Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Stories to combat writer's discouragement

I was having some gloomy moments last week and couldn't figure out why, until I put two and two together. I've recently had two great things happen. 1) "Picking up the Pieces", the first novel I ever had published back in 2000, has been re-published! A good number of them arrived on my doorstep last week. 2) After working on it for over a year, my newest manuscript is out of my hands and with my editor. Now, you'd think those are both things that would make me cheer, "Hooray!" But when good things happen and I have time to stand back and take a deep breath, I find myself getting anxious and flat. All the "what ifs?" begin to surge through my head. "What if people don't really care? What if I can't sell them as quickly as I anticipated? What if all the hard work I've done amounts to nothing much?" I guess we all have these feelings sometimes. I've collected a few stories about other hardworking writers and scribes to help me combat them.

A lesson from Baruch

One of the lesser known people in the Bible, he was Jeremiah's secretary. Baruch took Jeremiah's dictation of the Lord's Words and then went and read them out to the people while Jeremiah was shut up and restrained. Eventually Baruch was asked to come before the princes in the royal household and read them out loud. I guess many of us remember how King Jehoiakim cut them up and threw them with contempt into the fire. Baruch had to run into hiding with Jeremiah and take the dictation again.

In the short chapter 45 of Jeremiah, although this is not stated in words, it appear that Baruch let himself grow discouraged because of the lack of public acclaim he and Jeremiah were earning. I can easily imagine that Baruch, swept away by the magnitude of what he was scribing, hoped to make a name for himself and even become a national hero. He'd staked his life and reputation for the sake of recording Jeremiah's prophecies for posterity. Surely he felt that God would decide to reward them in their here and now. When that didn't happen, Baruch must have sunk into depression, and Jeremiah received a prophecy especially for him. This is how it went. God's response was, "Should you seek great things for yourself - seek them not for I bring evil upon all flesh but leave you your life as a booty and snatched prize of war." It was probably not the response from God that Baruch longed to hear but there we have it. It seems to apply to me too at times. The rebuke seems to be not to value the response of men to your work so highly, because we're doing it for the love of God and others, and when our motivation is to earn accolades for ourselves, we have to be careful (ouch!)

The medieval writer of "Sir Gawain"

refer to an article in the recent edition of the Omega Writer's "Zaphon" on-line magazine, written by Anne Hamilton. She drew my attention to this anonymous man who poured hours into writing his brilliant work in English. Just as he finished, it became unpublishable. A proclamation went out from the church restricting theological writing to Latin. Perhaps he sank into despair and thought, "How can God let this happen when He gave me the inspiration in the first place?" However, over 500 years later, the only surviving copy of his work influenced thousands of people. Twentieth century's two great professors JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis both fell in love with it and drew heavily on his writing for their own amazing series which we know and love so well.

The irony is, how could either of these two men possibly have known that their relatively obscure efforts would be incorporated into something timeless? And by the same token, how can we possibly know all the ways God will use the gift of writing He's given us without our knowledge? We know what we need to be doing! The amount of recognition we receive for it is inconsequential to God and should also be to us, as we have faith that He hasn't forgotten us and knows where He wants to take our work!

I feel better now myself.