So, I like to write things. Sometimes in a blog post or on social media, most recently in a book I am working on.
It began as a hobby when we moved to Guatemala. I realized the cool thing to do when you move overseas is to start a blog, so I did. But overtime writing came to mean much more than keeping in touch; it was a way to process whatever was happening in our lives. Like our move overseas to a place of deep poverty. Like my begrudging first passage into motherhood. Like our move and transition back to the United States. Like the devastating loss of our second baby.
So when I’m asked what I do for a job my initial thought is, “Well, I do life, like everybody else. I just like to write about it before I go to bed.”
But I know this job is more complicated than that. I didn’t fully understand just how complicated until I started pursuing book publishing. I didn’t fully understand that being a Christian nonfiction writer professionally meant more than talent and hard work and having a positive message to share.
While searching for a literary agent to represent me, I became familiar with the word “Platform” very quickly. As in,
“How many followers do you have on social media?”
“What is the average number of page views per blog article that you write?”
“Why is it when you pour out your soul in a Facebook post you only receive fifty ‘likes,’ but that celebrity posts a picture of a sandwich and gets sixty-eight thousand?”
Kidding. But basically, agents and editors and everyone else involved in the publishing process want to know you have a base audience who will likely buy your book before they offer to represent you or publish your work. They want to know you will sell more than the twenty-seven copies your grandma promised to buy and pass out to her friends at church.
It makes sense, but that doesn’t always make the job of writing, growing your platform, and working towards publishing easy, especially when the work is so personal. Especially when it is such a competitive market of so many talented writers with well-established platforms who are already selling loads of books.
You hear women talk about comparing themselves to each other and competing with each other through their work as wives, or as moms, or as Jesus People. And this is where it is easy for me to get entrapped in that game too. I follow other writers on social media to learn from them professionally, but it can be hard to remember my goal is not to become them or to duplicate their journey of faith. There’s a balance between being encouraged and challenged by another person’s work, but also finding contentment on the unique road God is leading me.
I confided in my friend once: “Sometimes it feels like everything I want to write has already been said, by someone way more popular than I am, in a much better way than I could ever write.”
Also a writer and a great encourager, she replied, “But from your corner of the world you have a different perspective. And maybe your corner of the world needs to hear what you have to say.”
So simple, yet so clarifying. It’s so important to remember that whole “Body of Christ” thing with all of its different parts serving different purposes and walking different journeys of faith. It’s so important to remember that the ultimate goal of my work has nothing to do with platform, followers, or the number of books I sell next year. It’s so important to remember that while hard work is essential, God is truly the One who opens doors and creates opportunities. It’s so important to remember deep joy can’t be found in work meant to glorify myself, only that which glorifies Christ.
So yes, the writing is work, but it’s also a gift.
While it can be truly terrifying to share your heart with the world, it’s also truly wonderful when other people find the courage to be vulnerable with you and say, “Me too. I have thought that, felt that, cried at that, laughed at that; experienced that too.” It’s truly wonderful to realize we don’t connect with other people by pretending we have it all together, but by being honest about our mistakes, flaws, and sufferings. By encouraging each other and being the kind of people who pass out grace like we got it for free or something.
The joy goes beyond that too. As I write about whatever life is throwing at us, I learn to intentionally seek Christ’s presence too. I look for whatever God might be teaching me in any given moment or day. I mean, goodness gracious, the lessons of faith to learn by watching a stubborn toddler refuse to listen to your every word.
Christ’s presence is everywhere, if we are willing to look. He’s in the embrace of your loving spouse. He’s in the giggles of your child who asks you to tickle her over and over. He’s in the load of laundry you might not fold until 2019. He’s in the salty tears of your grief when you’re not sure you can get out of bed that day. He’s in the moving boxes and tough goodbyes. He’s in the eyes of the man begging on the street.
And He’s beyond all of it too. Beyond anything I could ever write or put into words with my fingertips and a keyboard.
So yeah, I like to write things. But the times it connects me with other people, the stuff Christ teaches me in the everyday, the ways He shouts “I love you” if I’m paying close enough attention.
I like that even more.