Saturday, June 22, 2013

Fear and the Writer - Part 2

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Last week, I talked about fear. For those of you who missed that post, you can see it here.

The question - in six words or less, what do you most fear as a writer?

So what was my "off the cuff" but uncomfortably accurate response to that question?

Revealing my heart.

Talk about scary, particularly for an introvert who had learned at a very young age that revealing your heart meant showing vulnerability, which was like blood in the water in a society where I'm surrounded by sharks (people who will prey on that weakness). Attention can be good, bad, or indifferent - I've known that my whole life. But showing vulnerability? Only stupid people who didn't value their lives did such things.

Thankfully, God doesn't give up on those of us who an evil, fallen world has taught to hide behind walls as high and thick as a European keep. He gently, with love and persistence, leads and teaches until the walls come down. Because He knows something VERY important....

How effective can we be as writers if we don't do reveal our hearts, bare our souls, expose our inner thoughts and emotions to a potentially hostile world? Whether we do so in blogs or other non-fiction works, or we expose our hearts through fictional characters and their stories, we put a piece of ourselves into everything we write. And readers can generally tell when that element is missing.

It's taken a LONG time to learn to share my emotions, imperfections, fears, and deeper thoughts with others. A very long, arduous, often painful process. Through it, I've learned two things:

1 - God doesn't want me to live in fear, closed off to those my life touches, unable to reach out to others who may be struggling in the same way I have. He wants us to step out in faith in HIM and not allow fear and the evil in this world to take us hostage and cripple us emotionally and spiritually.

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For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. - 2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV)

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. - 1 John 4:18a (NASB)

The Lord is for me; I will not fear; what can man do to me? - Psalm 118:6 (NASB)

2 - When others act like "sharks" and try to prey upon me when I open my heart to them, IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. No pity party or wallowing allowed. Let it go. It's about THEM. It's a reflection of just how miserable they are in their own lives, and if I really watch, I'll see they tend to treat others the same way they've treated me. Their words and actions should NOT cause me to close myself off to the world again. To do so gives their negativity, hatefulness, etc. power over my life that those things don't deserve to have. More than anything, such behavior demands prayer for them.
But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. - Luke 6:27-28 (NASB)
I think most believers understand how these apply to our daily lives and dealings with people. But how do they apply to us specifically as writers?

One, negative reviews on published books. If we haven't (yet) received them on our own work, we've all at least seen scathing reviews written by those who just like to tear others to shreds (if you look at other reviews they've done, you can readily identify these individuals - they never seem to have a nice thing to say about anybody) or hate someone's work simply because it reflects Christ (even if they've never actually read the book, interestingly enough).

Should we let such reviews make us change what we write because we shudder in fear of receiving more such comments? Absolutely not! We should seek to please God first and foremost, above every person out there. If people don't like that, well, that's their problem, quite frankly. We're not to be conformed to this world. (Romans 12:2)

I'm not saying we should be sloppy in our work or disregard actually-constructive criticism, but that's a whole different ballgame from letting fear drive us to write other than as God desires us to.

Two, the writing itself. If we truly want to touch readers, we MUST be willing to share our hearts and souls with them. And, yeah, I know this isn't easy. Boy, howdy, do I know. This is my biggest struggle. Each layer of emotional depth we put into our work is that much more of us we're letting the world see in some way or another. That's not easy. But the Lord doesn't call us to reach out to others only when it's emotionally "safe" or we simply can't keep ourselves bottled up, so we should approach our writing the same way - with an open heart obedient to His leading.

I know my struggle is not the same as what others face. Some cling to fear of not finding an agent/publisher/editor for their book, not getting the cover design quite right, not getting a back cover blurb exactly right, the book not selling, knowing what promotional tools and techniques to utilize, and a slew of other things along those lines. God has all of that well in hand. Does He expect us to do work to get it all accomplished? You bet! But He's already handpicked the agent/publisher/editor for each author's work. (He also knows whether He wants your work to be traditionally or indie published, too - just ask Him.) He knows whose hands need to receive a particular book. He can and DOES provide guidance regarding cover designs, back cover blurbs, and/or promotion options.

He knows what He desires for the outcome of a given work. If we ask, He WILL lead us down the right path, to the right people, and put our books into the hands He desires if we seek His will.
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. - James 1:5 (NASB)
That's a tremendous comfort to me. He asks me to take steps of faith, do some work with regards to editing, book cover design, back cover blurbs, and promotion as He guides me. He takes it the rest of the way. But for me it all begins with a mighty step of faith in revealing my heart in the act of obedience - the writing itself.

What fear do you find yourself struggling most with in regards to your writing? What verses have you found that help you stand against it?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Fear and the Writer - Part 1

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You know, when you really think about it, it's funny some of the things we fear. We human beings have such a wide array of fears as individuals, my Roget's thesaurus contains an entire list of individual "phobias" that is, I'm quite serious, pages long. And it's not even a complete list of all of them, which is probably the scariest thing of all.

There's everything from the range of routine and common, such as:
Acrophobia/altophobia/batophobia/hypsophobia - heights
Agoraphobia - open places
Arachnophobia - spiders
Belonephobia - needles
Ophiciophobia/ophiophobia - snakes
And, of course, a list especially for the various types of germ-phobes out there.
Then there are the less common ones, such as:
Aulophobia - flutes
Baruphobia - gravity
Chromophobia - color
Linonophobia - string
Neophobia - new things
And the list goes on and on. Oddly enough, public speaking (glossophobia) isn't on the list. Clowns (coulrophobia) didn't make Roget's list either; yet that's a common phobia as well. (I've never liked clowns myself, but since I figured out what exactly weirded me out about them they no longer have the power to fill me with fear or cause nightmares like they did when I was a kid. I still don't like them though.)

You could probably look down Roget's long and varied list (or another one) and laugh at some that seem truly bizarre or identify with others to one degree or another. Having had a string of phobias throughout my life that God, through His power and grace, has helped me overcome, I can understand a lot of the ones that might otherwise have struck me as silly. Some of them, I honestly still don't get.

The phobia list hits home, though, when you reach the emotional ones - fear of rejection, imperfection, being alone, and/or failure. How many of us haven't experienced those?

One of the writing organizations I'm connected to on Facebook posed the question recently - In six words or less, what do you most fear as a writer? You know how they say that generally the first thing that pops to mind when you are asked a question is the REAL answer. Yeah, well, I had one of those moments. Others posted about facing or not meeting deadlines, not finishing their book, not finding an agent/publisher. Mine was more internal than that. It came right off the top of my head and actually caught me by surprise. Then I realized it was bulls-eye accurate.

Check out next week's post to find out what my response was and what thoughts it triggered.

In the meantime, how would YOU answer that question? What do YOU fear most as a writer?

On a more fun note - have you ever looked at a list of phobias as a way of generating ideas for characters and/or stories?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Life Interrupted

Photo courtesy of Melodi2 at
It seems like, just when life is on a smooth track and you can get so much done, it suddenly gets interrupted by things beyond your control. At least, that's how I feel lately.

The full heat of the Arizona summer is upon us, so working outdoors is out of question. Even working inside can be hard as the room we're currently hitting has no heat or cooling. Ugh. So work on our house has slowed to a crawl. At least it's still easing forward, even if very slowly.

I've been too distracted to write lately. Through the first week of June, I haven't had much success sitting down to edit either. Even as I'm preparing for the release of my third book, I can't seem to maintain my momentum. I'm spending a lot of time in prayer and contemplation instead, as well as seeking the stillness of mind that comes with crocheting (working on a couple of large projects). Sometimes I escape into old TV show re-runs on Netflix, something I can do while crocheting.

With many of life's difficulties, I find writing to be a good escape, or therapy to work through the emotional struggles that come with so many situations. But this time, one of my aunts lies dying in hospice from metastatic cancer. I've waited to receive the call any moment of each day for the last several days to tell me that she's gone. Still I wait, and she continues to slip away in painful fashion.

None of this is unexpected, but that doesn't make the reality any less difficult in some ways. I pray for the Lord to show mercy and take her quickly to end the suffering. I pray for her children and grandchildren to be ready in their hearts for her inevitable death. Some of them are believers, some aren't. I pray for my grandmother as she watches one of her children die. She's already lost two children, as well as a grandchild. Now she's losing a third. It's taken a toll.

In the last few days, I've also dealt with the loss of a beloved pet. Salt in an already raw wound of sorrow.

Life gets interrupted. By life. It really is that simple. I take comfort in knowing none of it catches God by surprise, even on the occasions it totally blindsides us. He saw it all coming. He knew the pain I and others would feel. He prepared our hearts to reach this moment in time. I wrap myself in the knowledge that He promises comfort to those who mourn (Matt. 5:4), so there's no shame in grieving the losses that come with life in a fallen, sinful world.

And as always, life will go on. Time doesn't stop under the weight of loss. It marches step-by-step ever forward. And thus it will do until God brings an end to this world and all its sufferings. Times like now, I crave that time. No more illness. No more death. No more sorrow.
And He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes, and there shall no longer be any death; here shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away. - Rev. 21:4
But that time is not here yet. So I keep moving forward with life, walking the path God has laid before me (or at least trying to), performing the tasks He has for me, giving thanks for His loving, faithful presence through all of life's difficulties.

Lord, help me hold to the narrow way and perform the tasks You've assigned to me. Help me hold true to You, no matter what. Amen.