I can hardly believe that it's nearly mid-October. We've been busy remodeling a camper, traveling, and trying to find rest whenever possible. We often laugh about how we couldn't imagine life being anymore full--full of joy, chaos, busyness, and obligations--but the truth is, all of that makes life so special and worth while. It's the bustling of engagements, dinners with family, work, and travel that makes this beautiful life wonderful.
Joanna Collins is a trained therapist who is called to listen to the hearts of the broken and help people create a healthier future for themselves.
Three Forms of Rejection:
After receiving the expiration rejection, creatives often take those words and store them in their hearts. This leads us to the dreaded self-critic.
Identify your self-critic and bend your self-talk to truth using the VOUCH method.
Self-care for a Creative:
In this video, I discuss what it takes to live the life of your dreams based on my own experiences. Below each, you'll find questions. As you watch, be thinking about these as they relate to your own life situation.
To my fellow Faithful Creatives:
When I think of people who inspire me, I realize I am not easily moved. I've never been drawn to Katniss-like characters or the powerful strength of superheroes. I am inspired by people who have lived real, gritty lives plagued by obstacles and years and years of hard work—by people who have held on, tooth and nail, to a dream that is much bigger than they are. Recently, I read Brian Houston's LIVE LOVE LEAD, and I am deeply moved by his pioneer spirit and his devotion to seeing God's vision realized in Australia and across the world.
Following up that fantastic read was a sermon by Christine Caine that focused on endurance and how it took her nearly 30 years to grow her ministry. Hillsong, too, has been growing for that long.
I'm entering the new year with an ending of a season, and I don't just mean the literal definition of season. It has been a season of great heartache and one I wondered many nights if I'd ever recover from. Perhaps you're walking through the same season. If you are, know that you're not alone. There are many of us scattered amongst your life, and it's highly probable that you may not even know who we are. Broken people are everywhere in our lives, but O how we’ve gotten really skilled at perfecting our masks and pretending.
So allow the writer in me to get real, raw.
Last year, I met a sweet and talented writer who didn't do anything “by the book” in industry terms but somehow landed a major book contract before having written the whole book or even finding an agent. Not to mention, she landed this miracle with her first attempt at writing a book. I know, right?! At that point, I had done everything I knew to do to be in her shoes, and yet I wasn't. She, and everyone else—or so it felt—still looked at me as an inexperienced writer. She treated me that way as she went on with her spiel about not giving up. I struggled to hear her out with a smile, because my heart was screaming, "Who are you to tell me about not giving up, about what’s meant to be, and about the importance of timing?" I couldn’t help but wonder how this sweet lovely well-meaning lady could teach me anything about perseverance. I had wrote more books than her, pursued this career for longer, and had been working towards this dream that she’d already obtained for seven years (at that point). And then when she said, "I never even wanted to be a writer," the dagger that she'd been unknowingly stabbing me with for twenty minutes served its fatal blow. I didn't tell her all my writing credentials or the fact that at the time I was training to be a literary agent. I didn't say anything. Mostly because I couldn't. I was literally afraid to open my mouth, scared all that was going through my mind might spill out. I simply smiled and walked away feeling more defeated and minimized than I’d ever felt before.
I wanted to give up. After all, maybe she was right in her thinking. When I’m good enough, it’ll happen. Just like it did for her and for others.
The enemy almost had me fooled this year. I have thought about that well-intentioned but crippling conversation these past twelve months, and I still struggle to be okay about it. The short of it is this: Whatever my purpose, whatever God's perfect will is in my life, now is not the time. He is building my endurance, strengthening my muscle, and equipping me to run the race before me. That's why I don't connect to people who have had easy journeys. I'm inspired by people who are fighters, relentless in their pursuit of dreams. Visionaries who kept going when they felt like giving up and who moved forward because they didn't know how to stop.
I don't know how to give up writing. I have often wished God gave me an easier dream, one that wouldn't hurt so much, but the greatest works ever done we're completed outside of comfort and inside of radical.
You have not given me into the hands of the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place. - Psalm 31:8
I want a grand, free spacious life, but I've also always wanted it to be simple and quiet. Both desires have been hard to obtain in my current walk, but God is teaching me more and more about how my passion for both is actually obtainable if I choose to simply follow, trust, and most of all, just be me.
5 Tiny Steps to Moving Forward
1.) Don’t look around. Comparison leads to death. Dreams die when they stand next to giants. So do we. Our smallness and insignificance become the loud voices that rule our lives and defeat us before the enemy even has the chance.
2.) Savor humble beginnings. “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zachariah 4:10. I am reminded of this verse and it's importance. I've been missing the joy in my humble beginnings because of my desire to get to year 30—the fulfillment of a dream. But it's the time leading to that fulfillment that gives us our story, our testimony, and our relevance.
3.) Don't take it so seriously. It's hard for dreamers to not take their big, still small, dream seriously. We are committed to it, after all. Wholly devoted to what moves us. I write books, fantasy ones mostly. They're fun, and I still try to include some applicable wisdom of life in them. But they’re still only stories, meant to make days more enjoyable, not change the world. I want to give light, hope, and magic to my readers, but I must keep in mind the weight of their importance in the world. Not to diminish the years of work involved and the skill to create them, no. I only mean to keep myself grounded in truth. My real contribution to the world is a life lived for Him.
4.) Let it go. We must lose our life to save it. We have zero control of our creative careers. Artists face a unique challenge. No matter how hard we work, work does not equal success. It's one of the rare instances in the world where reaping and sowing do not equate. I have known many writers who are like me, in the trenches for years and years, while others have quick success. There's no rhyme or reason that our mortal minds can make sense of, but His ways are not our ways. We are completely subject to His plan. In order to live fully and happily, we must learn to let our dreams go and rely on hope, while staying committed to being content with the present.
5.) Don't be afraid to cry out for mercy. There is more than one entry in my prayer journal entitled Mercy. When I was a kid, my parents liked the tickle bug. They'd tickle and tickle until my brother and I would be gasping for breath between giggles. Remember that feeling? Minus the happy laughter and fun, that's what I feel like sometimes—a helpless kid crying out for mercy in a moment when I cannot control anything. Lord, I'm desperately gasping for breath. Plant me on solid ground, teach my feet to follow only after you, and guide me to abundant life. Rid me of my desperation, insecurity, brokenness, and discontent. Lord, please. Mercy.
Hope is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. - Hebrews 11:1
God has put my feet in a spacious place for this season, maybe forever.
While that grand, big spacious place can feel lonely and overwhelming, not knowing where to go from here, I am also reminded how free it is to be standing here—just God and I staring into the clouds, dreaming a dream, telling stories, and planning a hopeful future, however impossible it may seem.
God has tied my heart to a dream that I love and that sets my soul on fire when I stop trying to define success in the world's terms. Words are—have always been—my safe place. I will no longer allow words to be used as anything else.
As for the writer who tried to share encouraging words, I know her heart was pure and kind. She simply doesn't know or understand my journey, and that's okay. If you've had relatively quick success in your profession, that's wonderful. A blessing. You've been spared. And I imagine you have a strong testimony in another avenue of your life.
That's yet another blessing in this journey: I never had a strong testimony in my personal life. I've been spared in that regard, but God is revealing to me more and more that my writing career will be how He reveals Himself in my life as He molds a better character into me.
This is my trial, my season, my cross to bear. For now and maybe forever. But in thanksgiving I will walk forward, continuing to tell my stories without focusing on anything other than the joy of just creating. In this I will be faithful, even on difficult days and through gut-wrenching conversations.
I will keep walking. Keep writing. Keep believing. Won't you join me? If you feel that you're tied to a dead-end dream, take my hand. We'll get through it together, keeping in community with other likeminded warriors is important. You are my people. God made no mistake when He made me or you, and it was no mistake when He planted this dream in our hearts. May we enjoy our season. It will never be here again, and someday in the far, distant future we will look back and see His purpose in our pain and how it molded a future that surpassed anything we could have ever dreamed, even with our wild imaginations.
A Forever Faithful Creative
First, allow me to share a universal professional truth with you and the world: Agents get rejections too. Many agents also have writing aspirations of their own. They entered this industry as a way to help people reach their dreams because they understand how hard it is to maintain a professional writing career alone. They long to be a part of your process, a helping hand on your journey. But writing agents, like me, also have to manage their own dreams.
There are no favorites in publishing. It's all about the book. Is it marketable? Will there be a high chance for success? Does the author have a strong platform?
It's hard. Hard for us on both sides. For me personally, I feel the sting of rejection every time one of my clients receives one. Ouch. I really had high hopes for that one. On top of that, I receive rejections on my own books. Almost daily, negativity whispers, "Just give up." Sometimes that voice seeps into our very being, crippling our ability to feel brave.
I visited my beautiful cousin, whom I rarely see, the other day. She has been managing a popular makeup store for many years, and she gifted me with some products. I found myself asking her advice on application. It felt like we were teenagers again, sitting on the bed playing with makeup. She gave me two bright colored lipsticks. If you know me, you know that I don't wear a lot of makeup and certainly not lipstick. I usually use a tinted lip balm, but as I held those lovely colors in my hand, I confessed to her and to myself that I've never been brave enough to wear bright lipstick. I love it on other people, but every time I've ever tried, I always felt like a fraud. Like it doesn't belong on me. I can't pull off that type of BRAVE.
Somewhere along the line, I've bought into the lie that I'm not capable of succeeding with my own writing efforts. I have always found it easy to be someone else's champion, fighting relentlessly for my clients and for works of other people, but when it comes to my own, I'm timid and unsure. I'm slightly tinted lip balm when I want to be bright, beautiful, confident lipstick.
So, today, when I was feeling especially un-fierce, I painted it on. My first step to feeling brave.
Regain Your Fierce
Next time you're feeling stuck in the pit of rejection, remember the millions of amazing people who are standing next to you. Every single successful person you've ever known has stood in your shoes. Want to know what success looks like? It looks like a road paved with rejection letters that ends with your destiny. Every "no" is one more step towards your "yes."
Take a step with me? I promise to hold you up, should you stumble, if you'll promise to do the same. We're all in this together--from every aspect of the industry.
Breathe some life-giving words into someone today. ❤
This month has been crazy. I turned 29, received my first professional edits on a MS, and have been querying a new novel. And my husband is deployed.
Being a writer in the absolute best of times is difficult. A few months ago, my husband found a piece of paper that I had stashed in my writing notebook. It had a list of "pick-me-ups" I'd been jotting down to remind myself of the positives to chasing my dream. At first, I was a little embarrassed he'd found out I needed pick-me-ups and worse, that I'd written them down and kept them for later.
He, being the wonderful supporter that he is, read them thoughtfully and gave me an I-love-you-even-more smile. He gets me. Okay. Enough sappiness. :)
Today, I read back through them and decided I'd share. I know I'm not the only writer with tough days, and there's absolutely no shame is admitting that we have them. May they bless you as they have me.
Determination and hard work propels dreams. Keep on keeping on, friends.