Archive for July 30th, 2007

Faith Doesn’t Dig Ditches

sage.gifMessage from the Managing Editor
By Sage Cohen

I confess. I’ve been in a rut. My writing to-do list is like a mismatched sock. It does not seem to be pairing well with the little pockets of time and energy I have in the margins of my full-time work. This is not entirely unusual, of course. Meeting my own expectations for writing quality and quantity is a never-ending dance; sometimes I lead, sometimes I follow, and sometimes I just lag dreadfully behind. This is one of those times.

As is often the case, I stumbled upon the divining rod that I needed this week. While waiting for my acupuncture appointment, I found this quote from novelist Alice Sebold in the May issue of O Magazine:

“A difficult lesson, which I fought at every turn, is that what often must substitute for faith is discipline. Faith has a lovely ease about it, an ethereal ring. Discipline is the rod, the staff, your insecurities internalized and sprouting rules and limits on your life. Why can’t I just have faith that books will be completed? Why isn’t faith alone enough? I hear my Southern roots respond. Faith doesn’t dig ditches, they say; faith doesn’t scrape the burn from the bottom of the pot. Ultimately, faith gives freedom, and discipline, its sister, makes sure the job gets done.”

Reading this, I realized that I’ve lately been burdening my faith in my writing career with a sluggish-at-best discipline, and wondering why I feel rudderless. With Sebold’s clear delineation of the interdependence and authority of each, I took a deep breath and squared my pot-scrubbing shoulders. Right then and there, I recommitted to invigorating my tepid discipline in service to that little pilot light of faith.

What about you? How is your discipline (or lack thereof) affecting your writing motivation and output? What might you do to fuel your faith with a little elbow grease? How can we keep ourselves moving forward, even when it’s not easy or natural?

I propose that we spend five minutes right now brainstorming how to cross three items off of our writing to-do lists in the next week––and then dive into making it happen. Are you with me, folks? Into the ditches we go!
Sage Cohen is the author of Writing the Life Poetic, a creative companion for poets forthcoming from Writer’s Digest Books, and the poetry collection Like the Heart, the World. Her poetry and essays appear in journals and anthologies including Oregon Literary Review, Cup of Comfort for Writers, Greater Good and VoiceCatcher. In 2006, she won first prize in the Ghost Road Press annual poetry contest. Sage holds an MA in creative writing from New York University where she was awarded a New York Times Foundation fellowship. For organizations including Writers on the Rise and Willamette Writers, Sage teaches poetry writing and publishing workshops. Visit Sage at

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