Friday, August 26, 2011

The Honest Writer

“Hey, Jen! How are you doing?”
Would it be okay to say I’m overwhelmed, exhausted, lonely, and ready to cry?
“Pretty good. Just taking it a day at a time. You?”

It’s easy to fudge the truth when you know the person asking the question is doing so more out of courtesy than curiosity; in their mind they’ve already moved on to the next item on their to-do list. As writers, however, we don’t have that luxury. Our readers are investing one of their most precious commodities in us — time. When they read our words a kinship is formed that is like a real relationship, and when we take advantage of that we don’t just disappoint them, we break their trust in us. It’s no wonder there’s so much outrage when it’s revealed that a best-selling author has fabricated his memoir or lifted a large section of her book from another writer and claimed it as her own.

When I started this blog, the goal was to create a place to encourage other writers, and I’ve found it’s quite easy to put a big smile on a bad day and act as if all is well in my little world. Though there is nothing wrong with looking for the silver lining (in fact, I encourage it!), if I’m not honest with myself how can I be honest in my writing? Now I’m not advocating posting dark, depressing odes in a blog or moaning in status updates, some things are better left unsaid in public, but there is an ancient saying that has been one of my mottos since college: Homo sum. Humani ni a me allenum puto!

I am human. Nothing human can be alien to me. It was written by a slave centuries ago, but it’s as true today as it was then. We’re human. We experience the same emotions, we live through similar experiences.  Writers have good days and bad days the same as everyone else on this swirling dust mote. If I’m fake in my writing, it’s eventually going to catch up to me, and my readers being as smart as they are will call me (or in the case of my fiction, my character’s) bluff.

So, yes, lately it seems I have a little more on my plate than I can handle at times and there are moments I feel like I’m going to buckle under the pressure, but it’s teaching me to see things a bit differently. As I was driving home from work last night I started thinking about what is truly important to me; what it is I want to spend my time doing, and when it’s more than okay to say that dreaded little word “NO.”

I love writing. It’s something I want to spend the rest of my life doing in some form or another. I enjoy updating this blog as often as possible. I hope to have my book published someday soon, and after that, another. I love working in Youth Ministries. It’s something that fuels, challenges, and stretches me as an individual. But I don’t need to be a part of another committee or take on that extra editing project. The truth is, the more I weigh myself down with the “extra” stuff, the less time I have to enjoy the things that make me smile.

A wise friend recently told me that, while I’m doing better at it then days past, I need to stop trying to please everyone and start enjoying the life I want for myself. And that, friends, is exactly what I plan to do.

How about you? Do you ever feel like you take on too much and then feel guilty for putting your writing on the back burner (or worse, for making it your top priority)? What have you done, or are in the process of doing, to change that? I’d love to hear your thoughts. –Jen


  1. Thanks for sharing your heart with such courage and transparency, sister.

    I have been blessed with the opportunity to take a Spiritual Formation class this semester. I was a bit shocked when I realized how much time management plays into our spiritual growth.

    I struggled with the inability to make boundaries, in the past. The Lord used "Boundaries" by Cloud & Townsend, to help me understand how vital it is for me to be able to say "no" to the world, if I want to be available to say "yes" to God.

    In "Ordering Your Private World" by Gordon MacDonald, I found similar affirmation and conviction. MacDonald writes, "...I had to say no to things I really wanted to do in order to say yes to the very best things" (p. 96).

    It's a learning process, especially for one who is not naturally organized, as God helps me order my private life.

    However, spending time with Him and seeking direction from Him has got to be my number one priority if I'm don't want to write from an empty well.

    Thanks for affirming what God is teaching me about how important balance and priority is in living the life of abundance He promises.

  2. Xochi, thanks so much for sharing what you're learning! That was something I really needed to hear as well. I'm going to have to add the MacDonald quote to my quote board. It's a good one to remember!