Tag Archives: doubt

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

Getting the New Words Down

There’s no other goal.

And yet, so often, it feels like the only thing I can’t manage to do.

So I’m constantly searching for help.

It’s a perk of running a site for writers as long as I have—I get the direct benefit. All the great insights and stories of writers struggling just like all of us, people you’d think have no worries, they’re so prolific and powerful.

But everyone who writes struggles.

This week, I wrote a new chapter. But it almost didn’t happen.

It had everything to do with the fact that in the space of two days, three incredibly inspiring writers shared inspiration from their own struggles.

Anne Lamott, Glennon Melton and Ann Voskamp.

Anne Lamott shared at Facebook.

“I love not writing books. I think it might be what I want to do when I grow up. But other than writing, I am completely unemployable.”

Anne-Lamott-Feature

She said she and her editor were done with her last book Small Victories in early August. That’s the part she said she loves—having a trusted partner help her get the final drafts to their best. But then, nothing for months. And she doesn’t want to do it anymore.

You wait to hear whether anyone likes it, all the time sure “you have squandered your life thinking you could write.” And people start asking what she’ll do next.

And after 16 books, she feels everything’s already said.

She just wants to help people keep their heads above water, She said she doesn’t know what she’s doing and just wants to be of service—“partly because God tells me too, and partly because it is the only way to fill up.”

Glennon Melton shared she was struggling with deep doubt.

Glennon-Doyle-Melton-Photo-and-Book-03272014

“I regret to inform you that I am currently surrendering to the pull of a dark whirlpool of self-loathing and panic and doubt because during the writing of this second book it has come to my clear attention that I am – as a matter of sad fact – the worst writer in the history of the world…. It is over for me. It was a nice ride, but apparently I have only been able to fake being a writer for six years…. And I also need to change religions because shouldn’t Jesus have TAUGHT ME SOMETHING BY NOW? SOME WISDOM OR SOMETHING? SOMETHING I CAN USE?”

An hour later, she posted a status update.

Hundreds of messages of encouragement had poured in:

Dear G,

Just a thought. What if it’s OK to love and hate hard things at the same time. Like labor. Yes, like giving birth. It’s hard. Everything about it. Before, during and after. Yet 95% of people I know swoon while telling their story. (I did hair for 10 years. I’ve heard a lot of stories). Same thing about having littles. HARD STUFF. Complain all the way through it. Yet 1,000,000 people will stop you and say “enjoy it” because they miss it. You get the idea.

Soooo I say… It’s ok to dislike today in your book number two journey. It’s a part of the awesome story yet to be told. And you’ll swoon over it all later. The mess you feel today. Yeah. Embrace it sister. Your message is coming.”

Bt4d-TSCAAEziQc

And then my own favorite Ann Voskamp, confronted her own fears.

Ann-Voscamp1

Dear You,

who doesn’t want to…do that big thing that feels like an impossible thing—okay, yeah, boy, do I hear you.

…You’re meant to do hard and holy things because they are the next thing—to get to the best thing.

…you get to choose: either the Pain of Discipline or the Pain of Disappointment.

…Potential doesn’t add up to anything if you get addicted to perfectionism because perfectionism is slow death by self.

Fire your perfectionism and your procrastination will quit too.

Because here’s the thing: You’re the Presenter.

You’ve been given a gift and you’re the person who is trying to be present to this present moment and do the hard work of unwrapping your gift, your talent, your vision, your God-given dreams. Presenters want to be present to life and their calling and the joy and the work but they know that the path is painful.

Presenters know that the path is painful because behind every corner lurks The Perfectionist Terrorist. The Perfectionist Terrorist is a liar to the nth degree. He tells you that if you’d just get it perfect enough, do it right enough, be good enough—that you’ll be liked by everyone enough.

But the truth of it is? Sometimes you have to accept that you’ll never be acceptable enough for some people. And whether you accept that as their issue or yours is up to you.

The Perfectionist Terrorist claims to have High Road Motives, claims to want to make everything turn out perfect, but his policing pressures you and poisons you and prosecutes you, until it all paralyzes you.

So The Procrastinator tries to protect you, The Presenter, from The Perfectionist Terrorist, tries to intervene with distractions, temptations, and interruptions—or just pushes you to pull out and give up.

…So Who’s missing in this struggling, messy triangulation of The Presenter, the Perfectionist Terrorist, and The Procastinator? The compassionate Words of Perfect Love.

…His Perfect Love who accepts you 100% before you perform even 1%. There is His Perfect Love who speaks Protection and Peace and promises the Power of the Holy Spirit—so you can fire perfectionism and procrastination will quit too.

You fire your perfectionism every time you let His Perfect Love ignite you.

When you rest in Perfect Love, discipline comes easily because you’re being a disciple of Perfect Love, you’re following Perfect Love.

And Perfect Love says you don’t to have show anyone up; you just have to show up.

Perfect Love says you don’t have to impress anyone; you just have to press on.

Perfect Love says when you mess up He’ll pick you up… and when you can’t carry on, He’ll carry you.”

65614cf5b209017449d0bab900147be2If you understood the truth of the BLESSING coming, you’d understand the magnitude of the battle you are fighting.

If you could see the smile of God for what he knows is coming, you’d understand the meaning of beautiful within this temporary suffering.

If you could measure the size of the result of your persistence, you’d know the reason the one thing he asks for is faith.

Belief.

Not in yourself. In his perfect provision.

Just get the new words down today. There is no other goal.

Is longing enough?

Is longing enough? You don’t often believe so. And maybe too unbelieving, too afraid to admit, you strive to feel something you don’t, something real again of this living water, and a love for his life.

bowl

Something that may not have happened exactly, though you do remember and it persists. Its truth seems to have expanded the bowl, beyond your rim and left you with unanswerable questions: Does he truly live in me? And does he know what he’s doing? And do I?

So you fight to return to this first love, the love you don’t exactly remember. And what happened back there and was it real love? And more than just a feeling? Or less than that, an immature hope of feeling something?

But no matter, you want to want to. Though you wonder if that is enough.

And you get yourself up to wake yourself up and wonder if anything’s changed. If all of this is all faith is, a longing for love, and wondering if it is really enough? This creating a world of all that remains, of what must exist if it didn’t, and are all of us merely wishing to escape our bowl and say it’s real this collective dream we’ve only imagined? And are we real and will we be this way eternally?

I admit: I sometimes wonder with you.

I sometimes think maybe we’re all waiting for the one soul who can bring himself to say it, the one hopeless enough to see without fear, beyond the flesh-varnished bowls:

“Behold! The kingdom of heaven is within!”

But some days he doesn’t show, and I want to say to you to just keep peering in. Persist in the illusion and forget cleaning the outside of the bowl.

You are beautiful just as you are.

Hope is blind but it’s the only thing that washes our eyes. This life is only real when you preach it to yourself loud while straining to hear his whisperings in your unstopped ears:

This is the way. Walk in it.

Stay and listen to your steps crunching on the road and live in it. Seek, knock, ask. Turn, fall, kneel. And be still in those truths, all your bowl can contain.

For those are yours and all you have here. They are the real.

And those faint and dying lies are only snaking suspicions of an insufficient longing.

 

———————-for further exploration: On Beauty