The long way round, by Lucy Mills

Do you worry, sometimes, that you’ve left it that bit too late?  Whatever that ‘IT’ may be? Once when I was reading one of Margaret Atwood’s novels I came across the phrase, ‘potential has a shelf life’. It was a phrase that stuck in my mind and haunted me.

Does it? Does potential have a shelf life?

‘You’ll go far!’ Someone told may have told you, way back when.  ‘I can’t wait to see what you accomplish.’ ‘You’re such a great writer! You’ll be a bestseller one day!’

But what if you feel you haven’t got very far at all?

There are times in life when I’ve felt I’ve lost it. Lost that ‘factor’ people would remark on, once upon a time.  And as the years seep by, I’ve been tempted to tell myself: it’s too late now.

I hear it all the time.  ‘Oh, I could never do it now.’ ‘I’ve left it too late.’ ‘I’ve wasted my time.’ ‘I’m too weak/lazy/busy/old/insert-your-situation-here.' And then followed up by that old chestnut: 'It's all right for you to say!' But how do we know what another person has had to overcome? We don't all conform to the same template.

The very words act as inhibitors. That very mindset prevents us from doing whatever That Thing is. With writing, too. ‘I’ve left those dreams behind me,’ I’ve heard people say. ‘I know I’ll never do it now.’

The phrase ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ comes to mind.

All right, so things haven’t gone as we’ve planned.  Things have blocked us, limited us, wounded us. We may not have caught the first train, and have spent a lot of time waiting at stations.

We’re not as adept as we’d like to be.  We haven’t practised as we might have done and still stumble over the keys instead of playing a symphony with our eyes closed. Should we give up playing the instrument, give up the potential to make a beautiful sound?

Perhaps we need to stop thinking about all we haven’t done. What we might have done. What we could have written but didn’t. When we should have started something but never got round to it, and now it’s all still there, waiting and it’s huge.

We’ll make mistakes.  We may end up taking the long way round, but we might pick up some unexpected lessons along the way.

Perhaps we need to consider, as Anne of Green Gables might say, that every day is new ‘with no mistakes in it’.

However long it’s been since we picked up the pen or opened the ‘W.I.P’.  However long it’s been since we dared to aspire to something more.

Let’s not let the things we haven’t done in the past dictate the future.  It’s not too late, wherever we may be standing.

Don't we believe in a God of restoration?

Let’s give ourselves permission to play with our dreams again.


Lucy Mills

Lucy's first book, Forgetful Heart: remembering God in a distracted world, was published in 2014 by Darton, Longman and Todd (DLT). She's written articles, poetry and prayers for various publications and is an editor at Magnet magazine.

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Lucy on Twitter: @lucymills
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  1. Lovely, Lucy. Go for it. Now back to my own WIP... :-)

  2. A great post so encouraging. There is never a reason to give up on your dreams - hope is the foundation of our faith it should be as evident in our lives :)

  3. Amen! More and more I'm telling myself, 'Okay, it may never get published, but, boy, are you LEARNING!' That has merit in itself, and is keeping me going.

  4. Thank you Lucy. I'm now rather ancient but I feel I must go on writing even if (almost certainly) it is never published. I once told my (previous) Vicar that I had wasted a lot of my life and he said 'God never wastes anything - even your waste.' So I have to hold on to that...

  5. A lovely encouraging post, Lucy. And I do agree with Shirley's previous Vicar. (All our Vicars are previous and it would be easy to become despondent as a parish, but we need to unite behind our retired clergy and other leaders.)

  6. Thanks everyone...good thoughts.

  7. This is encouraging, Lucy. Feel like abandoning my writing at present. Dealing with a publisher who doesn't really value my work except in commercial terms and expecting me to sign an impossible contract, finding my articles not valued because I'm not a 'known' name, every reason just to stop. Who wants to read my writing anyway? This gives me some hope to continue. Thanks, Lucy.

    1. Hi Sheila,
      I think many of us have times like this, for many different reasons. The whole 'known name' is disheartening, as we all know. All I can say is 'keep going' - although sometimes for me 'keeping going' has actually meant putting it down for a while so I can get some refreshment. Every journey is different, and we cannot see the end. Even if just one person derives great encouragement from what you've written, it's worth it. That's what I tell myself when things feel tough.

    2. I suppose it does rather depend on what market you're aiming at but my writing course taught that magazine editors don't care who you are so long as you provide copy that exactly fits their requirements.

      You're only going to get to be known by getting stuff published - unless you mean celebrities who just lend their name to ghost written books?

  8. Oh how I needed this, Lucy! As my poetry sits languishing and the memoir stacks higher, the prayer whispers shout out to be heard and I'm drowning in my own ineptitude to finish anything.. now I have fresh impetus to carry on with something on the list and (hopefully) see it through. Bless you for this timely encouraging word. :) Xx

    1. Thanks Joy, so glad you found it encouraging!

  9. Good timing, Lucy. I'm on Summer break from the time-consuming course that's pushed all thoughts of writing into the background and guess what? I pulled out the barely started assignment from my (almost) abandoned writing course to take on holiday with me the other week.

  10. Great post, Lucy. Just been reading that Jesus only STARTED his ministry at the age of 30. And, of course, there was always Caleb who, having waited 40 years or more, was rewarded with God's promise when he was a mere 85.


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