“If you can dream it, you can do it.”
“Never give up on your dream.”
“You can do anything you set your mind to.”
“Decide what to be, and go be it.”
This is the world’s message to creatives like me, and it sounds amazing, doesn’t it? It sounds like I am in control of my destiny. Like I can take my love of writing and just decide I’m going to be a writer. Like if I work long enough and hard enough, eventually it will happen.
Like nothing is stopping me, except maybe me.
It’s true: I am my own greatest obstacle to writing, and I seem only to grow more stubbornly insurmountable as the years go by. Right now, I’m an eternal 2 1/2 months into the longest self-imposed writing drought I’ve experienced in five years of writing.
Why? I don’t know exactly. I felt that I was up to my neck in the quicksand of pride, self-doubt, and high-minded over-thinking about the sub-culture of Christian artistry. And I began to detect an insidious lie couched in those worldly promises listed above, which I wanted so badly to believe. I needed to be quiet for a while.
But I’m breaking my silence and buying myself a little time so I can share with you, Dear Reader, what four things have kept me from sinking altogether into the mire of a world without writing.
Changing how I’m praying. I’ve prayed a lot about my writing over the years. I’ve asked for guidance with knocking on doors, grace to accept those doors that stay closed, help managing my time, courage, insight, clear-mindedness during editing; I’ve even prayed for potential future readers.
Every time my feelings about writing began to wane, like a thread was being pulled from my hand, I would pray. I would cling to it, I would tighten my fist around it, hunker down, and say, “No! I will not let go.” Then I would live and write in fear that my doubts, my low points, my insecurities, were Satan trying to rob me of what God would have for me if only I stayed faithful to the task.
And then one day, after a lot of study and prayer, I asked a new question. I wondered if Satan wasn’t the one pulling the thread from my hand. If his work was instead to blind me to the grace of God, and to sew discontent in my heart that God hadn’t made my dream come true, and had in fact made my dream seem more out of reach than ever.
This led to a new thought–one I had never considered before. Maybe Satan was the one who put the thread there in the first place. Maybe he is the one who laid that self-glorifying dream on my heart all those years ago. Maybe he is the one who gave me the boldness to open my mouth before I had the wisdom and maturity to ask, “What does the Scripture say?”
I don’t know the answers to any of these questions. Perhaps I never will on this side of creation. Though it has proved to be an obstacle to writing for me, and there is a bitter taste to that, I believe it has been good for me to voluntarily lay down the thread, and pray with open hands instead of a closed fist, and ponder for a while longer, and just be quiet.
Taking time to repent. I have totally given up. Not on writing obviously, but on the dream which has captivated me and filled me with hope for so long. It’s been the hardest thing, living as I do in this world which promises I can achieve anything I set my mind to.
My dream when I began was not a godly dream. Oh, I used godly language in the pages of my writing journal, pepping myself up when doubt creeped in, and convincing myself this dream was about Him and His glory, not me and mine.
The thing that finally showed me I was failing to convince even myself, was a moment of brutal honesty. I realized and admitted to myself that I secretly hoped one day this journal, with all the emotional ups and downs, and circle-backs to grace and God’s will, would itself be published. I just knew it would be an encouragement to other aspiring writers who suffer the same debilitating doubts, and need the occasional pepping up, and convincing that they they too are on a good and right path that pleases God. “Just hang in there,” it says again and again, “and your writing dream can come true too.” (That’s assuming, of course, that my own dream will have come true first.)
So many pages were written with this mythical audience in mind. Do you see, Reader? The journal has always been all about me. It shows how exactly like the world I was, and am still.
So I stopped using it for that. I asked God to forgive me, to correct my thinking, and I am repenting with the ashes of a silent keyboard, and the sack cloth of an unfinished story. Now I wait, quietly, cotton-mouthed and thirsty, for this writing drought to be over. For the pure love of story to outshine the veil of self-serving dreams.
Keeping commitments I made when I didn’t feel this way. I’m writing right now even though it feels like chipping away at a massive tree trunk with weak arms and bad aim. Deep down, I want to shirk my blog commitment for another month and tell my co-bloggers that this tree just isn’t going to felled by me, not with the state my heart is in right now.
But I made a commitment that I would do this. So I put my fingers on the keyboard, no matter how I feel. I tap, tap, tap until the thoughts tangled up in my head emerge as black shapes on the blank white page. The words form and take linear shape, one after another, and lo, before me is a paragraph. I will stare at it for a while, tinker with it, and cut off the frayed ends, but it is there. And I am writing, despite being my own biggest obstacle.
My writing community. By the grace and will of my generous God, I have made some writing friends over the years. They will not let me disappear into the shrubbery like Homer Simpson without an explanation.
They have graciously allowed me to be quiet these last few months, but I’ve always known they would not permit me to fall off the face of the writing earth without talking me back from the ledge.
So I have only seen that frightening precipice from a distance. Unable to explain my reason for being there to myself, it would be impossible to explain it to them. So I find myself still tethered to that world by the strong grip of friendship with human beings who know me and interact with me and wonder how I’m doing.
What now? I do not end this lengthy post with a victorious fist pump. These 1200 words have done much to slake my thirst, but I’m still in the midst of this and I don’t know when or how I will emerge from it. One thing I do know is that my story is not over.
Stay with me, friends, and pray with me, and share your own obstacles that we at Quills may pray with you.