It’s cold in here. I’m sitting in the corner, bundled up as I stave off the air conditioner that refuses to quit running. Thanks to an unseasonably warm Florida fall, most buildings are keeping their spaces unbearably cool. Perhaps this is our only means for experiencing fall weather here in the Sunshine State.
The cafe is loud, but I don’t mind because I can smell the stories in the air. The scent of imagination mingles with that of my Cinnamon Spice hot tea, and I feel heady with delight.
If I had my choice, I’d hunker down in more intimate location. Barnes and Noble is a chain, and the cookie cutter nature of this space is less delightful. But still…the books.
I love books. I love words. I love imaginative storytelling.
As a new author, I have such a deep appreciation for the work that went into these books. I had no idea. Writing looks romantic on TV. It’s grittier in real life.
Writing isn’t just sitting in front of a typewriter in a quiet, breezy room tapping rhythmically on a typewriter. Mainly because no one uses typewriters anymore.
But also because writing is awful lot of sitting in front of the screen and staring at a blank page until some muse chooses to show. It’s hard, and solitary, and feels an awful lot like bleeding openly for the world to see.
Then you put your book out there, and you ask everyone what they think. And they can choose whether or not to love this work of your heart.
In short, writing is a profession of vulnerability.
Writers pour their hearts and souls into their stories, and then, if they’re willing to wait and fight for their stories, they find a publisher willing to print their words on paper. After all that, they turn their books in to the waiting publisher, and it’s all VICTORY! YOU DID IT!
Now get to work.
Authoring a book is more than just writing pretty words, and finding a publisher. There is marketing and promotion, pulling together a launch team, and finding endorsements.
Writers have to get their books in front of people who are willing to read them.
Launching a book may be the hardest and scariest part of the publishing journey. It is the moment when writers feel the most vulnerable, because this is when others decide is the work is worthy of their endorsement.
In the rocky soil of Texas, there’s a yearly beauty that springs up. Bluebonnets carpet the hot ground each spring, blanketing the state in vibrant color, and they always spring up from the rocks.
In an environment that seems completely unconducive to growth, bluebonnets defy the odds and bring beauty to the landscape.
You writers are doing the same. The terrain is rocky, saturated with others already fulfilling publishing dreams, and it seems that everyone else is springing up, and you wonder if there’s any space for you.
Dear writers – I want you to know that I’m standing in the gap for you. I see more than ever before the fight it takes to get a book to market, and I want you to know I’m on your side.
You’re doing hard things. You’re writing every day, sharing stories and messages with a world that needs to hear them.
You’re facing rejection, fighting to get your words out into a void already full of great works. But you believe you have something to add, so you don’t give up. This is hard, and I admire your tenacity.
You’re putting yourself in vulnerable positions, emailing friends, and perfect strangers, to ask for endorsements. You’re asking people to decide if your words are worthy of a recommendation, and it’s terrifying. I see you, and I’m for you.
You’re sharing your gifts with a small group, but longing to see that message spread to a wiser audience. As you seek to plant yourself in this rocky terrain, I want you to know I see you and you’re doing a good job.
Writer friends – don’t be afraid of the hard things. Keep typing those words and sending those awkward emails. Keep putting yourself out there, because beauty grows in the rocky places, and your dreams are beautiful.
As I sit here at the computer, my fingers hovered over the keys, I feel the weight of the silence pushing me from all sides. In a house full of children, silence is golden, right? Maybe. Or maybe not.
Those golden moments are precious, and I soak them up. But in the soaking, I want also to be productive. I’ve found that I better serve my family in the bustle. Cleaning the kitchen, folding laundry, straightening up rooms here and there – all of these tasks are more enjoyable to me as I float them in with the every day noise.
But the silence? I want to bottle it up.
I long to use these whispered minutes of my day to create, to feed the writerly part of my soul. And yet recently, when the quiet comes I find myself paralyzed, all the words bottling up instead of spilling out.
It feels forced right now. I’m pushing out the stories because I need to, and yes I want to, but the inspiration is lacking. I watch the clock tick away the silence, and I know the noise is coming back, and I want to make my fingers dance so that I can capture the words before they thunder through me.
But there is no thunder, and that is the problem.
Some call this writer’s block, and maybe it’s a touch of what I have. But more than that, it’s a paralysis of creative power. Because I’m so hell bent on writing words that matter, stories that resonate, characters that sing, and blog posts that people want to read that I’ve stripped myself of all inspiration.
And so I stare at a blank screen and will the words to come. The good words. Meaningful words that people could share. Instead, my eyes get tired, and I shut it down and stare into the silence until a baby’s cry slices through it.
I don’t quite know anymore how to write a book that will sell. I can’t figure out what publishers want, and I scratch ideas onto a pad of paper, then scribble through them because they sound contrived. Nothing is fresh, but rather my muddled mind screams IT’S ALL BEEN WRITTEN!
It’s true. The publishing industry acknowledges that “there’s nothing new under the sun,” and so we writers simply try to give a new spin on an old tale.
And the blogging. Oh, the blogging. So many words already written, and so many of them are good. They’re really, really good. I read the words and I wonder what else there is to say. So my fingers keep hovering.
But then there’s a little spark. Yesterday I passed a man on the side of the road. I pass him frequently, because he’s always in the same place. Sloan sat beside me and pointed him out. “I wonder why he’s always there,” he said. “What’s his story? He’s always standing in that same spot with his bicycle, just watching the cars go by.”
Just like that, a character was born, and my imagination felt a jolt. It was a small buzz, the kind that zaps you for a moment, then immediately stops. But it was enough to make my heart flutter, because it means there are still stories in there.
And in the fluttering, I remember that this time three years ago I was preparing to board a plane to Tanzania where I would tell, perhaps, some of the most meaningful stories of my career. I typed words that mattered, and I know that there are still stories waiting to be told.
Maybe I just need to be patient.
So I’ll keep hovering in the silence, waiting for the inspiration. And sometimes I’ll force the words, because deadlines dictate that I do so, but I’ll also keep watching in the noisy moments. There are words that want to be written. It’s just a matter of waiting.
So, writer friends, tell me: Do you ever feel a similar paralysis? How do you move past that feeling so that you can catch the waiting words?
This week, two friends offered me a bit of grace, a little encouragement, and just the kind of nudge I needed to push myself out of my creative funk. How did they do this?
Through a simple text, and a ten minute phone call.
There is no way to really stress the importance of having a few people who “get” you. You need people who will come alongside when you’re feeling discouraged, when you want to give up, when you just feel like it’s never going to happen, and who will remind you why you keep pursuing your dreams.
Jeff Goins calls these people your tribe.
Tribes are how we live our lives. We are constantly banding together with other people to discuss ideas and share information.
Your church is a tribe. Your job is another tribe. Your group of friends is another. You have a tribe. The question is: Do you know it?
Let’s ditch the jargon and just speak in plain English for a second. A tribe isn’t a fan club or mega, super platform; it’s just a group of people who care about something. And we all belong to a few of those, don’t we?”
The benefit to having a tribe, a group of people who will surround you in pursuit of making one another better, is that you’re never really alone. But you must be transparent and let people in. You have to share your dreams, to be open about the things that inspire you toward passionate living, in order for people to walk alongside and help you navigate the path.
For a long time, I was embarrassed to admit that I was writing a novel. I shared the information only with people I knew intimately. My reasons for doing this were not noble or humble. They were riddled in fear.
I was afraid that if I failed, if I never finished the book, or it ended up being terrible, that I would never be able to survive the humiliation. So I shied away from discussing my writing.
I quickly realized, however, that a secret passion is terribly difficult to chase down. Without the benefit of having encouragers by my side, I had no real motivation to press forward with the project. I could see it beginning to die.
So I told a few people, then a few more. Then I shared a few snippets of the book with my readers, and an amazing thing happened.
My confidence grew exponentially, as did the people who were cheering me on. This gave me the momentum I needed to push forward until I could finally type the words, The End.
I couldn’t have done it without my tribe of people cheering me on. And now? Now I’m in the throes of seeking publication. It is a discouraging process, filled with rejection, all of which can leave a writer feeling less than confident.
Just when I began to wonder if maybe I’d made a terrible mistake in trying to publish this story – maybe it wasn’t written as well as I hoped – I received a text from a friend encouraging me not to give up, and offering a prayer for the days when I feel overcome with doubt.
Two days later, a conversation with a mentor and friend who believes in me, and who has been a champion of encouragement to me throughout this writing process, told me he believed in me, and he believed in my book. His gracious words melted the fears and doubts that had crept in over the last few weeks.
Do you see the importance of surrounding yourself with encouragers?
If you have a dream, a goal that you’re working toward, have you shared that? Have you entrusted your pursuit with someone (or multiple someones) who will spur you on toward the accomplishment of that dream? If not, can I ask why?
Don’t be afraid of your dreams, and certainly don’t keep them to yourself, even if they seem lofty, impossible, or ambitious. With the power of a team (a tribe) backing you up, you will find that in the moments you want to give up completely, someone will be there to dust you off, turn you around, and keep pushing you forward.
All the way to The End.