Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Dealing with Rejection, Envy and Other Not-So-Fun Writer Emotions

I was planning to write this post on Downton Abbey, but I'm feeling rather disenchanted (give me one good reason not to give up on it...and if you tell me a new suitor for Mary I'm going to scream).

However, as we've been going viral in this household (and I don't mean in a marketing kind of way) I've had more time than usual to read.

Charles Stanley ministries offered me the opportunity to review his new book entitled Emotions. With main topics such as rejection, envy, and discouragement I almost immediately saw parallels to the writing life and some of the emotions we deal with in this ministry. In the next few posts I would like to share some things I've learned from Stanley's book.

"God created you and me with the capacity to experience the full gamut of emotions so we could enjoy life, share our inner being with others and reflect his image. They were given to us as a gift so we can interact meaningfully with our heavenly father and the people we know." (Chapter 1, Emotions by Charles Stanley).

What a great thought not only for our own emotions, but also with our characters. We want them to have the full gamut of emotions and if we hold back emotion in our own life, how can we write rich characters that will minister to others.

Stanley says, "God knows you perfectly, sees your scars, and fully understands the reason you react to situations the way you do." (Chapter 1, Emotions).

How can we think we know the right plan for our own lives? Do we really understand God's timing in those rejection letters? Or when he asks us to place our writing career on hold to raise our children or work overtime to help pay the bills? Proverbs 16:25 says the way man thinks is right leads to death. We have no knowledge of what is right apart from asking for his wisdom.

But the Lord cares deeply about your wounds, every small and large concern on your heart. When we're brokenhearted the Lord delights to heal us and to bind our wounds. What is your wound? The thirtieth rejection letter? Envy for a writing friend who has received rewards? We cover over our envy and it is not healed. Bring it to the Lord, He can handle your honest outpouring of emotion.

Then Stanley advises we can ask the Lord to change any wrong areas of thinking. Our hearts are so dark we often don't even know what they are so we ask the Lord search me and know my heart. Show me if there is any unclean thing in me. (Psalm 26:2-3)

What are the most painful experiences in your writing life?

 Do you have any wounds that remain from them?

 Are there bare emotions exposed when you think of these things?

The wounds are often deeper than we realize, we need the Lord to show us even the depth of them.

What messages  about yourself do you struggle with as a result?

Lately I've had a very hard time sharing my work with the critique group I belong to, often making excuses. The work isn't polished enough. This is my first draft (which is often true, but you get the picture). The truth is I have a pride problem. I make excuses to cover that up. I will grow at my own rate and in the Lord's timing.

What lies do we believe about ourselves, spiritual lies that affect our writing life? Have we accepted the lie that the opinions of our agent, a potential editor, or a critique mean more than God? (We do need to gracefully accept criticism and allow it to change our writing, but I mean something deeper. We can NOT allow it to change how we see our identity, which is never changing. Stanley suggests studying the book of Ephesians and internalizing what God says about us as believers.

Or perhaps we've accepted the lie that we want to be published RIGHT now only so God can use us. God can and will use you right where you are. Don't despise small beginnings. Be willing to humble yourself to allow God to use your writing, even if its not in a way you expect. Last year, writing prayers for a prayer team of 10-12 ladies blessed me far more than writing an article that went to 60,000 libraries. The fruit may not come where you expect or when you expect. The gift fully belongs to God so be willing to let him use it in a way that may seem strange to you. Be willing to be invisible in using your gift for him.

In Chapter 2, Stanley discusses God's purpose for our emotions.

When we feel rejection or fear of the future we are often wrestling with wounds caused by other losses we've faced. Will God fail to supply all we need. He has given us everything we need for life and godliness.

What other wound might you struggle with here, that goes beyond your writing life? Does our next novel need to be published this year so we can provide for our family? No, God is going to supply all we need. Our Jehovah Jireh.

Why do we focus on our disappointments rather than our joys? Spend some time journaling about what God has done in your writing life. How has he shown himself faithful? Then spend some time journaling about what he has done in your life as a whole.

Stanley talks about the fact that if we don't follow we'll always wonder what God could have done through us.

What are some gifts of rejection? They help us realize that our writing gift is only from Him and He is fully in charge of it.

Rejection helps us realize how much we need God. During trials we are apt to pull closer and closer to him.

Furthermore, it helps us to be more aware of our heavenly calling. We remember what the important things are in life, the eternal things. We have acceptance of God through Jesus Christ's shed blood if we are believers. What can the rejection of man do to us? It helps us to realize where we may be idolizing man's opinion above God's.

What about other's successes? Our emotions help us to weep with others, they can also help us rejoice with others. We all have positive experiences we can draw on to help us empathize with other's success. What gift of rejoicing can you bring based on your own life?

Acknowledge what you are feeling. Don't be afraid to give a name to envy, jealousy, pride, bitterness, or other emotions. We need to get in our prayer closet. God has everything we need to deal with these emotions.

What is helping us to deal with rejection and feelings of inadequacy? God alone, or do we look for something else. Its not wrong to drink a mocha, buy a new sweater, or eat a piece of chocolate cake perse but are we bandaging a wound that is meant to be fully healed by God. I admit I struggle with this. These last few months, but those treats don't fill me for long. Not where it matters. They instead leave an empty spot.

**Thank you to Howard Books and Charles Stanley ministries for sending me an ebook. The opinions enclosed are my honest thoughts. If you are interested in reading, here's a link to Emotions by Charles Stanley. **




Do you have verses that have helped you when you have gone through difficult times in your writing life?


Julia writes contemporary fiction to mirror truth. A former assistant librarian, she now channels her card cataloguing skills into homeschooling her elementary aged littles and writes for Library Journal. She has reviewed for a number of websites for several years.







22 comments:

Debra E. Marvin said...

Looks like a great book, Julia. I used to see Dr. Stanley on TV before my hours changed on Sunday morning.

And - I have heard... that Downton ends up to be a good season, so I'll keep watching. I agree, after it was over Sunday night I was wishing they'd ended on S3 with a HEA and Matthew, Mary and Baby George. and no S4!

I remember years ago feeling the twinge of jealousy when someone got a contract or finaled in a contest and I had read their work (in draft form, probably!) and thought... what? seriously?
Ha ha. But I've learned a lot about writing since them and understand more about timing, too.
God's timing for my writing!

oh, and critiques--I'd like critiques of the big bone stuff before I spend weeks on the tiny things. But we don't want to put our work up before it's polished.
nothing worse than changing a whole chapter because of a plot point or character and basically losing the time you put into finding just the right word in paragraph 5!

Hope your family is all healthy soon!

Joanne Sher said...

Oh, Julia! What a powerful post! I've had a pretty bad pride problem lately - but I'm learning. Thanks so much for this! I'm definitely looking forward to more.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Yes, Julia, you touched a nerve here. Jealousy, envy, and the like are difficult problems to overcome without God working in our hearts. I battle this in so many areas of my life. I think for me it has to do with being a perfectionist (in some areas) and so I never measure up. I am hoping that this year off of writing has taught me to just write for God and no one else and just enjoy the process. He is where I get me validation...in all areas of life, not just in writing. GREAT post, Julia.

p.s. I have also heard that Downton gets better. Sunday's episode was such a downer, wasn't it?

Angie said...

Ok...I haven't finished reading...but I am trying not to internalize what you mentioned about Downton Abbey! I haven't watched Season 3 yet, so I left off with Mary's engagement! Aaaaaaaah!!!!!! Say it ain't so???

Pepper said...

Beautiful post, Julia. Absolutely beautiful, with so many points to ponder.
I struggle with a weird mixture of insecurity and pride, and when I compare myself to others it isn't so much in a jealous/envious way, as it is in a hopeless "I'll never be good enough" way. It's that constant reminder that my identity isn't it my mothering skills, my clinical abilities, or my writing extraordinaire - it's in Christ. It's already made perfect by His love.
Now...remembering that in the trenches is the hard part. ;-)

Julia M. Reffner said...

DEBRA,

Yes, I'm disappointed plenty, we'll see if I make it to season 5 :)

I think the emotions we struggle with are different at different times in our writing journey, but also our spiritual journey. I think its great how the Lord helped you in that!

One of my critique partners literally has hours to write per day so I've had to come to terms with whatever I write will be a very rough draft compared to that. I'm just not in that spot and I have to come to peace with that, which means getting over some pride and perfectionism issues.

Thanks for weighing in, Debra

Julia M. Reffner said...

JOANNE,

Its hard to admit these emotions sometimes but bringing them into the light is always so life-changing. Know that you are not alone, its all such a journey. But I'm thankful that the Lord says all of our temptations are common to man, but He can help us overcome them.

Julia M. Reffner said...

SHERRINDA,

Wow, this is what I love about God's word. Speaks to each one of us in a different area. I love that each commenter talked about a different struggle, not because of my post but because the Spirit uses his word to speak to us what we need individually. As for me, I'll just say I think I've struggled with all of these emotions one time or another.

So, so true. I was thinking how often issues in our writing life are just showing a mirror on a larger issue within.

I struggle with being a perfectionist, too. On the other hand, I could stand to be a bit more of a perfectionist say around my house :)

I can't wait to see what God will do in and through your writing because you're yielding to Him, Sherrinda!

Julia M. Reffner said...

ANGIE,

Downton is worth a watch for the costumes if nothing else :)

Julia M. Reffner said...

PEPPER,

I know exactly what you mean. I struggle with the same thing. I think for me insecurity is a form of pride because I can be putting down what God can do. It is so much harder in practice, isn't it?

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Julia, what a beautiful post. Just amazing. Thank you for sharing this.

I think I may struggle with an opposite sort of pride, though I wish I didn't. I struggle with the mindset that I'll never be good enough. I'll never finish a book to the point that it's ready to be queried. But, I always have to come back to the facts that God gave me these stories, and He has a use and a purpose for them. Mine is to be obedient and write. His is to take them where He wants them. I must stop making it all. about. me. So hard sometimes.

I appreciate the reminder to bring my emotions before the Lord. Especially the ones I know I shouldn't be feeling. It's only as I confess them that God can bring healing to them. Thank you for that insight!

JAPAN SAMURAI said...
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Julia M. Reffner said...

JEANNE,

Well said, I too, struggle with that opposite sort of pride. I think Pepper named it well as a mix of insecurity and pride.

Don't forget the emotions in themselves are not evil, we must then make a choice what to do with them.

Blessed by your comments as always, Jeanne.

Angie said...

Ok, now I've read it. Ha.

Seriously, though, beautiful words. I think back five years ago, and realize that rejection has been a huge blessing because it's furthered me on my walk with God and on my writing journey. I've learned to check my emotions and find my need for God during the tough times. I don't think emotions are evil, but they are indicators of a heart issue, and can be used in powerful ways both for good and evil.

Thanks for the post!

Julia M. Reffner said...

""I don't think emotions are evil, but they are indicators of a heart issue, and can be used in powerful ways both for good and evil."

Love this! I think it would make a great post starter for your personal blog. Just a thought. I'm always so inspired by you, Angie.

Angie said...

Aw, thanks. I probably regurgitated it from Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst! HA!!!
Thanks, Julia! Maybe I will start up my personal blog soon. I deactivated it for a while when life was crazy...oh wait...it still is crazy!:)

Angie said...

Aw, thanks. I probably regurgitated it from Unglued by Lysa Terkeurst! HA!!!
Thanks, Julia! Maybe I will start up my personal blog soon. I deactivated it for a while when life was crazy...oh wait...it still is crazy!:)

Ashley Clark said...

Oh Julia, this is such a beautiful post, and definitely something I needed to hear today. Thank you for sharing! I think sometimes we shy away from the deep-level emotion in our faith and in our writing because it's hard to work through, but that's JUST the level of emotion our readers deserve to see in our characters.

Julia M. Reffner said...

ANGIE,

I LOVED that book. Studied it with a few friends. Now we're working on AM I MESSING UP MY KIDS, which is blessing me even more. And I plan to go through MADE TO CRAVE on my own. Love Lysa, have learned so much from her!

Julia M. Reffner said...

ASHLEY,

Yeah, I know I do. I have that gut level instinct to not take that plunge. But the more vulnerable I am the more God can use me so I hope I keep growing in this area.

Mary Vee said...

Julia,
What perfect timing. I struggled with this only today when the challenge to put page 7 of my WIP on FB came. I had the same thoughts. I had read others and KNEW nothing was good enough, and blah blah blah. I walked away from three different story choices to put on FB before I heard a song on Pandora that tweaked my heart.
I went ahead and edited the page and posted it. Now I'm glad I did. Wow. That hurdle grew mountainous there for a while until God yanked my emotions in place.

Benjie said...

I have been reading your blog posts for quite some time now and so far, this is my favorite. Thank you for this wonderful post!