Author

How to Stop Feeling Guilty about not Working Hard Enough

Copyright Creationswap, image by Bogdan Kulyk.

Copyright Creationswap, image by Bogdan Kulyk.

If anyone wrote a book about my life, it would probably have the above title.

I have struggled with guilt my whole life, and a lot of it comes from the following mental gymnastics:

I imagine if I was an angel, looking at humans from heaven, I’d be like, “They have so much opportunity! Why don’t those comfortable people help those suffering people more? I would be a much better human then them.” (A friend pointed out to me the other day that this is a very judgmental angel. 🙂 )

I feel like a big part of the world’s problem is that the fortunate don’t help the unfortunate, and I don’t want to be like that. But then I’m always afraid that I’m not doing enough.

I mirrored this problem in my novel, Hating Jeremy Walters, where my main character, Natalie, always feels like she’s not working hard enough. The only difference is that she feels she must work hard to please God; I feel I must do lots of good stuff to prove I’m not selfish. But we’re pretty similar.

But I keep having a problem with Natalie. I know her thought patterns are wrong, but when I write out both sides of the argument she can always argue her wrong side better than my ‘good’ character can argue his right side.

I know my guilty way of thinking isn’t right, but to me, it just seems so logical.

This week God gave me an insight that probably seems totally obvious to everyone else—but for me it had to come from an imaginary conversation between two book characters.

This is a rough scene from the first draft of my book, where Natalie’s boyfriend, Jeremy, is asking her to cut back on her insane workload for the sake of children in her care. (Please don’t judge me on my dialogue; this is the roughest of the rough drafts!)

“Can’t you see that there’s different ways of pleasing God? Working like a crazy person is not one of them.” Jeremy ran his fingers through his hair and pulled, like he literally wanted to tear his hair out.

“You’re just saying that because you want me home more. I can’t give it up. That would be giving up on pleasing God. I couldn’t live with the guilt.”

“Why do you talk about all this guilt? You’re forgiven. Have you forgotten what that word means?”

“It doesn’t mean that I just live a selfish life for myself after I’m saved.”

Every time I thought about a different version of this conversation, this is where it ended. The “But I can’t be selfish/lazy!” line was the trump card. Jeremy’s comebacks never seemed convincing enough.

One day I ran the conversation through my head again, and when it got to this point, Jeremy got so frustrated that he stood up and yelled,

“But you refuse to admit there is a middle ground!”

And I stopped and thought, What? Then I projected myself into Natalie again.

“What?”

“You say that you can’t be lazy or selfish. But ‘not overworking’ doesn’t mean you’re lazy. It’s not one extreme or the other.”

“But I—”

“You also refuse to see that a striving spirit doesn’t bring God any glory. Actually, I think that de-prioritising relationships and justifying yourself through work is just as bad—or worse—than laziness.”

Natalie paused. Worse than laziness? Apart from the obvious things like murder, nothing was worse than laziness. But a comeback for Jem eluded her.

Yes! I finally shut her up!

Natalie still has some tough lessons to learn through the book, but at least I can finally figure out the ‘good’ side of the argument.

Yes, God doesn’t want us to be lazy. But neither does he want us to be striving, burned-out, duty-bound people who have no fun. That brings him zero glory, and we get really tempted to feel like our work justifies us instead of his grace.

I find it hard to walk the middle ground, and even when I strike the right balance I feel like it’s not enough. But I guess that’s why God gave us his Holy Spirit, to help point me the right way again.

It just makes me laugh when he uses imaginary characters to do it.

Can anyone else relate? What’s been an unusual light bulb moment for you? How do you deal with workaholism or guilt?

Join the conversation below!

 

 

New Book Blurb Revealed!

Lots of exciting things have happened this week, the first one being my new book blurb!

Below is a sneak peek at my novel-in-progress, Hating Jeremy Walters.

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I’m a good church girl. How did I end up in this weird pseudo-family with two kids and the guy who broke my heart?

 

Natalie Groves could never hate anybody. Anybody, that is, except the love of her life.

She was nineteen when Jeremy Walters declared that he wouldn’t—couldn’t—keep faking his faith in God. Not for his overbearing father, not even for her. Natalie ended their relationship and he drove off to Chicago and never looked back.

Now Natalie is 26, single, and broke from paying off her father’s medical bills. And she just lost her job.

When Jem lands back in town, desperate for a nanny for his teenage niece and infant son, some say it’s Providence. Natalie says God has lost His marbles.

But with no paycheck and no savings, she can either go bankrupt or accept his job.

She’s tempted to go bankrupt.

 

Jem Walters knows Natalie better than anyone else. She’s ridiculously ticklish. She does terrible dance moves when she thinks no one’s watching.  She’s never felt good enough for God. And she’s still angry at him for leaving.

She never understood that he couldn’t fake his faith anymore, not even to save their relationship.

But now Jem’s talking to God again, and unusual circumstances mean he and Natalie are caring for his baby son and troubled niece together.

But raising a family is never easy, and doing it with a spitfire who wants to strangle him complicates things a bit.

Jem’s family doesn’t help, either. His niece is going off the rails, his son keeps drooling everywhere, and his father is an overzealous sheriff who’s more likely to give Jem a ticket than a hug.

And then there’s the secret that will rock their makeshift family to its core …

 

This week’s other two events are the arrival of my first writing business cards (!!!!) and Project X this weekend.

I’ll be running a creative writing workshop at the youth outreach event, as well as chatting with the girls who come through our tent and hopefully sharing God’s love.

Everybody’s prayers have been great, keep them coming! 🙂

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How God Strengthened my Identity

God's been strengthening my identity

©CreationSwap/Dawn Lamper

 

I’ll admit it; I like to be the best.

Whether it’s beating my friends in a game, coming up with the top idea at a work meeting or winning an award, being the best at something—no matter how small—feeds a deep-seated belief in me.

It says, I am not Most People. 

Throughout my life I’ve striven to be better than Most People. Most People aren’t careful with their money. Most People aren’t diligent about spending regular time with God. Most People don’t bother to turn their ideas into a book. A lot of advice I hear sounds like, ‘most people do this, but you should do that’. And I do. I’ve become proud of it.

But that attitude has crippled my identity. Especially as a wannabe author.

For a long time I’ve equated being like Most People, to failure.  I shouldn’t be like Most People; I should be better than that. I know better, I try harder, I work smarter.

But keeping that (very arrogant) mindset while trying to become an author is … well, it’s soul-crushing. This industry is so hard to succeed in. Even if I become part of the tiny minority that scrapes some profit from a book, the percentage of authors who have a long-standing career is even tinier. Looking at this big, scary industry, I’m overwhelmed with the fear that I will turn out to be Most People after all.

That fear has driven me to write more, learn faster and stress repeatedly. Failure is not an option, but if you judge a writing career by my (ridiculously high) standards, it’s not only possible, but probable. And if my identity as a successful person, a person who’s better than Most People, is tied to my writing career, then my own dream is a massive threat to my identity.

This is something God’s been working on in my heart ever since I decided to start seriously working on my first book, at the start of 2013. I’ve blogged about it throughout the year. Every time I investigated what it takes to get published or ways to promote my work, I’d feel panicked. Every time I tried an idea and it didn’t pan out, the pressure increased.

God repeatedly told me that success is not measured by numbers, but by obedience. And I could acknowledge those truths in my head, but my heart usually just muttered something under its breath and sulked off.

But lately, I’m starting to notice change in myself. The more I consider the idea of self-publishing (not that I’ve decided anything yet), the more I’m okay with not having my name plastered across every Christian bookstore. If God doesn’t plan for me to make money from my writing, that’s alright. If my career is short-lived, that sucks, but it’s okay as long as it’s part of His plan.

Now the pressure to crack the secret of book marketing is decreasing all the time. And thank goodness for that, because it was getting heavy. I want to simply try my best, be obedient, work hard, and then watch my career go in the direction God wants it to go … whatever direction that is. If He plans for me to reach 50,000 people, that’s what will happen. If it’s 500 people, that’s also what will happen. Neither option makes me a better or worse person.

All that matters is my obedience.

 

Teamwork is Sexy

I’ve done some completely different blog posts this week!

The first is up on the Christian Writers Downunder blog, and is piece for writers on how the concept of partnership is an effective tool to supercharge romantic (or even platonic) relationships in novels.

It’s even got a checklist with examples from popular books and movies. 🙂

Captain America 2 is a great example of teamwork.

Captain America and Natasha Romanoff have great teamwork in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

 

Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are one of the greatest fictional teams of all time.

Dr John Watson and Sherlock Holmes are one of the greatest fictional teams of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Annie and Auggie's partnership as workmates in the CIA is central to the TV show Covert Affairs.

Annie and Auggie’s partnership as workmates in the CIA is central to the TV show Covert Affairs.

Prince Charming and Snow White demonstrate fantastic teamwork in Once Upon A Time.

Prince Charming has partnership all figured out with Snow White in Once Upon A Time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The second is an interview I did over on Shannon Vannatter’s inspirational romance blog, Inkslinger, about my own love life.

Shannon Vannetter

Check them out!

Are You Ready?

I’m guest blogging on Tamera Kraft’s blog Word Sharpeners today.Tamera Kraft

Here’s a sneak peek!

Are you ready to be published?

All of us aspiring authors leap to our feet and scream ‘YES!’ We are so ready.

We’ve been writing till our fingers bleed, improving our craft, learning how to market and stalking agents. We’ve paid our dues.

We can’t wait to get to the next level; leave behind all the insecurities of being unpublished, the crazy self-imposed deadlines and the stress of self-doubt. We can’t wait to finally be called ‘an author’.

But a few days ago, something clicked in my brain. Am I really ready to be published?

 

Click here to read the rest of the article.

 

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God, What Do You Call ‘Success’?

If everything in life went as planned and you achieved your idea of ‘success’, where would you be in five years’ time?

Photo sourced from Every Stock Photo by familymwr, used under licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Photo sourced from Every Stock Photo by familymwr, used under licence: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

In my Day Dream Land, by 2019 I’ll be 27 and a well-known author of several novels and maybe some Christian living books. My writing career will be financially stable and growing, my readers will write to me and tell me how I’ve changed their walk with God and newbie authors will look to me for advice (which I will benevolently bestow).

Like I said, this is Day Dream Land.

God had me thinking about motivations the other day, and a possibility smacked me in the head. What if God asks me to keep my day job forever and release all my writing as free eBooks under a pen name, eliminating any money and recognition?

Yikes. I’ve never thought of myself as someone motivated by cash or fame, but that scenario sure took the shine off my ‘success’.

I’m not saying I will publish everything I write anonymously and for free. But all options are on the table; I’m following God’s leading here, not my own. Would I be happy if I had to let go of my definition of success for His? What is God’s definition of success?

I found it in the examples of David, Ruth and Joseph in the Bible.

David spent years on the run from King Saul, wondering why God promised to give him a kingdom only to make him a fugitive. Ruth left her family and country for a life of poverty in a foreign land. And Joseph was sold as a slave, unjustly imprisoned and then forgotten about for years. All three endured circumstances that they didn’t expect, and that no one would call ‘successful’. Yet all three remained faithful in the midst of their difficulties. And today they are some of the most highly honored people in the Bible.

If you read the rest of these people’s stories, their lives did come good in the end. But they weren’t honored as Jesus’ ancestors because of their eventual promotions. No, they were honored because they were committed even when life sucked. They were available to God at all times and they were obedient in all circumstances. They loved God above money, status, comfort and even family.

Because of that, Ruth has a whole book of the Bible written about her. David was called ‘a man after God’s own heart’. And Joseph saved his family and the entire country of Egypt from starvation.

So what if I never earn the admiration of readers? If I never make a living from my passion? The greatest names in the Bible achieved astounding success—though it wasn’t always recognized by the world—simply by being faithful.

 

What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Mark 8:36 NIV

To read the stories of David, Ruth and Joseph, look up 1 & 2 Samuel, Ruth and Genesis 37-50 in the Bible.

Who else do you know of who didn’t fit the usual definition of ‘success’, but pleased God anyway? Leave a comment!

Enjoy this post? Hit the ‘follow’ button at the bottom of the page. 🙂

 

New Adventure Starts

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My first ever guest blog post is now up on author Ada Brownell’s blog, Ink From an Earthen Vessel.

Click here to read the post, ‘I Don’t Want To Succeed’.

My next guest blog post will be on Emilie Hendryx’s blog, Thinking Thoughts, in a few days. Watch this space for the link.

Happy reading! 🙂