The Tension of Striving

I’ve been thinking about this lately. Striving, striving, and striving again with my writing. Getting rejected and being knocked down by said rejection. Thinking I had nothing to contribute because I was so different. Getting back up and trying again. Wondering if I was where God wanted me.

These are all things that have created this tension within me and, I’m pretty sure, within all of us who are creatives. This brings me to a question. How can I create from a settled place? Does there always have to be tension, or can I actually feel settled as I create? This place would say I’m going to keep trying no matter what, but it would also say the writing, just the writing, is what matters in the grand scheme of things. Not the achievements that could come, not the goals that could be reached, just the writing.

For me, I have figured out I need three things to feel settled as I write so I can strive from the best place. The first of these is my writing life itself. Octavia E. Butler had this to say about writing. “You don’t start out writing good stuff. You start out writing crap and thinking its good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it. That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence. So, persistence is important in staying settled. I also like this quote by Anne Frank. “I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” Writing also helps my courage. That’s another reason to keep doing it. Finally, one of my favorite quotes by Virginia Woolf leads into my second thing. “Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” This is truth for me, so much truth.

This also leads to the second thing I need to be settled with in order to write from my best place. My life. That’s it, plain and simple. I might not ever have any family or friends that read my writing or encourage me with it. I might always be considered too strange to contribute to anything or anyone else. There might not be people who want to be my friends because they don’t like who I am and wish I would be different. But, I can’t be different. I can only be the way God made me, and that needs to be enough.  Enough for the settling and enough for the striving.

Finally, I need to be settled with my faith in order to be at the place where I can strive with my writing. I’ve spent a long time denying who I am–not in the blogosphere, but in the real world. I want to be accepted in my community (Who doesn’t?) so I pretend to like things I really don’t and don’t talk about things I do like. It’s a conundrum. We try to fit in when we’re not made to fit in. We’re made to stand apart and reflect the love of our God who made us. As it says in John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus died on the cross for all of us, and for me, when I’m settled in this truth, I can strive and I can write with my truest self.

Praying for all of us to have success in the tension of striving!

Overcoming

Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about being at a stalemate (http://thrivingingrace.com/stalemate/) and not thinking I had the talent or will to move forward. It seemed to me that the approach I had taken with my writing was too general, and no one would ever read what I had written, not strangers and not even people I knew. It was a frustrating place to be in since writing was the only place I felt like I could clearly communicate. My spoken words were not easily understood, and I didn’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I wasn’t sure where to go from this hard place.

For several reasons, I still feel like I don’t fit into real-world groups or situations, but I figured out I had been more specific with my writing than I had thought. I’m still asking myself how I got to this point, how my confidence was renewed. It was simple really, and something I would heartily recommend to anyone who has the funds for it. I went through what turned out to be a life/ writing coaching session. Let me outline how it came about. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook, and I saw a post in one of my writing groups. It was from someone who was doing research on creativity. She was asking that people complete a questionnaire and participate in a phone call with her. It sounded pretty simple so I decided to give it a whirl. I completed the questionnaire and then emailed her to set up a time to talk. It took us a bit to find a good time but then we decided to do our call this past Saturday.

I got up Saturday morning excited, but a little nervous. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. She put me at ease immediately. We were both moms. In fact, one of her children was the same age as one of mine. We talked about the different parts of the world we lived in–She lives in Spain, and I live in the southeastern United States. Finally, we started talking about writing. I shared my desire to help people with my words. I shared how writing had helped me with some dark moments from my past. And I shared how I had developed my writing routine over the past few years and especially over this past year as my younger son started his post-high school career. She had me do an imagination exercise of where I would like to be in three years. The conversation was fun. We laughed, and I felt like we made a real connection.

Then, she asked the question that brought me out of my stalemate. She asked why my answers to the questionnaire had been so different from the conversation we had been having. I had to think for a second. I explained about the stalemate I had been in and how I was feeling lost about my prospects of going any further with my writing. Then, a word came to mind. It reminded me of the words about having a theme I had read from author K. M. Weiland. I knew what the theme to all my writing was now. Everything I had written so far had been about overcoming. I write about other people overcoming things I wish I could overcome. I write about gaining and losing courage and then gaining it again. I write about my faith and my writing and the challenges I face as an introvert. I write about my God who overcomes and my Jesus who overcame His death on the cross to become my Lord and Savior.

So, my writing is more specific than I thought. It has a theme and a purpose, and I can see a way forward now. I am so grateful for this conversation with someone who gets me as a writer and as a person of faith. She also reminded me Jesus shared stories during his ministry. I had always wondered how life coaching worked and now, I know. My wish for all of you who are creatives is to have that friend, that person in your life who can have that conversation with you.

Praying God’s blessings on you all today!

Permission to Feel

I dreaded the days leading up to this Mother’s Day. It’s always been a hard day for me because of my relationship with my own mother, but I made it more difficult last year by thinking my permission to feel my own feelings had been yanked from me. It was not really yanked; it was just how I felt.

God gave us feelings when He made us. Feelings that we, in the church, have classified as good feelings and bad feelings. When we come together to worship, it’s okay to have the good feelings. The bad feelings, not so much. Or maybe I should say that people are uncomfortable with bad feelings. I know I have been in the past.

But, as I’ve gotten older and experienced more of life, I’ve realized some things about myself. First of all, I feel deeply perhaps more deeply than other people, and it’s gotten me into trouble more times than I can count over the years. Second, I suffer from a mental illness that makes these deep feelings even more prominent. It tells me that my feelings are wrong even when they’re not, and I have to jump through hoops to figure out how to reconcile my feelings with my faith. Finally, I battle with realizing my worth to my Lord and Savior and to the people around me. I have a hard time knowing what feelings are true and what feelings are not as I seek to live my life as His disciple.

So, this past year has been a tough one for me as I’ve sought to figure out how I was supposed to feel in the different situations that came up in my life and what would be God-honoring as I negotiated my way through it all. When things went well and when I had what I considered to be good feelings, I didn’t struggle, and those were the good times. But, as we all know, the good times never last and are always interspersed with bad feelings. Those were tough times for me especially when I felt I didn’t have God’s permission to have the feelings I had. I felt alone and ashamed and felt like I had nothing to offer to God, to others, or to myself.

During those times though, I was also studying, praying, writing, and talking through my feelings. It was like a yo-yo. Sometimes, I felt God’s presence through all I was doing, and the times would be good. And then, there were the other times when there was silence. I felt like I never knew what was okay and what wasn’t since I couldn’t sense God’s presence and felt like I had to model what I was seeing in other Christians.

I know that was a mistake now which brings my story of this past year up to yesterday morning. I’ve studied and written about Scriptures where the writers were honest with God about their feelings. Scriptures such as Job 3:25-26. “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” Or Psalm 109:6-9. “Appoint someone evil to oppose my enemy; let an accuser stand at his right hand. When he is tried, let him be found guilty and may his prayers condemn him. May his days be few; may another take his place of leadership, May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow.” For some reason though, I had it in my mind that those “bad feelings” were only okay for writers of Scripture and not for me.

But, yesterday…yesterday, it came together for me in a way it hasn’t before. From verses used in Sunday School to verses used during the sermon to a phrase used that has become the title to today’s post, God showed me I had done something to myself He had not ordained. It’s okay to feel whatever I need to feel whether it’s a good feeling or a bad feeling. I had His permission. There was even a present for me, a deep thinker, in the verses used, Luke 2:19 says, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Yay! A deep thinker in Scripture. Someone like me. It was a moment I will always treasure.

God made me just the way I am for a reason, and I’m gonna live into it as much as I possibly can. I won’t be ashamed of my feelings anymore. Thank you, Jesus, for helping me forgive myself and for giving me permission to feel. May we all feel that from you today!

God bless you all!

Stalemate

It’s taken forever to get this post up between everything I’ve had going on and website issues. I’m hoping my musings about where I am can help some of you, or maybe you have suggestions for me. Anyway, here goes.

Last week, something happened that befuddled and bewildered me. It made me unable to think of anything  I could write for this blog. It also made me stop and take stock with where I thought I was heading with this “empty nest” life of mine. And it has now thrown me into a stalemate.

What could be that major? What would make me stop pushing and living into this new life? To understand it, I would need to go back to the inciting event. (See, I do understand how to use literary terms correctly. 🙂 ) I turned in a writing piece for a contest. Now, some might think this post is a piece about rejection and stop reading here. It’s not. I understand about rejection and know that I will have many, many writing pieces rejected before I “make it.” No, this is something else, another step past rejection, which has thrown me into this stalemate.

If someone is a writer, they know or should know the steps to take when either submitting a writing piece for a contest or for the possibility of purchase by a magazine or publishing company. They follow the guidelines for what the story or writing piece should be about. (example–don’t submit a romantic story if the magazine wants science fiction stories), and they follow the guidelines on how to submit the story. (include the story in an email or attachment, type of font, etc., etc.) I did all this when I submitted my writing piece for the contest. I followed the instructions on what to write and how to submit my piece. I knew there was a chance I wouldn’t win, but I also knew I’d never win if I didn’t try.

So, I submitted the piece last week. I was very surprised to get a response back not ten minutes later saying my essay would not even be considered for the contest. I was mortified. Apparently, what I had thought was an appropriate topic meeting their specifications was, in fact, not an appropriate topic. It was political correctness at its finest.

But, that brought me to these questions. How am I ever going to know if I interpreted something correctly? Is this where the trying, trying, and more trying come into play? Is interpreting something incorrectly another form of rejection? The uncertainty is almost enough to make me want to put down my pen for good.

If that wasn’t enough, I also have to add in the question of what topics to write about. I think this is what has actually brought me to my stalemate. Do I want to focus on a particular genre or type of writing with the sole goal of getting published? Or do I want to write what’s on my heart so people can see the passion and courage behind my words? I know this question should be easy. I should write the words and stories that show my courage, passion, and heart. Author Jeff Goins posted some questions I’m also considering. “What kind of artist do I want to be? What kind of writing do I want to do? What kind of writer am I? Who am I really, and how can this work illustrate that?” These are good questions, helpful questions, and I’m working through them.

Praying for all of us as we work through the stalemates in our lives.

God bless you!