“Keep adding, keep walking, keep advancing: do not stop, do not turn back, do not turn from the straight road.” Saint Augustine
Saint Augustine knew more than his share of the perils of meandering and of the crooked path, so he surely gave this advice a road test. Let’s take his words of wisdom to heart:
Keep adding: Every day is a fresh page and every day, we have chances, large and small, to add to our knowledge of writing and improve our craft. Picking up a writing handbook, taking part in a workshop, or critiquing a friend’s work — any and all of these can strengthen our skills.
Keep walking: Sometimes we’re impatient with our progress — I know I am. I wish my revision was moving along at a brisker pace; sometimes, I feel like I’m crawling along on all fours, taking baby steps. I’m sure you’ve felt the same way. But whatever our pace and the problems we face, if we just keep walking, we’ll get where we want to go. And the time spent will be worth it.
Keep advancing: Sometimes moving forward doesn’t feel like moving forward: We don’t feel like we’re advancing and making real progress. And sometimes, the revision process has taught me that I need to go back to go forward — I need to fix something in an earlier section before I can move ahead. If we can end the day feeling that it’s a gain, however small, then all is well.
Do not stop: “Don’t quit, can’t fail” — that’s great advice. Even if we take baby steps, if we keep moving, our very momentum will come to our aid. We may put down a particular piece for a while to get some distance from it, but as long as we keep writing, we’re not stopping.
Do not turn back: When we embark on a new piece of writing, we make a commitment with ourselves — and, hopefully readers — to undertake a journey of discovery. If we truly feel the piece had merit, then we need to honor that commitment and keep going.
Do not turn from the straight road: We can take the long way round and make a project more complicated than it needs to be. We can litter our writing days with distractions or excuses. We can let ourselves be overwhelmed with doubt. Or we can take the straight road. In our hearts we know that road exists: We can see it. It’s there, waiting for us, beckoning to us. If we keep our eye on it, we can make the crooked places straight.
Bravo, St. Augustine! With his light to guide us, let’s all write on!