Hey Writerly Women. Monday we talked about those writing doors that are slamming in our faces, making us feel like, "Seriously, what is the point?" I asked you to comment, and I was expecting things like:
* I've gotten five rejections from agents and I'm ready to give up.
- * I can't even GIVE my short stories away.
- * The number of visits to my blog is embarrassing. I'm not even going to query publishers; they'll laugh in my face when they see that.
That wasn't what came up in your comments and emails at all, though. Your answers were actually more concerning. We can find a way to keep sending out those queries and searching for small publishing houses and going to writers conferences. But we can't even begin to knock on those doors if we don't have anything written!
And why don't we?Because we've locked ourselves out.
* "I've been walking through some messy relationship stuff and haven't been able to focus."
- "I keep wondering where I fit in this writing world and what I'm actually supposed to write for God."
- "I feel the pressure that I have to come up with something amazing or write in a genre that I don't like but others like in order to impress them."
- "I'm afraid of failing to do well with writing. Though I'm toward the end of the revising journey, the part I'm working on seems to crucial to get right, and I'm afraid I don't have what it takes to seal the deal and make it truly good."
- "Look for agents or publishers? I might not survive all those rejections."
- "Things still aren’t moving the way I’d like for them to move in the chapter that had me stuck. And since I’m trying to write linearly, everything else is stalled. I’ve considered skipping it and moving to the next chapter to see if that would help. I have revisited it several times, and still little success or momentum."
These aren't doors that are being closed to us by someone else. These are doors we've locked, bolted and padlocked ourselves.
First of all, here's how you know the chain on that door is of your own making:
* You sit in front of the computer screen frozen in time.
* The very thought of trying to write makes you so anxious you want to throw up.
* Your living space is cleaner than it's ever been because you're using it an excuse not to show up with pen in hand.
* You're blaming your spouse, your kids, your job, your sciatica for keeping you from typing that first word or that next word or that last word.
What all of that means is this: YOU'RE SCARED SPITLESS!!!!
How do I know this? Been there. Over one hundred times. Every time I started one of my 125 books, I thought: Is this the one I'm not going to be able to do? Are they finally going to discover that I'm a fraud?
I always went ahead and wrote the dang book because after the first several I always had a contract. And by the time I got to the end of the first chapter I thought: OH, yeah. I know how to do this. And then when I got to Chapter Seven (without fail) I thought: This is the worst piece of trash I've ever written. Why did I think I could do this again?
I DON'T have a contract now, so if I didn't finish my current project nobody would be mad at me or ask me for the advance back. I still keep writing, though, because I know that voice -- both the one I hear and the one YOU hear -- is:
* NOT REAL
* NOT GOD.
God, of course, never tells us we're losers, imposters, frauds, fakes or ridiculous to think we can use the gifts we've been given. Seriously, where is THAT in the Bible? God says things like: "Darlin', I wouldn't have given you the talent to express yourself in words and images OR the desire to do that if I didn't already know you can do it. And I want you to do it."
So how do you unlock the doors you personally have deadbolted so you can hear God saying, "Come in. We have stuff to do"?
I only know what I do. I've done it quite recently - AGAIN -- and it's extremely effective.
* Banish the False Self. I imagine a gate to the kingdom of God we live in now (not the heavenly kingdom), and I picture a couple of angels guarding it, which they need to because my False Self is out there rattling the bars, begging me to let her in. She says she has something important to tell me. NOT. With that image in mind, I turn my back and move toward God, where the dreams and the plans and the words and the images and the stories are.
* Don't put expectations of monetary and critical success on yourself. I never thought I'd write all those books. I never expected to actually be able to make a living at it. I just did it. And did it. And I kept doing it. Now, when the publishers are no longer calling me and I'm not making my whole income from writing, I'm still doing it. Who knows what will happen with my current project? I just know that if don't just do it, nothing will.
* Make sure you spend plenty of time with God talking about this. Of course you're going to pray for other people and for the world. But it is NOT selfish to devote a significant amount of space journaling and praying and meditating on how God wants you to use this gift. WHETHER you should write is not the question. If you weren't supposed to, you wouldn't be reading this blog. It's in there. HOW is the question. Listen for the answer. It will come in surprising ways.
After today, we aren't going to spend any more time angsting over questions like "Am I good enough?", are we? We're going to get into the meat of HOW and WHAT. We''ll be so focused on that, we won't have a moment to spare locking doors so we can't get in.
So let's leave it with a line from an Eagles song that I love, called "Already Gone": "Often times it happens that we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key."
You have the key. Use it now, will you, to encourage each other? In your comment, tell us the next step you're going to take to JUST WRITE. We're all in this together.