In Which I Ramble About Writing
Friday, May 20, 2016
I just finished the sequel to The Best Kept Secret, and now it's with my beta readers. It felt incredible to complete the work on those last few chapters, as well as on Emma's story, and despite the work that remains in terms of getting the book ready for publication, I AM SO DONE.
Let me explain what I mean by that. I love to read fiction (like, with a Noah + Allie kind of passion). I love to get lost in worlds that are not my own and fall in love with characters that are purely the product of an author's imagination. There is nothing more magical to me than the wandering eternity of a novel. There are so many possibilities. So many opportunities. But in regards to my own long-term career, fiction is not for me. It's enjoyable, for sure. And Emma was so much fun to write. I laughed with her and cried over her losses. I definitely shed some tears at the end of her story.
But, when all is said and done, fiction is not where my own story ends. It's where it begins.
I'm currently dealing with a little bit of restlessness regarding my career. I'm more confident in my skill as a writer than I've ever been before, but I'm uncertain about where God is going to take it. Funnily enough, I'm not afraid. Getting published sort of crossed my fear of never "being a writer" off the list. What I'm facing right now is a proverbial fork in the road. On one side I have what I've been doing for a few years, which has been wonderful but also feels very temporary. And on the other side is a future I feel God gently nudging me toward. The issue with His gentle nudge is that I can't see three feet in front of me. I'm walking blindly, relying only on the guiding pressure of the Lord's hand at my back. It's a good thing He's trustworthy.
In general, I gravitate towards writers who talk about real life. Often fiction does this well by commenting on the human experience through a made-up story. But REAL life, and REAL people, just get my gears going, man. If I could sit down with an almond milk latte and hear every single person's testimony, I swear I'd do it. And I think we should do that more often, whenever we can. Listening to someone's life story teaches us what politics and opinions never will: that we are far more alike than we know. And we all have something to offer each other. So when I read writers like Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle Melton, and Christine Caine who just lay it all out there and invite their readers to share in the mess and beauty of life, I feel it. I feel the quiet click of something sliding into place within me. And I know. I KNOW.
My faith thrives when I write about the difficulties of doubt. My marriage thrives when I put pen to paper and write out my frustrations or concerns. My mothering thrives when I admit my own flaws and share them. It makes sense to me that the blog posts I've written about motherhood or living with anxiety or wondering about God have brought in more readers. Those are the kinds of things I want to read from others. I want to know I am not alone...and evidence suggests there are plenty of other people who feel the same way. My hope is that I'll get to meet these people through the pages of a book.
I believe wholeheartedly that we shouldn't write for the approval of others, nor should we try to replicate someone else's success by penning a book similar in theme or message. But I do believe that as authors our words are important, and they can be transformative in the lives of the people who read them. This is a fantastic responsibility. And it's one I will happily carry should I get the chance because doing so would also be a profound privilege. Both The Best Kept Secret and the sequel that has followed are an attempt to mirror the reality of what people experience every day. Loss. Love. Fear. Worry. Hope. And I am more proud of them than I can say, truly. In no way do I regret beginning my career as a novelist. I will love every single page of my books until the day I leave this earth. I worked my ass off on both of them and I look forward to the work that's yet to come. But I say all of this because I know a change is coming. The sequel is the last novel I plan to write. And when it's done, I will proudly hold it up and share it and pray with all the faith I can muster that it matters to someone. That it brings them healing or joy or both. And when the fervor of publishing another novel dies down and I put my fingers to the keyboard once again, I have no doubt that what comes out will be absolutely nothing like either of my first two books.
Don't ask me why I'm sharing this now. I don't plan my blog posts or have a calendar. I write organically, and this shift in perspective is happening in real-time. So I'm sharing it real-time. Maybe it's a way to hold myself accountable. Maybe I'm just word-vomiting. (I will forever be grateful to Tina Fey for that phrase.) Maybe I'm wondering if the ministry I think I'm called to is anything more than a little girl's dream in a woman's body.
I guess we'll find out, won't we?