I’m an introvert. People don’t believe me, but I am. I can be sociable. I can jump into the middle of a crowd and start conversations and get people laughing and network with the best extroverts out there, but I hate it. It’s not me.
The real me would rather be in the corner with a pencil and a notebook watching people and taking notes for the next (or current) novel and smiling at people who walked by rather than striking up a conversation with them. But, alas! My job requires me to be something of a schmoozer, and that is absolutely not my gift. So I’m learning how to do it, which is very good for me.
I’m not sure where my lack of confidence comes from, but I’m learning how to overcome it. I think I just have this idea that I can’t possibly offer anyone anything they couldn’t find somewhere else. I mean, why would anyone read anything I’ve written when you can read something a better author has already put together? When we as writers are faced with the question from an editor or agent concerning why they should read our work as opposed to someone else’s, my first response is: “I don’t know.”
Deep down inside I don’t feel like my writing is any different than anyone else’s. I don’t feel like it’s better or superior. After all, it’s just me sitting at a keyboard and thinking with my fingers (to quote the great Isaac Asimov). There’s nothing remarkable about that. Is there?
Well, maybe there is. People I know say it’s extraordinary, but they’re not writers. If you’re a writer, writing, or at least telling a story, is as natural as breathing. It’s how we’re wired. It’s our passion. And you probably find yourself doing it even when you’re not trying.
I don’t know how people come to grips with standing up and being bold about their writing. Some people are natural sales types. I’m not. And some people who write truly have a skill set that’s impressive. I don’t, at least, not in my opinion. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with selling yourself with any of those credentials. If I had those credentials, I would use them.
What I struggle with the most is how I should present myself and my work without sounding as though I’m in the whole thing for my own glory. I don’t know how anyone else feels about writing, but for me writing is my outlet to express what God has done in my life, what He’s taught me, what I’ve learned, and why He’s my best friend. That’s why I want to write. I want to write so I can share God’s goodness and love and grace with other people.
So how does that work? Can you say “I’m writing for God” in one breath and then turn around and expect the attention and the spotlight with the next? That sounds incongruous to me. Even if I enjoyed that sort of thing (which I don’t; I despise it), I don’t think I could force those ideas together. Like similar poles of a magnet, I don’t think they go together. Just like it doesn’t seem to work for me to walk up to an editor and tell them that I’m a great writer with a great idea that they absolutely have to publish or they’ll be missing out.
I’ve gotten a lot of advice from a lot of people about it, but I have to say the most unexpected advice I’ve ever gotten came from the Glen Eyrie workshop this year. That was one of the questions I had brought to ask in my one-on-one with the awesome and encouraging Nancy Rue. How can I be bold about my work? The amazing answer was: “Don’t be.”
Don’t be? Seriously? That wasn’t the answer I was expecting. I’ve had other writers tell me that you have to sell yourself. I’ve had others tell me that you have to stand up and make a lot of noise to be noticed. So being told to be quiet, humble, and meek about it wasn’t something I thought any writer would tell me.
And as I was mulling over her answer (surprising and relieving as it was), I couldn’t help but remember something another mentor-type person in my life had told me. Back in February/March/April when I was in the heat of writing/directing dramatic scripts at church for the Run, Forrest, Run series, I made a comment to this friend of mine. He’s the kind of friend everyone needs—the straight guy, the blunt guy, the guy who speaks gut-wrenching truth with overflowing love. I mentioned that the little scripts I’d come up with were nothing special. Just silly ideas I’d had over a cup of coffee. And he wouldn’t have any of it.
He told me they weren’t silly ideas because they were ideas God had given me, and any idea God has is never silly. My tearing down those ideas and sketches and even myself—even if it’s in self-deprecating humility—is taking away from what God accomplished through those ideas. And I didn’t have the right or the authority to tell God that His ideas weren’t worthwhile.
Those scripts I wrote came from a thought God put in my heart. I didn’t ignore it or push it away as being silly. I wrote it down, and God used it to touch a lot of people through that message series. He gave me the idea, and He gave me the opportunity to share in something bigger than I was.
That’s not silly. That’s spectacular.
And that’s what I thought about when my friend Nancy told me not to worry about being bold. The work will speak for itself. And if God is truly in what I’m writing, He will use it the way He wants to use it when He wants to do it.
Granted, I shouldn’t be afraid. But I shouldn’t tear myself or my work down simply because I’m afraid of coming off as conceited. It’s God’s idea. It’s God’s story. And I can be bold about that. I just have to truly believe that He’s given me something to share with others.
So I’m trying to keep all that in mind as I approach the upcoming Realm Makers conference in St. Louis. I want to make a good impression. I want to make contacts. I want to get good feedback. I want to learn from those who’ve gone before in the publishing arena. But what I want more than anything is for God to be glorified through what I write, and I want Him to use my talent and love for writing to encourage and help other people. What I have to accept is that reaching that goal may not look like what I think it will look like, and I have to be okay with that.
I think I am. I guess we’ll find out. =)