This Is for You, Writers1:21 AM
It looks so bad to complain about lack of comments and the number of followers. It's launching an attack against the poor people who have the guts to read one's writing in the first place. Frankly, those topics one should bring only to the Council of Sisters at bedtime, where secrets shared under night and snuggly sheets stay under night and snuggly sheets.
The only reason I mention it is because bloggers do notice when nobody's commenting on their posts. It's rather depressing. I won't deny it. Expected, maybe. But depressing nonetheless, especially when it's a library silence - the kind where there are readers everywhere and nobody making the slightest noise.
More specifically, I notice when people don't comment on my posts. And I thank you for it. I thank you, because it solved one of the strangest questions for me.
A year ago, a day before 2011, actually, I wrote this post. Last year was a year of contests, speeches, receiving exciting phone calls that I was moving up from district, to regional, to state...then coming in third, always. It all ended there. Third at state. That was all. Of course, people tried to make it up to you with those ubiquitous, "Well, the winners must have been pretty good to beat you," but people say anything in the midst of tragedy and it's impossible to separate sympathy from reality.
To quote me a year younger: "And I determined that, logically, it must be God's will. There must be some purpose to it. And someday I would find out. (I really look forward to those mysteries being revealed. God is the author of amazing plot twists.)"
Someday was tonight, sitting in the gravel driveway. I itched mosquito bites in the bright moon. I rolled gravel through my hands. I was wrestling with the yo-yo success of my writing. Many of you writers recognize it - the ebb and flow of recognition, the come and go of gushing comments, the give and take of confidence and disappointment. Why is it, I wondered, that I can go up to third at state with so much ease and then die, right then and there? Why is it, I asked myself, that I can be so excited about a project and then watch it die right then and there? Why is it, I questioned, that an onslaught of flattering comments is followed by dead silence?
Readers, so I'm told, are a frustrating lot. Rejection slips. Empty comboxes. Misunderstanding of your pet project. Death at state level.
And speaking of frustrating, that nagging fear of one's own ability tops any reader who has complained about your writing, explicitly or not. Fear had driven me to stake a claim in the middle of our driveway at night.
As I picked up moonlit gravel, $50,000 was at stake. That's the prize of the scholarship contest I was thinking about entering that evening. Fifty-thousand bucks for a world-changing 60-to-75 page portfolio containing pieces of outstanding literature...from me. (I feel sick at the very thought.) It would involve writing fiction, my sworn enemy. Good fiction. Outstanding fiction. That would in turn involve collaborating with others who would - pass me the smelling salts, won't you? - critique my writing. They might say things like, "Um, that plot twist is cliche. Axe it" or "Your heroine is kind of obnoxious" or worst of all, "I don't really understand your writing."
There is nothing, underlined and bolded, nothing worse than a misunderstood writer. It's an oxymoron, almost. Writing is communication. Misunderstanding is miscommunication. It's failure. It's curse. It's worse than that.
Gravel got in my fingernails, it was that bad. I couldn't bear to be misunderstood.
All my almost-but-not-quite there successes jogged through my memory, slowly, slowly enough to get a good long remembrance of each of them. Again I asked the question: Why had I failed?
But then, why had I succeeded? If my writing was truly amazing, I wouldn't have consistently lost at state in both competitions. If it were truly horrible, I wouldn't have made it that far. Being in between was possible but illogical to me. One couldn't be quasi-successful. You either were or weren't, and I wasn't and was.
There should be a verb for being struck with an idea, with ramming into truth face first. If you allow me to create one, I revolutionized.
What if my writing really had less to do with me and more to do with...God?
Perhaps it wasn't that I was good or bad - perhaps it was that the Lord blessed me with success at some times and blessed me with failure at others. Perhaps whenever someone commented on my writing, it wasn't because I had written something life-changing but that the life-changing Spirit had been at work through my words, a vessel of His grace.
Perhaps that's all my words were - vessels, some for honor, some for dishonor, but all for Christ.
The reason I won at lower levels was not because my words were particularly insightful. The reason I lost ultimately was not because my words weren't. It was ordained that my vessels be used this way and then that way, for reasons I can't explain nor want to. Writers know firsthand the righteous anger at finding published (and well off) writers whose manuscripts aren't worth lining a rat's nest, or stumbling across an amazing author nobody would poke a stick out. We like to look at things objectively, to say that, "If I write like so-and-so or do x, y and z, I'll be successful," but we know the writer's life isn't objective like that and it never will be.
We can be enslaved to our feeble skills which, all in all, don't amount to much without a sovereign blessing, or we can surrender ownership and make sure our words match God's Word.
How incredibly freeing it is, to know that my words do not have to be perfect to bless or imperfect to not bless. I find it's less about me than ever before.
I stood up. I wiped gravel out of my palms. The moon shone bright as I headed inside for my laptop. I had words to write and the confidence to write them.