Finding the Joy of Writing Again
No One Is Listening
I’m healing from a series of writing experiences that broke my heart.
For some, my hurt may seem petty, but for an author whose passion is to pour life into words and make a difference in others, my experiences left me devastated.
In High School, after reading journal entries in English class, one girl pulls me aside and said, “No one wants to hear what you have to say.”
After a Martin Luther King speech, I had to give in High School, where my African American teacher told me to use ‘inflection’ in my voice, I got beat up after school and told, “no one wants to hear you speak ever again.”
In college, I focused on inspirational speeches during my public speaking course. And yep, one of my classmates told me after my third speech, “You know no one is listening, right?”
You’d think I’d get the hint.
I switched to writing instead.
The author’s journey began in 2011 when I published my first website: The First Breath. It was an inspirational blog encouraging new believers to read the Bible. Within two hours of my announcement, the pastor’s wife posted that I was “Ew” for saying I was the best mom in the world (taken totally out of context, of course) and that missions ‘shouldn’t have a name.’ They went on to say other shaming things that had me closing that website within weeks.
Next, I tried my hand at fiction and wrote my debut novel, Ruth’s Garden. I spent the next two years attending writers conferences, meeting agents, and soaking up as much as possible, learning about storytelling, editing, pitching, and proposal writing. I applied everything I’d learned to my book and put it in front of an agent at a major writers conference.
They loved it and asked me to send the entire manuscript. The next day they scheduled a one-on-one meeting at the end of the conference. I couldn’t believe this good fortune and took long walks thanking God for this surprising victory.
The agent meeting did not go as planned, however. I had no platform. And anyone who wants to be published knows you need a platform.
I hired some beloved coaches who steered me in the direction of non-fiction which would help me grow my platform to at least the five-figure mark.
The Introverted Believer was born.
The Introverted Believer shared hope with women of faith who preferred solitude and intellectual and spiritual stimulation over potlucks and over-sharing in small groups with people they’d recently met. Together, we found ways to participate in the body of Christ in ways we felt called to, rather than in ways we felt shamed into.
It was raw and honest, and I enjoyed serving this way with immense satisfaction.
After six months or so, I got a call from a representative of the agency I’d pursued for a long time. I was told the agent would reach out that week.
He didn’t. Or the next week, or the week after. Emails and phone calls were not returned.
Once again, I could hear that voice saying, “No one wants to read what you have to write.”
But I continued to pursue my passion.
Enter Agent Two
I pitched my idea for a devotional journal for introverted believers at my next writers conference, and a sweet agent, dedicated to her authors and faith, loved the idea and signed me that day.
After months of waiting to hear from one of the mid-sized houses my agent submitted, I received the call every writer wants to hear – “X house wants to see more of your writing.”
In a snap, I went from one tiny step away from publishing to long forgotten.
My weekly devotional for Introverted Believers was one or two steps away from a major publishing house. However, I never reached those steps after years of hard work, and more money than I had to spend was flushed down the toilet with my hand.
After several revisions, it was no longer my voice. I had to decide to flex to industry demands or maintain my voice.
In the end, maintaining my voice was both the most straightforward and most challenging decision I’ve made. But from the very beginning, I told myself (and God) that I would be writing for Him and that if it felt like I was pulled to change that for financial gain, I would stay committed to writing devotions to God.
My former agent and the publisher communicated their perspectives and expectations, and I love and respect them dearly for their expertise. Still, only the author knows when the threadbare line between industry demands and relinquishing the author’s voice has been crossed.
What the industry needed was inspirational encouragement. What I committed to were writing devotions to God.
I chose to stick to my commitment.
Enter doubt, Monday morning quarterbacking, and shame. How could I ignore the advice of two of the most respected experts in the industry? Would any agent or publisher want to work with me in the future? Will I be respected for my decision or forever branded as inflexible?
I was devastated and at one of my lowest points when my old friend Shame hissed in my ear, “No one wants to read what you have to write.”
So, I sunsetted The Introverted Believer and stopped writing.
No more blogs, no more guest articles, no more podcasts.
I lost touch with most of the writing community and focused my attention elsewhere.
But the passion and fire to communicate, inspire, and entertain through speaking and writing have only expanded.
So now, two years later, I’m picking up my pen and writing from a different place within my soul. I’m more fierce, I’m not holding back, and I’m more confident. Let’s not forget I’m older, with more faith, clutching my wine and shouting, “Tawanda!”
The Power of Context
I will keep writing because I believe there is power in words, and at this point, I don’t give a darn if I make a penny from it. It is more important to me to influence, be a light, share thoughts, stories, and lessons, and be the recipient of such things than it will ever be to work my tail off for a bazillion followers for the 1% chance I might get a book deal.
Every moment reveals new truths, and the exploration of this context and energy is so profound my heart is beating out of my chest.
Writing for the sake of publishing is too small of a context. I’m shifting ownership and authority over my work to something much bigger. And the joy this brings to my writing manifests itself into something tangible daily with God as my guide.
I’m blowing the dust off the old manuscript and blog and will begin writing again with a newfound perspective, a refreshed soul, and a larger-than-life context.
It feels good to be back.