photo by Chesse Hobbs
I think it was the exclamation points. There were two. And they came at just the right time. Because the more I dig into this project, the more I find myself face to face with the enormity of it.
And so when my friend Cara took the time to write and congratulate me on following my dream, when she pointed out that most people are afraid to do so, when she put two exclamation points at the end of her sentence, I got teary.
Because while I’ve lived through some frightening moments in my life, none compare to the scariness of writing my first book.
The fear, the doubt, the procrastination: some days it is stifling. Other days my enthusiasm, my love for what I’m doing, my sheer determination squash all uncertainty. And so, I continue to trudge forward. Albeit slowly. Day by day, word by word, or as Anne Lamott puts it, bird by bird.
And someday, even if it kills me, I know I’ll finish this book. Hopefully, someday will be next spring (first draft anyway).
How do I do it? Not by myself, that’s for sure. I do it with the help of others. I do it through their encouragement. I do it while holding tightly onto those double exclamation points.
Because in the last few years, as I’ve finally begun to realize what it is I truly want to do, I have discovered this:
When I put myself out there, when I risk telling the world what I want, no one laughs. Instead, the world cheers me on. And when the world cheers me on, I begin to believe that perhaps maybe, I really can do this.
I think it’s because the world loves an underdog. Or maybe, I am convincing, sell myself well. Or perhaps (most likely) people are just being nice. But it doesn’t really matter why people say what they say. What matters is this: it works.
This weekend my family and I went to the Colts game. It was indeed a nail biter. I’m no sports writer but all you need to know is this: Colts were down 14 to 17 with just minutes left in the game. And it was in these last few minutes that Andrew Luck pulled out a touchdown, and the Raiders’ Terrell Pryor followed by throwing an interception. In the end the Colts won. But here’s the thing: you should have heard the crowd.
We were clapping. We were yelling. We were rooting the Colts to victory and taunting the Raiders to make nervous mistakes. And I believe this noise can make a difference.
I’m progressing toward my goals. I am sitting in the chair and doing the work. But moving forward is so much easier when people are behind you. Rooting for you. Cheering you on. It makes a difference.
Writing a book on faith stories feels right in every way, like it is what I am meant to do, what I am called to do. At the same time it feels tremendously…out there.
But I started this project with baby steps. I stuck my foot out, extended my tiny pinky toe into the pool and felt the coolness of the water.
I reluctantly told people I wanted to write a book. And people said, why don’t you? I reluctantly said I want to write a book on miracles, and people said, why don’t you? I told others, strangers even, that I would like to hear their faith stories. They said they’d love to share them.
I’d say at this point I’m up to my ankles in wonderful, wet water. I have several faith story interviews complete, more in the wings and many ideas collected on or how to gather even more stories. In addition, I have the front end of the book written and I am getting a sense for where the book is going. And guess what? It’s not going anywhere I thought it would.
And isn’t that how it goes? Stick your toe in the water and you get the courage to get your foot wet. Get your foot weight and you find the strength to take a dive in the deep end. And once you crash through the water, you discover it’s so much stinking colder than you expected.
The creative process, and I would argue most of life, does not go as we expect it to. While in college we learn more about the world than we actually learn from our studies. Marriage is wonderful but can be hard at the same time. There is no understanding having children until you’ve raised one (or three). And going out on a limb for your dreams rarely turns out like you think it will. The water is always colder than we anticipate.
Yet it’s refreshing. And invigorating. And worth diving into. And if there is someone standing there on the pool deck, someone who believes you will get to the other side, well then, you believe it too. Thanks to those who right now believe in me. It makes a difference.