You are wasting your time. No one will see or appreciate your work. You’re failing.
Even though I haven’t been consciously thinking those discouraging thoughts, they’ve definitely been on my mind over the past few weeks. Self-doubt has been infecting me. Quietly hovering on the edge of my subconscious, a general feeling of failure and foreboding has been like that sticky black goo that covers Peter Parker in Spiderman 3. Strong, dark, evil, and hard to get rid of.
Part of it is my addiction to affirmation. God’s weaning me off it, and this novel-writing venture is certainly stretching me. It will be a very long time before an agent, editor or reader tells me, “Good job!”. In the meantime I must plot, research, write, read, re-write, edit, edit, edit, re-write and so it goes on.
To put it simply, the waiting is frustrating. Alone at my computer, sometimes I feel insignificant, unworthy and foolish.
But then God reminded me of something I should have known all along: everyone has to wait.
Abraham stayed childless for decades. Joseph served time first as a slave, then as a prisoner. David was chased from cave to cave. Even Jesus spent years building tables and chairs. I’ll bet they were all tempted to feel forgotten, useless or alone. Yet when the time was right they founded nations, ruled empires and saved the universe.
The book of James opens with the words, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you face trials of many kinds”. (James 1:2 NIV, emphasis mine.) Pure joy? That’s right. Because God is teaching me perseverance; giving me maturity. Same as He did for them.
It’s a little humbling. Suddenly I almost feel proud that God is asking me to wait. I’m sharing in an experience that all the greatest men and women of faith have gone through. It’s an honour, really.
And so is God’s reminder in Psalm 139 that I’m not alone. Even when it’s been just me and my computer all day, God’s actually paying pretty close attention.
O LORD, You have searched me
and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
You know it completely, O LORD.
Psalm 139:1-4 NIV
How about you? How do you feel when you’re stuck waiting? What do you do about it?
The dance floor in my heart helps stop the wrestling match in my head.
Huh? She’s been cooped up in her office for too long.
No, I’m not crazy. Let me explain.
For me, it is a constant effort to keep God at #1. There is a wrestling match going on in my head at all times – sometimes of WWE proportions.
I love God, but I also looooooooooooove my writing. And while I’m working to follow God and use my writing for His purposes, the devil is still trying to exploit anything I love.
The temptation comes all the time. The nature of writing means it is continually on my mind, no matter what I’m doing. I listen to novel-writing lectures while I wash the dishes. I invent plots while I drive. I think about blog posts while I do my devotions. And nearly every spare moment when I don’t have to be anywhere else (and a lot of moments when I should be somewhere else), I’m typing away at my keyboard.
Writing is hard to break into, so I need to put in these hours. But it’s so easy to get anxious. I feel like I’m not working fast enough. I want to hurry up and get published so I can start getting paid. The self-doubt creeps in and I wonder if an agent will scorn my manuscript.
I can see how easy it would be for God’s voice to fade away – especially if all I’m thinking about during my devotions is what verse to use in my next blog post. Yes, my writing is full of God. But just writing – or knowing – about Him is no good if I don’t know Him. If I’m writing an article on someone, I can read a book about them, interview their friends and look at the work they did. All good stuff. But it doesn’t replace sitting down with that person over coffee and having a chat.
My counter-measure – apart from sticky notes on my wall reminding me to trust God and be patient – is a dance floor in my mind.
It’s my version of that verse in Psalm 46:
Be still, and know that I am God.
No thoughts about writing are allowed on the dance floor. I approach, wearing my awesome lace gown. God is there, in His tux. Sometimes I’m so amazed that He’s always there, I bow to the floor before He picks me up and we start to dance. Other days, I just run and hug Him.
After a while I might start to tell Him about my book. But only if I’m talking to Him about it, not just writing it in my head. But we don’t always talk. Sometimes I just let Him hold me, and as we stand there it slowly seeps back into my brain just how much He loves me. It’s like the love is soaking through my dress, my skin, into the core of my being.
Then I feel better. That’s when I remember who I am. I am not just a writer. I may not even be a writer at all.