I just place second in the annual Storymaker’s Conference First Chapter writing contest for non-fiction, and got some pretty amazing feedback for my book about my experience with family addiction, “High”.
A few years ago, I got an honorable mention for a poem in the annual League of Utah Writers annual poetry contest, entitled “Learning to Walk in Ruby Slippers”, (found at http://www.learningtowalkinrubyslippers.blogspot.com.) I also won second place in the fiction category for the first chapter of a manuscript I’m working on about families and divorce called “Leave.Stay.”
Don’t misunderstand, the recognition means everything to me, and is so helpful in knowing what works and what doesn’t. But every time I think about writing the next line…I am terrified. Every. Single. Time.
Like just now! I’m sitting down to write this blog post, and I have no idea where to take it. “Do I mention the awards? Or Don’t I?” I don’t want to seem like a braggart, and I always want to approach my creative talents with the humble acknowledgement that I am only the instrument, and God is the true artist. I really mean that! When I start a project like “High”, it is as though I am compelled forward by a Heavenly Father who has something to tell the reader. Maybe it’s you…or someone you know.
Whoever it is, I’m grateful for the opportunity, and sometimes the “calling” to put words on paper, write meaningful sentences, create powerful emotions, and speak truth.
But even in submitting entries to these contests was months—months of “Do I? or Don’t I?”
I guess I do, because here it is on this page, right? And in the end the reason I began with this award business, is so that any of you with your own heaps of self-doubt, your lack of a what you believe to be essential qualifications (is that just me?), your staggering lists of commitments, and your very own “Do I?’s or Don’t I’s?” can take courage in pursuing your own divine talents.
Do you? Or don’t you? Yes. Yes, you do!
Like you, that thought fills me with equal parts joy and terror, gratitude and self-doubt.
But there is that gentle nudge from the divine again, so I take the next step, type the next word. Prayerfully, and with what little faith I have that is bolstered by the incredible gifts of faith grated me as a gift from on high.
Back to my “Do I? or Don’t I?” Because you didn’t think there would only be one, right?
Do I continue the rest of this book, "High", in first person, present tense, which, if we’re honest, is really what gives it its power? Or don't I? The catch is that while in the thick of writing it every day, I got sick. Cancer, then complications, so now I only have thick steno pads full of notes that often don’t bring the exact experience back to my chemo-damaged memory. And then, because I struggled with “Do I? or Don’t I? keep writing?” for another couple of years, I really worry that I won’t have the necessary information to be accurate…to finish. And a thousand more reasons that keep me waffling between those two questions.
Really, it’s a long boring list of negative self talk, whispered into my ear by Satan himself. It keeps me from my authentic, true writing self. So “Do I? or Don’t I?” let that get to me?
“I don’t”. In truth, most days I do a little bit, but I keep trying. I don’t want Satan to win. I do want to help Heavenly Father work in me. I do.
I’ve struggled with a lot of “Do I?’s, or Don’t I?’s”? over the past few years.
Do I? or Don’t I? finish reconstruction surgery after breast cancer? After seven week-long hospital stays battling unknown infections after the last one, it’s a valid question.
Do I? or Don’t I? change employment paths? Also, valid, with pros and cons on either side.
Do I find vulnerability and risk all that goes along with putting myself out there (whether it’s a calling, planning a retreat with a friend, or writing)? Or Don’t I? “Don’t I?” sounds safe, and comfortable. And stifling. And ungrateful.
I think we all know the answer to this one, right? I do. You do. We all do.
I think of the marriage vows that always end I “I do.” And our talents are kind of like marriage vows with the Almighty. Heavenly Father promises us gifts and talents, and then bids us to use them, to multiply them, and to come out from under the bushel and shine our light. He knows how He wants to bless the world through us. He partners with us and beautiful things come into being in a way that cannot be done except by Him, through our unique perspectives and skills. The answer must be “I do.”
I commit to this partnership above all others? Be true and faithful to Him and no other? For time and all eternity?