Every Friday morning, my office is shared by a group of knitters. By “office,” I mean my local Bruegger’s, where I occupy a booth for hours and write, occasionally interrupted by people interested in the progress of “The Book.” And by “shared”, I mean that the knitting ladies buy coffee and chat over a dizzying array of needles and bundles of yarn and other knittable things. We’re usually a few feet away from each other.
(Once, a lady was crocheting with plastic bags. Yes, like the grocery store type. Once cut into loops and linked together, they can be crocheted. She was making a thick, waterproof mat, roughly the size of a grown man. It would be given to a homeless person so they didn’t have to sleep on the damp ground. Creative and practical. She told me that one man said the mat gave him the best night of sleep he’d had in years.)
Anyway, these ladies are opinionated and chatty and loud, which is fabulous for an eavesdropping writer. One day, I heard the phrase “second sock syndrome.” Here’s my definition:
Second Sock Syndrome: The knitter finishes one sock and somehow (boredom, fatigue, other concerns) never finishes the second of the pair. Usually accompanied by feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and failure.
Often, we start huge projects with enthusiasm, get halfway through, and quit.
It might be writing a novel. In working for Ruminate, I’ll run across pieces that hold potential but don’t feel finished; the author got halfway there, but from lack of knowledge or desire, never quite polished it to a publishable level. Sometimes I’ve read published books like this, though it’s rare in traditionally published work.
(True story. Recently, I read a traditionally published novel with so many spelling errors and missing words that I was appalled. I groaned to read the author’s thanks to their editor for “correcting my horrible spelling.” How bad had it been before?)
Or in my own novels, it’s easy to write the first draft (well, relatively easy) and then relax. Call it the second draft syndrome.
It might be those New Year’s Resolutions, undertaken with gusto. This is the year to: lose 50 pounds! Work out every day! Run a marathon! Drink more water, less alcohol, eat more veggies, less cake! Get organized! Yes, yes, yes! It’s mid-to-late January. How’s it coming?
That’s what I thought.
It might be life in general, spiritual growth in particular. A blogger wrote about Brennan Manning’s influence in his personal life; one thing Manning told him was that most men stopped growing spiritually after age 40 or 50. At 80, they were basically the same man as they had been at midlife. I’m pushing 40, and that made me pause. Do I really want to be at this maturity level forty years from now?
Second socks, second drafts, second halves of life.
No matter how well or poorly we did on the firsts, we all face the seconds.
Enthusiasm isn’t enough. Willpower isn’t enough. Coasting on the strength of the first half isn’t enough.
Here’s the good news: even if that first part was awful, now is a chance to change.
- The first sock had dropped stitches? Now you know that’s a weakness and can watch for it.
- The first draft had plot holes and flat characters? Now is the time to dig deeper into your fictional people and work out the plot issues.
- The first weeks of January found you breaking your resolutions? Now is the time to re-evaluate whether that resolution was realistic and whether it might be better to make smaller, more doable changes.
- The first half of your life was a screwed up mess? Now is the time to reach for God and let him give you the grace you need, the strength to change what needs changing, and the wisdom to guide you into old age.
And here’s the marvelous part: with God, every day is the now.
Unlike an almost finished pair of socks or a lousy published novel or an expired and unused gym membership, it’s never too late for his grace.