I stare at another rejection email, collecting the email pile up from my Submittable account. “You should keep them all and print them out, so you can see how far you’ve come when your book is published one day,” my husband says. I smirk, half hoping, half despairing. Little did I know that two years later, I would publish my first book, and feel grateful for the journey. Gratitude might be a surprising word. Waiting isn’t fun- at least not for me. However, in the process of waiting for the publication of my manuscript, I learned a lot about hope, identity, writing, and faith in the midst of the unseen.
Almost two years fresh out of college, I realized that I had lost my identity. Who was I without the daily encouragement of my friends? What did I think of myself? Did I even know how to write anymore and what should I even write about? The previous year I had gone through extreme depression and anxiety caused by problems in my personal life. Inherently it was a re-learning, having to figure out what I stood for and what I wanted. I had made it through the season of darkness, but still felt unraveled all the same. I felt like a leaf in the wind, floating untethered. Not in a free, romantic kind of way, but in a way that screamed lost. I had quit my job and decided to write a book, wondering what in the world I was doing, but somehow knowing I would never do it if I didn’t force myself to drop everything. It was like holding my breath and jumping off the diving board into a deep, unknowable pool.
Around this time, I began to read the Bible and it was learning to see myself the way that God saw me that really helped me through the process. Once I began to understand His character, everything in my life began to frame around that. The fruit of our relationship resulted in a book I had always dreamed of writing- a collection of poetry. Here are some helpful lessons gained throughout that journey.
1. You are creative by nature
The very first thing mentioned in the book of Genesis is that God created. Our first image of God is as Creator. He is extremely creative and inventive, focusing on each color, shape, design, and purpose for everything in the universe. We, made in His image, naturally have the urge to create. Whether it’s writing, playing instruments, building, singing, drawing, pottery, etc., we have this desire to make something new. There is something exciting about starting a new project and exploring our art. So, explore it. Write. Sing. Dance. Do whatever it is you have a passion for and keep trying until you have made something you completely love. See it not as a task you must perfect, but as an act of praise to the One who gave you the gift and let it draw you closer to His presence. Have fun!
2. You have your own time.
Stop focusing on what everyone else is doing or how they are succeeding. Everyone has a different timing for their lives and each one is uniquely purposed for the exact plan that God has for them. For every season under the sun, there is a time and place for it. Don’t envy others. Let it be encouragement and proof of God’s faithfulness. If He did it for them, He can do it for you. Reach out to Him in prayer and confess your heart. He cares for you. Trust that He has a perfectly designed plan for your life and focus on gratitude. There is so much goodness to be experienced in life if we would only focus on gratitude.
3. Growth happens in the space of waiting.
Focus on the now. What can I improve now? What can I do this moment? I tried to be present in the every-day moments and learn what I could in that moment. I read poetry from other poets I admired, read the Bible, listened to music that set the mood, read books outside, listened to podcasts, prayed, watched films I loved, and simply spent time doing things that made me appreciate being alive. I made space for inspiration. It was in that time of soaking up moments that I learned my preferred style, and method of writing. You grow in your art when you take the time to study it, practice it, and really figure out what it is that you enjoy doing- whether it is a specific technique or style. Know that God is teaching you something in this process and be willing to receive the lessons, no matter how difficult. Have an open, willing heart. In learning, you are growing. In growing, you are changing.
4. God is a God of order.
Everything God created has a specific purpose and is structured thus to fulfill its purpose. Without the sun, there would be no light. There is an order to everything made under heaven, each thing specifically placed. There is a rhythm in everything in nature. We are no different. We need structure. During that time of unemployment, it was easy to get lazy or watch Netflix. I had to create a daily schedule for myself that I could stick to and get enough writing done out of the day. Having an order to clear your head and focus helps you become the most productive artist you can be.
5. Accept the outcome.
I think that hardest part of the writing process for me was not knowing whether I would ever publish a book. I was living in anxiety of an unknown future rather than simply experiencing what the waiting season was teaching me. Let’s be honest. In our fast-paced society and instant gratification culture, who wants to wait? However, during this unemployed time of writing, I gained an understanding that I simply didn’t have before. I was different and even if I was never published, I was grateful for that season that taught me so much. I praised and thanked God for it, trusting that what He had in store for me would be just as good because He is good.
6. Give yourself grace.
Scripture says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for our sins. The great Creator and Author of life gave us grace. In fact, the Bible goes so far as to say that God casts our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). Imagine a love like that, that God throws our mistakes into the deepest sea and forgives them. If He gives grace for something so important, why can we not give ourselves a break in the small things? Why can’t we forgive ourselves small mistakes? Do we think ourselves above God? Put your heart into your work, try your best, and enjoy the creative method. Don’t punish yourself. Just keep trying. God does not demand perfection, but humble hearts. Therefore, thank Him with the life and talents He’s given you by enjoying them to the full, and honoring Him for it.
It was when I let go of this idea of who I was supposed to be and simply surrendered it to God, that I began to understand the point. It’s not about reaching the finale, but what is gained and learned on the way. It’s about who I become in the process. When I rested my fears in God’s hands, I was filled with peace for the outcome. I was blessed enough to find a publisher that accepted my manuscript and my debut collection of poetry will officially be released on August 20th, 2021. It will be available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Atmosphere Press. I want to encourage you today. Keep creating, work on your art, and don’t stop praying. Draw near to God and trust that His plan for you is greater than what you could have ever dreamed up for yourself.