I’m unpublished and with no prospects of being published, yet I write nearly every day. I’ve been working on my WIPs, a historical fiction series for young adults, for a few years now. I’m up to my knees in that long, slow slog of waiting and laboring in ways no one can see, and wondering what God will do with it all. If he will do anything. If he should do anything.
I can give him a thousand reasons why he shouldn’t. He, knowing me as he does, can give me back ten million. Yet here I am, still slogging away, still writing, still dreaming this dream, not feeling as if I’ve been called away from it.
Some days, even when the writing comes easily, I struggle. I doubt and question and do battle with myself.
These are my greatest needs at this point in my writing life, and how I pray through them.
I don’t like secrets. Look at my phone, check my email, my online history, rifle through my underwear drawer. I don’t care. I have nothing to hide.
I write in seclusion and I don’t share this part of myself. I don’t know why. Fear, I suppose, of being wrong about all this. For a while the secrecy was good. It gave me time to let the story and my own writing abilities germinate in the dark. It gave me a place to make mistakes and right them without an audience to see and remember the horrible first drafts.
But it’s become such a deeply ingrained habit. Now I want to be rid of this silly crutch, this secrecy, and all it keeps me from. I hate it and I cling to it. I need it even though it hinders me. Like a sin I think I just can’t live without. Like a glass of red at a dinner party. It stinks and burns going down, but the payoff is in the tingly warmth, the ease of pointless chatter that comes after. I’m too inhibited, too socially awkward to press on without it.
I long for boldness, but I’m finding it isn’t a switch you can turn on when you’re ready. It’s a thing that comes through the power and steady discipline of prayer over time, a thing that comes to me gradually, as my trust in God increases by degrees.
2. Staying on this course.
I started a writing journal roughly two and a half years ago with one purpose: to document the ways God has kept the thread of writing in my hand, to trace it back to its beginnings, and to follow it, hopefully, to its completion.
There have been as many valleys as peaks, as many frustrated declarations of “I quit,” as songs of praise for sustaining grace.
Sometimes I think I am a leaf on the wind, a rudderless ship in a stormy sea, floating along the path of least resistance. Other times I wonder if my rudder is there, cutting through the churning chaos of emotion below the surface, and my ship is in fact on course, just veering off to the side now and then.
Some days all that keeps me on course is the sight of all those blank pages yet to be filled by the rest of this grand story. I won’t give up until the story (my story) is told. So far, it has been enough to keep the thread in my hand. I pray it will be so for years to come.
3. Fearing God more than man.
I recently got myself sucked into an ugly, hurtful dispute with a critique partner over some content in my story. It brought to the fore a specific worry that had begun to niggle the back of my mind over the last year or so, as I had begun to narrow my research and focus on what turned out to be a controversial truth about the people whose story I wish to tell.
Some people disagree with that truth. Some people hate it. This presents a risk. My dignity, my reputation, and my consideration of myself as “smart” is at stake, as those with a different understanding of history and theology belittle what I’ve worked so hard at.
That scares me. A lot. Especially after handling this mild dispute so poorly with my critique partner.
I won’t be able to draw the veil and hide behind it if God does what I ask and makes something of my work. My pulse pounds forcefully in my throat at the thought. Not just of the criticism (that’s enough in itself), but at my own sinful response to it.
I don’t want to go through that again. I don’t want my thinking called into question and be left standing there, known, naked, and defenseless against critics whose ears are closed to my defense. I dread it. I shrink from it, fading back into anonymity and quiet unproductivity.
In the midst of all the heart-aching turmoil of dispute, my bible study took me to Matthew 8:26.
“And he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?’ Then he rose and rebuked the wind and sea, and there was great calm.”
My pulse hasn’t yet slowed. The fear doesn’t magically go away in the face of great, over-coming power. If anything, the pounding of my heart may be more intense as I contemplate this reality that I can sink my teeth into. The reality that this, I think (always on guard against presumption, may that never change), may be exactly what he’s calling me to face.
I have heard his voice in the black and white, incontrovertible pages of his holy and completed Word. Woe to me if I pretend I didn’t, and choose the easy way instead. The way of quitting, and anonymity, and succumbing to fear of man.
Pray with me, Dear Reader, and be bold to share in the comments what your struggles are, so we at Quills and Inkblotts can pray with you as well. If nothing else, give thanks for these struggles, for the way they refine us, draw us into the scriptures looking for answers, and keep us tethered to the hope of God in Christ.