Spend It All

If you’re anything like me (I extend my sympathies), the dawn of a new year brings with it a chance for reflection and re-vision. I like the hyphenated version of that word; I think it conveys the meaning a little better than revision. Re-vision suggests to me the casting of a new vision, new direction, new emphasis, new focus.

So, as I reflect and re-vision, I would like for my 2022 to be a year in which I “spend it all.” I borrow the phrase from one of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, who wrote in The Writing Life (also one of my favorite books):

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give now (Annie Dillard, The Writing Life).

Spend it all. I’m frugal by nature, but I see the wisdom in Dillard’s words. I can think of three excellent reasons to spend it all, every time you write, in everything you write:

We’re not promised tomorrow. Remember Jesus’ parable of the rich fool, who built more and larger barns to hoard his surplus, only to hear God say to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12:20 NIV)? As with crops, maybe with words. If we don’t “spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all,” who knows whether we’ll ever get to spend it at all?

We owe the reader our best. It is a grand privilege to be read, an honor and joy for any reader, even just one, to spend valuable time reading words we have written. How stingy would it be to take that for granted and fail to give readers our best? Not to mention (though I’m going to) it’s also a great way to lose readers and keep them from coming back for more. And who among us can afford to do that?   

Creativity is a muscle. Many times over the course of my writing ministry—which now spans more than four decades, fifty books, and hundreds of articles and blog posts—I have wondered just how many more ideas I can come up with and how much longer I can write such exquisite poetry and prose. (“Lord, forgive me, and try me one more time.”) But, somehow, God continues to bless me (and tolerate me); and creativity—like any muscle—gets stronger and better as it’s used. To use a different metaphor, spending it all primes the pump and keeps the inspiration flowing.

For those reasons—and more, which I hope some of you will suggest in the comments—I hope and plan to “spend it all” in my writing efforts this year. How about you?

20 Responses to Spend It All

  1. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 3, 2022 at 3:20 am #

    In this dark and quiet night,
    when it hurts too much to pray,
    it only seems just, fair, and right
    to spend it all, every day.
    The morning comes, too hard to face,
    but some still do depend on me
    and thus I tighten hard the brace
    that lets me walk upon the sea
    of anguish, oh, do far from land!
    to fulfill what’s held in trust,
    and trembling, take my Saviour’s hand,
    and we together face needs must
    to reach that still dim evening shore,
    to face it all, at dawn, once more.

  2. Tonia Woolever February 3, 2022 at 6:19 am #

    Dear Mr. Hostetler, thank you! I needed this.

    It’s easy for me to shrink back from the brink of putting it all out there, just from basic timidity born of vague doubts or fears. Yet I’ve seen a pattern: most of the precious feedback I receive from readers letting me know I hit their mark, nourished their hungry places just right, comes when I blow past the timidity.

    And, just as you said, this primes the pump — not just the creative pump, but the confidence pump, that what I’m offering is needed and of value to at least one starfish on that vast shore. It’s okay if I spend my best on them, because i remember being the hungry one, and the joy of discovering a kindred spirit who walked on the same path and left behind messages to spur me on.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 3, 2022 at 8:20 am #

      Tonia, this is for you.

      I was a starfish on the shore,
      clinging to my wave-beat stone
      lonely then, and then no more;
      you came, and I was not alone.
      Your footprints traced hope in the sand,
      your voice was calling, just to me,
      you bade me look unto the land
      from the edge of that cold sea,
      and then I felt my arms grow strong
      and warm beneath the smiling sun;
      you made me feel I might belong,
      and though I was only one,
      I cherish what you said that day
      that set me on a brighter way.

  3. Len Bailey February 3, 2022 at 6:35 am #

    It’s funny, Bob, you should mention hoarding. I just moved up a great line from an unpublished novel, a REALLY great line, into a SS. Very painful but necessary, like surgery. I wish I could report that it freed me, but I still feel a sense of loss, even worse, of conniving. (sigh)

  4. Gail Fisher February 3, 2022 at 8:53 am #

    Dear Mr. Hostetler,

    This is just what I needed to read today. Thank you.

  5. Lois Y Easley February 3, 2022 at 9:49 am #

    Thank you for this!

  6. Julie Johnson February 3, 2022 at 9:56 am #

    I absolutely love this. I wonder if, in our zeal to polish our writing, we rub the patina right out of our words transforming them from sterling silver into pewter.

  7. jay heavner February 3, 2022 at 10:04 am #

    Excellently said, Bob. Great points.

  8. Pam Halter February 3, 2022 at 11:04 am #

    Woo Hoo! Yes! Let’s do it! Spend it all!

  9. Megan Schaulis February 3, 2022 at 11:29 am #

    I love this, Bob.

    I think spending it all combats a lack mindset:
    “If I use this brilliant thought here, will I have another one later?”
    “If I give it all in book one, will I have gas in the mental tank for book two?”

    We’re plugged into an endless supernatural supply, so why worry we’ll run out?!

  10. Jacob Suarez February 3, 2022 at 12:19 pm #

    To me, going all out means not giving heed to procrastination or distraction. Also, it means believing on my work while accepting advice and trying my best to grasp what critiques I receive. Thank you, Bob.

  11. Jan Rogers Wimberley February 4, 2022 at 11:32 pm #

    Thank you Bob. Great encouragement.
    It’s easy to let a vision dim when we turn our thoughts away from Him.

    I like the comments section for writers to express themselves and encourage others.

    I was told by my journalism/Christian Writing teacher, “A writer will write.” We writers have far to go to even nearly approach that point taken by the Apostle John, …”there are also many other things which Jesus did [and does daily], …that if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the would itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen”

  12. Jan Rogers Wimberley February 4, 2022 at 11:34 pm #

    Sorry, I didn’t proof my entry!! You will all catch it!

  13. Ann L Coker February 5, 2022 at 4:00 pm #

    “Spend it all” reminds me to contact Guidepost magazine and ask why you are not included in the list of Contributing Editors on the Masthead, for you are.

  14. LaJide February 6, 2022 at 8:37 pm #

    Thank you for sharing. It’s inspiring to know that there is no reason to hold back, since NOW is all we have.

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