Saturday, June 9, 2012

In the midst of a million things to do, there is One Thing

I’ve been noticing a reverse in the swing of the proverbial pendulum lately, a shift from the Give Me More things to have, stuff to do, friends to follow, books to read mentality, to a Do One Thing Well, Finish What You Start, have Fewer but Truer Friends one.

Well, maybe it’s not a universal movement. Maybe it’s just a message I hear wherever I go; you know how it is when you keep hearing or seeing the same thing, as though the One who directs your path is saying, “Do you get it now? how about now?”

I think it was the pile of unread books by my bed, and in my quiet corner, and on my work shelves that did it. An occupational hazard gone wild. I either buy and read so many books so fast that I don’t even remember them two minutes after I finish, or I don’t read them at all, but plan to—until another catches my eye.

Enough, I said. From now on I’m not buying another book until I finish what I have and review what I promised. And furthermore, I am going to learn—really learn, as in practice and do— at least One Thing from each of my nonfiction craft/life/whatever books.

As though to fortify my resolve, this idea about doing fewer things well and finishing what I start, began showing up all over the place.

For example, at a recent writer’s conference, the marketing class I took focused more on building smaller, more meaningful relationships based on reciprocity than ones focused on “it’s all about me. Marketing plans fill me with fear, but building meaningful relationships one person at a time, now that I can handle.

 One instructor, Torry Martin, inspired the idea of affirming or encouraging a certain number of other people each day before beginning my own pursuits. Hmm, have I heard something like this before—“think on others . . .”

And although I know lists are ever popular, two particular challenges came my way on the heels of each other. Although totally different topics, both are disciplines which reinforce the idea of finishing a few things well rather than starting a gazillion aimlessly:

Jeff Goins’ online challenge (15 Habits of Great Writers)and Kent & MacGregor’s  40 Ways to Get Closer to God.(I’m not very far along in this book because you can’t go on to the next day unless you’ve completed the first day’s focus. Not that I think of myself as a spiritual sluggard, but I did commit to their specific recommendations for forty days. )

Even Ann Voskamp with her powerful book One Thousand Gifts, reduces her search for God’s joy down to the pursuit of one thing: thankfulness. Now that’s doable.

In each of the above mentioned pursuits, there is an underlying need to be free of clutter and chaos. Perhaps it has something to do with my becoming a Woman of a Certain Age who is losing her multi-tasking skills, but I think it has more to do with not wanting so many distractions. 

Because I know that in the midst of a million things to do there is really only
                                                       ONE THING

I have asked of the Lord that I will seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.—Psalm 27:4


  1. Ditto what you said! I've had similar experiences.

  2. I finished two unread books on vacation. Only about two dozen more to go. :( Thank you for encouragement.

  3. Sadly I'm a people pleaser, glad to be one too, and so I generally spend time doing lots of stuff for lots of people and only get half my own stuff done. Still I'm happy; looking after my wife and kids and being helpful makes me happy and I do make time to write blogs and my novel. Of course I always put God first and so everything is easy when God helps me along.

  4. Marcia, I can relate to so well it's downright scary. Last year after conference I began reading a lot about my craft but spent little time actually practicing it. The lack of balance wreaked havoc on my momentum. For the remainder of the year I plan to finish the books I've started, follow through on reviewing, and actually writing. (But speaking of books, don't you love the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery? I spotted it on your stack. Sorry, I couldn't resist.) Great post!

    P.S. I hope Torry returns to BRMCWC next year.


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