Many of this month's posts have focused on 'purpose' - what we want our readers to take away after reading something we have written. I found Shirley S. Tye's post 'Writing In the Nude' especially thought provoking. Putting your writing out there for all to see is a lot like exposing yourself. It's scary, uncomfortable, and even embarrassing at times. A sense of inadequacy accompanies the excitement, and inevitably, no matter how polished you thought that manuscript was, you wish you could 'make it better' once it's been put out there for all to see.
Several novels and plays later, I still feel inadequate. Then why put myself through all the hard work and stress? Simple. God has given me a desire to write.
I have learned that one of the worst things I can do is compare myself to others. I'm not talking about learning from others. This is a good thing and we all have room to grow. I mean the comparison game that leaves one feeling envious. Connie Inglis addressed this well in her post 'Sehnsucht'. Even Christian writers are not immune to the green-eyed monster. It takes purposeful prayer to eliminate these feelings of envy so that we can truly rejoice with our brothers' and sisters' successes. It also takes reliance on the Holy Spirit to rest in the fact that God also has a plan for me and my writing, separate, and different from what He may have in mind for someone else.
I write fiction. I'm not that interested in writing devotionals or other non-fiction, and I usually don't feel apologetic for that. (I did self publish a devotional recently called 'Life is a Highway' based on a series of speeches I gave at a women's retreat.) I was pleasantly surprised when a reader contacted me and told me she could identify with some of the things I said. I also got a personal card in the mail thanking me for my children's book 'The Sleepytown Express', saying how it touched her heart and reminded her of her own childhood memories. Cool. Truthfully, however, I don't plan on illustrating any more kids books or writing any more devotionals.
Like I said, my passion is to write fiction. I believe fiction can be a powerful tool and can profoundly affect people, just the way non-fiction can. Sometimes I feel like what I write is drivel, however, compared to what others are writing. My books lean heavily on the romantic side of things, (even though I insist that I am not a romantic!) This is why positive responses from readers of my fictional work is so encouraging. Even seemingly simple comments on facebook or elsewhere can be hugely validating.
One of my favorite examples happened several months ago, before Christmas. My daughter had lent my book MY MOTHER THE MAN-EATER to one of her colleagues. (Just as a side note, the book is quite long and in retrospect, I see lots of things I would like to change...) In any case, her co-worker was touched by Joleen's story because she also had a less than perfect past. She wanted her own copy and also bought one for her sister-in-law who was not a Christian, but whom she thought might also be able to relate to the 'realism' of the characters.
These are the kinds of responses that give me confidence; that confirm I am writing in God's will. I don't need to become a New York Times best seller (although this would be nice) and I don't need every reader's approval. I just need to continue to write what I feel God is calling me to write and let Him do the rest.