How Ants Can Help You Win at Writing

How does an ant move a mountain?

Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at

When I read Dan Miller’s workbook, Write to the Bank, I thought he was grossly exaggerating when he said writing was 5% of the job. The first draft of my first book was almost finished. It had been no quick feat. Surely the bulk of the work would be done when it was complete.

While Dan was emphasizing the importance of promotion, I discovered writing and publishing a book involve many steps. For me, that included a lot of learning.

Learning by Doing

I’d taught Bible studies for years before I began writing them. After I’d speak, it was not uncommon for someone to ask for my notes. So I didn’t realize that writing was a craft on its own. The more I learned about writing, the more I realized how little I knew.

I started attending writer’s conferences and took an online writing class. I attended webinars and connected with other writers. Little by little, or should I say, “grain by grain,” I grew as a writer.

At a writer’s conference I met an agent who emailed me the morning following the conference. She wanted to sign me on as a client! I felt validated. I thought my book would be published that year. Wrong. It took over a year before a publisher offered me a contract.

During my wait, I finished writing another study and retaught and reedited my first manuscript. Polishing, I’ve learned, is a big part of the process—especially for new writers.

Besides learning to craft our ideas into tight thoughts, we writers have to find our unique writing voice or develop our personal style. We have to connect with readers who share our world-view and want what we write. We have to learn to engage with our readers and meet their needs.

Intentionally Improving—Bit by Bit

Having friends who are dreaming of retirement, I wondered if spending all this time and money to learn a new craft at my stage of life was delusional. But a proverb kept pushing me forward:

“Go to the ant, you sluggard;
    consider its ways and be wise!
It has no commander,
    no overseer or ruler,
yet it stores its provisions in summer
    and gathers its food at harvest.”

Proverbs 6:6-8, NIV

My daughter had an ant farm when she was young. We watched the little guys move mountains of sand one grain at a time. According to the proverb, if we emulate their small but steady steps, we’ll become wise. We’ll also be patient knowing today’s labor produces tomorrow’s yield.

Like the ant, writers have no boss to make us work every day. Instead of becoming overwhelmed by the mountain of things to learn and do, we must break our goals down into manageable-sized crumbs. If we pick up one bit of writing, editing, publishing, or promoting each day, then, in due season, we will reap a harvest.

Now you know the ant’s secret. He moves a mountain one grain at a time. What small task will you accomplish today to move your writing career forward?

[guestpost]Debbie WilsonDebbie W. Wilson speaks and writes to enable others to experience the Bible’s life-giving relevance for their lives, discern God’s voice, and follow Him in the adventure He’s planned for them. With her husband Larry Wilson, Debbie is the co-founder of Lighthouse Ministries, a non-profit counseling and teaching ministry in Raleigh, NC. She is the author of Give Yourself a Break: Discover the Secrets to God’s Rest. Connect with Debbie at[/guestpost]




Image courtesy of SweetCrisis at

Myhriah Young - January 13, 2015

Wow!! Debbie what a great article. Thank you. You basically hit my biggest problem right on the nose!! I get so overwhelmed with the large tasks, that I don’t break it down into smaller tasks, but your picture of one grain at a time by the ants is what I will think of from here on out!!

    Debbie Wilson - January 16, 2015

    Glad to here it resonated with you, Myhriah. That thought helps me when I get overwhelmed. All the best to you in your writing.

Cam - January 20, 2015

Great article Debbie! Much of what you said resonated with how I live each day.

I have a lot of BIG projects and big goals always floating around in my mind and on paper, and the only way I can keep moving the ball forward on each of them is by “tricking” myself by taking small “preparation” steps.

Rarely do I have the motivation to start on the big project, but more often than not, after I have done some “preparation” work, (such as pick the topics for the coming week of posts, and/or getting the template files copied and customized), the motivation to keep moving forward, step by step, is there.

Just like the ant, the mountain is moved one piece of dirt at a time.

Thanks again for the reminder this morning. 🙂


    Debbie Wilson - January 20, 2015

    Cam, I find the same thing happens to me. The mountain turns my stomach, but the motivation and joy build as I begin to move one small piece at a time. Thanks for sharing.

Tim Bishop - January 27, 2015

Knowing which grains of sand to pick up, or which marketing crumbs will ultimately bear fruit, can be a challenge. One needs an overarching vision to focus the detailed efforts. I find big goals helpful, but it is easy to stray off course given the tools available these days and juggling multiple projects. We operate in a dynamic workspace in which the effective techniques are constantly morphing. Thank you for your encouragement to stay the course and be diligent with the details.

Diane Allen - January 27, 2015

Debbie this is such an encouragement to me as I negotiate the “next” stage of my life. I needed this perspective and the encouragement to treat this dream like a job rather then sitting here paralyzed by the enormous task of starting something new.

When I think back to my younger years I am reminded of the teachers and associates who thought writing was my calling, but I resisted (mainly because I hated grammar and spelling!) In the last several years I find myself writing pieces in my head a lot as I go through the tedious jobs of home-keeping and motherhood. Lately I’ve been wondering if I should revisit those suggestions to write.

I feel like I have so many things stirring inside me that want to get out onto a page. They swirl up and then down into the whirlpool without being committed to paper. Inspiration I don’t lack — it seems I need more perspiration.

Thanks for the small kick in the pants.

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