What Now?

Along the Way @ mlsgregg.com

Gentle Reader,

I have no idea what to do now.

I’ve written and rewritten and edited. The in-text notations are formatted. The bibliography is finished.

Ten months of work (in fits and starts) completed.

What are you supposed to do when you reach the goal?

At age six I knew I wanted to be one of three things: a writer, a teacher or a gardener. Occasionally I flirted with the idea of becoming a lawyer, but for the most part the dreams stayed the same. Wonder of wonders, the Lord has seen fit to grant me the desires of my heart. Oh, not in the ways I imagined. There is no dust jacket (yet). I don’t stand at the front of a classroom. I’m not a master horticulturist. Still I get to pound on the keyboard and lead people through Bible studies and dig in the dirt. The path has been anything but straight, but I am fortunate to be able to do exactly what I set out to do.

I’m not entirely sure why I’m bewildered that I’ve written a book.

It’s almost…embarrassing. Perhaps the sense that I should feel…ashamed?…for seeing it through. There’s a feeling I can’t quite describe associated with the completion of this project. I can’t quite believe it’s really done. That I, this person whose faults and failures I know all too well, did the thing.

I’m not searching for compliments or reassurances. I’m aware that defeat snatched from the jaws of victory has its source in the Enemy of my soul. He wants me to stay down and stay hidden. He’s madder than a hornet that I’ve finished. I get it.

Stupidly I am more comfortable with that then the sense of the Lord’s pleasure at my obedience. Yes, I am hard on myself. I know. But this is the battle. Getting that last word on that last page was the easy part, and I sweat plenty of buckets in the process. Now, figuring out what to do next, that’s the truly hard thing. I could quite easily let this manuscript sit in the netherworld of the Google cloud for the rest of my life.

People can’t tear apart what they can’t see.

So, dear reader, I seek your prayers. I ask you to join with me in petitioning the Lord to make His will clear. It’s easy enough to know that I am supposed to share this thing others. The how isn’t easy to discern. I would love to have a professional editor hack apart my precious and mine from it the jewel within. That costs money. I would love to find and hire an agent. That also costs money. Even if I go the self-publishing route through Amazon (a viable option), I still need to find someone who would be willing to comb through each page in search of errors. If that’s not a professional, then it would have to be someone who is both a grammar nazi and not easily offended.

You see, I did not write a fluffy book. My words are going to make people angry. This isn’t my intention, to inflame tempers, yet it is an inevitable consequence. I know that I’m going to be attacked in a vicious and highly personal way whenever the words go live. Pray for me on that account as well. Ask God to make me strong and brave. Ask Him to help me remember the words He’s given me over and over:

God’s Message came to me: “Son of man, speak to your people. Tell them, ‘If I bring war on this land and the people take one of their citizens and make him their watchman, and if the watchman sees war coming and blows the trumpet, warning the people, then if anyone hears the sound of the trumpet and ignores it and war comes and takes him off, it’s his own fault. He heard the alarm, he ignored it—it’s his own fault. If he had listened, he would have saved his life.

“‘But if the watchman sees war coming and doesn’t blow the trumpet, warning the people, and war comes and takes anyone off, I’ll hold the watchman responsible for the bloodshed of any unwarned sinner.'”

– Ezekiel 33:1-8 (MSG)

Not that I am a prophet. By no means. Certainly I have not been given some extra-biblical revelation. I fully understand the historical and theological context in which these words were spoken and who they were meant for. Nevertheless, every time I have questioned, doubted, wondered, in the process of writing, the Lord has brought me to this passage. I would be a fool not to pay attention.

I don’t ask you for money or for you to abuse any contacts or friendships you might have. I ask only that you cover myself and this book in your steadfast, hearty prayers. I ask that you join with me in seeking Him. It may be that He’ll have me release the book as-is, on this site, for free. That’s fine. It might be something different, something harder. That’s fine, too. I want to follow where He leads.

Thank you, friend.

I won’t bring this up again until the way forward has been revealed. We now return to our regularly scheduled blogging about everything and nothing.

My journey to faith. (15)

Photo credit: Patrick Tomasso

Dreams

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Gentle Reader,

I have come close to shutting down this blog. In fact, I have come close to giving up writing altogether.

During the winter of my first grade year, I started writing Sherlock Holmes stories (you don’t know about plagiarism when you’re 6) on big, connected sheets of computer paper that my dad would bring home from work. The kind with the alternating white and green lines. I think I also had a journal that year (never, ever has it been a diary), though the memory is a bit fuzzy on that. What a little girl would have to write about in a journal and what adventures I concocted for that eminent fictional hero, I don’t know, but I do know that I was immediately hooked. The way the pages rustled. The way the words looked. The way the pen felt in my hand.

The way I could say things that I otherwise couldn’t say.

There were times I flirted with the idea of being a teacher or a lawyer, but inevitably I would come back to writing. My by-line appeared in the school papers from age 10 through the college years. Short story assignments thrilled me. Essay contests were a great challenge. Even working on poetry, not my forte, was better than crunching numbers for some ridiculous math assignment.

Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I would confidently reply, “I want to be writer.”

Perhaps you remember that I decided one of my goals for this year would be to finish a project (i.e. a book)? It’s not happening. I had an idea. I plugged away at it for awhile. And then..I didn’t like it anymore. It sounded too much like someone else and nothing like me. So, I abandoned it. Well, not entirely. I thought I might approach it from a different angle. Haven’t started.

Today I wrote in my journal:

“What am I missing? I don’t want to be stuck. Yet…I am.”

That feeling of stuckness leaves me pondering some things. I have always connected writing to the conventional world of publishing, whether magazines, newspapers or print books. You let your soul bleed onto the page and, if someone decides it’s worthwhile, they take it and put it in a pretty package and you get some money. Then you start the process again. Hopefully, you’re successful enough to make a living at it, without pandering to the whims of publishers or the fickle hearts of the public.

But what if this gift, this call, is meant to be used differently? What if the blogging and the emails and the sending of birthday/sympathy/whatever cards is just as impactful as a book?

What of all the talented people out there who never do see their names emblazoned on the front of a paperback? I wouldn’t tell a single one of them to give up their dreams. With all my heart I believe that their messages are important, their voices meaningful. They must find a way of expression, even that expression is confined to the smallest of audiences.

And what of writing for the pure enjoyment of it? There is a great richness to be discovered on that blank page! Must it be all about getting the money that doesn’t really provide the security? Must it be about gaining notoriety? I can at least be honest about that; I would LOVE for a reviewer to give me glowing praise! But…how long would the effect last? I know myself. Not long.

I have been approaching the art of writing as a way to make my mark on the world. And that approach has become a paralytic. It has to be perfect, it has to be totally unique, it has to be the BEST. If it isn’t any of these things, then it isn’t worth it. And if it isn’t worth it, then why do it? But who decides what is and what isn’t “worth it?”

Forgive this rambling musing, dear reader. There is something here that I am wrestling with, and I suspect that I am not the only one.

My journey to faith. (15)

The Writing Life

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Gentle Reader,

Participating in the 31 Days challenge reaffirmed for me the necessity of daily discipline in writing. Though I cannot find the source of this information just now, I remember reading that Edith Wharton and Henry James both maintained a strict writing schedule. While I am not arrogant enough to count myself among their ranks, I see the sense in the blending of art and work. Some days the words flow without effort. Others, they must be forced.

I have had a new project lurking in the corners of my mind for some time now. The preliminary research is done; pink sticky notes mark important passages in several well-loved books. But I am afraid. I open a Word document and stare at the blinking cursor. It seems that my experience of two years ago not only knocked me down a much-needed peg or two, it inspired fear. What if I can’t do this? Why do I think I have anything valuable to say?

There is vulnerability in putting words to paper. I like blogging because I can ignore negative comments. I don’t have to see anyone read these posts. To write another book, to pour in the hours of effort, to delete pages worth of work and begin again, all to run the risk of being rejected…. Crippling self-doubt halts the process.

I am shaking my head right now, seeing clearly that I continue to idolize the good opinion of others. Ah, but a writer lives on those reviews – doesn’t she? Or can she pursue her craft as an act of faith, lifting it up as worship to the King?

Long ago I determined that this writing would not be about me. If I believe that God gives us gifts and talents, then I must believe that He wants us to use those gifts and talents in service to Him. That means words. That means sharing the truth the best way I know how. So pray, dear friend, as I struggle to begin. There may be days where it comes easily. There may be days when I fight with my own self just to spit out one sentence.

Fear has stopped me from doing too many things, too many times. I can’t let it get in the way of this. I don’t see myself big enough or brave enough to shove the feeling aside, but I know the One who is.

My journey to faith. (15)