Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Struggling Writer

(As published in Christian Communicator, February, 2008)

I confess. I am a struggling writer. No, I’m not standing on a street corner holding a sign that reads “WILL WRITE FOR FOOD” – yet.

But, yes, I struggle. I spend more money on conferences, workshops, and how-to books than I earn with my scribblings. I keep telling myself this is not just an expensive hobby; I am honing my craft, cultivating a new career, and someday I will earn a tad more than I spend. I keep reminding myself that it is God who called me to write; it is God who will bring the increase. But, I continue to struggle.

I struggle with craft. I exhaust myself with mental contortions to create compelling characters and gripping plots. I stretch my brain until it is as thin as a sheet of 16-pound glossy white paper, to put exactly the right word in exactly the right form into exactly the right place to evoke exactly the right feeling. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a nap.

I struggle with emotions. To create characters that children will love, I must dig deep into my own soul. I have to plunge into my own childhood joys and sorrows. I must wade through the mire of my own faults and fears. It’s often painful. And my natural inclination is to avoid pain.
I struggle with those nitty-gritty mechanics, too. Write – edit – rewrite – critique – rewrite – edit – rewrite …

Then do it all again.

I struggle a great deal with finding the right publishers for submitting my manuscripts and proposals. I jokingly tell my writing buddies that I spend more time researching the market and publishers than I do writing. But it isn’t a joke. It’s the truth. And I’m not laughing about it.

My biggest struggle, however, is with my apparent lack of success. I have a few small credits, but, after five years of blood, sweat, and tears, I’m still praying for that first big contract! That magic phone call or email that says, “Yes! We want your manuscript. We like the sweat of your brow and the blood draining from your veins. It’s good enough… Yes!”

So, I write and wait. I struggle and argue with myself that if God called me to write my writing would be blessing others. But my writing isn’t blessing others because no one is reading it. No one is reading it because no one is publishing it. No one is publishing it because it isn’t good enough – yet.

I struggle with my self-doubts and my need to succeed. I lay my work on the altar, then, inevitably, pick it up again and sling it over my shoulder until I stumble under the load. Once more I pray, “Remind me, Lord, exactly why I am doing this.”

And He does.

He reminds me through the voice of some other struggling writer that I write because He told me to and that publication will come - someday. He reminds me through His Word that He has called me to paint pictures with words – pictures that illustrate His truth and beauty for His children. He reminds me through my grandchildren that He has called me to write good and beautiful things so that the generations that come after me will see Him and His power and love in the words I leave behind.

And for a while my struggling subsides and I rest in His promise that He has begun a good work in me and He will faithfully complete it. (Philippians 1:6)

I struggle again and again to believe that success in writing, or in any area of my life, will not come by my own craft or craftiness. I struggle again and again to believe that success for me will come in faithfully doing what God has called me to do, and waiting for Him to bring the increase.


Niki Schoenfeldt said...

Bravo, Jean. Well put. You've just shown what a fantastic writer you are in the wording and language you've used for this post. I totally agree with everything you said. It is a struggle, and it is one God has given us. However, I want you to know, you are a gifted writer. Your time will come. One day, the right manuscript will land in the right hands of the right editor and just the right time. And when it does, it will only be the beginning because more are sure to follow. Good luck, keep the faith!


Jean Matthew Hall said...

Thank you, Niki.

I have to echo the same sentiments for you.