Sharpen your Axe
by Carl Colbert
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”
A storied competition involved two beefy lumberjacks with twenty-four hours to cut as many trees as they could. The first contestant took up his axe at the whistle. With superhuman ferocity, he chopped non-stop, day and night. The second lumberjack swung just as hard for two hours. After a short rest, he again picked up his axe, and chopped for two more hours. And so, the cycle continued.
At the end of twenty-four hours, the two lumberjacks quit, and the judges counted the number of trees felled. To everyone’s surprise, the first lumberjack only chopped twenty-six trees, while the second cut thirty-two.
The first contestant asked how that could have happened. The second smiled at his opponent and responded, “Did you ever sharpen your axe?”
I can approach writing like that first lumberjack. With a great concept in hand, I could chop my way to a dull and tired ending. But if I ‘sharpen my axe,’ I should be able to continue and finish well.
There are three ways we can sharpen our writing skills.
First, we can spend more time reading. To be included among the accomplished, we could study the greats in our genres. It also helps to read the others and avoid their mistakes.
Second, writers should try to spend time with other writers. We can encourage each other. My buddy is a little off-beat in his stories, but I like what he has to say and I tell him. And he does the same for me. This inspires me to continue.
Finally, let’s spend time with God, in prayer and scripture. We profess to write for him, and therefore we must know him. What more can we want than to seek the mind of God as the strength behind our work?
Let’s sharpen our axes together, and be in the work for the long haul. After all, his yoke is easy, and his burden is light.
My Lord, your yoke is indeed easy, as I share the burden with so many others. So long as I do what I should, I know you will see me through. Please teach me to remember to sharpen my axe every so often, with my family and friends, and lead me in the work you have set aside for me. You are my King, and I praise you. Amen.
Carl Colbert—no relation to the famous comedian—is a new writer with a huge imagination. Well-read and varied in his experiences, Carl has regaled his daughters with stories from his Air Force and Air Guard career, his private technical vocation, and growing up amid the social turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s.