Tag Archives: acceptance

What to Do When You Suspect It’s Not Enough

“Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that behind the big mask and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our poor little eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less under anxious control.”
- George Eliot, Middlemarch, 1871

So you’re finally ready to get honest? You’re finally ready to admit that your writing is no good?

Congratulations. Welcome to the club! It’s time you knew the secret everyone else who writes already knows: it’s no good because you’re not good enough to write it.

And you’re not good enough for one, inescapable reason (and it isn’t a lack of trying). You’ve suspected it all along. It’s crept up on you time and time again as you waited for the words you knew wouldn’t be right:

You’re not enough.

You know. Everybody knows. It’s not really a secret at all. But here’s the thing–it’s not that big a deal. Trust me, plenty of people aren’t enough. It’s no reason to give up.

It should give you serious pause though. If more people realized this, there’d be far less junk published every year.

The best thing you can do now is take a moment to do yourself (and everyone else) a favor, and figure out what you’re going to do about it.

The vital question, of course, is what now?

1: Start with what IS working. Despite its shortcomings, your book is honest, insightful, revealing, and even inspiring. It achieved much of what you set out to do. It’s simply not what you should have set out to do. And that’s a tough pill to swallow–you’ll have to develop some discernment to sort out what exactly is good about it–but you’ve got time. And you’ve got the patience and skill to figure this out.

2. Go back to the vision. Reevaluate the origination of this book. What was the inception? What were you really after? If you’re like most of us, this is not natural or automatic. You don’t easily decide to change what or how you wrote simply because you need to. It’s hard to discover what you were really after (Teaching a lesson to prove a point? Affirmation or acclaim? Serving God better so he’d bless you?) 

Hey, welcome to the writer’s process!

Everyone who sets out to write a book finds it’s harder than they thought. Hopefully, you realize you’ve got to edit it, but also, you’ve got to let it be what it wants to be, not what you want it to be. Sadly, I don’t think that is ever easy. But less sadly, this is something your book will teach you if you can slow down and listen.

This is what my book taught me: I was after all those parenthetical things above. So going back to the vision to reevaluate was the only way to improve. The first draft wasn’t a waste–I needed to write it to get it out and see it clearly. But I also needed to accept refining (or redefining) the vision as simply the next step in the process.

Reevaluating the vision is what you do when your goal is the truth.

We’re not alone. And we’re not getting off with a “one-time-and-done” edit. This reevaluating will be consistent, ongoing, and require lots of commitment (motivation!) to see what’s really going on.

I know that’s what writing is, but that’s also what life is. We’re really trying to see things as they truly are.

Yeah, that’s a big, deep concept. And yeah, it was always that big. We just don’t like to see it too clearly–it’s scary.

So let this feel overwhelming for a while. It’s okay. Take it slow. And thank God now you can recommit to this deeper goal and finally stop seeing refinement as a barrier to success.

It isn’t. It never has been. Because the truth is exactly what you always wanted.

3. Recommit to the higher purpose. When I started this little blog experiment in 2004, I was working for a national ministry publisher and didn’t have a clue I’d still be editing 13 years later. I had one goal: keep my core motivation of honoring God. From my first post, the Monday Motivations and the “Higher Purpose” tagline was about establishing and evaluating what we’re really after in writing.

I believed this was what made successful writers.

Letting go of all selfish purposes, and deciding to love the journey. This was the one thing I knew I wanted.

Finding your higher purpose is always the real work because we’re fickle, distractable, chronically forgetful people. We are the Israelites. We forget God is working, we forget we’re following and not leading, and we forget the real point isn’t what we’re after but what he’s doing.

We’re always beholden to the work. And God is in it, if we’ll stop to notice and listen. So the real work is always slowing down to pay attention to what we’re really doing and saying, and why. Writing ultimately means leading readers to know what’s most important. But always first, we’ve got to find that ourselves.

If we’re going to be good guides and bring fresh air to many, we have to relax and be healed of our need to perform.

I was talking with another author who suffered unimaginable damage in her life. It’s taken years to acknowledge it was wrong and overcome it. It absolutely floored me that she’d done what I always have, diminishing the pain. “EVERYONE else’s pain was always worse,” she said.

What holds writers back isn’t the pain itself; it’s the struggle to believe it warrants attention.

That’s the unbelievable, secret truth, the debilitating LIE that a writing coach can’t fix. How can I express this strongly enough to convince you: this belief is the great evil in your way. People spend their lives afraid to allow what they suffered to matter, unable to allow the only thing that could break the bonds of that fear: accepting the truth.

We’ve been told over and over again, “No one cares. You don’t matter. Whatever you think happened, it was nothing compared to real struggle. You know nothing of what that’s like.”

Everyone thinks this. It’s designed to keep you safe. Day after day, month after month, how long has it held you silent?

You’re not going to make mountains out of molehills. It was bad enough. You won’t be throwing a pity party. You’re just going to acknowledge it happened and it hurt. You’ll never know real freedom until you call it what it was, and face this fake news playing in your head 24/7.

People care. It does matter. It was real. And it was wrong.

So many people need the freedom of that. And all it takes is your honest, vulnerable courage.

Face it. For justice, for peace, for righteousness and healing.

You were chosen to speak this. No more lies. It’s time to realize what you carry, Light-bringer. Share what you’ve been given, and see it transform out of the ashes of your past. It matters, and no one can change that. Nothing can overcome this–no more dodging.

“Don’t you know that a midnight hour comes when everyone has to take off his mask? Do you think life always lets itself be trifled with? Do you think you can sneak off a little before midnight to escape this?”
- Søren Kierkegaard, Either/Or, 1843

For the higher purpose!

M

The Best Way Writers Let Go & Get to Work

“…life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
From your work, you will be able one day to gather yourself.”

– Miguel de Unamuno (1864-1936), trans. Robert Bly

And what is our work?

The great Spanish writer and poet Unamuno said “sowing yourself.”

“Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,” he says, “don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death.” In other words, pay attention, “and do not let the past weigh down your motion.”

***

The rain finally arrived last night. It had threatened all yesterday but skirted around us until it finally fell. Like it thought about it and finally decided there was nothing for it and let go.

I’ve always liked that phrase, “nothing for it.” With some things, there’s simply no remedy.

Sometimes, you just have to accept and let go.

The storm will soon pass and be nothing like the southeast the last couple weeks. But all gratitude to God, it’ll help with the fires.

And like the rain, our work is to let go and get on with sowing ourselves into others’ lives.

Forget the past. Don’t let yourself get distracted. Rather than pointing fingers, or trying to figure out who’s deserving, or how best to rebalance others’ perspectives, we have to simply get to work. There’s no one inferior or superior. Everyone is in need.

The superior way is letting go of your perspective and taking someone else’s.

That’s what writers are: apprentices forever trying to master that skill. Get out of your own limited, inferior point of view and into another’s. That’s the essence of good storytelling. Even before Jesus told stories to teach lessons, stories’ lessons taught him. Stories are how humans make meaning of life. Imagine yourself in another situation and body and your perspective is changed.

Spiritual mastery is a heart humbled by a broadened perspective.

The inferior life is the unenlightened heart. It isn’t joyful because it isn’t at its true work of letting go and sowing into others. It believes lies about its own superiority, typically based in external circumstances.

Imagine if compulsory blood tests revealed the truth of all lineage through DNA’s undeniable story. When truth was known, there’d be no basis for the lie of supremacy.

***

As fall arrives, we begin making changes. We break out the warmer sheets and fans and air conditioners are replaced with space heaters. Nature forces us all to change. We have little choice; the weather chooses for us. No one escapes it, the inevitable. Our only choice is to prepare. The superior choice isn’t resisting but preparing well.

Truth is unchanging. All we can do is respond to it well, allow it, even welcome it. For writers, allowing life, receiving and not getting bent out of shape by life is part of the work of sowing. Forced to change, respond, prepare, if we’ll accept and focus on preparing well, we’ll see we’re also given more life to capture. And our chance to write will come if we can choose to be patient, let go, and let it rain.

One day, you will be able to gather yourself.

For the higher purpose,

Mick

When You’re Afraid to Release It Into the World

“The writer’s job is to abandon their work. To allow others to make judgment of its worth. And to go on to the next story…”  

– William Stafford

 

Did you write from your pain last week? How have you been at facing your fears through writing? 

 

image4

If you’ve attempted it, you know it requires discipline and patience, and extra grace with yourself as you fight to avoid the discomfort. Keep setting short, achievable goals, and reward yourself! Don’t quit!

 

This week it dawned on me that facing fears through writing also prepares us for the fears experienced after having written. Sending our personal, heart-baring work out into the world, it may bring up all sorts of preexistent pain. Those horrors from the past tend to come back to remind you of all the reasons you shouldn’t have tried, shouldn’t have thought you could do this.

 

I don’t know why this isn’t talked about more, the self-doubt that strikes just as you’re about to share the real you through your work. It isn’t you. It’s the life of the writer.

 

And the pain is what always draws you back, out of the present and into the unknowable future which we always tend to assume must contain at least as much pain as the past.

 

But we can’t know that. And instead of releasing our work and releasing ourselves from the fear, we allow that pain to condemn and imprison us. We believe we have no control over it. And we won’t until we receive it, relax into it and let it come.

 

image3The angels, Jesus and God himself always tell us not to fear, as if we can help it.

 

When fear tries to control us, we can fight to control fear. 

 

When we worry our work won’t be embraced, understood, appreciated, we have to fight back. When we’ve done the work and done our best, it’s not our job to judge or worry. Our part is to let it go. Then and only then can we know what the work really was — a chance to know true freedom.

 

One higher purpose of writing is getting free of fear and worry. 

I’ve got a distressing habit of doubting the value and necessity of my work. It’s held me back for years. I know the only way it’ll change is when I realize the imagined pain of others not accepting my work isn’t as bad as the real pain of stifling my talent.

image2“All of us have habits of thought…they include formulas of disbelief in our own gifts. If we cannot let go of the familiar old habits, we will not grow as artists. To grow as a writer, we must open our hearts, grow in our capacity to learn, to deepen our courage…even those truths that are painful will ultimately increase my wisdom, undergird my strength, make possible my art.” – Pat Schneider, Writing Alone

I know this to be true from my own life. The greatest pains have taught me the most. Why would I fear pain? Maybe the fear comes in not knowing how to deal with it or find release. But also, like many kids, I wasn’t encouraged to express my feelings, get comfort and and deal with them. So it’s been hard to find relief and resolve. 

Has anyone been given everything they needed to recover from life?

We carry our wounds and we’d rather not add to them.

Yet if we can fight through fear and allow ourselves to experience pain, knowing it can lead to deeper understanding, we can grow and gain wisdom, character and more of what we truly desire. We can find out what we’re really made of and learn to rely on God and others. We can meet even more difficult tests and know we have what it takes. And we may even stop fearing vulnerable sharing completely.

Can you imagine if that became true for you? 

image1What if you didn’t hold back today and all this week? By the end of it, you’ll be able to say to yourself:

You did it. You demanded the work speak as clearly and honestly as possible. And you let it go. I’m so incredibly proud of you. Will you ever know what this truly means? You’ve lived your commitment, even in the face of powerful doubt and certain destruction. Honor that investment and don’t dismiss the achievement of that. You’re becoming a writer who’s unafraid. And how many people need what you now know? Now you get to marvel at how God uses even his weak and broken ones to be his messengers of love, and to bring life where pain and death had threatened….

Give your all and face the fear as you prepare to share your truth this week. It’s more vital and life-giving than you can even comprehend.

It’s all for the higher purpose,

Mick

Oh, Bravery. Do You Have to Be So Hard?

“We say God uses all things for good, but we don’t know how to participate in that process of redemption because we can’t acknowledge that we are in pain, that our beliefs are shaken and that the way we think, feel and live is changed. We are unable to get to the good that God works because we cannot face the bad that life brings.” – Adam McHugh, The Listening Life

Why do I do this work? It’s so tiring and requires so much. DSC_0227 (1)And there’s so much to fix. Seriously, who would choose to do this day in day out, analyzing and assessing people’s problems, weighing the meaning of sentences and arguments and trying to improve them?

I love editing, but it’s honestly crazy-making. And even if I finish my part, so much is always left undone, unsaid. And the pain of the work remains.

And is anything really any clearer in the end? Maybe the bigger question is, does any of this work really matter?

It seems obvious that it does. And yet, when I’m so exhausted, it can’t be worth such struggle.

Recently, we had to repair a broken pipe under the house. We’d have liked to ignore it, but had no choice. It seemed wiser not to do the work—no treasure chests found buried in the yard, avoiding it seemed the expedient answer. But the trouble would have remained. And the fear and anxiety would only have increased.

IMG_6503Similar with relationship struggles, I often want to ignore the issues underneath—forfeit understanding and comfort. But the expedient answer is really no answer. The only thing to do is reject the laziness and fear and work to get at the real trouble.

With any struggle that arises, not facing the work required, we won’t improve or benefit from it. At writing, if I aspire to say the vital things too long unsaid, and develop the skill and wisdom that can inspire people, there’s nothing to do but to face the struggle and work.

As with the present editing struggle, the question to ask is, What will I wish I’d done?

Oh, bravery is needed. But who thinks of it?

IMG_6505We don’t want to say we lack bravery to face our struggles because it only adds to the hurt. And we fear pain. Who wants to risk time and resources without any assurance of success? We all know the hurt of multiplied struggles. We’ve all experienced loss upon loss, and we know how risky our work can be. But in life, as in writing, processing happens as you keep going, keep risking, keep fighting.

Processing is progress. If only we can admit that we’re struggling.

Who isn’t facing troubles? And what trouble can patience not overpower? The happiest lives didn’t become so by avoiding struggle. What meaning could the world know without the knowledge of suffering in bravery?

When a pipe needs fixing, somehow the money arrives. When relationship struggles crop up, there’s time to listen. Can I trust that similarly in book work, the stamina and hope to believe will be found and lives will be changed—my own included—despite and even because of the struggle?

Do we seek our true work in learning to receive whatever comes with openness and grace? And will it not bring us the true treasure we seek? Can we trust, even now, that all good things come as we learn to give all we have to the struggles that truly matter?

IMG_6508Practicing this trust may be the way receiving all things is opened.

Maybe it’s only through such perseverance that anything truly great can be brought into the world.

But I don’t know. I’ve only begun to listen to this through struggle. With strengthened endurance, to begin to respond to it. But it seems only in struggling to listen and listening to struggle—to our own and our neighbors’—do we learn this bravery.

I know this fatigue and anxiety are temporary. And learning endurance is worth the struggle. Regardless of any struggle, if we aim to express love—to ourselves and to others—it can make all the difference. Can I aim to be one who takes time to listen to what our struggles are saying—even when they seem not to be saying anything?

This is the skill I want. For this is how I’ll remain focused on what really matters. And for this, I will continue on until I am blessed with a tested bravery.

“When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, ‘Let me go, for it is daybreak.’ But Jacob replied, ‘I will not let you go unless you bless me.'” – Genesis 32:25-26

For the Higher Purpose,

Mick

The Gift of Anxiety…and Why You Need It

“Take care, you will face many tribulations in the world for my sake.” – Jesus

 

“Apparently uncertain seasons are usually the most powerful God-moments we experience. They often put God on display more than other seasons, demonstrating that God exists and rewards those who seek him (Hebrews 11:6).” – Jon Bloom, Desiring God Ministries

grandmother praying

Those who know me know I’m all about fearless writing.

If you know me well, you know I only achieve that through great discipline.

The trouble is, I’m like many people who live a largely undisciplined life. I have an adopted unthinking acceptance of comfortable American living. I also tend toward an overly critical spirit. I get too often focused on being overly critical of others, which shows I’m also blind because half a second’s consideration would reveal I’m the one in need of my attention.

Like most people, I get distracted by all the things I see out there. And the truth is, without facing real struggle I don’t take risks; I get too comfortable and end up staying safe. Fearless writing is impossible from that position. I really don’t like admitting this, but I fear my sins of omission are doing more damage than those afflicted with the world’s evils.

A particular kind of anxiety is a gift when pursued in trying to grow and live well. This kind is guided by 3 principles.

1. First, pursue your dream expecting to fail.

2. Second, be an advocate for love and freedom, expecting opposition.  

3. Be curious and guided by love.

These three are the primary gifts and we don’t naturally possess them. Even when we’re gifted with them, they remain in short supply and are soon burned up. This is why I’m collecting a list of “Love Words” to define the sort of passionate, curious, confident love I’m always in need of:

  • Inspirational
  • Motivational
  • Empowering
  • Fearless
  • Transformational
  • Mysterious
  • Beautiful
  • Aware
  • Accepting
  • Inclusive
  • Peaceful/Still
  • Disciplined
  • Selfless Longing

(The last one is special, and I see it as a paradoxical yearning for someone’s best. It contains a dissatisfaction, a desire for who you love to live freer and fuller. And it most distinguishes real love from its opposite.)

When I struggle to accept my questions, when I want to fix instead of suffer uncertainty (which is often), this list helps me determine how we accomplish anything kingdom-valuable. The accomplishing is God’s, but he waits for my volition. And the meager talents we’ve been allotted are sufficient when transformed by the mystery of God’s indwelling.

When I wander again, this list will help me return to wonder: Ah, that’s right. This is how I live!

Of course, we’re too critical to accept it’s this easy. At face value, that list looks thin, not very spiritual. We fear, so we require some heftier words, some holier-sounding words. Loving is messy and there’s nothing we can do about it, but we don’t like that. We know all too well how weak and unprepared we really are and we believe that means we need some words from the other list.

This other list has a different name and it’s been a problem for centuries. See if you can recognize it. No one likes it, but its influence is profoundly destructive and inescapable. These words are literally everywhere…

  • Inhibited
  • Judging
  • Fear-based
  • Exclusive
  • Defensive
  • Dogmatic
  • Demanding
  • Safety-conscious
  • Separated
  • Repressive/Controlling

These are the results of a deeper anxiety that comes when I don’t accept the first kind.

Sometimes I’m all about this list. I even promote it often when I’m unaware it’s guiding me.

In living, writing or creating of any kind, trying to control the process is avoiding the “good anxiety” and leads to a different kind of anxiety.

“Kierkegaard referred to anxiety as our best teacher because of its ability to keep us in a struggle that strives for a solution, rather than opting to forfeit the struggle and slide into a possible depression. It would be nice if our lives and our Christian faith did not involve any struggle. But to believe that—and to perpetuate the belief to others that somehow the struggle with anxiety is un-Christian—is a mistake.” – via Relevant Magazine

 

Absolutely fascinating and life-changing research is being done on how our beliefs about facing difficult tasks helps us manage and actually benefit from the inherent stress of them. Psychologist Kelly McGonigal says,

“Stress can be our friend. Caring and connecting with others creates resilience to stress in your body. When you do this, you’re saying you can trust yourself you can handle life’s challenges and you don’t have to face them alone. Chasing meaning is better than trying to avoid discomfort.” – via TED

I’m not good at this. But I’m thinking of it more and more as my primary job.

And with practice, I’m betting it’ll become easier.

What might happen if you practiced this…?

How easy it is for me to live with you, Lord! How easy for me to believe in you, When my spirit is lost, perplexed and cast down, When the sharpest can see no further than the night, And know not what on the morrow they must do You give me a sure certainty That you exist, that you are watching over me And will not permit the ways of righteousness to be closed to me. Here on the summit of earthly glory I look back astonished On the road which through depths of despair has led me here. To this point from which I can also reflect to men your radiance And all that I can still reflect – you shall grant to me. And what I shall fail you shall grant to others. – Aleksandr Solzhenitzyn