“I don’t know what my writing future holds.”
This is a paraphrase of what I’ve seen several of my blogging friends say. It echoes something I too often feel and face: uncertainty regarding my writing future. At times, it gets so bad I allow this fear of the unknown, this uncertainty, to dictate what and how I write. Numerous stories are currently abandoned because I didn’t think they were good enough. When I sit down and place my fingers on the keyboard, I have to fight the questions often lingering in the back of my mind. Is this book any good? Will I actually finish this one? What if I receive another rejection? What if permanent writer’s block hits and I can’t get past it? What if it’s just a sloppy, weak story overall? It’s nothing like the books I love and have on my shelves.
These questions are crippling, and I know many writers have faced them head-on and lost, myself included. Since reading a friend’s post a few days ago, this has been on my heart. This post might be rough and might seem like I’m inundating you with verses and songs, and am rambling all over the place, but I’m praying I can transfer what I’ve been ruminating on into clear paragraphs and sentences so those of you who struggle with this can find help and encouragement as we travel this road together.
Not knowing can be nebulous, unsettling, and stressful. It can cause fear and that sinking feeling in your stomach as you contemplate the unknown. We bear this burning passion to write, to create, to weave stories and tales that touch others, but that passion comes with the crippling kryptonite we know as fear.
Oh, it may not feel like fear at first, but that is the root of it. Fear of what we do not know. Fear that our writing may go nowhere. Fear that our writing career will sink before it ever sets sail. We long to know that what we’re doing today will make a difference tomorrow. That these words emerging from the depths of our hearts, souls, and minds will bless others.
We humans are foolishly silly. We think we can control the future. Doing so would be nice, we think, being able to decide when we finish our books, how popular they’ll be, and how our writing careers will go. That stems from a desire to control, which is a branch from the tree of fear. Not knowing the future unsettles us. We want to reach out and create our future like we create the worlds we write. We want tie it in a nice bow and place it in a safe only we can access – all because we want things to go our way. How we want them to. We don’t want to question, to wonder, what tomorrow, the next week, and year, and the next decade will bring. We want to know in advance so we can plan.
In that desire, we derail ourselves. We get off the track we need to be on and crown ourselves queen or king of our writing future.
Reality check: we’re not. The crown we wear is one of our own making. It is superficial and, ultimately, will lead us nowhere.
I’ve donned my crown many times, thinking by my writing ability alone will I succeed, will I impress a publisher or acquisitions editor. I forget to align my heart with the One who created it. I forget that He was the one who gave me this desire to write. I forget that only though His will will I ever publish a book.
On the other hand, a crippling fear and anxiety can grip my heart. I’m not good enough. What if I fail? Will I no longer have a chance at success? It’s an odd dichotomy, this rancid pride and this debilitating fear of what the future may hold.
I’m the type who likes to control everything. I like everything neatly organized and where it should be. Heaven help the soul who dares mess up the order of things. Because of this, I want to control my writing future. When I can’t foresee what will happen, or where my writing is going, that fear rises. When I think I have a decent WIP, that pride reemerges.
In my effort to reassure myself I can do this, I place a chain on my writing. I hinder it by my inane delusions that Madisyn is the one who can do it all by herself. Help? Pft. What an alien concept. No assistance needed, God. I’m a big girl. I can do this alone. Or I contemplate quitting writing or dis the idea I”m working on. The idea of claiming the title of author is so far out of reach it feels like it’ll never come to fruition.
Either way, I’m leaning on myself. I’m relying on my tenuous grasp on the future. I’m trying to pave my own path and am ignoring that God’s plan might be different than mine.
It brings to mind Anthem Lights’ song “Follow Your Heart”. Our own way is nothing compared to God’s.
Fellow writers, why, oh why do we reject the unarguable truth that the One who gave us this desire to write will not fail in providing us a future for writing? Whether we think we, with our all-so-mighty-and-incredible plans, can conquer every writing obstacle with ease, or we doubt and question and fear our writing future, we’re brushing aside the truth. We can’t do this alone.
A big part of this is that we hesitate to give Him everything. Do we doubt He can bear it all? Do we think it’s too much for Him? Or do we simply struggle through the mire created by our futile attempts to blaze our own paths?
Think about the following verse and the lyrics of the next song:
We can make all the plans we want, but God determines our steps. Why is it so difficult place our writing into the hands of the One who holds the stars?
An image of Gollum comes to mind. That ugly creature hunched over the ring and obsessing over it, or even just after Smeagol killed Deagol for it, and is stroking the ring and whispering, “My precious”. We’re a lot like Gollum. We hunch over our writing, clutching it to our chests while hissing at God, “Mine. My precious”.
That’s not who I want to resemble.
Another big part in this is fear of the unknown. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t like not knowing what’s going to happen. We see this throughout the millenniums. Humanity has tried numerous methods – all wrong and antiBiblical – to ascertain the future: Fortune tellers; astrology; sacrifices to the gods in exchange for knowledge of what was to come. Humanity is driven with the need to know the future, and we collectively will do anything to get that knowledge.
Not knowing is scary. It can be nebulous and encases our hearts and minds in fear’s choke hold. This is natural, to an extent. But when we allow fear to become even a slight whisper in the back of our minds, we give it a foothold in our writing.
Not knowing the future feels like you’re wandering along, alone, on a mist-shrouded path. Surrounded by dark sylvan outlines, mist droplets peppering your face. You think you know where you’re going – after all, you chose this path in the beginning, when everything was clear. Now, all you can do is stumble through the mist and wander in the direction you think is right.
I’m going to quote the aforementioned blog post I read a few days ago, which addresses this matter: “You don’t need to know what God’s doing to trust Him” (quote courtesy of Issabelle). How true this is, and how grateful we should be that God’s wisdom and power don’t depend on our plans or lack thereof.
Proverbs 16:3 says, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established”. Do realize that doesn’t mean our plans the way we’d like them, but our plans as they come into accordance with God’s will.
Our prayers need to echo the lyrics of “Help Me Find It” by Sidewalk Prophets: “Whatever Your will, can You help me find it?”.
With this prayer comes the necessity to release our control. Fearing the unknown and letting that fear control our writing is a poison. It weakens us, slowly wearing away our understanding that God, not us, is in control. It’s naturally difficult for us to hand over the reins. It goes against our fleshly nature to give Someone else control.
But when we wrest away control from ourselves and hand it over to the One who formed us and decides when we draw our last breath, we are stepping into submission to God’s will and saying, “Here I am. Use me, use my writing, according to Your will”.
When we return the control we’ve stolen, our writing is in the safest hands it could ever be in. Take to heart Proverbs 3:5-6 and the songs below.
Understanding that our writing futures are in God’s control is worthless if we then fight God’s will at every turn. When we say we give it to Him, we need to mean it. Understanding must coincide with our willingness to obey, even if it looks like a door we’d really like to walk through is closing. It’s closing for a reason. When another will open, or why it’s closing is for God only to know. Remember, we see one letter amongst the vast pages of a master tome. This is part of giving Him control. Handing everything over, even the outcome or lack thereof regarding our writing. We can’t say, “Thy will be done” and then retract our statement and try adding in a clause stating, “Thy will be done for everything but this particular issue”.
He will create our writing futures in a way only He can design. It won’t always be easy, but we need to willingly follow the path He provides.
It won’t always be easy. We won’t always know what God has planned for us. But we need to face our fear of the unknown, admit that we cannot control it, and recognize that even if God’s plan differs from ours, His is the best way. Don’t let fear hold you back from pursuing the desire to write. Keep in mind these three verses:
“Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid.” – Isaiah 12:2a
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” – John 14:27
Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” – James 4:15
These three verses remind us not to fear and to remember that Christ provides peace in our uncertainty. The last one is a good reminder that everything we do ought to be from a desire to accomplish the Lord’s will.
We say we know Who holds the future, but do we really believe it?
As you continue writing, and when you face the fear of your unknown writing future – for you will face it, remember we are not meant to control what will come. Our attempts will leave us empty, worn, and depleted.
Take courage and know that the Creator, the One who made galaxies and worlds, is fully capable of forming our writing futures and seeing them to completion.