Today's post is for all of you who've been writing long enough to face heartache.
Maybe it's been one week, three months, or ten years in the making.
Maybe you don't even know why you're still doing this, except out of habit.
Maybe you feel like your writing life has become a going-through-the-motions process, a shell of what it used to be.
And maybe, a little part of you wonders if God has forgotten about you, as you sit with your laptop late at night, dreaming of the stories on your heart.
We know how it goes. You remember when you first started writing--the dreams and hopes you carried for your writing's future. You were going to change the world through your stories. Your books were going to be filled with vision and hope, and they would minister to readers as your own favorite books have ministered to you. Then, little by little, things changed. The rejections started piling up. You accumulated a few funny stories of failed pitches. And the stories that were so very close to your heart-- well, you had to tell them goodbye, at least for a season.
In my experience, after weeks, months, and years of the ups and downs of writing life, we begin developing coping strategies. We don't spend quite as much time daydreaming about the day we'll finally get to work alongside an editor. We may not be quite as brave about taking chances with our stories. We've been down that road before, and it didn't sell. We wince as we write our rough drafts, hearing the ever-present echo of our own voices saying, "What if you're still not ready?" The overly-harsh contest criticism comes back with a vengeance when we least expect it, and we begin to wonder if our critics were right. If the market is just a little too hard. If maybe we should keep our stories to ourselves, where it feels--let's face it--safer.
I get this tendency, because I've learned that the longer I write, the harder rejection becomes. Why is that? Personally, I think it's because becoming a better writer means becoming more vulnerable to your stories.
But last week, I saw this verse in a friend's Facebook feed, and it really challenged me.
Esther 4:12-13- "When Esther's words were reported to Mordecai, he sent back this answer: 'Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"
Her initial response? Um, thanks but I don't think so. She reminds Mordecai of the gravity of the situation. The king could order her to be killed! I'm sure at this point, a million things were running through Esther's mind. Wasn't there any other way for the Jews to be spared?
And yet, Mordecai's response is striking. He says in reply, if you remain silent, deliverance will arise from another place.
He then goes on to ask, "Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?"
See, Esther had a calling upon her life. Her place in the kingdom, and the favor she had in the king's eyes was not by mistake. God put her there and allowed her choices to bring about deliverance for His people.
But think about it this way. What if Esther had said no?
Where would deliverance have come from? Would we be reading of another woman's story in the chapters of her book? Because the verse clearly states that deliverance was coming, one way or another.
I don't know about you, but I don't want to miss out on fulfilling my calling. Like Esther, each of us have been called to a particular place and season in life, and in the writing journey. If you have stepped out in faith and started writing a novel (or perhaps you've just finished your 11th book and are experienced in this journey), then you have stepped into the king's palace, just as Esther did, and that's awesome. But see, here's the thing. Esther's initial act of faith and obedience isn't enough. She has to approach the king and put it all on the line in order for the Jewish people to be saved. And in a similar way, we as writers must wholly give our hearts again and again and again to our stories. When the rejections and the criticism and the negative reviews begin flooding in, it's not enough that we just keep writing. We must gather up the pieces of our disappointment, and learn to be brave, because each of us is where we are for such a time as this.
I hope you're encouraged as you look at Esther's story to dream big dreams again for your writing journey. Don't give up on God's calling for your life and ministry, because He hasn't given up on you.
Do you ever feel beat up by the rigors of the writing life? What keeps you pressing on toward your calling?
Ashley Clark writes romantic comedy 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 blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.