Landing on a Dime

Recently, I was over at my friend Kristin’s Minnesota house (she spends most of the year at her Kenya house), discussing writing and Christian art.

Kristin is lovely and brilliant and so terribly wise– and she gets me, gets my heart.  She knows how the desperate cry of my heart is to honor God in my writing through creating a book that is excellent and thought-provoking while avoiding mawkish sentimentality and all cliches, Christian or otherwise.

It’s so hard.

dime“I feel like I’m parachuting,” I told her, “and trying to land on a spot the size of dime.”

That is how precise my goal seems.  I want my stories to be just offensive enough to disturb someone’s thoughts– but not so offensive that they’ll put down the book.  I want them to be full of mystery– but with enough clues to find the answer.  I want them to reflect the trials, confusions, and joys of my deepest heart– but in a way that no one will find cheesy or trite.

Again: the size of a dime.

I’m not sure that I am a good enough writer to hit such a bullseye (in fact I feel quite confident that I am not).  So, what then?  Do I stop writing?

Of course not.  Not when that’s the goal of my life and the best worship I can offer.

I tell myself, You’re 31.  Keep writing and you’ll be better at 32 … 33 … 34.  But I am a perfectionist, an achiever, a go-getter, and terribly impatient.  I get frustrated with myself (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) and get so down and low, or else frantic and scared.  But the best I can do is to keep writing, continue praying, practice grace, revel in creation, and gauge my faithfulness.

And my faithfulness looks like persistence, like fidelity to Christ, to his gifts, and to showing up.

such a novice

Even though I have been writing since I was a kid …

Even though I have a degree in creative writing …

Even though I have written almost every day for the last four years …

I sometimes still feel as if I have no idea what I am doing.  Once a month, I meet with a group of talented women writers who read my work and give me ideas on how to improve my work, and I leave these meetings doubting myself, wondering if I should go to grad school to learn more, if I should be reading other books than what I am, if I should throw in the towel.

I won’t.  I love writing too much to do that.  But it doesn’t mean that I don’t go home wondering if I am wasting everyone’s time with the scratches and jottings that I bring to the table every month.

My knowledge of the craft is still so limited.  My stories lack essential ingredients that I’ve known about since grade school.  My scenes go nowhere.  My characters are hard to believe.  I am thirty years old, and sometimes I feel as if I know nothing.

This is not the fault of the women in my writing group.  This is a lack of confidence in myself and in my work.

And yet, when I consider it, I know that I have grown as a writer in the years since undergrad.  I know that, draft after draft, I am improving.  I have a fierce dedication, such that I would write even if I were guaranteed to not find success.

Any ideas or encouragement for this doubtful girl today?  Please share.