Fear (and Faith) and Writing: We Need Trust to Fight Our Timidity

The prospect of failure terrifies me. I guess it terrifies many people and is the reason many an adventure is not sought, why many a business venture is not taken up, why many a work of art is not created, why many a relationship is not begun, and why many words remain unwritten and unspoken. I imagine a world in which this is not the case, in which every opportunity is taken and our efforts always prove fruitful. It would be a different world, to be certain—fuller, more vibrant, more intriguing and thought-provoking, more full of love, more inspired and passionate. Fear of failure stunts us and blunts our effectiveness. It is a thief, stealing our ambition, and a murderer, extinguishing our dreams. Fear of failure is the reason many of us give up. It is a tragedy.

In writing, the effects of fear take many forms. Some of us never even begin. An idea might strike us, a passion and message might take hold of us, but we snuff it out as soon as it threatens to become anything more. For others, we might write, but we hide it, a lamp under a basket. It burns inside us, but we refuse to let is see daylight, afraid criticism would douse our flame. Still others delay and put off the day we might share our writing with those around us. “One day,” we tell ourselves, once we are satisfied with our work, then we will let someone else see it, only “one day” keeps extending into the future, and we are never satisfied. Then there are those of us who lean into the fear, who use our fire not only to brighten but also to burn. With seeming overconfidence, we promise everything and deliver next to nothing because we see failure as inevitable.  We set everything around us aflame, thinking that if we cannot affect those around us in the way we desire, we can at least disturb and agitate them. Using our words as weapons, we cut down where we ought to build up and sever what we need to heal. Fear of failure is a tragedy.

How do we fight it? What blade can cut through it; what bullet can pierce it? How do we combat something so powerful and visceral and deep as this fear? Faith—I would suggest we need faith. Yet not faith in ourselves or in some empty, positivist promise that if we only try, we will succeed. Neither do we need the kind of faith that says, “Pray about it and let it go,” asking us to diminish the significance of what we are trying to do such that failure will no longer affect us. We don’t need to kid ourselves that we are somehow more capable than we are and that victory is assured, and we don’t have to make our success less important or vital to us. Rather, we need the kind of faith that says, “I will put in my all, and even so I might fail, but I will know that my efforts were not in vain.” But how can they not have been in vain if we fail? It is simple: we have been doing what we were made to do. Maybe writing is not about becoming a best-selling author, maybe it’s not even about changing just one person’s life. Maybe it’s about using words as a tool of creation even as our Creator used words to create us.

Our sentences might be clunky and our strivings to create meaning amateurish, even as an infant’s formation of consonants and vowels only vaguely mimics what its parents speak to it, but we are learning. Do we not tell ourselves substance is in the process, not just the finished product? When will we start to believe that? We need faith to combat our fear, trust to fight our timidity. We must believe that there is a greater purpose, a grander scheme, than the words we type and the sentences we speak. We have a deeper significance than what we do, and what we write is simply an overflow of that. That is what it means to be a writer. That is what it means to overcome fear.

Endurance and Writing: Because We Remember

To endure, one must persevere against something. Whether it be against pain or ridicule or even just time, to endure is to face something with patience and come out ahead. Many things in life require endurance—to withstand physical pain to complete a marathon, to compete against social pressures, to overcome the emotional strain of poverty, to stay true to a difficult marriage, or to hold oneself together in a mental health crisis. Such things require resolve and forbearance that are not natural to most of us. We learn them through hardship and hone them as we suffer. Not that we become stoic, but we learn to bend where we would break and soften when we would shatter. To learn to endure is to learn humility.

Writing, too, takes endurance. What are we enduring against? Many things, and each writer’s struggles are different. For me, it is a deeply entrenched impostor syndrome, a profound self-doubt, and simple weariness. I grapple with the intense fear that I am not an actual writer, that someone somewhere is going to find me out, that people already have found me out and are just playing along with my act to make me feel better. These thoughts might sound silly, but they skitter anxiously through my mind, and God forbid they take hold.

I also wrestle with self-doubt, which is related to impostor syndrome but focuses more on my innate abilities than on people’s perception of me. Do I know how to put together a plot, how to even string words together into sentences? Is what I write worth anything? All these thoughts of insecurity and self-berating are exhausting, thus my struggle with weariness. It takes a lot of mental stamina to withstand these attacks, for that is what they are—attacks on my self-image and self-worth, and they are no less agonizing having originated inside me. I get tired from fighting so hard to keep going, to keep writing, when all this is going on in my mind.

How do I continue, then? What is it that pushes me to keep writing, that drives me to finish what I started? What is the secret to endurance? I would suggest it is rooted in memory. There are three things that I believe one would do well to remember in order to endure in writing—inspiration, joy, and purpose. Each one of these focuses on either the past, the present, or the future respectively. Inspiration is about what struck the first chord in your mind to compose your symphony of sorts. Joy is the present enjoyment of writing, and purpose is the why of your writing, what you hope to accomplish with it. Let us look at each in order.

Inspiration

Inspiration is different for everyone—the spark that sets the passion to write aflame. For me it was two-fold. First, I had recently read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones and had become enamored with the story of Sophie and Howl. Second, I was working at a bank, and a small, local publisher came in to make a deposit. We struck up a conversation, and for the first time, it struck me that I could write a novel.

Of course, the kindling of this fire had built over time, from the stories I wrote in grade school to my first, secret attempt at writing a novel sometime in middle school to the poetry to which I retreated when I became overwhelmed at the thought of the discipline it would take to write a book. Even so, without the spark I experienced back in 2016 as a bank teller, none of that would have meant anything. It took a special set of circumstances to inspire me to first start plotting my novels.

We writers cannot take for granted what it took for us to take the first, decisive step on our journeys. In remembering the magic of those moments, we can recapture some of the initial drive behind our writing. It is the foundation upon which we have constructed the rest, the launching point for our voyage, the home we always long for as we wander far our in the reaches of our imagination, the thing that tethers us back to ourselves. I hope never to forget that initial thrill and exhilaration in thinking, Yes, I will write. It is one of those things that can carry me even through the most trying times.

Joy

In the present, we have the joy of writing. There is the satisfaction of putting to the page the ideas swirling in our minds, the catharsis of having expressed something long stored within our hearts, and the simple pleasure of feeling the pen scrawling words on paper or the delight of hearing the keys of our keyboards clacking rhythmically. There is something in discovering what we are trying to say as we say it that brings deep gratification. Writing is a beautiful process, not without its struggles, but when it goes well, what joy it brings to the soul!

It is hard to feel this joy while contending with the difficulties of writing, though. It takes sitting down and summoning the memory of it most times. It is not automatic and is hardly effortless, but it is worthwhile. To remember the simple joy of writing, the rapture that brings one more fully into the present moment, contributes to one’s strength to endure even the most difficult of times as a writer.

Purpose

One’s purpose in writing is forward-looking but differs from an agenda. It is the reason you are writing and is not always as simple as a message or a theme. In fact, it could be something other than the content of the writing itself. For me, it started with the spark of an idea for a plot and a desire to prove to myself that I could, in fact, write an entire book and not just poetry. With time, it morphed into exploration—an exploration of ideas and personalities, of relationships. One’s purpose is what one hopes to accomplish by writing. By the time I reached Book 3 of my series, my purpose was to find out what happened at the end of it all. Of course, I had ideas of plot points and the outline of how things ended, but I had no idea how the interpersonal and especially inner conflicts of my series would resolve. I am still discovering, in fact, and I am eager to learn and experience these resolutions. It is part of what drives me forward as I write. It is part of the reason I insist on enduring to the end, on seeing the whole thing through.

In the same way, we writers can use our purpose to propel us. We might want to illustrate an idea or explore a relationship, or we might hope simply to write an enjoyable novel that satisfies our desire to create something beautiful, but whatever our purpose, by remembering it, we can find the resilience to go on.

Remember

Of course, there are other methods one might use to endure in writing or in life, but I believe there is a reason we cherish memories and stories so much. They remind us both of what was and what can be—they draw from the past to reveal what could be our future. Many find comfort in certain memories and find inspiration in them to create a world where they can recapture the best things of life. Memories give us hope to go on, and it is hope that endurance most needs. May you find encouragement and endure to the end because you remember!

Depression and Writing: Instead of a Sacrifice

Depression is debilitating. How many days have I woken up with a deep sense of foreboding, dreading the day to come? How many times have I sunk down into my chair, staring at the computer screen without a clue which of my many tasks I should do next? How often have I thought to myself I have neither the skill nor the ability to accomplish what I want to accomplish? Depression steals my self-confidence and self-assurance. It convinces me that my dreams are far out of reach, that even normal daily life is beyond my capability.

Writing, too, is nearly impossible when I am depressed. Whatever I type seems to come out garbled and convoluted. What I intend as profound thinking instead appears obvious and crude. I cannot get out of my head and instead drown in self-criticism and self-condemnation. How am I supposed to write characters who are so different from me while trapped in a whirlpool of self-centered disgrace? With my gaze turned inward, I am blind to any perspective other than my own. No matter how many times loved ones encourage me to keep going, to keep writing, not to give up, I feel like I am slipping—slipping down, down, down into failure. I am determined to finish what I started, though. I am resolved to grind away at the millstone until everything lies crushed before me, until it no longer resembles the vision I had for it, but at least it is something different from what I started with. I have something to show for my efforts, for God forbid I have nothing to offer in the end.

 But what if it is not about having something to offer? What if writing is not about my deep thoughts or my cleverness or my insights? What if writing is not about me? I wonder if I stopped focusing so much on myself and turned my eyes outward, whether I would find something there. Might it be that the something I have been grasping to call my own only flourishes when I give up my possession of it? For ultimately, truth and beauty were never mine to own. They belong to Someone higher who allows me their use as a gift, a blessing. I have been so intent on offering something that I have forgotten what has been offered to me.

Depression draws my focus inward. It shrinks my world and threatens to choke me. Yet there is granted to me something to help me escape depression’s clutches. Writing—that wondrous fusion of truth and beauty—rather than being a stumbling block, can draw me out if I let it. Instead of being just another thing to make me feel incapable and small, it can expand my vision and remind me that indeed, though I am small, I am loved by Someone much bigger. His love is boundless, and I could spend eternity crafting words to convey just what that means. Maybe, rather than an offering, He really does require mercy. Maybe, instead of a sacrifice, He really does desire my knowledge of Him. How thankful I am for the gift of words by which I can know Him and be known!

Courage and Writing: We Need to Be the Heroes

I find it interesting the type of media we have turned to over the past couple decades. Superheroes have made a comeback, and science fiction and fantasy have entered the spotlight. I am not complaining, of course. In these genres are heroes that inspire us and villains that make us reconsider the world around us. I enjoy these films and books, and by them I feel stirred to greater courage myself. I would suggest we need these stories, as a society and as individuals. To explain my statement, let us start with a quote by C. S. Lewis.

“Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”

C. S. Lewis

Famous for the children’s series, The Chronicles of Narnia, among many other works, Lewis argues children need stories of heroism to face the evils that will probably come their way. I would argue we all, children and adults alike, need literature that presents courage and virtue in a clear light. Inevitably, struggle and suffering will intercept our paths, and such situations will demand of us bravery, bravery that defies even our own expectations.

Struggle is real to some even as a child. Other children have been shielded from painful battles, therefore life’s difficulties come as a surprise, a shock, in adulthood. It is without question, however, that everyone will encounter conflict and trial in their lives, whether it be financial, physical, social, or spiritual. To survive and to thrive, a person must stride forward with courage in the face of fear.

Yet how does one learn to do that? It is to this need the stories I have mentioned can speak. Watching our fictional heroes on the screen and reading them—or should I say, experiencing them—on the page, we find ourselves drawn into their conflicts and struggling alongside them for resolution. We root for their bravery and self-sacrifice even as we mourn the loss such things will entail. Dare I say we wish we could be them—to live a life that means something and leaves an impact long after we are gone?

It is into this need I find myself drawn as a writer. It is dangerous to write oneself into a story, it is said, and I found I have not done that exactly. Rather, I have written pieces of myself into characters more heroic than I am. I see in them the same impulses of fear and self-doubt that I possess, yet I watch them stride forward in the face of those things. They struggle and reach low points, leaving themselves on the brink of self-destruction, but in the end, they turn to hope and courage. It is that turning I yearn to watch, that I ache to experience through them.

And somehow, along the way as I write them, I realize maybe I do have courage—the courage to write, to present myself to the world, to pursue a dream that takes years of hard work to fulfill. More than that, I have the courage, the very audacity to hope and long for something better than these years marked by struggle and strife, and I have the courage to believe that one day I will reach that something better. I have the courage to believe that all this suffering and bitterness of days will not amount to nothing but rather will be transformed even as I am transformed into something beautiful.

We need our stories of heroism, and we need to be the heroes.

Beauty and Writing: That Which God Said to the Rose

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty,”—that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

There is much controversy concerning this statement from John Keats’ famous poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Many critics find this ending assertion flawed and marring. For example, T. S. Eliot wrote in an essay, “…this line strikes me as a serious blemish on a beautiful poem, and the reason must be either that I fail to understand it, or that it is a statement which is untrue.” Are truth and beauty interchangeable as Keats suggests? I am no philosopher, and having lived only three decades on this earth, I claim no special wisdom, yet I wonder if he was getting at something. Truth and beauty seem linked to me, and it is through writing that I have become more aware of their connection.

When I first started writing my fiction series, Children of the Glaring Dawn, I did so with a domineering attitude, subjugating my characters’ wills and even personalities to the plot and messages I determined. As a result, very little made sense in those first drafts in terms of character relationships and character development. Eventually, I realized what I was doing. It was a breakthrough moment when I saw my characters for who they are, and writing with that perspective, I was able to create something more honest and real—something more truthful. At the same time, the beauty of what I was writing shone through with great brilliance. I saw the merits of fiction-writing in a deeper way than I had imagined possible, and the messages that emerged from this transformation struck me in the core of my being with their breathtaking delight. In short, the closer I came to truth, the nearer I drew to beauty.

Years ago, Albert Einstein drew a connection between truth and beauty as well, saying, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” We can stand in awe of a many-hued sunrise or a poignant violin solo just as well as we can wonder at the love of a mother for her child or the way the basic forces of the universe hold our physical reality together. The line between truth and beauty blurs with these things. Are they beautiful because they are true, or do they seem most true because they are beautiful? Or are they both true and beautiful because of some deeper cause?

“Beauty itself is but the sensible image of the Infinite,” Francis Bacon said, and I think his words help answer the question we just posed. Beautiful things are such because they point to something greater, something deeper, something more. They reflect the Infinite, what by definition is beyond comprehension, and make it accessible to us. They take the invisible Truth and present it to us as perceptible, displaying the Unknown as something recognizable.

Beauty displays truth—that much is clear. But then does the truth display beauty? That is where writing comes in for me. I have found that beauty arises from the passages that ring most genuine and true. Writing of loss and suffering, of hope and love, the poignant reality of my words is what moves me. Reading is the same way. When I mark passages in books, it is because they compel me with their ability to describe the human experience. What results from the force of their truth is beauty.

In a way, I agree with Keats—beauty presents truth, and an accurate depiction of truth creates beauty, but I would argue that beauty and truth remain distinct. If beauty could contain all truth, then what of the experience of pain and anguish that plague so many in the world today? Starvation is not beautiful. War is not beautiful. Cancer is not beautiful. Dementia is not beautiful. Sex slavery is not beautiful. Suicide is not beautiful, and I could go on. There are true evils in the world today that I can in no way argue are beautiful, and I have no desire to try. Perhaps I can write and capture the experience of these things in a moving way such that my words are beautiful, but those words do not change the reality of agony and affliction for innumerable souls around the world. There is an overlap between truth and beauty, but our vile and ignoble acts mar the truth such that beauty cannot encompass it.

Yet as we look at the evils in the world, we know they are wrong. We have this unrelenting feeling that this is not how things should be—it is not how they could be. There is a deeper Truth than our messed-up reality, and it is when we touch on that Truth, we find beauty. Truly beautiful things give us a type of nostalgia for something we have never actually experienced. It is as though we are remembering some paradise we have never entered, but we know it is there, just beyond our reach. Our grasping at beauty and truth, our little attempts to capture them, fall short of transporting us to the place where they reside. C. S. Lewis writes of this in his book, The Weight of Glory:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

In reality, truth and beauty are not the same, but they proceed from the same source—the Truth and Beauty and Goodness and Love that set all of this in motion and is constantly calling us back to Himself. He gave us writing and music and paintings, sunsets and oceans and graceful creatures abounding, to awaken that “longing” just mentioned. Wanting us not only to witness beauty and truth but to participate in them with Him, He invites us to become truly beautiful ourselves. As Rumi wrote, “That which God said to the rose, and caused it to laugh in full-blown beauty, He said to my heart, and made it a hundred times more beautiful.” To write or draw or paint or read, to walk in nature, and especially to love a fellow human being and Truth Himself—these are ways we experience truth and beauty, and little by little, God whispers to us in them to make our hearts more graceful and delightful.





Acceptance and Writing: Suffering Borne Well

Acceptance is “the action of consenting to receive or undertake something offered,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Daily we accept things—situations, people, rewards, criticism. Though we might blush at being the recipients of some good we feel is unmerited, acceptance of gifts and blessings is often easy. We welcome comfort, security, favor, and praise, as they encourage us and assuage our anxieties about ourselves and our world. Acceptance of suffering and challenges, however, comes less naturally. We balk at pain, and well we should, as pain is the body’s way of indicating something is wrong. Pain is a warning signal.

Perhaps we forget, though, that acceptance is not the same as approval. We need not endorse the cause of our suffering to receive it with grace. There is merit in suffering well such that clergyman and social reformer Henry Ward Beecher observed, “Suffering well borne is better than suffering removed.” Pain breaks us down and reforms us. It shatters our fragile assumptions of safety and misconceived notions about what is good, then builds something stronger and more robust in their place. At least suffering can do these things if we allow it to. What it requires is acceptance.

How does this relate to writing? Writing is a challenge and a struggle—it is often painful. Whether you are experiencing an agonizing block to adding to your manuscript, smarting over the ridiculous mistakes you made in your first drafts, tender from critique as you realize someone saw those mistakes, or aching from rejection after rejection by agents and publishers, if you are a writer, you know what it is to hurt. The funny thing is that it is self-inflicted. We enter this life, perhaps unknowingly, as soon as we pick up the pen or sit down at the keyboard. Every step is another step into the sorrow of an artist—the persistent sense of unfulfillment, of being on a journey and not knowing if you’ll ever reach the destination. It is a pursuit of perfection with an acute awareness of your own limitations. Writing is suffering.

Yet we accept this suffering. We accept it in all its stinging, aching heartbreak, but why? I think we realize that something beautiful can emerge from it, and I do not mean the printed volume. Mary Tyler Moore put it well when she said, “Pain nourishes courage. You can’t be brave if you’ve only had wonderful things happen to you.” It takes great courage to be a writer—to pour one’s heart and skill into a mere few hundred pages (I have wondered whether a bookshelf, much less a single book can contain one’s heart) and to submit it to others for their perusal and interpretation. Some eyes are kind and insightful, to be sure, but there are vicious critics out there too, ready to devour our resolve and mettle. Yet our valor and daring run deeper. We have accepted the call.

We think we are receiving a challenge and suffering when we write (and we are), but it might in fact be a greater gift and blessing than we could have imagined. Perhaps we ought to blush at this—the opportunity to create, to explore, to take chances, to fail and pick ourselves back up, proving ourselves stronger than we ever thought we could be. Perhaps we ought to revel in our weaknesses and limitations because it is our awareness of them that shows our boldness and dauntlessness in striding ahead. When we accept writing as a gift, albeit a painful one, we prepare ourselves to be recipients of a glory not our own. It is a glory bestowed on those heroes who step out, knowing they will fall, determined to get back up and return to the fight. We will not give up.

Quarantine Fun

Alabama was one of the later states to give stay-at-home orders. They came last Friday (2 days ago) and went into effect yesterday evening. These are trying times, as things we once thought stable and consistent have changed on us: work schedules and operation, freedom to travel, childcare situations, socializing, etc. etc. I’m thankful that both my husband and I are able to work still and for family and friends who have stepped in to take care of our son while we’re away at our jobs. May we not take these things for granted once things return to what we would call “normal”!

To keep ourselves occupied and entertained in this time, a couple of my friends started a virtual scavenger hunt for the rest of us, and one of the items was to write a poem. This is what I came up with.

Coronavirus Chorus

Spare me the tale of your quarantine,
O suffering extrovert, O pining child.
Care I not to hear where you’ve been—
In your confining walls as though exiled.
All’s dull as you cook and read and clean.
Lo, I know it well, to put it mild.

Don’t regale me with stories of your indoor crusades.
Instead tell me of places distant and far—
Someone somewhere has it made.
They dine in a cafe, then browse a bazaar.
After that they venture into a store,
Never worried about that six-foot gap,
Caring little ‘bout the aisle of TP galore.
I, meanwhile, just take a nap.
No, I’m not complaining about the situation.
God knows, for real, I did need a vacation

From the whining clients and complaining collective
Or from the daily grind and corporate directive.
Right now, I don’t miss the hamster-wheel objective.

This sequestration, instead, makes me creative.
Having little in the fridge makes me innovative.
Each quiet hour, I wax meditative

While the world outside slips into spring.
In the calm, in his domicile, each becomes king.
Now, with six-foot partitions, the COVID choir sings.

Want to know a secret? This is an acrostic. Read the first letter of each line down to find the message.

The 5 Hardest Things about Writing

Writing, while fun and deeply rewarding, is also a difficult, even overwhelming task. You might have guessed as much or even experienced it yourself. Before I started writing, composing a whole book seemed insurmountable. Now here I am on Book 5 of my series, and I can tell you writing comes with a set of difficulties I hardly imagined when I set out on my journey. I have picked five of the more common and problematic issues to talk with you about.

Time Management

Of course, there is time management. My schedule is jam-packed with full-time work, motherhood, household tasks, mentoring, church, getting together with friends at least semi-weekly, and some other regular appointments I must keep. I somewhat expected this problem to arise. It was probably the main reason I felt I could not complete a project like the one I am on right now. Writing is a long-term commitment and requires devotion and set-aside time, something I was not sure I had when I started planning these books.

Given everything going on in my life, I do not know how I find time to write. I only know I have made it a priority to do so. Writing helps me sort through my experiences and feel more human, more me, and thus it is my go-to when I get home from a hard day and need some time alone. It takes the place of watching Netflix and other hobbies, such as crocheting, and I must make a conscious decision to use my time in this way. As I said earlier, writing is a commitment, and I must devote myself to the task as others devote themselves to sports or practicing musical instruments if I am to succeed.

Writer’s Block

Writer’s block was the other problem I foresaw when I began planning these novels. It comes up for two reasons in my experience—an emotional block or mental exhaustion. Being prone to depression and anxiety, when these conditions ramp up, I have a hard time concentrating and connecting with my characters. I am too much in my head at that point to funnel my emotional energy in any other direction. In addition, when I have written thousands of words or am tired from work, my mind is so scattered I cannot think about what my characters would say or do in a situation.

What do I do in these when this happens? Most times, I give myself a break, or at least that is what I ought to do. There are occasions I try to write anyway, which ends up just frustrating me and discouraging me further. Sometimes I try listening to my Children of the Glaring Dawn playlist, attempting to reconnect with the characters and scenes I have written or plan to write. Other times, I drink some coffee and find myself re-energized. In the end though, I need to be okay with doing something else. It is not disastrous to miss a day or even a week of writing. Sometimes it just takes a little space to reorient myself and dive back into a writing spree.

Coming Up for Air

One thing I did not suspect was how much my characters would mean to me or how deeply I would get caught up in their world. They are playing out the stories I tell myself, the narratives I have about life and people, and thus they are fascinating to me. They are the way I sort through my own experiences and understandings, and thus I can get lost in them. Then I must come back to the real world and interact with real people (who I do not know as well as my characters, mostly). I must face the fact that these other people have not the slightest idea of the adventure I have been on.

How do I reconcile this? For one, I feel like I am carrying around a beautiful secret, cherishing it until the right person and occasion comes along to reveal it. The times when someone shows a genuine interest in what I have been writing have been some of the most treasured moments of my life as I am sharing my heart, my very soul, in the form of a story. Second, I must continually make connections between reality and what I am writing to not lose myself for good in the story. I must reflect on why I write what I write—why a character says something a certain way, why a certain function of the world works the way it does. This way I ensure I am connected to the real world even in my creativity. I never want to lose that connection.

Comparisons

One of the most tempting things to do as a writer is to compare, whether it be our past work to our present or our work to someone else’s. I have fallen prey to this often, yet no good can come of it. Once you have published a work, you cannot change it, so comparing it to your present work after months or years of growth will only make you miserable. Comparing with others’ work leads to either a woeful sense of shame and inferiority or a haughty sense of superiority. Neither has served me well, making me blind to either the merits or faults of what I have written.

How do I avoid this, as tempting as it is? First, I make sure not to read my own past work or others’ work when I am feeling depressed or off-kilter. I know that I will draw unfounded conclusions based on my emotional state rather than on reality when I feel that way. Second, I go into every reading with a desire to appreciate and honor and laud the excellencies and worth and value of what I am reading. This is much easier said than done, and I can go into something with the best of intentions and end up bemoaning my writing flaws and shortcomings, anyway. Nevertheless, I must at least try to approach whatever I am reading with a positive and appreciative attitude.

Forget Where My Worth Lies

The final difficulty I will discuss, though far from the last difficulty of writing, is remembering where my worth lies. It is easy as a writer to define myself by what I produce, but as Jackie Hill Perry tells us at the end of this video, we are more than a commodity. It is easy to define myself by the value of what I create and by other people’s opinions. Online reviews and others’ responses to my writing can make or break me sometimes. Whether relief and pride or discouragement and shame result, this is an unhealthy mindset.

How do I break myself out of it, though? I reframe things in my mind. I am not a writer, rather I write. I am not an author, rather I compose books. I do things, but I am not those things. They are not what defines me. Rather, I am a daughter of God, loved by my Creator, redeemed by my Savior, and set to create for His glory. Ultimately, this is not about me, I must remind myself. This is how I combat this problem of forgetting where my value stems from.

Not Giving Up

You might have noticed that I did not include wanting to give up in my list of difficulties of writing. Strangely to me, this has not come up often, hardly at all, in fact. Even when I took a year and a half break after writing the first 100,000 words, this project was always on my radar. I would take my computer with me wherever I went just in case I got a sudden inspiration. My patience and devotion paid off, and I began writing again almost two years ago. I have never truly considered surrendering to incompletion.

Why not? I believe it is because I have seen the incredible value of writing in my life and also the merit in what I am writing. I am passionate about this project and about writing, the reasons for which you can read about here. The Children of the Glaring Dawn series has captured my attention and devotion. It is my art and my way of displaying the beautiful, sometimes heart-rending reality I find in the Story of all stories, and I pray you might discover something just as worthwhile in it yourself.

A Writer’s Gratitude: Four Reasons I Thank You

I think we sometimes underestimate the impact we have on other people. I know I do. Sometimes it’s a sharp word spoken to my son at which his face turns down. Sometimes it’s a smile on a friend’s face at an offhand comment I make. Sometimes it’s a sentence I wrote that I didn’t think about that is nonetheless profound to someone reading it. Yet every so often there will come a moment that reminds me of the power of human interaction, and yesterday I experienced many such moments.

The Backdrop to My Gratitude

First let me emphasize that as an author, I have found myself vulnerable in many ways. I’ve worked for years, pouring my heart into this story and these characters only to find them printed on a page and distributed to whomever cares to read my work. I don’t have the guarantee that all these people will read with eyes of grace and appreciation. In fact, I’m much more likely to find that some of my readers are critical, nit-picky, unimaginative, and just plain negative. It’s a dangerous world out there for an author—your heart, your very soul, expresses itself in a piece of art that, once having been measured by the degree of honesty and beauty, is suddenly measured by how many stars it receives on Amazon. To be candid, I’ve been terrified of this part of the publishing journey.

I don’t say all this to draw pity or sympathy, however, rather to set this as a contrast for how significant and uplifting your support is in my writing. Yesterday, the launch day for Light of Distant Suns, was a beautiful day in so many ways for me, and I want to share with you how you encouraged me.

1. Words

I can’t begin to list all the kind words and encouragement I received yesterday. From the smallest “like” on my Facebook live video to the lengthy conversation with one of my friends about this publishing journey to everything in between, I found myself showered with support and love. As a writer, even the smallest “way to go” or “great job” means a lot and helps propel me forward. If you want to encourage an author, it’s as simple as telling them you appreciate how hard they’ve worked, that you’re proud of them, or that you admire them. To everyone who went out of their way to lend me strength with their words, thank you!

2. Attendance and Presence

Another great encouragement I had was all the people who attended my online and in-person launch parties. From my family to my friends to friends of friends, the sheer number of people who showed up has bolstered me to move forward with greater confidence and grace. It’s not always possible, but if you know an author is having an event, whether a release party, a signing, or a lecture, make an effort to show up. Your mere presence is a reassurance that we’re doing something right and a reminder that you care about us. To everyone who stopped by online or in person yesterday, thank you!

3. Reading the Book

Of course, one of the best ways to support an author is to read what they’ve written. Read seeking understanding. Ask questions and search for answers. Reflect on what you’ve read. Share in the adventure on which the author has embarked, and let us know your thoughts with gentleness and appreciation. I am looking forward to friends and family reading my book because it is a way for me to share with them a piece of who I am. To all those who have read or plan to read Light of Distant Suns, thank you!

4. Sharing with others

One last way to support an author is to share their work with others. This could look like mentioning their book in conversation, reposting a tweet, sharing a Facebook announcement, and giving or recommending their book to someone else. Networking, so vital in the corporate world, seems also essential within the publishing world. Word of mouth is a great way to spread the news about an author’s work. I have seen a great deal of support in this capacity already, and I am so very grateful for it. My family have all been amazing publicizers for my book, and I can’t thank them enough. To all those who have helped spread the word about my debut novel, thank you!

A Shared Effort

To wrap up, let me just reiterate how much each of these types of support has meant to me. I believe in the power and significance of what I’m writing, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded sometimes that other people believe in me as well. I see the potential impact of my words on readers, but I won’t see that come to fruition unless people actually read what I’ve written. In a way, this is a type of group project. I’ve done a lot of the work on the front end, but I need you all to help me with the rest. While I might not have the opportunity to thank you individually, let this post serve as a reminder to you—I appreciate what you’re doing. I appreciate you. Thank you.