Yesterday, I was asked if I’m still writing.
Although my quick answer was Yes, I am deep in thought now about what it looks like from here.
And honestly, from here started about two days ago when I posted a quote. But let me back up a bit.
It doesn’t seem possible that I first read Heather Thompson Day‘s Twitter post over two years ago. She, a college professor and author, wrote:
I had a student who was late to class come up to me afterward.
“I’m sorry I was late.” He said. “My mom died this morning & I didn’t know where to go, so I came here.”
& that was the day I decided to treat every single student as if I have no idea what they’re going through.Heather Thompson Day, April 10, 2019
Since then, I’ve read her words on (mostly) a daily basis and been inspired by her warmth, authenticity, and humanity. And, because I’m quite the fan, I signed up to be on the launch team for her new book, It’s not your turn – what to do while you’re waiting for your BREAKTHROUGH (which you should absolutely preorder and dive into the minute you get it, just sayin’).
So I started reading the minute I got my copy. And, as always, I read it with a pencil or pen and, usually, some washi tape or post-it notes so I can keep track of the words I find most compelling. Heather’s book is not short on them. She writes about life’s successes and presumed or perceived failures and misses, her experiences with all of them, and how she learned about truth and reality and God’s love in the waiting rooms of life. And when I read these words, my heart grew two sizes and my eyes started leaking…
Sometimes it is not your turn and it is also not your fault.
Now, I know that it’s not true, but at times it feels like it’s never my turn. As in forever. Not my turn to be first flute or have a boyfriend. Not my turn to get a music teaching job or move away from home. Or to be as pretty as everyone else or have the right kind of straight hair or contact lenses. It wasn’t my turn to find the right guy at church or get picked for the youth choir. (In fact, it was the consensus that I give up any aspirations I might have in music – of any kind. Do tell.)
I could go on and on, as could you, most likely.
It’s not as if good things didn’t happen while I was waiting… I did get married and had a baby and opened a little business (for which, by the way, we should have been kept in the waiting room a lot longer – long story) and even happily married again. Faithful friends, financial security, good health, by and large, and a life of experiences in travel, exploration, and adventure.
And, although not always in my chosen timeframe, I’ve gotten jobs that I wanted. Unfortunately, they were not always the best match for me. Like the time forever ago that I begged God so mercilessly for a teaching position I think he eventually just gave in. “You want to be a teacher? Fine. Here ya’ go. And, by the way, good luck with that.” Once again, perhaps I should have heeded those pesky cautionary signs plastered all over the waiting room walls. Today might look a lot different. Oh, well…
But since I left the teaching profession to do what I thought was right for me, I haven’t found the “My Turn” door.
During that first year out of the classroom, I felt wholly compelled to write, to pursue publishing, articles, non-fiction and children’s books. I made lists and researched all kinds of ideas I wanted to write about. Outlines, reference materials, and writing seminars filled many hours. Copious notes lay about on random scraps and in journals and notebooks about every and any kind of published work.
I even took an unpaid internship at a publishing company, hoping for a long-term assignment in editing. Boy-howdy, did that turn out completely wrong in so many ways.
As a freelance writer, I didn’t and don’t have what it takk to pitch ideas and land high- or even low-paying gigs writing about things for which I cared nothing at all.
Even the little self-published chapbook** about gratitude, illustrated by a close friend and given away to anyone interested, wasn’t much of a hit. This is not meant as a complaint – just an honest emotional response to something that I thought would be the beginning of something bigger.
Again, though, evidently not my turn.
At one time or another, I fancied myself a custom-work calligrapher, a card and calendar designer, a home-party-style basket or jewelry salesperson, and purse and tote creator. I may not have been the most remarkable go-getter you’ve ever known, but I practiced and sampled and called and visited and asked and presented the best I could for each endeavor. Alas, the answer was “no.”
So back to the original question: Nancy, are you still writing?
The original Yes is still the answer. But now it is spoken more slowly, with a different voice. Not with less confidence, but certainly with less anxiety.
We’ve chatted more than once about the building of a “platform” or readership and followers. I have – probably more than I should have – bemoaned the fact that I just can’t break into the viral scene – even on a very modest level. Not unlike several million other online writers, few of my words or writings are shared widely or noticed by much of the world.
However, there is a handful of people who regularly comment (the blogger’s dream-come-true and goldmine) and indicate a general appreciation for not only what I say but how I say it. I wish I could express exactly how glorious it feels to see that “New Comment” notification pop up on my WordPress icon.
And so, when I was asked the question about continuing to write, I thought about all of the Debby-Downer reasons I’ve used to slow it down to a crawl. Until I remembered something Glennon Doyle said during one of the seminars I attended in the long ago when both of us were in very different places.
She was talking about what it means to be tenacious and fearless when it comes to writing for your life. I can’t remember her exact words, but it was something like, “Many times people will tell me they are discouraged because no matter what they do, how often or seldom they write, how hard they work on turning the perfect phrase to engage their readers, whether they write a little or a lot each time, they just can’t seem to grow their audience. My advice to them? Whoever your audience is, write for them. Even if you are reaching only two or three people, it might be that one of the faithful in your little posse needs your words desperately – maybe more than anything else in the whole wide world – and you are the one and only person meeting that need. Write for him, for her, for them.”
In February, I mentioned a song by Ray Boltz in which he sings as if he were in Heaven, where people he’d never known, but whose lives he had affected by supporting the work and love of Jesus, lined up to say Thank You for Giving to the Lord. His line will be pretty long, you know, with the albums and concerts and radio play and all.
But I’d like to think I mean it when I say “if only one person finds comfort, peace, happiness, or support from what I write, it will have been worth it.” I’d like to think that it may not be my turn to be a big shot or widely-read author and it may not be my turn ever… and it is also not my fault. And it also may be the plan. And I might just find out all about it someday, Somewhere.
It’s easy to say God has BIG PLANS for our lives. WooHOOOOO!!! It is an easy answer when our goal is to dismiss discouragement and betrayal and failure. It’s a way to look the part of a devoted and faithful Follower, all the time knowing that not everybody, no matter how devoted or faithful, will get their turn – at least not the way they picture it. And not everyone’s turn will be big.
Not in the eyes of the world, anyway…
I’m hoping we all find the My Turn door and that it looks and feels a lot like we expected. I’m hoping all of our dreams come true – at least the ones that bring out our best. I’m hoping the waiting rooms have comfortable chairs and lots of good books, art supplies, music, and snacks.
Most of all, though, I’m hoping that, when someone’s door opens, we don’t think twice before we let out a big ol’ Hip Hip HooRAAAAYYY! for them – even if we’ve been sitting there ever so much longer.
As always, as we wait, I pray for you …
**A chapbook is a small, inexpensively printed book or pamphlet containing poems, ballads, stories, or religious tracts, usually about twenty-four pages and sold without a cover.