Recently, I was wrestling with a decision. The kind where I wonder who I am and what I'm meant to do. The kind where I have to wonder if freelance is worth it or if I should reduce it to a hobby and go find a real job. The kind where a path must be chosen.
Most writers have stood at this crossroad at one time or another.
Most writers have stood at this crossroad at one time or another.
Funny thing is, at this crossroad place, we don't stand alone like we might imagine. This decision doesn't get made in a vacuum of silence and solitude. We're surrounded by people in our lives who have opinions or expectations of us and who may even voice them loudly. We're surrounded by examples of people we'd like to emulate or absolutely not become. We even surround ourselves with information about our options and imaginings of how things might work out.
The difficult thing about all the advice and information is that it doesn't all match. Finally, it gets to the point where we don’t know which advice to take. How can we know?
The decision I'm wrestling with right now is on the bigger side, but I'd like to share a story about a small decision I was wrestling with once, as a fun and slightly silly example.
One morning, I was assessing my outfit for church. I held my scarf aside and examined my outfit in the mirror. The brown lacy neckline of the camisole was just visible above the neckline of the grey and white shirt I wore over top. I let the scarf hang down again, and arranged it to cover the protruding lace. I didn’t want the lace to show, but, if it did peek out from behind the scarf, it should at least match. I wasn’t sure it did, so sought my husband’s opinion.
“Does this match?” I asked Mark, standing to show what I was wearing.
“I think so.”
“What about this?” I pulled my scarf aside to reveal the brown lace protruding past the tank’s neckline. “Does it match?”
“Because it’s brown, and I wasn’t sure.”
“It’s brown?” He looked again, “I didn’t see that.”
I replaced the scarf and sat down, shaking my head. “Look who I’m asking.” We both smiled. He had always seemed colorblind when it comes to things like that.
Our young daughter Abby came upstairs and began buttering her dried out toast.
“Hey, nice outfit!” I said to her, “Your purple shirt matches well with the purple pants.”
She looked down at her pants. “They’re brown.”
Mark laughed loudly. Apparently he wasn’t the only one who couldn’t tell one color from another. I said something about the purple shirt bringing out the purple tones in her pants. He just smiled and made a two-handed shoveling gesture. I smiled and walked into the kitchen and stood before her.
“Does this match?” I asked her.
“Match my shirt?” Abby asked. She didn’t look up from the toast she was still buttering.
“No, does my outfit match my outfit.”
“Oh,” she looked me over, “yes.”
I pulled aside the scarf to reveal the brown lace protruding past the neckline of my tank. “What about this?”
“Oh. I didn’t see that.”
Mark burst out laughing. I returned to the table shaking my head. For all the checking, I didn’t know any more about how my outfit looked.
I decided to wear it to church anyway. If the brown lace didn’t match the black and grey flowered tank, it seemed no one was likely to see it.
It’s a silly story about a small decision, but this is what we do, isn’t it? When it’s decision time, we go around collecting information and opinions that may or may not be helpful. This is the kind of census-taking that can leave us with a stew of varied and contrasting advice and opinions.
Making a Decision? How to Know Which Advice to Take.
I wish decision making was straightforward, but it’s not. Especially for an over-thinker like me. There’s too much to consider. Even with the small decisions like lace on a shirt.
What might others think of my choice? What does my decision communicate about me? Is it offensive to any person or group? If it is, is that my problem? Does the decision honor God? Dishonor Him?
This might be an over-thinker’s problem, but I suspect many writers are prone to overthought anyway, and can relate.
Litmus Test #1
In my big and small decision making, the first litmus test I run all the advice through is whether or not it aligns with what I know of scripture and of God. Whether it’s a decision about the direction my business should take or if it’s about the kind of clothes I’m wearing, I want it to honor Him.
I’m currently writing a story that’s difficult to write. It’sa fantastic story of faith and perseverance and even joy in suffering, but there are family members who would prefer I not tell the story. I wrestled with the decision of whether or not to write this story. How could I honor my family, as God instructs, while also publishing His great deeds in all the nations, as He also instructs? How could I tell the story without harming those in it? True stories are tricky business.
I could find all kinds of advice and opinions that I should write whatever I want to write, and that it’s my story to tell, and no one can tell me what to do, and they’d be right. But I’m more interested in what God will say to me about it. He’s not one to indulge self-indulgence. He’s deeply interested in our loving Him and each other though.
After much thought and prayer, I’ve decided to go ahead with the book and plan to release it in November of 2018. It’s an interesting balance to walk, and one I must continue to pray through, trying to honor God and others on the way.
Litmus Test #2
The second litmus test I use on the advice and opinions I’ve gathered is myself. Does the decision I’m making line up with my values and goals and identity? Is it something that’s good for me, or am I bending to pressure, perhaps to please someone else?
For the people-pleaser in me, this has been difficult at times. Before I decided to go ahead and publish the book I’m writing, I was bending to the will of those family members who didn’t want the story told. It’s a story of my mom’s cancer journey and our experiences together. With her blessing, I’d already published excerpts while the book was being written. Now that she’s gone, some remaining family would like the story to be gone too.
I was torn between my desire to tell the faith-building, edifying story of her faith and mine, and my desire to please my family. I hate discord and desire peace, however, what they were asking me to do didn’t align with who I am (a writer must write!), or what I am created for, which is to shout and tell what the Lord has done.
For a time, I chose to suppress the story for their sakes. Then, after much thought and prayer, I realized I can honor them and God and myself even in the telling of that wonderful story of joy in suffering. So I decided to write it and share it with the world as I feel called to do.
Are you in the middle of a decision right now and getting lots of varied advice?
Kimberly shares from the heart at her online home, KimberlyDawnRempel.com where you can sign up for her free 3-Day Faith Refresh. If you do, she'll also let you know when that book comes out!
Authors wanting to learn more about how to market your books are invited to join her Facebook group, Marketing-Savvy Authorpreneurs here.