Tag Archives: Susan Cain

How to Value Your Story to Write The Honest Truth

When you’ve decided you’re going to write your story, you need to know it’s the most important thing you could be doing. But unless you value it highly, this can be the most debilitating obstacle.

IMG_5733

For such a long time, I felt my story wasn’t important. Who wanted to read mine?

I didn’t know who my story had made me. It’d been too buried.

But exhuming it, the healing has been profound, pulling from the ashes of charred memories. With time, the truth emerges, and the past is present again.

And the things I’ve discovered have been treasures.

Recently, I remembered part of my story I’d probably have let die. It wasn’t that long ago, but in 2010, I was ready to leave my safe corporate editing job. We left the security of a regular paycheck, like a couple of nomads.

I thought of how in The Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian leaves home and bids farewell to family and friends to journey to a new place he’d never been where he’d have to depend more fully on God. And I just read an article about how when Abraham and Sarah left Ur, they left their position and acquired wealth, believing God was calling them to something else, something less tangibly secure but infinitely more spiritually fulfilling. In my time in publishing, I’d been trained to see many distinctions I hadn’t before and we both learned more how to “follow the pilgrim pathway of Jesus, to take up our own cross on a daily basis, [and] walk in his way of trust and vulnerability.”

IMG_5743

It’s not that I haven’t known or shared this story, but I haven’t I valued it highly enough. Is it because with credit cards and parents we weren’t truly on our own? Or am I afraid of seeming self-important? Both, probably, and plenty of people have had it far worse.

But through writing I’ve discovered that despite all that, protecting and preserving our stories is about discovering God’s story. What he did through us, with us, in spite of us, continually pursuing that story is a matter of faithfulness and obedience, to become aware and invest in this life he’s given. To speak its life-affirming power in proper words and context, it can become the delight of our lives, an endless source of inspiration.

Because the same God of the ancients is the source of it all.

And if you’re determined to seek this, you may need to realize how you’ve diminished yourself. A large part of my struggle was simply missing it. Interestingly, the common definition of sin, hamartia in Greek, means: “missing the true goal and scope of life.”

Have you missed the true value of your life story because of misunderstanding?

Who hasn’t?

In time, God led me to some kindred spirits: my wife, my college roommate, and a couple authors: Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts, and Susan Cain in Quiet, who was recently called “a champion of people who don’t like to advertise themselves.”

I.e., my kind of people.

I found I am who Ms. Cain talks about: “Everything is telling [quiet] kids: ‘Do not follow your actual nature. Be a cheerleader.’ But it’s O.K., and maybe even beneficial, to keep to themselves. There are a lot of kids who wish they were different.”

Quiet-Editorial-Picture-1024x742

Before I claimed permission to be myself, I didn’t write my story–I wrote myself off because that’s what so many others seemed to do all those years I didn’t speak up or want to be in charge. It was easy to be habitually unexpressive.

But thanks to these people and especially this book, I found hope that I wasn’t alone. Many other quiet people felt the same as well.

Quiet showed me that introspection is not self-involvement. It may seem weird to others, but it’s not a malady or “anti-social.” In fact, it shows how connection with oneself enables social connections to happen.

But maybe most importantly for my future, Quiet showed me how valuing your personal story can mean so much more to people if you commit to it, stay in the process of discovery, and write it down.

IMG_5738

If you’ve decided you want to write your story, you may simply need to write it. Who you are matters. God knows that truly caring for others first requires caring enough for yourself—and many writers have found this the secret to finally overcoming the resistance and writing the story.

I truly hope and pray you can find your way to believing in the value of yours.

Distraction

Distraction –

The day has just started and I haave 24 new emails.

I don’t have time to fix that typo…

The Wikipedia entry for distraction is here.  It's basically "divided attention."

File:Veddah_girl"

Here are 2 pics from that page. 

I fought to read today’s entry in Chambers’ My Utmost for His Highest. (I at least know this much, that if I don’t establish the “rule” of connecting with God first thing, my freedom from anxiety in this fight will be forfeit all day.)

I do have to engage the battle. But I don’t have to do it alone.

In Quiet, Susan Cain uses the example of Seth Klarman, one of the great investors of our time, who said he’s "a big fan of fear and, in investing, it’s clearly better to be scared than sorry." Klarman is a world-class worrier, according to the NYT, and he owns a racehorse called “Read the Footnotes.” During the stock market crash, he stuck to his guns and bought when everyone else was panicking. His style is an example of the value of waiting quietly when the world seems to be telling you to rush ahead.

There's another great book called One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp about learning to stop and write the simple gifts right in front of you. This little book has been my antidote to distraction for 4 years now, like C.S. Lewis, convincing me to slow down and go deeper, but also showing me how to take tangible, practical, daily steps toward the better stuff of life, in the midst of anxiety and chaos.  

Fear and anxiety can make us feel ill-equipped by nature, by God. But according to Cain in Quiet, not rushing ahead in the face of strong potential rewards, i.e. maintaining a strong respect for risk and uncertainty, is a powerful, maybe the most powerful predictor of success.

I should check those emails…oh, 2 text messages now…

We need not see distractions as all bad. In fact, in our morning pages today, Sheri and I decided to try an experiment to hold one thing we wanted insight on today. Mine was "distraction."

My hunch is this experiment might help me avoid getting bent out of shape by life’s (and wife’s) interruptions. 

File:Office_Worker_with_Two_Monitors

Some folks do so many things at once that they have to use two screens.

I don't know when it started or why I forget this so often, but I frequently try to hold too much.

Is it any wonder I get frustrated when a practical matter like kids' violin practice or dinner is more pressing?

And though I’m deeply in love with my wife, when I’m hot on the trail of some flash of lacking insight I think God's offering me, I could even turn down a kiss from the love of my life.

I’m happily married, thank God. But yes, this has actually happened.

Obviously not a happy marriage thanks to me.

It’s only with help from some much more level heads–my wife's, parents', friends', even kids'–that I’ve managed to organize my manic mind into some still-very-loose structure (I'd bust out of anything more restrictive).

Work is calling…people waiting…I really should go do something…

Shhh…it's okay. Even so, it isn’t as though my “Noodlings” file isn’t full to overflowing with the brain batter that flings every which way when I’m hot on the trail of a flash of lacking insight (let’s just go ahead and shorten this cumbersome phrase to “HotToFoLI” to save time–which also conjures “hot to trot,” “hot to fly,” as in, my desire to escape this mortal coil and join the spirit in the sky, and “hot to follow” white rabbits of curiosity…also it rhymes with Hot Tamales which are the bomb even if they're no match for Atomic Fireballs. And yes, all of this is applicable.)

But most of all, HotToFoLI is folly. Of the highest order.

It will ruin me. In fact, it has threatened to many times.

There’s nothing wrong with excitement and passion. But when it isn’t kept in check, it can do unspeakable damage. If this needles you in any way, you probably have some apologies to make like I do (and don’t get distracted from the point, but remember to actually follow through with that conviction when we’re done here–it could be very rewarding).

Not only can our excitement overwhelm some of the great wonders of the universe—people we love, and especially sensitive people we’re probably married to, parent, and call friends—we can so dominate them that we drive them away. You know of what I speak.

Trust me, you don’t want distraction to ruin your life. Learn my lesson and learn to submit. As Chambers says, “Obedience is the natural life of a child.” Stop trying to be an "adult." Accept your limitations.

You are not a superhero and you can't catch all the opportunities raining from the sky.

Listen: you don't have to catch it all. You can not catch them all.

So calm down, Junior Executive. Calm down, Missionary Jane. Relax, Hot-to-Trot Author.

Don’t let the endless shadow missions distract you from your true work—this primary job you were given to be right where you are today, swaddled by your Dad…your flailing appendages tight in his straightjacket of love…

m