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125 – Are You Living in Love?

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Are You Living in Love Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWe know God loves us. We read about it in Scripture and even memorize Bible verses saying He loves us. We sing songs about His love for us, and we have all kinds of mugs and art and shirts proclaiming God’s love for us. So why aren’t our lives overflowing with peace and confidence? Join us to find out!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

An Amazing Secret

On our last podcast we talked about insecurity and validation, and the dangers of seeking validation. Do go back and listen to that if you haven’t. It’s episode 124

We wanted to follow that up with one of the most important things a writer needs to know. It’s the secret to helping you overcome painful negative experiences and emotions, and the secret to serving others well in your writing. I believe if every Christian in the world were fully convinced of the truth of this one important fact, they would live with infinitely more power, purpose, and freedom, and that would carry over into their writing life.

What is this fact? It’s something we all say we believe—and sometimes we even do believe it…kind of. But we don’t believe it to the extent that we could…or should.

Wondering what that is?

You can find the secret—because it’s not really a secret—in Ephesians 3:17-19. It’s in a prayer the apostle Paul prays for believers:

“I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (NIV & NRSV)

This prayer has an important component: a “so that.” It’s an expected result, an effect. Paul wants believers to know the breadth and depth of God’s love for them, to fully take it in and understand it, so that something else will happen: so that we may be filled with all the fullness of God.

What does that mean? How does being filled with all the fullness of God affect us as writers? That’s what we’re going to talk about.

To start, let’s cover some important aspects of God’s love for us.

God’s Love for Us

1. God’s Love Is Not Based on Us.

It’s not based on what we do or don’t do. It’s not based on our goodness, or on our worthiness. God gives us our value and our worth because he loves us. It all starts with God. With who he is. With what kind of character he has.

1 John 4:8 tells us that God IS love. That’s part of the definition of his character. It’s more than something he chooses to do, it’s something he by definition IS.

A friend once tried to tell me that God couldn’t possibly love her because she was too damaged, too unlovable. The problem was that she was telling God he isn’t who he says he is. We don’t get that luxury. We can’t define God however we want. If he says he’s love, then he is. Nothing we choose to believe will change that.

2. God’s Love Is Unfailing and Unending.

God’s love endures forever. There are numerous places in the Bible that state this, but one of clearest is Psalm 136. It talks about all the things God has done for Israel, and every verse has the refrain: His steadfast love endures forever. This goes on for 26 verses, and it’s like God is saying, “Do you understand? Do you see it?”

It’s so easy to look at circumstances and feel like God has failed us, or that he doesn’t care. But that’s us redefining God’s character, and we aren’t allowed to do that. 

3. Nothing Can Separate Us from God’s Love.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

4. God Knows Us Fully and Still Loves Us

God fully, completely, totally, thoroughly knows you. He knows every single detailed thought, action, idea, hope, dream, failure, sin, anger, hate, folly, evil, that you’ve done, or thought about, or wanted to do. He knows who you are deep down, and he STILL loves you. In other words, you are fully known and yet still fully loved.

Psalm 139:1-4, 13, 16 says,  “You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”

We live in a curated world, where you can project whatever image you want to on social media, or when you’re in public, and most of the world will never know the difference. But God does. We can’t curate ourselves in God’s eyes. He sees it all, and he still loves us.

How does knowing, and fully believing God’s love for us is real, is not dependent on us, is unshakable, never ending, has nothing that can ever separate us from it, and that it’s a kind of love that fully knows and still fully loves us…how does that help us as writers?

The Power of Fully Believing in God’s Love for Us

1. When we are truly secure in God’s love for us, we’re secure in our value and identity.

When we truly believe in God’s love for us, have nothing to prove, and nothing to lose. That frees us to be the writers God made us to be without fear.

For example, deep down, would it matter if people rejected me because I wrote God’s truth about something they didn’t want to hear? It may hurt, I won’t deny that. Rejection hurts. But God’s love is more satisfying than man’s love. That’s how he created us. To be fully satisfied in him. So at the end of the day, I can trust God to heal my emotions and dwell on the joy his love for me brings.

Or what about sales? Would it really matter if my book didn’t sell a bunch of copies? No, because God loves me no matter how many copies get sold. He gives us value no matter what. 

Or what about disappointments that are inevitable on our writing journey? It’s never going to be a straight line from point A to point B, and it’s never going to be easy.

Whatever comes our way, there is a security in knowing that nothing can separate you from God’s love. No cancelled contract, no troll reviewer, no terrible edit, no crushing response from an agent or editor or critique group, no sickness, no calamity. He has not forgotten you, and not abandoned you because he loves you. His love is always, always, always rock solid. And because he loves us, he uses these trials for our good and his glory.

We’re not saying this is easy, but we are saying this is what God wants for us. He doesn’t want us dwelling on what man can do to us but on how God is always FOR us. Psalm 118:6 says, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?”

2. Our security from God’s love for us helps us be authentic not just in our writing but in our lives.

As humans, there always seems to be a part of us that wants to protect ourselves, to curate what the world sees. But our security in God’s love helps us learn (over time, this is not immediate) to live more authentically, which gives others the freedom to do the same as they see our authenticity. That can also help eliminate imposter syndrome. We see through the lies of it because we’re always doing our best to project our authentic selves. We don’t have to fear some kind of unmasking.

3. When we’re truly secure in God’s love for us, we can love others freely.

1 John 4:19 says, “We love because he first loved us.” Here’s the deal: We actually can’t manufacture the kind of love God wants us to have for others. We’re not capable. Compared to God’s love, human love is pathetic and weak. But what we can do is be a conduit of God’s love. We can let God’s love in us supernaturally overflow to others. But that starts with our awareness of the love God has for us. And the more we’re aware and fully embrace it, the more it simply overflows in us, because it’s God’s love, not ours. It’s Christ in us loving others.

4. When we’re secure in God’s love for us, we can serve others with our whole heart, without expecting anything in return.

Because God loves us, he’s going to satisfy us with joy in himself that comes from his Holy Spirit. He refills us. He rewards us. Most people are never going to see the blood, sweat, and tears you put into your writing, but your heavenly Father does. Matthew 6 tells us how God sees what we do and rewards us. We lay up treasures in heaven that can never be taken away. 

Verses to meditate on

We talked about just some of what it means to be filled to the fullness of God. He overflows in us, and we’re more and more conformed to the image of God. But again, it starts with our deep, unwavering belief in God’s love for us. 

Take some time to soak in Scripture, to soak in God’s love letters to us, his beloved children.

Consider 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, and for right now, don’t think of this as how we should love others, but how God perfectly loves you. We’ve altered the words a bit to help you get the idea:

“(God’s love for you) is patient, (his) love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor (you), it is not self-seeking, (God’s love for you) is not easily angered, it keeps no record of (your) wrongs. (His) love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. (His love for you is always protective, always trusting, always hopeful, always persevering. God’s love for you) never fails.”

Here are some other verses to let sink deep into your heart: 

“In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed.” Exodus 15:13

“Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.” Psalm 125:9

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.” Psalm 100

“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.” Psalm 147:11

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” John 15:9

“…We boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Romans 5:2-5

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Ephesians 1:3-6

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:4-5

“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” Ephesians 5:1-2 (ESV)

“May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 3:5 (ESV)

“See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1 (NIV)

“Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” 1 John 4:8-10

“To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” Isaiah 54:10

Final Words

God loves you with an amazing love because he is love. If you can embrace that, accept it and live in that, imagine the glory that will take place in your life. Imagine the example you will be to others and the wonderful brilliance that will shine through you!

We know God loves us. But do we live like we believe it? #amwriting @karenball1 Click To Tweet
We want to hear from you!

What helps you know…truly know…that God loves you?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our September sponsor of the month, Wendy L. MacDonald. Not only is Wendy a writer, she also produces a weekly, short, inspirational podcast called Walking with Hope for HopeStreamRadio.com. Check it out!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

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124 – Validation: The Blessings and Dangers

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The Blessings and Dangers of Validation on the Write from the Deep podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIf you’re a writer, you’re going to feel insecure. Just accept that. We all find ourselves needing some kind of validation. So what can we do about it? Should we seek validation? Or are we opening ourselves to some dangerous consequences? Here’s what you need to know about validation, encouragement, and the best way to be affirmed.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Writers Seem to need validation

Needing validation is typical for creatives. We feel insecure. We’re putting our gifts and talents out there for the world to respond to and critique. We’re being vulnerable, and we think we need some feedback to keep us going. And that’s okay. But is validation something we should specifically look for? Especially for those of us who write to please God?

What is validation?

What is Webster’s definition of validation?

An act, process, or instance of validating.

So then what does validate mean?

To support or corroborate on a sound or authoritative basis.

To recognize, establish, or illustrate the worthiness or legitimacy of.

Listen to the language of that: “illustrate the worthiness.” That’s where we run into trouble. We’re looking to be acceptable, worthy, legitimate. There’s a measurement happening. A judgment or comparison as to what would make us worthy, legitimate, and acceptable and what wouldn’t.

But who gets to define that?

Why do we seek validation?

On Oprah’s final episode of her TV show, she highlighted the importance of validation. “I’ve talked to nearly 30,000 people on this show,” she said, “and all 30,000 had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.”

And they weren’t even writers!

Then there’s Facebook. How many of us, when we’ve posted something creative or something that means a lot to us, go back and look to see how many likes or loves we’ve received. Or suppose you post something and NO ONE likes it. Not even your best friend or mom. How does that feel? Like what you wrote just doesn’t matter.

So why do we seek validation? Because we’re human, and too often we’re insecure in some way, shape, or form. And of all the insecure people in the world, you know who some of the most insecure people are? Yup. Writers.

Why are we insecure?

Writers deal with insecurity for lots of reasons, including:

1. We Have to Put Ourselves out There

We put our writing, our thoughts, our ability to communicate, and our ideas out there for the whole world to see, and that’s a fearful thing.

The number one fear for people is public speaking. Number two is death. Number three is writing, which is like public speaking but it STAYS out there. Our work WILL receive responses, some of which will be criticism AND judgment, good or bad, helpful or not helpful.

2. We Struggle with Imposter Syndrome

We struggle with feeling like a fraud. We struggle with self-doubt. We did a whole episode on this (episode 81) and we encourage you to go back and take a look at that.

We want our identity legitimized. We want to hear someone say, “You’re a real writer…” It’s hard for us to say that about ourselves. But it’s not just writing that we’re not secure in. We aren’t secure in our first and most important calling: to be a Christ follower and God glorifyer.

Isaiah 43:6-7 says, “I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

3. We Aren’t Comfortable Walking in a Place of Total Trust

We’re trying to follow God, we’re trying to trust Him, but at the core, we aren’t comfortable in a place of real trust. Or we’re not comfortable if we can’t dictate the terms or conditions of that trust. Or we aren’t comfortable not knowing the future. We can only see a small part of the picture at a time, so we’re not sure where all this will lead, and that causes anxiety, self-doubt, and questioning.

4. We Falter When Things Go Wrong

Another reason we’re insecure is that in this industry things go wrong, or get hard. When that happens, we want proof that we’re still on the right track. We want some guarantee of success.

Where do we look for validation?

Here are a few places we look for validation:

  • sales
  • traditional contracts
  • reviews
  • awards (industry accolades)
  • comparison with others
  • social media mentions/shares
  • endorsements
  • help from others (because they think we or our writing is so worthy)
  • professional opinions

Let’s talk for a minute about professional opinions. What is a professional opinion, and are we saying it’s bad?

A professional opinion is what authors get from editors, agents, or other industry professionals at professional conferences or in other contexts. Or it’s what you get when you submit a query to an editor or agent, or when you pay for an evaluation or edit.

When we get feedback from professionals, that can provide some guidance and wisdom, and if we keep it in perspective, it’s a good thing. That opinion can give you input as you seek to improve your writing and move forward in your career.

But keeping that feedback in perspective is sometimes hard. As with any validation, you need to test it against God’s word and wisdom, and His will for you as a writer. Just because someone doesn’t resonate to what you’re doing and the way you’re doing it, doesn’t mean you’re wrong or on the wrong track.

The Pitfalls of Seeking Validation

Can we seek validation or do we just leave it to God?

Our answer: You can’t make validation your goal. Make obedience your goal, and leave the rest to God.

When you seek validation:

1. Your Focus Is on You, Not God

Your focus is on what you get out of this and not on serving God, our Creator, in humility. That can lead to pride, entitlement, and anger when we don’t get what we want.

2. It’s Based on Emotion Rather than Reason

When you make validation your focus, you can’t be happy with what you’ve done until someone says it’s good. That makes you happy…for all of 1.2 seconds. Remember, feelings are a rotten measuring stick for reality. Basing your worth, or the worth of what you do, on being validated or happy is a terrible idea. It only treats the symptom of feeling insecure. It doesn’t do anything about the core issue, which is trusting God.

3. We Create Our own Vision of Validation

When we seek validation, too often we have our own idea of what that means. We want validation in the way we want it, the way we envision it. Then we’re right back to dictating terms of trust to God. That can lead to frustration, confusion, and disappointment.

4. Validation from External Sources Doesn’t Nurture Creativity

Validation can be like a drug. The first hit feels good. Great in fact. But after awhile, you need more. And more. Until everything you do feels awful until you get your dose of external validation. But that will never last. Rather than nurturing your creativity, it destroys it because you’re looking at it through the filter of what others say rather than through God’s eyes of love and purpose. Receiving validation becomes no longer a want, but a desperate need.

5. We’re Looking for Something We Don’t Need

Remember, validation is a way for us to establish legitimacy or worthiness. It’s a value judgment. But that leads us to comparison, which fosters insecurity, envy, and jealousy. We can’t get our worth from things or people. God is the only one who has a right to establish our value and our purpose because He created us for HIM.

6. We’re Wasting Time and Energy on the Wrong Thing

If we’re looking for something we don’t need, then we’re focusing on something other than what God has for us. We’re distracted from the purpose He has for us. Worst of all, because He’s the One who knows exactly what we need when we need it, we’re focused on things that are false.

7. We Get Distracted from Our Passion

When we don’t see the validation we’re looking for, we start wondering if we’re even supposed to be writing, which distracts us from actually doing the work of writing. We get sidetracked from our passion, and that can lead to apathy. Which leads to discouragement. Which can lead to anger and resentment. Which can lead us to doubt God and/or His goodness. All this leads us away from God and His good pleasure in us and straight into the enemy’s hands.

The bottom line is that when we seek validation, it can lead to a boatload of negative emotions, and we end up feeling worse than when we started. Or we end up working against God, and that’s never a good place to be.

Encouragement Versus Validation

What about encouragement? Isn’t that validation? Is that bad?

We’re not saying encouragement is bad. We’re not even saying validation is bad. But there is a difference between validation and encouragement.

To give encouragement is to inspire, spur on, uplift, or help. That’s not the same thing as measuring your worthiness, making a value judgment about your legitimacy.

We humans do need encouragement. The Bible is full of examples of people encouraging one another, and 2 Corinthians 13:11 tells us, “Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”

But be careful, because seeking encouragement can have the same pitfalls as seeking validation.

When finding encouragement is your goal, it puts the focus on yourself. We’re often told in Scripture to encourage others. Hebrews 3:13 says, “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” We’re to help each other be steadfast and faithful, and help each other gain an awareness of God’s work in our lives. 

We’re also told in Scripture how believers encouraged one another. But far more rarely is anyone told to go specifically seeking encouragement.

Nevertheless, encouragement comes our way. The key is that God brings it about in His timing and in His fashion. Here are some of the many ways encouragement comes to us:

1. From Others

Sometimes God uses others to bring us encouragement. Family, friends, writing buddies, and professional opinions can all encourage us. When I (Erin) met with Karen for the first time, I wasn’t looking for encouragement specifically. I was looking for a professional opinion. However, it did encourage me. It told me something I didn’t know and helped me understand and identify what God was doing in me and my writing.

2. From Readers’ Responses

Seeking encouragement from reader feedback should never be our goal, but it can be accepted as a lovely gift when, or if, it happens.

3. Through Prayer

Sometimes encouragement comes during prayer as we cry out to God. Psalm 10:17 says, “You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry.”

4. From the Holy Spirit

Sometimes encouragement comes directly from the Holy Spirit, which is an amazing thing. Acts 9:31 tells us, “Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”

5. From Scripture and Meditation

Sometimes encouragement comes from reading Scripture and meditating on who God is and what He’s done for us.  2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 says, “May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.”

Final Words on validation

What validation, what encouragement, can you hang your hat on? Only validation from God. But here’s the thing. No one, outside of God, can tell you what that looks like for you.

I (Karen) know when God is speaking to me. I sense it in ways that are different from anything else in my life. It’s an outgrowth of my relationship with Him. So for me, it comes from within. Sometimes it comes from what others say, but not just that. It’s when someone says something at exactly the right time and I just stand there and smile, because I’d been talking with God about this and boom! Here is someone saying something that fits to perfection.

The key in this whole area is to keep your focus on God and on doing what He’s asked you to do. Focus on pleasing Him and serving others. Let God handle the encouragement and validation. I guarantee you that, in a way that only you will understand, He’ll validate you as His child and co-laborer in His harvest. He’ll let you know when you’re doing well, when you’re on the right path, and when you’ve gotten sidetracked.

You can’t seek validation. You have to rest in God and let Him bring it to you however He chooses. He will do so!

Psalm 149:2-5, slightly edited for writers:

Let [God’s writers] rejoice in their Maker; let the people of [words] be glad in their King. Let them praise His name with dancing and [write His truths with beauty and joy]. For the Lord takes delight in His [writers;] He crowns the humble with victory. Let His faithful [writers] rejoice in this honor and sing for joy on [at their computers.] Needing validation is normal. Seeking it is something else. Something dangerous. #amwriting @karenball1 Click To Tweet

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Have you ever fallen into the trap of seeking validation? What are some ways God has encouraged you when you weren’t seeking it?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our August sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain. Stacy’s been working on her first book but also, like many, dealing with changes that this pandemic has brought to her life. We’re praying for Stacy and so many others affected by the trials in our world today!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.

123 – When Your Writing Career Needs Renovations

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When Your Career Needs Renovations on Write from the Deep

When Erin Taylor Young and her husband bought their new home in June of 2020, they had no idea what was waiting for them! The challenges. The renovations. The hard work. Writers are often in that same place when they go beyond the idea of writing into the real, messy work of writing and the unforeseen challenges of a writing career. So here are some lessons Erin learned to help guide and encourage you on your writing journey.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

I’ve mentioned on this podcast before that my hubby and I have moved to Kansas. What I didn’t mention is that we bought a house bigger than we planned, and it needed more repairs and updating than we anticipated. So we’ve been in the middle of renovations, doing things like scraping popcorn texture off ceilings. As we’ve been doing this, I’ve noticed how many things—we’ll call them lessons I’m learning from everything that’s gone wrong—actually apply to the writing life.

So here are my observations, in no particular order.

What you think will be simple almost never is

For example, we had to buy a refrigerator. Why are there so many choices of refrigerators? And why do I need it to be WiFi enabled? With a bunch of doors? And a TV? We finally got one picked out only to realize that it had no wheels. How could we possibly slide a fridge into place on a brand new wood floor without scratching the daylights out of it? So we had to choose a different refrigerator that had wheels. 

And then my hubby noticed the water connection pipe box thingy (this is why I’m not a plumber) looked askew. In fact, broken. Which meant he had to go buy $90 worth of special plumbing tools. And a new box thingy. And when we had a plumber come in for an entirely different issue (that’s another story) he looked at the refrigerator and said dealing with that broken box was a huge pain of a job that he didn’t have time for (it was the end of his workday already). He frowned. “You gotta cut the drywall out and so that’ll have to be repaired as well…”

So simply replacing the fridge turned out to be a huge rabbit hole we fell into.

In some ways, I think lots of would-be authors think writing a book should be a simple process. You know, just spew your story into the computer and voila: Royalty checks will start showing up.

But writing a good book? That can be a pretty big rabbit hole in and of itself. It’s much more complicated than we realize at first. Especially because we don’t even know what we don’t know about the craft of writing. And even when we learn our craft, there are still so many steps involved, such as revision, working with critique partners or editors, and so on.

Even when your book is done, it’s not done. Because then you have another rabbit hole of figuring out how to get it published. Do you go the traditional route: finding an agent, creating your hook, proposal, audience, takeaway, and so on? Or, if you’re indie publishing, now you’re the publisher and you have to deal with formatting, cover design, retailers, and marketing all on your own. 

And it doesn’t stop there, because your career is just starting. You’re going to face a boatload of complicated challenges and decisions as you walk this road. 

But here’s the bottom line: Even if nothing is as simple as I thought, that was okay. I learned from it. And now I’ve learned to keep this in mind when I jump into something else “simple.” Which will help me not get as frustrated when things get complicated. Of course, I’ll still get a little frustrated. That’s just human to do so. But my experience will help me handle it better the next time.  

Sometimes, though, our initial ignorance is bliss. Sometimes it’s better NOT to know just how hard the journey you’re embarking on is, because you might chicken out. You may never try. And that would be a shame. 

So if you’ve started on this writing journey and you’re feeling like it isn’t the cruise you signed up for—or if you’re at a stage in your journey where you thought things would be easier or simpler, and they’re so not what you’d hoped or expected—know that lots and lots of authors have faced and are facing the same struggle. You’re not alone. There is One who knows the entire journey. He’s had it planned since before you were born. No rabbit hole is too deep, no journey too difficult, when He’s your guide.

Everything is going to take much longer than you think

We thought we’d have all the popcorn ceilings scraped in 2-3 weeks. Wrong. Just the prep work—not even the actual scraping—takes forever. Laying plastic drop cloths over the floors to protect them from gloop falling from the ceiling takes forever. EVERYTHING seems to take forever.

We learned the hard way that if you don’t securely tape all the drop cloth pieces together, all the dried crumbles and dust that the popcorn turns into will squirt out all over the floors when you try to roll up the drop cloths. And you have to tape them to the walls, too. But when you pull off the painter’s tape holding your drop cloths to the the walls, it pulls the paint off too. So not only did we have the ceiling repairs from the scraping, we also had to repair the walls with joint compound and sand them and repaint…and so on. 

If you think house renovations take forever, try waiting for an editor or agent’s response to your proposal. It’s going to take much longer than you think. Publishing is all about waiting. On yourself, on others, on God. And it’s often about hurry up and wait. You hurry to get something done by an agent’s or editor’s deadline, only to wait for weeks or even months to get a response 

The key in all this waiting is to know that God is in control of the timeline. He will work His will according to what He knows is the best timeline for you, for all involved. And if you’re stressed because you’re behind a timeline of your own making, let the timeline go. Or make sure your deadlines (if it’s for a preorder or editing or whatever) are reasonable. NEVER agree to a deadline you know you can’t meet, and never count on everything going smoothly. Build in extra time for emergencies.

You are going to have to continually revise your expectations

Very little (or probably even nothing) is going to turn out completely the way you envisioned or intended. AND it’s going to be a less-than-perfect final product. AND you’re going to have to make changes on the fly.

There was a lot of brown in the house we bought. It had to go. Part of getting rid of it included getting rid of the beige carpeting. But the house had a LOT of carpeting—more than we could afford to replace. Until we got connected with a wholesaler whose price was low enough that we could afford it. Which, as it turns out, was a great thing because the carpets weren’t in great shape and we weren’t helping anything by getting crud from the ceilings ground into them. No matter how careful we were, that stuff got everywhere. It was worse than sand from the beach. 

The catch with the carpeting wholesaler was that we had to use the type and color of carpeting that he dealt with, and when it came to lighter colors, there were fewer choices than with the more expensive carpet suppliers. My favorite color of what the wholesaler offered wasn’t as thick as my distant-second-favorite color.

So now what? I couldn’t have both the thickness I wanted and the color I wanted. Furthermore, we couldn’t re-carpet everywhere in the whole house, so we had to choose the wisest place to spend the money. The perfect house I’d envisioned didn’t (and couldn’t) exist except in my mind. I had to let go of it. 

You’re going to run into these limitations in your writing career. The perfect book has yet to be written (other than the Bible). If you keep writing your book until you think it’s perfect, you’ll never finish. And you’ll end up discouraged. The perfect marketing plan doesn’t exist, the perfect career doesn’t exist. You simply can’t “do everything right.” You can try to set yourself up to make no mistakes, but nothing you do will ensure success. That’s in God’s hands.  

What you can do is your best with every effort, every decision, soaking it all in prayer. Even then, your best will keep changing as your seasons in life, your expertise, and the industry changes. It’s all a process. 

Another reason to let go of your perfect vision is that if you don’t, you’ll end up closing yourself off to ideas from others. Especially if you’re traditionally published, which is a team effort. You’re going to have to acquiesce to others who have more expertise. Editing, cover design, even your title…Publishing companies know their readers and they have an investment in your book and in seeing it do well. 

We’re not saying you simply give in to every suggestion and be a doormat, only that you need to remain open to a bigger vision than you had alone. Be teachable. Surround yourself with people you trust and learn when to let go.

It’s OK, though, to say “I’m not sure I like this,” or “I was anticipating something different,” or “would it be possible to move in this direction?” And to trust your gut, so long as you’ve covered your decisions in prayer.

You absolutely don’t want to proceed with something you’re not comfortable with. For example, when we started painting, we chose a color that we liked. But when we put it on the walls, it turned purple. No kidding, it was purple. We didn’t know why, but we knew we didn’t like it. At all. So even though it meant more work and more money, we replaced the purple paint with a paint that kept the color we wanted to begin with. And boy, am I glad we did.

You are going to have to do hard, scary things that will push you beyond what you think ARE your limits

One of the difficulties we faced was our two-story foyer and staircase. How in the world would we scrape, sand, and paint the ceiling and walls? We didn’t have a ladder that tall—I didn’t even know if they made them. It seemed an insurmountable task.

We got an estimate to have the work done, but it was over $2,000. Definitely not in our budget. We had to figure out a way. You’re going to face those kinds of challenges in your writing. You’re going to feel like you can’t possibly do whatever it is you need to do. But you can do what we did:

We investigated. And we figured things out.

We found a ladder that would do most of the stairs—it had multiple ways to configure it. It’s a pain in the backside to move and adjust. It’s heavy (I can barely move it myself) and you need space to fold and unfold it. And we had to figure out how to level the ladder legs on the stairs. But we did it!

Then we rented scaffolding. Just putting it together was hard, and it felt rickety. That was nothing compared to being at the top of the ladder, working. I knew the ladder was sturdy and strong, and it was leaning against the wall, so I really couldn’t fall backward due to the physics of it all. But still, when I was way up high, it felt so rickety and light.  

That’s how it sometimes feels when we’re trying to trust God in our writing career. In our heads, we know He’s the God of the universe…but do we always FEEL that? This is why emotions are a poor measuring stick for reality. Rather than basing your decisions on your emotions, find out the facts. Hold to Scripture about who God is and KNOW you can trust Him.

You’re going to be pushed. Writing isn’t safe. You have to be vulnerable and face challenges you never imagined. You’re going to feel exposed. Just know that’s how God wants it so we rely on Him, so HE gets the glory, not us.

Things are going to get messier before they get cleaner

When you’re renovating, you can’t be afraid to make a mess. You can’t be afraid of demo. Sometimes you have to tear things down to rebuild them better.

When we had our inspection done, we learned that we had mold under our dining room windows. We couldn’t be afraid to open the walls to see what we were dealing with so we could clean it up and rebuild everything. And when our carpet was replaced, there were several days where we were walking around on the plywood subfloor, and that was a mess. But it let us deal with annoying squeaks in the flooring. And at the end of the process, we were going to have nice clean walls, no mold, fresh carpet, and no squeaks. That made it all worth it. 

The same will be true of book revisions. You may need to dismantle that book, and it’ll look like a disaster: chapters missing, paragraphs hacked. But imagine the final book in your hands, or a streamlined story that connects with readers. It’s worth the effort. They key is to have confidence in your ability to learn how to deal with the problems. Get an experienced editor to help you or a good critique partner. And read craft books. Writing is a skill you can learn!  

Or think about your career as a whole—you may experience huge upheavals: messy experiences with your publishing company, radical changes in the industry, hard decisions. Things may feel like they’re in shambles before a better reshaping can happen. But again, God has foreseen all this, He’s your guide, your shelter, and your protection through this upheaval.

You are going to be tempted to grumble

One morning shortly after our offer was accepted on the house, Alan and I were walking on the trail behind the house and I heard a hawk (I love hawks!). The sky was blue, the air was crisp and a hawk was calling overheard. So perfect! I said to Alan, “I can’t believe we get to live here!”

Then the hard work hit, the difficulties, the constant trials. Every day had a new problem, that’s no exaggeration. My dream come true was SO much harder than I thought. It was easy to grumble and be frustrated. God was giving me my dream, and I was grumbling. Ever wonder why the Israelites could grumble so much on the way to the Promised Land? Well, I feel like I know firsthand. It’s hard! 

This is going to happen somewhere along the way in your writing career. Problems, challenges, grumbling.

Don’t hear us saying your career is going to be a nightmare, because we’re not saying that. But none of us is promised an easy path on following God, no matter what our dreams are. Even when our dreams come true, they won’t be perfect.

We can’t lose sight of thankfulness, of gratitude. You can’t lose sight of the blessing that God is giving you even when things get hard. It’s remembering that God is with you, and He’s brought you to this place, and He has His purpose in everything you face. That’s what will strengthen you.

There is a joy that will keep you going if you’re willing to stop and notice it

We are created in God’s image, we’re imitators of Him, and naturally we want to create, to bring order from chaos. But it’s tempting to only see the big picture in your mind, and not be satisfied until that big picture is fulfilled. 

But often the big picture is TOO big, and it’s constantly changing because nothing stays the same in this world except God. We need to stop and take delight in the small steps. Watch for those little bits of joy that God has tucked into every step of what you’re doing. He delights in bringing you joy.

For me, just finishing one closet, just seeing one mess cleaned up, one ceiling that looked pretty, that kept me going when I was willing to stop and be thankful for that one thing.

In your writing career there are lots of small steps to celebrate: finishing a chapter, cleaning up your writing space, creating a new outline, finding that perfect word you’ve been seeking, a successful brainstorming session, a nice reader email, a new contract, your first sale on Amazon, finishing your first draft, saying hello to another writer at your first conference, and so many other things!

In spite of any difficulties you face, the good things will still be good. We just have to stop and celebrate them, take time to enjoy them. Trials and hardship don’t negate the good. Remind yourself of everything God has done thus far. Progress even in small steps will be exciting as you see the results. And the progress will be a joy to help keep you going. 

Sometimes you end up with exactly what you didn’t want, but it turns out that you love it for reasons you couldn’t foresee

In my case, one thing I most wanted to change was the kitchen cabinets. Yes, they were pretty in a certain way, but the stain had this caramel orange cast. But once we changed the lighting and restrained the wood floor to a lighter color, the cabinets lost their orange glow. The countertops, which I didn’t like because they also seemed orange, suddenly looked more like an outdoorsy natural stone, which I loved. I could never have foreseen that.

So I ended up with what I thought I didn’t want, but because other changes around the kitchen brought a whole different perspective, I’m pretty darn satisfied with how things turned out.

You’re probably going to have preconceived notions of who you are and what you like and don’t like as a writer, and how you want to work with something and how you don’t. That’s fine, but don’t let that make you miss what might actually be a good fit for you, even if you think it’s not. God Knows you better than you know yourself, and He knows what’s good for you and right for you. To help you thrive. To grow you. To put you where you can be the best version of you.

Final Words

We’re so human. It’s easy to forget that God is in control and get focused instead on circumstances. But the renovations that need to happen in you, and your writing career, those are in God’s hands. You can trust Him with that. You can trust Him to make the end project more beautiful, more perfect, than you ever could have imagined. That’s because He loves you, and He loves the people who are going to be reading your books. And He loves the fact that we are willing to follow Him and do as He asks!

While writers love the idea of being a writer, the real work and challenges of a writing career can make them falter. Check out these tips to help you thrive! #amwriting @karenball1 Click To Tweet
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