What About Me????
The journey from aspiring writer to published author is, at the very least, interesting. I’m sure most of us offered up the “If you’ll give me the chance, Lord, I’ll use my career to glorify You” prayer. And we meant it. At one point, with all the honesty I possessed, I put my writing future on the altar, giving it all to Him. I’ve never removed it from His hands. But…
With a measure of success came some side effects I didn’t see coming. Attitude adjustments are constant. One of the first surprises is the appearance of the green-eyed monster. “Why is she on the best-seller list?” I murmur, first making sure no one else can hear me. “I can write rings around her.” Or “Why did they sign him and not me?” Most authors immediately recognize the whiny voice of the jealousy demon and banish it forthwith. First hurdle down. Big sigh of relief.
Then, like Creeping Charlie, the demon crawls back, unnoticed. It reveals itself a little differently this time. Through comparison. Does my agent have a better reputation than hers? Is my publisher larger? How much was her advance? What does her contract say? Whoops. The demon’s repulsive fingerprints are unmistakable. At first glance, comparison doesn’t seem like jealousy…but it is. So once more we drive out the vile creature who wants to separate us from our previous vow – to glorify God with our writing.
For the most part, Christian authors are great about confronting these attacks from the enemy. We know these feelings and thoughts are wrong, and we deal with them. For some it might be harder than others. Most of the time insecure writers have the toughest time. But eventually we cast out our green-eyed nemesis, hopefully for good this time. Surely we’re walking the straight and narrow now, right?
Don’t get too cocky yet, Bubba. Last year I had to deal with an even more insidious attack. It happens slowly, and nothing about it seems wrong – until one day when you suddenly realize the Trickster has wriggled back into your life through another entrance. Through a backdoor that most of us don’t keep closed. Unfortunately, this assault can end up being the worst soul stealer or all. Cloaked in positive words and encouraged by agents, publishers and fellow authors, before you even realize it, you’re caught in its talons. You find yourself being consumed by this new monster. Its name?
Before all my author friends out there come after me with pitchforks and torches, let me explain. Of course I realize promotion is important. Something we have to do. I try hard to promote my books. My publisher does a great job as well, and I appreciate it. But what can happen if you’re not very, very grounded and aware of the potential for disaster, is that all this promotion turns your complete attention on…YOU. First you’re flooded with interviews. Tell us about YOU. How do YOU feel about… What were YOU thinking when YOU wrote… Where do YOU want to be in five years? You get the idea. Your picture is popping up all over the Internet. Your book is featured in magazines and catalogs. Readers (and author friends) send you pictures of your book in stores. It’s exciting and fun! Please hear me out. None of this is wrong. In fact, it’s exactly what should be happening. As good reviews pour in and people ask to be added to your Facebook page, you wake up every day eager to see what people are saying about YOU today! Google searches under your name reveal new reviews and articles about YOU! And then one day you roll out of bed with a headache, not sure what happened to your joy. I mean, everyone’s talking about YOU! Shouldn’t YOU be happy?
This scenario played out when the first book in my Kingdom series was released. After a few weeks of promotional activities, I felt wrung out, tired, and discouraged. I just couldn’t figure out why. Then one Sunday evening I walked into church and slumped down in a pew. Suddenly, as if Someone shone a big spotlight on my life, it all became extremely clear to me. All I’d been thinking about was ME! My efforts over the past several weeks had been about ME and MY book. Everything else had taken a back seat. Because I was so busy, I hadn’t been involved in any of my volunteer group activities. I’d missed a lot of church because I was too tired to go. Even my prayer life had suffered. I was tired because concentrating too much on ourselves doesn’t bring us any joy. Proverbs 11:24-25 makes this clear.
There is one who scatters, and yet increases all the more, and there is one who withholds what is justly due, and yet it results only in want. The generous man will be prosperous, and he who waters will himself be watered.
I had no joy because I wasn’t sowing seeds of joy. I was drying up because I wasn’t watering anyone else’s life.
So what does an author (or anyone else) do when they realize the demon of self-centeredness has its hairy hands around their throat?
For me, the answer was to get involved in the lives of others. Starting the Suspense Sisters helped me to concentrate on other authors - to help and encourage them. Starting a private group with other ladies wanting to lose weight has been a great source of joy. Going back to my volunteer group brought my perspective back. Just having something on my mind besides ME and MY books has been a Godsend.
For those who don’t write, hang on. This principle doesn’t just work for busy authors. It works for everyone.
I heard a story once about a woman who was drowning in depression. She contacted her pastor, asking for a counseling appointment. Her pastor, a very wise man, said this: “I’ll be glad to meet with you next week. But before our meeting, I want you to do something. I want you to bake cookies for someone. Someone who is hurting or needs encouragement.”
The puzzled woman agreed, although she couldn’t figure out why in the world her pastor would request something so odd.
The next week, before the time she was supposed to meet with the pastor, the woman called and cancelled her appointment. “I just don’t have the time,” she said hurriedly. “There are a lot of people I know who need encouragement. It never would have occurred to me that something as simple as baking cookies could be a…ministry. My depression has completely disappeared. Thank you, Pastor.”
This lady learned what I did. Too much concentration on self can bring depression. Whether you’re an author, a busy housewife and mother, or a nuclear physicist, if you’re battling the blues, do something for someone else! Give joy and it will be given back to you, pressed down, shaken together and overflowing.
By the way, if you decided to follow the path of the woman who baked cookies, coconut macaroons are my very favorite. J