I have been laboring over a lengthy review of the Chronicles of Narnia for the entire past week. Since I have some personal connection to these books, I have personal things to write, but when I try to write it from that angle it sounds less like a review and more like stream-of-consciousness banter. I find myself asking, "Does all this really matter if someone is contemplating their first go at reading these fine books?" Then, I answer, quite honestly: "It doesn't matter a hill of beans what I think about these books or how I came to know them or why I didn't read them sooner.
Added to the internal storm of debate, I had external storms of weather grounding my whole family so that we experienced a week long imprisonment with each other (no, it was not like an island getaway experience). Even if I wanted to write, I had three boisterous boys and a driving husband to deal with.
Frankly, I spent most of the time buried in books. I finished the last two Chronicles books and a biography and then began a book about the Chronicles and several other novels. Indeed, I think my husband wondered if I intended to do anything besides read during this enforced hibernation.
So, on Saturday, I exercised (actually, I've been doing that every second or third day since the new year started) and then scurried around straightening and cleaning with abandon. Just moments before he arrived home from work, I had bent over a chair with the hose attachment to the vacuum, attempting to get rid of all the frustrating dog hairs that cling. I must have wrenched into an unnatural angle or something, because I felt a spasm of sharp pain and collapsed onto the floor. I literally thought I might never get up again. I have been applying Icy Hot Patches and taking ibuprofen ever since. It is finally getting a bit easier to move around, but by no means back to normal.
Of course, this brings its own discouragement. However, I have been even more deeply discouraged by the outcome of the Young Adult Novel Discovery Contest, which I entered back in November. I knew the finalists were due to be announced at the beginning of this week.
When I mentioned to my husband that I obviously hadn't made it to the top five spots in the contest, he asked, "Did you really think you would?"
Well, even if I had thought I should have fine-tuned the entry more, I was most certainly hoping for the best. It would have been grand to be noticed without all the leg work of finding an agent or a publisher who believes in what you've written.
Then, my brain begins the usual slide into warring factions. One side is shouting, "There are a million writers out there. If you don't believe it ... just take a look at how many people have blogs these days. All of them think they have something worthwhile to say. All of them want to have loads of people reading their words and feeling something as a result. All of them consider themselves to be 'writers.' What makes you think you even belong to that category of word? What makes you think you are more than just a dabbler who enjoys spitting out the endless words that swirl in the brain? How could you even think that you will find success?"
The other side, is far more timid. It is whispering, "Don't give up, Wendy. You can't know if you'll ever see success, if you give up just because you didn't win a contest. Writing is a craft. It takes hours and hours of practice. It takes drive and determination. It sometimes even takes the luck of the right person stumbling upon your words at the right time."
They sent an e-mail today with the names of the top 20 finalists and the names of their novels - none of which seemed better to me than the title of my novel). The very fact that it hurts so bad to learn that I didn't even make it to the top 20, tells me that this was very important to me. It indicates that there is, deep within, a passion about this. If it is a passion, I must continue to pursue it, even when I want to give up and say, "Forget it, why am I wasting my time thinking I could actually write a publishable novel!"
Thankfully, I did receive some encouraging words from a friend from my old writer's group. I had mentioned my difficulty with the Narnia review because I have nothing new to say and those books have been reviewed plenty. She wrote back to remind me that I am not charged with writing something new. I'm charged with writing what God wants me to write.
Here is how she so eloquently put it (thanks, Anne):
"Don't worry about what's already been written, just ask God to show you insight to what He wants said. Fear is a strangler of what we want to accomplish, I'll pray for you. Satan loves to immobilize us, I know this from experience. I will pray you are in step with the Spirit. Not ahead pulling Him along, nor behind giving Him a push."
So, I'm proclaiming here and now that I will not give in to defeat. I may cry a few more tears about the contest, but I will not give up. I will get back to that novel and fine tune it until it is ready to be sent out into the world of publishers. I will not give up after two submissions. I will not back down when further ideas pop into my head (I did indeed stumble upon a new novel idea just a few weeks back and it sounds promising). I will submit my writing to the Lord and ask Him to bless what He chooses to bless WHEN He chooses to bless it. But, most of all, I will show up to do my part of the process ... which is clinging to the passion and putting words down as often as I can.