I've pondered this question and concluded that I have two basic fears: 1) that I won't finish (and therefore, my stories will never gain a readership), and 2) that what I have to say has no real value.
You may remember from a previous post that I've been working on my novel for quite a few years. I was hoping that this would be the year I'd finish it so I could move on to the next stage of getting it ready for publication, but a couple of major things have happened to make that improbable. Even for the pieces I have finished (i.e. picture books), it's been a while since I've submitted, and you can't get published if you don't send stuff out. Is it fear of rejection that forestalls me? No, I can handle rejection - each one brings me closer to success - it's finding the time to do the task. At the moment, time for myself is a commodity of which I don't have much.
As to the value of what I have to say, I mean eternal value. For sure, there's no real lasting value in the books I've written for preschoolers; they're cute stories, intended purely for entertainment. Nor is there lasting value in two of the three romancey short stories or one of the two Chicken Soup for the Soul stories I've had published so far. While there is something to be said for giving the reader a momentary escape from the daily grind, or in bringing a smile to her face, as a writer who is also Christian, God is the audience I wish to please most. Is He pleased with my more frivolous pieces?
There is a popular phrase today. You see it often on the back of pick-up trucks:
I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! (Psalm 121:1-2, NLT)I know I've taken this out of context, but it still applies. I don't need to worry about whether or not I finish the work. If the Lord wants my words to go forth, He will equip me to make it happen. He will give me the time I need; He will give me life and breath and skill. Yes, I need to use all that wisely, to steward it to the best of my ability. And if I don't complete my novels and stories, I still need not concern myself. God has other spokespeople He can use; no doubt many of them are more competent than I. Why should I care if He uses them instead of me? It's not about me. It's about glorifying Him.
Aha. When we fear, we are focused on ourselves, not on the One we claim to serve.
As for worrying that my work has no eternal value: when I think about it, my novel and other short stories (in other words, my works in progress), do have important (though I hope non-pedagogical) messages for the reader. A writer and teacher of writing once noted - "you have something to say." So perhaps this 'fear' is largely unfounded. And if God is the giver of stories, as He is the "maker of noses" and "giver of dreams" (Rich Mullins references), won't He ensure that, as a writer who seeks to honour Him, I write accordingly?
There's another well-known phrase we read on bumper stickers:
No Jesus, no peace/ Know Jesus, know peaceWhether we're writers or from any other walk of life, we cannot fear when we have the 'peace that passes understanding' (Philippians 4:7), the peace of Christ. His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
I recently watched the movie Divergent with my family. If you haven't seen it, perhaps it will be a spoiler to learn that, in order not to be found out, the main character, Tris, has to face her fears by thinking like someone who is Dauntless. A person who is fearless, intrepid, and bold, according to the definition at Dictionary.com. Tris has to learn to use the tools that are around her instead of depending on her own 'divergent' thinking.
This is true for us as writers as well. When we feel fear, we need to overcome it, using the tools at our disposal. We need to remember that Christ lives in us, and as such, we have access to peace. We need to remember what God says about who we are in Him. We need to know Scripture, so we can face our accuser and our doubts. We need to trust God, who is our provider.
There are two songs that speak especially well to me on these subjects, one is contemporary, the other an oldie but a goodie. I leave them with you and hope they help free you from today's fears, and tomorrow's as well.
For more of my writing, please visit me at www.susan-barclay.ca