Thursday, April 25, 2013

A One Word Update of Sorts

When I chose Focus as my One Word for 2013, I intended to post about it monthly-ish to keep me accountable. Since I'm doing a pretty poor job of Focusing, I've procrastinated on the updates. It's hard to be accountable when you're not even sure what you're supposed to be doing. All I know is that I began this year, like many other years of my life, feeling overwhelmed and scattered. I knew I needed to prioritize and figure out the best uses of my energy.

Most importantly, I wanted to get serious about this blog and about finding more writing (and editing) opportunities. Even if I don't have much to show for it, I have made a start in that area. I'm more confident in what I want this blog to be and not to be, even if that means I miss out on the instant popularity provided by a more commercial approach. Aside from the blog, I'm soaking up information from experienced freelance writers and creative people. I've identified group blogs and websites with messages that resonate with me. I've responded to calls for guest posts, gotten no feedback, and decided that apparently I'm out of my league (while simultaneously at a loss to find a place that's in my league). Most successful writers experience years of rejection, but I fear I'm going to be, like, 80 years old, still trying, and still have zero published pieces of any kind to my name. My niece's future children will be like, "What's wrong with Great-Aunt B?" "Oh she just got another rejection from Today's Elderly Christian Woman."

The thing is, writing is supposed to be what I want to do, a source of happiness and fulfillment. Not to say it should always be easy – there's a deep satisfaction in doing difficult things when we know we're meant to do them. But if writing is reduced to a source of frustration at my continual lack of "success" as defined by others, I shouldn't be doing it. I need to think about my motives. I have this misguided idea that if God has called me to write, and I'm not on my way to reaching the masses, I'm letting Him down. In the words of an empowering blog post I read last night, the world "increasingly equates being extraordinary with the right to exist." If I'm just an average person sharing my average thoughts with a few people, what right do I have to speak? At the same time, I feel increasingly convicted that I don't take myself seriously enough as a writer. If I do have a calling, I need to own it regardless of whom I've written for, how big my audience is, or who thinks I'm any good. I could say my writing still matters even if only a few people care about it. But (if I could just believe this), the truth is, it matters even if only I care about it. Writing is the way I process everything. It's how I know I am alive. If my writing only makes sense of life or glorifies God to myself, it's enough. Seeking growth and working toward goals is healthy. Striving as an end unto itself is unhealthy. It can be a fine line.

So, that's my career-y Focus right now.


  1. The thing is, writing is supposed to be what I want to do, a source of happiness and fulfillment. Not to say it should always be easy – there's a deep satisfaction in doing difficult things when we know we're meant to do them.

    This reminds me of an interview I once saw with Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (with Charlie Rose, if memory serves). He talked about a panel of writers he was on, and the question was posed to the panel whether they enjoyed the process of writing. He recalled that all of the writers on the panel except for one said that they found the process to be very difficult and even painful, and the one author who said that she loved writing was, Vonnegut and his fellow authors all agreed--and at this point Mr. Rose interrupted him with a laugh and finished the thought: the worst writer on the panel. Mr. Vonnegut nodded and laughed.

    Of course, I think your post also has to do with ultimate happiness, as in seeing that your work is read and regarded well after you have finished it, regardless of whether the writing itself was difficult. Of course ...

    I've responded to calls for guest posts, gotten no feedback, and decided that apparently I'm out of my league ...

    ... the "blogosphere" is probably one of the poorest metrics of success. ;) When the "league" you need to get into makes you feel like you have to sell yourself by commenting prolifically and otherwise making your presence known on the Internet in ways that are entirely independent of the writing you want people to notice, it's easy to be further discouraged. Why, to one degree or another, no matter how well I regard a post that I comment on or how much it resonates with my experience, I'm probably busy about that "selling" task every time I wander and comment as well.

    If you're focused, though, you can remain on track with your writing, work with purpose, craft material that says what you have to say ... and, as with so many things in life, wait for it to get noticed. Life is full of those odd surprise moments of realizing you are indeed noticed, just when you felt most anonymous or ignored. As discouraging as it can be, though, your motive of success can't be the ephemeral nonsense of here-today-gone-today blogs. So what else can one do but interact with others in some reasonable fashion, while devoting the lion's share of one's efforts to crafting good writing? Your writing, unlike other people's reactions, is the only thing you can really control anyway.

  2. Brenda, I continue to enjoy watching the process of your writing here on your blog as it develops. I am often caught off guard by your posts in their profoundness in thought. You and I are on opposite ends of the spectrum for many things in our lives (though on the same page where it matters), yet you strike a chord with me more often than not, especially in your more insightful posts.

    So maybe you're focusing on writing for you and for God, but you have at least one fan in me -- just another humble blogger trying to find her own way in this world of writing and sharing thoughts with others.

    I also really enjoyed reading Mr. Morant's comment above. He makes some great points!

    Thank you for not giving up on your passion for writing, Brenda. I like it.

    1. :) Thanks for these nice words! I see you growing as a writer too.

  3. Man, this sounds like something I could have written! I struggle with not knowing where my niche is, or how to find it, and the world of freelance totally baffles and intimidates me. I'm working on a book trilogy, which is going well and I feel pretty awesome about it, but I definitely don't measure up to the world's standards of a successful writer. I'm working on accepting that reaching and changing even one person's life means I've used my writing for the way it was intended, and maybe that's enough. I don't want it to be - which is why I write two blogs, several in-progress books, and poetry - but I also need to keep in mind that commercial success and popularity is not the end goal.

    Also, I kind of want to find Misters Vonnegut and Rose and slap them for that interview! I hate the idea that great writing only comes from tormented souls who struggle with creativity. Why can't great work be produced from joy?? Why the automatic assumption that since someone actually enjoys her life calling and finds it easy, she must be bad at it?

    1. Well, Mr. Vonnegut has since gone to his reward, but Charlie Rose is still around, and, although I found his moment with the late Mr. Vonnegut delightful, I reckon he's racked up a reason or two to be grabbed by the lapels and shaken around a bit since that interview. So, if you should come across him, by all means, have at it. ;-)

    2. Wow, that's great about your trilogy! I agree, I do believe that I've served my purpose if my writing helps even one person. But it's hard to stomach sometimes in a world where commercial success appears to come easily to others... like you said.

      Yeah, I didn't like that either. :\

  4. This is a beautiful way to think about writing and blog writing. Also, you know what? I appreciate all of your posts and that you're not all commercially. Your blog is a wonderful mix of things that are clearly important to you, and that makes them important to your readers, too.

  5. Go read this:

    It was encouraging to me. Also, I once read where a literary agent was railing against the fact that Stephenie Meyer had so much overnight success. Thats not how it works.

    I also recommend this blog: She is a literary agent and has wonderful advice and such about being a writer. Its very interesting.