bold and courageous

by Sandra

I haven’t written one word since the semester ended. That is, besides this here blog and a revamp of my résumé (side note: I JUST NOW learned how to put the accent mark over my letters using keyboard short cuts, how exciting!).

This absence led me to be in a bit of a funk wherein I asked myself things like “well, why am I writing in the first place?,” “why am a spending $100,000 for a writing degree?,” “shouldn’t I be doing something that’s fun, that I enjoy?,” “what good is writing anyway?” All of these questions only led me deeper into a funk.

So then I asked God some similar questions: “why did you give me the gift of writing in the first place?,” “who benefits when I write?,” “does anyone?,” “what happens if I don’t write?,” “is it an act of disobedience if I don’t write?”

And now I’m waiting for answers. I’m listening closely to what God has to tell me about the whole thing. He’s had several nuggets of wisdom to impart, but since those are awfully long phone lines from heaven, or maybe because my hearing isn’t so good, I haven’t come to any conclusions yet.

But I am getting closer to a few …

Writing, lately, has seemed self-serving. If life is supposed about serving others and being sacrificial, I just don’t know how writing fits into that. I could do a tip sheet—list some pros and cons, pros being that after I do get into it, it is enjoyable; I like putting words and phrases together, sometimes; it’s fun to edit the work of others, etc.

The con list is a bit longer: like it’s not necessarily enjoyable. It’s not fun. This is one area where I get particularly balled up. Aren’t I supposed to be spending my life doing something that I can’t live without doing? Shouldn’t it bring this rapturous feeling of bliss every time I sit down to do it? Opera singer Katy says something like this when she talks about her life on the stage, and to read what she says about it conveys a sense that yes, she truly LOVES doing what she does.

But where does that leave me? Writing isn’t blissful, it’s terrifying. Terrifying. So scary, that I will think of anything else to do than to write. Sleeping late, Facebook, watching “Freaks and Geeks,” going on hikes. I don’t even know where the time goes half the … time.

And this is where the con side of the sheet gets long: long hours alone, the development of crippling neuroses, that thick and hardened callous on the middle finger on my left hand where I tightly grip that pen, the feeling that I’ve just spent all day doing working yet accomplishing nothing, the knowledge that most of what’s written down will never see the light of day ever.

But don’t most writers feel this way?

I was almost afraid to investigate until this morning, where God shed some more light onto my questions. I’ve been listening to the podcasts of Donald Miller’s Ecclessia church retreat talk (get all your moans and groans about Miller out now … I respect him, get over it). He’s got a new book coming out this year about story, so all his talks recently have been about story and how it reflects all the elements that a well-lived life includes, like a protagonist (you and me), an antagonist (spiritually speaking, that would be Satan, and/or sin), inciting incidents (what gets the story moving) and conflict.

In today’s podcast, he talked about inciting incidents and how those are made up of the things we want most out of life, those things that we are willing to sacrifice for to try and gain. These things are the big dreams that we’re almost unable to verbalize for fear that we will mess them up if we try and attain them; those things that we’re afraid to even ask God for, for fear that He’ll set us on a path to achieve them. They are those deep waters mentioned in Proverbs that a wise person knows how to bring to fruition.

These dreams could be wanting to eradicate human trafficking, or helping the sick and wounded in Africa, or to serve the homeless … but writing? Oh that sounds pale in comparison. But leaving aside the seemingly miniscule scope of writing for a moment, so what if that is your dream? I suppose it is my dream, and for as much as I can see, God’s already set my feet on that path, for (a) giving me the stupid gift in the first place, (b) giving me an opportunity to write screenplays and short stories and to take classes and meet really awesome people while doing it, and (c) finally getting me into an academic program that revolves around around, you guessed it: writing.

What Miller said next in his talk gave me some vindication. He said that once you start down the path of your dream, you get scared. Really scared. And that’s conflict. He said for years that he, a now-successfully published author of several books, would make as many excuses as he could not to write. A writer, not writing. And why? Because he was scared. Scared that he’d mess everything up.

Yes, I thought, while listening to him speak. I recognized myself and my own fears in what he was saying It was while listening to his talk that I realized that the dream of writing is not an insignificant one; that I will probably never understand the full impact my writing might have, and more importantly, that it will never have an impact on anyone if I don’t actually do it. This fear is the conflict, and my process of getting over it is what God is going to use to shape me into more of the person he wants me to become, who he essentially designed me to be. So maybe that’s what it means to be bold and courageous.

I wish I could say that after I came to that realization, I sat down and wrote for three hours. I can’t say that. Instead I wrote this post and finished my résumé (I just wanted to do that accent thing again). Like I said, I haven’t come to many conclusions yet, but am feeling more confident knowing that this gift of writing is not meant to be taken lightly, and even though I might be afraid of it, reacting to it timidly is not the appropriate response.