edge on your ax so you can be ready to chop away. Additionally, you need to learn how to handle an ax from people who’ve used one effectively and often. What I’m saying is that you need time to mature as a believer. You need to learn the Bible so you can handle it accurately.”

He was right, of course. And that conversation, thirty-one years ago, led me to Bible College to “sharpen my ax.” The grinding process was a combination of education and experience. I leaned theology. I learned preaching and teaching. I learned discipline that strengthened my devotion. And I had plenty of opportunities to preach while doing it.

The same lessons applies to writing. Passion, while important, isn’t enough. I have to work at writing, study writing, and live writing–while keeping the flame of passion from being smothered by discouragement or frustration. Another wise person (a writer for whom I have the highest respect) reminded me recently that patience is important. In other words, take time to sharpen the ax. Go to conferences. Join a writers group. Enter contests. And keep writing and submitting your work, my friend. Keep swinging the ax, just remmeber…you’ll cut down more trees with a sharp ax than with a dull one.

So I’ll see you around the grindstone.



Filed under Christian Fiction, Christian Growth, Christian Life, editing, Larry W. Timm, Writing

4 responses to ““Getting the Max from your Ax”

  1. Very cutting edge! And yes, I think at times we forget it. Love the Bible story where the ax head floats–much to learn from it.

  2. bsweet@wecanwrite.com

    The problem is that we humans tend to think our axes are pretty sharp. Until we take a swing at an ironwood tree and bounce off. I’ve reworked my manuscript over and over. Sometimes willingly, sometimes not so. Each time it improves. But the sharpening takes so much time. Sometimes it is discouraging.

    However, my wife has reminded me more than once that this process will make me a better writer. And most of the time, I get it. Just last night, I told her that my second book will be better than the first, if only because I’ll start it at a much higher level in the craft than I started the first one.

    Thanks for the the reminder that just as we can only possess our souls through patience, we can only possess our writings through practice. As I’ve had to tell my oldest son far too many times, the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary.

    Bob Sweet

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