Little Fears

I write a lot on here about fear. I think a lot about fear. The more I get to know myself, the more I see threats fear influences all the little parts of my life: not reading because I’m afraid of not liking a new book, being afraid to start a sermon and so finding a million other things to do, staying home because I’m afraid of seeing that one person again…. The list is endless. 

And it feels kind of pathetic to admit. I can just imagine some sneering voice asking, “You really avoid every day things because you’re afraid of silly things like that? Coward!” 

To which I say:

  1. Several swear words. Irritating voice!
  2. So often I don’t even realize that my fear is influencing how I’m behaving. I just think I’m not in the mood. I think I’m just really tired. I think about how I’m no good at whatever-it-is. 
  3. Realizing that I’m reacting out of fear is a good step. I can’t very well face my fear if I can’t or won’t recognize it.
  4. Trust me, I feel silly too. I wish my fear didn’t come out in all sorts of strange ways. But without realizing what I’m really feeling, I can’t accept it and then gently lift it aside and start doing those things even though I’m afraid.

So, yeah. I’m afraid of some things that make even me laugh. I’m afraid a lot. But I’m working on it.

Vulnerable

I linked to my blog on my resume. 

It seemed like a brilliant idea at the time–look, all of my writings and sermon clips, all in one place!–but the first time I sat down to write a post after that, I blanched. Somehow the idea of sending out words into the anonymous internet is WAY different than sending out words into the internet that is now full of people who are considering you for a job. A job as a pastor, no less. What should I post now? What if they didn’t like it? What if I revealed something about myself, and they decided I was too imperfect for their church? What if they saw the flaws I struggle with and talk about here, and decided to take themselves far away from that?

So I posted something, so no one would think I wasn’t regular about posting (although anyone who scrolled to the next blog post would notice that there was a gap of a month and a half), but it wasn’t too revealing. Big news, but nothing too personal. And after that, every time I sat down to write a post, I would freeze up. What could I write that wouldn’t show churches that I’m a human being with flaws and problems??

Then I had the brilliant idea to ask Off the Page if I could write a hugely personal piece for them, and they said yes. Whoops

Yeah.

So, I’m being personal and vulnerable. To the Internet. Including all those people who might end up here because they’re considering hiring me as their pastor. Here it is: my problems, my human-ness, my sinfulness and struggles. And I know I just spent a while saying I don’t like being vulnerable, but please go check it out. Being vulnerable is important. I wrote something true and something that I love–and even if it’s also the scariest piece I’ve ever written for the Internet, I’d love if you went and checked it out. Please join me in my vulnerability.

Sick of Scared

I’m sick of being too scared to go after my dreams.

I’ve been scared since I started my internship–of the time commitment, of my cohort, of being honest, of the emotions being stirred up, of the emotions I face every day. 

And I’ve been scared of my dreams–of writing, of becoming a pastor. They both seem too huge and impossible and overwhelming that I don’t even know where to start. There are so many places I could submit my work. Where do I choose? How do I choose? What kind of writer am I? How do I gather up the courage to keep submitting and keep writing and keep submitting and keep writing when I get rejection notices, when I am exhausted after work, when there’s too much to write about and not enough  time? How do I gather the courage to write my final sermon and write my pastor resume and write my statement of faith when, the longer I’m away from seminary, the more I wonder if I could ever actually be a pastor? How do I convince people that I’d be a good pastor when I’m not sure?

I don’t know. But I’m sick of giving in to my fear. I’m sick of avoiding my love of writing and my love of pastoring because I’m afraid. I’m sick of avoiding, period. I’m sick of being too scared to go after my dreams.

Here I go again, then. Chasing my dreams, one step at a time. One step isn’t overwhelming: one blog post, one poem, researching one magazine, writing one pitch. One step isn’t overwhelming: looking up one Hebrew word, answering one question, writing one sentence of my statement of faith.

I refuse to give up on my dreams.

What is success?

As I prepare to graduate, and as I approach the date with no long-term plans for afterwards, I find myself thinking about my writing. My prospects are slim for getting a job straight out of my summer internship, and one goal I have is to make writing more than a hobby.  More than something I do in odd moments and only for myself. 

That goal feels so far away. The viewing numbers of this blog are pathetic. My novels are all half-written at best. The list of publications I’ve been paid to write for is nowhere close to becoming a double-digit number. The money I make from writing is barely a trickle. 

Yet, when I list my writing achievements to others, they are always impressed, even enthusiastic. “That’s so amazing!” they say, with utter sincerity, and “You could do far worse than the places you’ve been published in so far.” 

I have accomplished something as a writer. Sure, there’s more to do, more I’d like to do–always–but I have written pieces and reached goals that are worth celebrating. Sure,  I haven’t reached the point where I could live off of my writing, but I do make money, and I’ve worked hard and reached so many mile marks in the past year alone. Having farther I’d like to go doesn’t mean I haven’t already come far. I can be proud of what I’ve accomplished so far but still have more that I dream of doing.

So, that’s where I am right now: proud of what I’ve accomplished, but dreaming and planning and writing still.

Beautiful People

My absence here is indicative of a wider problem I’ve had over the past month, that is, a huge difficulty writing. Writing has seemed like a huge, terrifying, impossible task, complete with snarling, snapping teeth and horrifying consequences for failure. As much as I’d like to say that I’m just like a fantasy hero, never giving up, that is so not true. I’m very prone to giving things up when they seem difficult or impossible. 

But some things are worth coming back to–and writing is one of them. Writing felt like climbing up a sheer cliff with no equipment, but not writing made everything else in my life go more than a little flat, made everything else seem impossible, too. If I couldn’t do this thing that I love, persevere through it, what could I do? was going through my head, just below the conscious level. 

But now I’m back. I’ve been journalling consistently (always the first step in my own writing process), and I spent time writing both yesterday and today. Small steps, but important and beautiful ones. Everything else I need to do seems possible again.

And so, in the spirit of the newly-possible, I thought I’d jump late on the bandwagon and link up with Beautiful People and write about my writing resolutions and goals for the new year.

  

What were your writing achievements last year?

Last year was really the first year that I took my writing seriously–I both committed to and actually achieved taking time to write every day. I started this blog. And, finally, I was published in a few places–DevoZine and various Pittsburgh Theological Seminary publications come immediately to mind–and discovered a lot more places wher I’d love to be published in the future.

Tell us about your top priority writing project for this year?

I really don’t have one; rather, I’d like to focus on getting myself out there and published in as many publications as possible.

List 5 areas you’d like to work the hardest to improve this year.

I’d like to become better at focusing when I write (rather than jumping to the internet as soon as I run into a problem), using my time well so that I have as much time to write as possible, and taking chances with my writing (both in the writing itself, and in where I submit and query to).

Are you participating in any writing challenges?

I’m not currently planning to, no.

What’s your critique partner/beta reader situation like and do you have plans to expand this year?

I have one beta reader, and while I would love to expand their numbers, I don’t have any plans to do so currently. Hopefully something will come up!

Do you have plans to read any writer-related books this year? Or are there specific books you want to read for research?

I’m sure at some point this year I’ll reread Walking on Water by Madeleiene L’Engle, which is absolutely my favorite writing book of all time. I have a few other writing books floating around, which I may read sporadically. We’ll see! As to research, yes, there are some topics I’d like to research, but we’ll see if I get to them or not. As much as there are some stories I’d love to write, it doesn’t always work out that I get the time to write all the stories II have ideas for. Or inspiration leaves at inconvenient times. 

Pick one character you want to get to know better, and how are you going to achieve this?

His name is Skylar. I know what he does, but the why is a bit sketchy, and I think he comes across flat because of that. As to how? I think some rewrites are in order, plus maybe some character exercises. We’ll see. I find that I discover people by just writing their scenes, but, then again, that hasn’t worked for him at all…

Do you plan to edit or query, and what’s your plan of attack?

I may query for smaller articles or stories, but I currently have no plans to do anything for my novel-in-progress. As for editing: perhaps, although I suspect that the novel still won’t be done by the end of 2016.

Toni Morrison once said, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” What are the books that you want to see more of, and what “holes” do you think need filling in the literary world?

Writing books with more female characters, especially in fantasy, is a huge passion of mine. I’d also like to write Christian fiction that actually acknowledges the complexity and pain in the world, rather than glossing over it or giving easy answers. (I’m sure such fiction does exist, and suggestions in the comments would be much appreciated!)

What do you hope to have achieved by the end of 2016?

Hm. I hope to keep being brave about writing–just doing it even when it’s hard, and to keep sending out submissions even when I get rejected, or even when it’s in a genre I’m not sure I can do. On that note, I’d like to focus a bit more on getting fiction and poetry published. Last year I tended more towards non-fiction, which I love but isn’t my ultimate goal.

More than anything else, I hope to have achieved what God is calling me to achieve, because God is the true source of my writing. Maybe God will throw all my plans out the window! And that’s OK.

Writing Scared

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(source)

I’ve been sitting at my computer for a while now, trying to psych myself up to write: I checked my work email, cleaned out my personal email, caught up on blog posts, researched a few submission possibilities… but I’ve been avoiding the thought of actually writing all morning.

I’m scared.

It’s one of the reasons I should never stop writing, because when I do entropy kicks in, and it’s so, so hard to start again. I’ve gotten out of the habit of listening–the difficulty and honesty and courage required for listening were why I stopped writing in the first place–and now I’m trying to start again and it’s scary. That’s why I’ve been avoiding writing all morning. It’s scary. I don’t want to come face-to-face with myself, bare my soul through writing words on a page, listen to the Source of inspiration and all the things God might say that I don’t want to hear. I don’t feel brave enough. I don’t feel honest enough.

I’m afraid.

I know that if I push through, with prayer and preparation, I’ll be fine, I’ll be more than fine. I know. I do. If I push through, there’s something beautiful and wonderful on the other side, the sense of being surrounded by love and presence. I know. I do. I know even that it makes sense to be afraid. Writing transforms. It’s terrifying to approach God, hands and heart and mind open, ready to receive, whatever it might be. It’s terrifying to approach God, period. The Creator and Ruler of the universe is not conceivable, controllable, quantifiable. I know this. I do.

I don’t feel ready. I don’t know how to start.

And that might be the end, for today.

Dwell (Five Minute Friday)

I’m in the thick of finals week, and one of my papers is far, far from done. Every time I’m not working on it, a little bit more panic builds up. I have to remind myself that it’s okay to not be working on it. Breaks are good. Getting water to drink is good. Not being a hermit and actually talking to people is good. Taking time to pray is good.

This final is currently all-consuming, but it’s not the ultimate good. It’s not the most important thing I’ll ever do. It’s just another final!

I woke up this morning from a dream about frantically writing a paper. I woke up nervous about everything I’d like to get done today, and about how much I’ll probably get done today. Before I’d even turned my light on, though, I felt surrounded by God. “I’m right here. You can do this, because I’m right here.”

Today isn’t a day I feel capable of dwelling in God, but God came down to dwell with me.


 

Five Minute Friday is worth taking a break for. 🙂

(If you’ve never heard about Five Minute Friday before, head over to Kate‘s and check it out! She posts a word every Thursday night, and we write about it for five minutes. It’s lots of fun!)