Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Reasons We Write


We all have reasons we write, but are they the right reasons?

See what I did there? Okay, tongue twisters aside, today I want to challenge you to some introspection. Let me use myself as an example. The past week or so, the current stage of my writing career has become increasingly clear to me. My manuscript is being reviewed by a couple different publishers I have an uber amount of respect for, and in December, I had a really good perspective about that. Pray about it, be at peace. I trusted that I had spent months crafting this proposal, and that God would lead me and my stories where He would have me. Then for whatever reason, the reality started to dawn on me now that it's January. The possibility of hearing back from publishers is becoming more of a reality. What had been so easy to trust God with suddenly became much more challenging.

Up until now, my approach has been to keep writing and crafting stories until one of them sticks. My philosophy has been that if a traditional publisher is not interested in my manuscript, I am not yet ready for a readership. Now I know that's not necessarily true for everyone, especially genres that are a hard sell in CBA, I have felt like it's true for me. I know God has called me to be a writer. Otherwise I never would have found the courage to follow this dream. So I've sort of always assumed there's a reason for that calling, and the reason is that someday I'll have readers. :) And I really, really hope that is true. I mean, really hope that is true.

But here's the thing. I had this ah-ha moment Sunday morning. At some point, I have conflated the idea of writing books out of obedience God's calling with the idea of someday being a "successful" author. Now, I don't think there's anything wrong with dreaming about touching readers' lives, or even being on a bestseller list. These are normal dreams. But the thing is, they are not the same as our calling. The Bible says our calling is "sure." Solid. Stable. Reliable. True. Can I say the same thing about someday hitting the NYT Bestseller List? Simply put, no.

If we aren't careful, traditional ideas of success come to mesh with our confidence in our purpose, so that good news makes us feel assured of our calling and bad news makes us doubt it. Oh, how easy it is to fall into this trap. But friends, we must guard our hearts against this impulse. God is always, always on our side, assuring us onward to complete this task He has put before us. His whispers to our dreams, His guidance, His love is all we can be assured of, but it's also all we need.

Being published does not mean you will be assured of God's purpose in your life.

Likewise, being unpublished does not mean you are doing something "wrong," necessarily.

Success in the eyes of the world, while nice-feeling, is not the same as success in God's eyes. Consider the woman who cleans bathrooms for a living and hums songs of praise under her breath, then consider the business executive who is rude to a child on the way to a meeting. These are extreme examples, but they illustrate the point. For us as writers, it is all-too-easy to consider publishing the ear marker of whether or not we've "made it." But that's really such an illusion. I'll venture to bet that even after we someday get published, we will still battle against feelings of fear and insufficiency, only with different stakes.

And here's where it gets hard. Here is the question I came to on Sunday, and I think it's the only way to really challenge yourself to a true answer about the state of your heart.

If this book gets rejected--if I write another dozen books and they all get rejected--what will keep me going? If I never do get to hold a copy of my own book in my hands, will I grow discouraged enough that I just stop trying?

Suddenly the answer became strikingly clear to me. No, I will not stop writing. Do I want to have a published book? Absolutely. Do I want to be able to tell people I'm an "author" instead of someone whose books are only on Microsoft Word? Yes. Do I feel discouraged when challenges prevent movement into the next stages of my writing career? You bet.

But at the end of the day, these things do not define my calling, and thus, they do not and can not sustain me. These traditional considerations of what defines success are dangerous. There will always be another step and an ever-lurking step of failure. The only way you can escape the discouragement and pressure that comes from these challenges is to cast your perception of success in another place, and really, that place is much more beautiful anyway, tailored for you. The call of God upon your life.

If you're struggling with silence or harsh critiques, I want to encourage you today that these things do not define you or your writing. The only One with that power is the One who has authored your story. He has a plan for each of your days, and He has been leading you all along. Don't give up hope. Don't give up faith. Don't give up your dreams.

Have you ever struggled with feelings of inadequacy? How do you shift your focus to a higher calling?



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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blogFacebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

15 comments:

Angie said...

Love this: "If we aren't careful, traditional ideas of success come to mesh with our confidence in our purpose, so that good news makes us feel assured of our calling and bad news makes us doubt it."

Oh, Ashley...I have goosebumps... you always do that to me!! This is similar to a revelation I came to in November...right before I had agents call about representation! It is so easy to focus on the negatives meaning "no" about your purpose, and the positives giving you the go ahead to continue. Christ said "the least will be greatest, and the greatest will be the least"...Why do we base God's work in our lives on a worldly scale? He has something great for each of us, it just might not look like what the world views as great...OR it might look like what the world views as great, but I think that skims the surface of what God truly is doing with that worldly greatness. Did I talk in circles?? HA!! Glad to have you in my life!

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Ashley - this is so, SOOO good! Need this reminder. RIGHT NOW. Thanks for being the Holy Spirit for me!

Elisabeth Petifore said...

How I you know that God is calling me to writing?

Jeanne T said...

Ashley, a beautiful post! You have helped me define perspective (my one word for 2013) in the writing life. Thank you for that. The quote Angie re-quoted really spoke to my heart too.

Yes, I've felt inadequate most of my life. It's struggle in the writing life too, but through those feelings of inadequacy, I'm learning to trust God with every part of who I am. Story and me as His girl. Thanks for sharing these profound thoughts today. BTW, I loved the picture of the cross!

Susan Anne Mason said...

Great post! So beautifully written!

I know I'm an author because like you said, with or without being published, I will always keep writing.

Thanks for the lovely thoughts.

Cheers,
Sue

Ashley Clark said...

Angie, I remember you coming to a similar place back in November! Thank you for sharing what you did. I didn't think you were talking in circles! :) I am SO thankful for you, too!

Joanne, it's funny because I originally had planned to write about something else this week, but I felt God nudge my heart on this topic on Sunday. Thank you for sharing that it encouraged you. I love to hear that!

Ashley Clark said...

Elisabeth, I think you're asking how someone knows God is calling them to write? I would say it's a different journey for every person. For me, I always wanted to write stories, but I didn't think I was very good at it, so I focused on academic writing instead. Then one day I had this story idea that I couldn't seem to get out of my mind. I wrote about it for a creative writing class I was in and received good feedback, and then I started dreaming about someday attending a writer's conference. From there, this giddy excitement floated through me any time I thought of being a writer or attending a writing conference. I started stepping out in faith, writing a book, and those feelings of confirmation continued to persist... also, my heart for the story I was writing continued to grow. Some people have story ideas hit them in the middle of the night during a dream, and others never thought about writing until a friend suggests it. I think when it comes to God's will, the biggest things are being open and ready to go where He tells us--not perfect people, but willing to follow. And if that's in place, then God can guide us according to our dreams because He's the one who puts those into our hearts in the first place. If you're reading this blog, I'd say there's a good chance God is already doing something in your heart, nudging you toward writing. Try writing just for fun, and see what happens. Pray God will increase your excitement if it's His will. Thanks for stopping by today@

Ashley Clark said...

Elisabeth, I think you're asking how someone knows God is calling them to write? I would say it's a different journey for every person. For me, I always wanted to write stories, but I didn't think I was very good at it, so I focused on academic writing instead. Then one day I had this story idea that I couldn't seem to get out of my mind. I wrote about it for a creative writing class I was in and received good feedback, and then I started dreaming about someday attending a writer's conference. From there, this giddy excitement floated through me any time I thought of being a writer or attending a writing conference. I started stepping out in faith, writing a book, and those feelings of confirmation continued to persist... also, my heart for the story I was writing continued to grow. Some people have story ideas hit them in the middle of the night during a dream, and others never thought about writing until a friend suggests it. I think when it comes to God's will, the biggest things are being open and ready to go where He tells us--not perfect people, but willing to follow. And if that's in place, then God can guide us according to our dreams because He's the one who puts those into our hearts in the first place. If you're reading this blog, I'd say there's a good chance God is already doing something in your heart, nudging you toward writing. Try writing just for fun, and see what happens. Pray God will increase your excitement if it's His will. Thanks for stopping by today@

Ashley Clark said...

Jeanne, what a great word! I'm jealous of all of you who have one word for 2013... I have something like five so far! Ha! It's funny you should say that about the cross picture... I loved the way the sunlight streamed through it. Thanks for sharing your thoughts today! :)

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks Sue! So glad you could stop by! :)

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

What an inspiring post today, Ash! So often when we get wrapped up in our own expectations we can lose sight of what God is doing. And most of the time, our dependence is on track and His plans are our focus when we walk through trials. Sad but true. Could be he's trying to teach us to let go and trust him with our dreams. After all, he gave them to us to begin with. :)

PS... I couldn't help but think of our sweet, singing housekeepers in Dallas when I read this post!

Catrina Bradley said...

I have been coming to the same conclusions about the difference in striving to be "successful" and just writing for God, in which case HE will be pleased. The latter is success in His eyes. Thank you!

Ashley Clark said...

Amy, I was thinking of her too! Wasn't she sweet? :) Thanks for sharing... love what you said about God giving us these dreams... so true!

Catrina, it's a hard conclusion, isn't it? But one that's so much more rewarding in the end. Thanks for coming by today!

Elisabeth Pettifore said...

Thanks for answering my question. I will continue to pray about it and ask for God's leading in my life

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Ashley, yes! This was the perfect post for me today, and I suspect for a lot of others as well. Lovely post, thank you!