Because I’m Good at It

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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Golfing legend Gary Player famously said, "The more I practice, the luckier I get." Excellence has everything to do with the blessing of God, or what others might call "luck." Excellence also has much to do with hard work.

Medical doctors join a "practice," and artists specialize in a particular "discipline." These terms point to an ongoing process that requires us to be diligent, yet humble in the face of our work.

To be disciplined is to work at being a disciple. And to be a disciple is to follow good precedent.

The fiction writer, Flannery O’Connor once was asked why she became a writer. I love her answer. She said, "Because I'm good at it." If I’m asked this question, I say, "Because I’m not good at much else."

How much good writing comes from talent, and how much comes from practice and discipline and hard work?

God gives each of us certain talents—to play an instrument, to take apart an engine, to figure out where a sofa should go in a room, or to do whatever we consider our daily work. But he also gives each of us the responsibility of developing that talent or calling. In this development we find the meaning of "excellence."

Take poetry, for example. I'm a poet, so I know most people don't understand how poets work. They almost always ask questions like, "Where do you get your inspiration?" or "What inspires you?" I think they mean to honor us, as if poets have some secret, special knowledge. People think poets just receive words from the ether in a special bucket under a special rain cloud filling up with special water.

No one's work is like this—not even a maker of buckets.

Good poets read thousands of books to find out what good writing is. They study grammar, syntax, linguistics, folklore, music, art, nuclear physics, ghost towns, flowers, birds, and human nature. They write a single sentence over and over for three days before finally throwing it away in favor of a single word.

Writing poetry is hard work. But the opposite is also true. All hard work is a kind of poetry.

And working hard, possibly ending up with less than one expected, need not be a disappointment. Materialistic culture puts an emphasis on the final product rather than the process. We are told to live for the weekend, to thank God for Friday. But the workweek is the bulk of our lives. According to a 2004 Gallup poll, 38% of Americans work more than 45 hours each week. This time should bring us numerous joys and satisfactions, including the blessing that we are able to work at all.

I believe deeply in John 1:3: "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Christ is the source of anything good that I can make or do. Whatever excellence I might achieve in the written word goes back to the original Word that makes all things possible. And since God calls his creation "good," the excellence any of us might achieve in our work is already woven into the fabric of our lives.