*insert witty post preface that makes you want to read this post*
This past June and July were intense writing months for me. I reread Draft Three of Beasts, found a dysfunctional story, and decided that I could and would fix it. Because that’s what I do. I fix things. And if I can’t fix something, it drives me just a little bit crazy. And so help me, I was going to fix this story if it killed me.
A lot of June went into brainstorming how this fixing was going to happen and figuring out just how much of the 90,000 word Draft Three was going to be axed. As it turns out, 85k met the sword in my pursuit of a better fourth draft. I was on a deadline, one I couldn’t move again, so I dove into rewriting (fourth time’s a charm, right?).
I enjoyed very few (translation: zero) of the hours upon hours upon hours poured into the actual rewrites. Between hating the story itself and being drained spiritually, emotionally, and mentally by the other things going on in my personal life, the last thing I wanted to do was try and put what little I had left into fixing that stupid, broken story. As I wrote, I came to dislike it even more because the story was too warped to fix in one draft, but I had to do what I could because I’d postponed the Deadline too much already (the Deadline was an editorial review with an amazing freelance editor).
So I wrote, and I hated it. Doing the writing. The words themselves. Coughing up thousands and thousands of brand new words. Feeling guilty on days I only wrote 1,000 words. Sick with stress that made my family question if it was worth it, if I should write when it so obviously drove me to further physical exhaustion, anxiety, and emotional distress. I was wound so tight that I was popping a couple times a week in one way or another.
But I’m a writer, and writers write.
So that’s what I did. I wrote. I lived and breathed that story for five whole weeks. My sun rose and fell on how much progress I’d made, how many words I’d put on the page, how many days spun between me and the Deadline, and if I thought I could make it. Because so help me, I was going to make it. My thoughts ran in a constant, dogged cycle of plot and characters and questions and cringing over how people would react. Oh, yes, I was always anxious about what people would think when they read it, a bit of black terror crunching my heart whenever I guessed what they’d say. Too dark. Too confusing. Too simple. Too choppy. Too weird. Underdeveloped. Not enough description. Trying too hard. Too many plot holes. Childish. And let’s not even get into that rushed excuse for an ending.
I finished it, though, and it came to just over 60,000 words with just one day to spare. So off it went to an editor, and I was finally freeeeeeeeeee.
Except I wasn’t.
The anxiety and fear hounded me, and the remnants of the story hung in my mind, saturating my thoughts still because the whole time I was writing, something was missing, something big. And the absence of this thing was what put me into such a frenetic state, and I knew it. I knew what was wrong, why I was so agitated and turbulent; it wasn’t just about stress or dedication or perseverance or getting too little sleep.
It came into sharp focus when I received my edits. My editor had so many good thoughts and critiques, but one thing she said, an offhand kind of comment, struck me: “I can’t wait to see what God will do with it once it’s even more polished.”
Ah, right. God. Him. You know, the One I’ve said up and down that my writing is for blah, blah, blah. Yeah, Him.
I knew I was writing without Him, knew I was driving a wedge between us by how everything else was mastering me. I did my devotions faithfully, and I sought Him… but not as hard as I sought to fix that story. It’s sadly ironic—I didn’t like even one aspect of writing and story at the time, yet it was the writing and story that dominated my thoughts, took hold of my emotions, and consumed my energy instead of devotion to my Christ.
What I loved became something it was never intended—by me or my Jesus—to be. Ever.
It was a twisted form of worship, not to God, but to myself and what I could accomplish, had to accomplish, devoid of my greatest Vision. And after writing with and for God as much as I have tried to, I was keenly aware of how hard it was to wrestle against Him and try and make Him bless my work while I carried and would not give up a double-heart. A heart that wanted Him but not enough to make me seek Him with everything like I used to. A heart that wanted His blessings and hand in my writing but not enough to live like it. A heart that took the story He gave me and made it into something less, much less.
And I’ve spent the last month lying to myself, telling myself that it was so hard because I procrastinated (though, that did happen), it was so hard because the story was too much to fix in one shot (though, it was to an extent), it was so hard because of all the other things going sideways in life, it was so hard because blah blah blah.
Well, no, it was so hard because I did it alone, because I did it hoping to create something incredible by myself. I was all at once terrified of what people would say and yearning for their praise and approval, wanting them to tell me I had made something great and powerful. And most laughably of all, I wanted people to say that they were moved spiritually, that they understood grace a little better, that God spoke through it yet I wasn’t involving God in the writing. (And don’t mistake me: God can involve Himself in whatever He sees fit to with or without anyone knowing or recognizing it. My point here is that my heart was impure.)
What then? Now that I’m being honest—with myself and God and everyone else too—how do I untangle this? How do I put writing back where it is meant to be and bow my heart again to God?
Well, thank goodness I’m not doing it by myself. It’s been a lot of thinking and praying and wrestling with the Holy Spirit and opening hands and remembering and relearning truth I’ve somehow forgotten and coming back to full, true worship and communion with Him for the first time in weeks.
Why am I posting this on the blog? Because I’ve read that being honest and real (and ten other buzzwords like “authentic”) is important, and also because it hurts my pride more than just little to admit (on the freaking internet) that I struggled hard with things that this post and this post would have everyone believe I’m so far over.
There is always the danger that the things we love will become something they shouldn’t, will take on a role they aren’t meant to, and my prayer is that the Holy Spirit will help mightily, just like He helps me and is patient with me.