Back in my days as a university student, I had one instructor who was, to my mind, the ultimate professor. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of his field and a deep passion for it, and knowledge plus passion is always a powerful combination. I had this professor for a couple of courses, both of them related to military history. He was and remains my all-time favorite.
He liked to discuss the differences between the two world wars, and one of his comparisons remains fresh in my mind. Where the Second World War was a war of lightning-quick strikes and mobile weaponry, the First World War was very nearly static. Vast entrenched armies faced each other across catered fields of mud, sometimes venturing out to squander tens of thousands of lives in brutal, bloody battles that often gained little more than nothing. My professor always referred to this as “slogging it out.” For years, those vicious enemies slogged it out across the fields of France until, at last, one of them broke. In the end, that senseless war claimed millions of lives and paved the way for the conflict which would soon follow it.
Slogging is doing things that are difficult, things that are repetitive, things that do not return immediate results or pay quick dividends. It’s continuing to advance against obstacles, to find paths around whatever hinders progress. It’s knowing what matters and doing those things with tenacity, with determination. It’s grit. It’s sticktoitivness. It’s believing in what you do enough to keep doing it when you don’t see obvious results and just want to give up.
I’ve been blogging for a long time now. I’m quickly approaching my 5,000th consecutive day of it (next week!) and this has given me cause to consider the purpose and nature of what I do. Here is one key observation: Blogging is slogging. Blogging is slogging because it is like so much else in life, and life is no walk in the park.
Sometimes people ask how and why I’ve kept writing so much and for so long. I usually say something like “I’ve taken the brute force approach.” What I mean is that a long time ago I committed to writing as a discipline and accepted that it would require more than sporadic effort. I couldn’t only write when I was especially inspired or when I was convinced I had something unusually brilliant to say. Instead, I decided to slog it out. I’d write something just about every day and post something every morning without fail. What was supposed to be a 365-day experiment has turned into a 5,000-day passion. It’s been a 5,000-day slog.
That’s not to say I don’t love what I do. I really do love it and I really do believe in it, and that’s exactly why I’m in it for the long slog. I believe in it enough to keep doing it when I don’t see the results I’d like to, or when an honest assessment concludes I’m trapped in another cold streak and my best efforts are just barely good enough. It keeps me going when I write for hours and days and know that what I’ve done is only just average. And, by definition, most of what I write is just average. Some of it is undoubtedly far below.
The thing is, I have little capacity to predict which articles will fall flat and which will make an impact on myself and others. I have trouble knowing in advance which are excellent and which are drab, which ones will somehow serve or challenge people and which will only irritate or confuse them. So all I can do is slog. All I can do is keep going and trust that the long effort will be rewarded with occasional success—the success of knowing that I’ve been able to bless or encourage or equip another person.
And, of course, this is just the way life goes. How many of a pastor’s sermons endure beyond Sunday morning? How many of an author’s books merit a second printing? How many of a parent’s fireside or bedside chats have a tangible impact on their child? Very few. Yet we continue to preach and write and plead. We endure and we persist, trusting in the power of the slog.
I suppose my encouragement to you is to continue to slog. Whether or not you are a writer, I can pretty much guarantee there are areas of your life that are difficult or even grueling. There are areas of your life where doing the same thing in the same way seems senseless, where you are tempted to despair or tempted to give up. I say slog on! Blogging is slogging. And so is just about everything else.