It’s happening again. I’m starting to hate what I love — that which provides an escape for me from the depression and the anxiety. It happened once before, about six years ago when the love of photography was beat of me not by others but by myself.
I immersed myself in photography — learning every facet about it, taking my camera everywhere, trying to build it into a business. I also learned about Lightroom and Photoshop, the editing software most commonly used by professional photographers. The business failed and I felt like a failure as a result. I also felt extremely rejected after some former friends and family members rejected the notion I could take photographs for a living. I set the camera down for a few months and thought about how something I had once loved was now my deepest source of rejection and self-loathing.
Flash forward to now and I have immersed myself in fiction writing. I’m taking classes, self-publishing, considering hiring beta readers and content editors, line editors, copy editors, proofreaders, professional book cover designers, marketing gurus, and buying writing software. I am essentially complicating something that was serving as a lifeline for me in a very dark time in my life. I am doing what I did with photography – killing that which I loved because once again for the sake of feeling like I’ve accomplished something.
I have been asking myself in the last two weeks, why can’t I just accept that each person’s accomplishment is different? What I see is an accomplishment wouldn’t be for someone else and what they see as an accomplishment wouldn’t be one for me. Then there is this whole idea of success. Success is subjective in many ways. The answer to the question of what is success depends on the person who is asking it.
Are you successful as an author if you only ever self-publish and only three people ever read your book? Or are you only successful if millions of people have read your book? Maybe you are a successful author if only one person is impacted by what you wrote. Or, maybe, a very unpopular idea would be that you are successful simply if you write the book and finished it and no one even reads it.
I started sharing my fiction on my personal blog in 2019 for fun. I needed a creative outlet and loved the idea of serial fiction. I published my first book in an attempt to reach a personal goal, not to make money or receive praise. But then I started worrying that I wasn’t doing it right, even though I was only doing it for fun. I decided if I was going to do this writing thing, I should do it “the way you’re supposed to do it.” There is nothing wrong with wanting to do the best we can and doing it “right” but some personalities take the idea of doing it right and transform it into, “I have to do it perfect.” I am one of those personalities.
When I started this journey into fiction writing, I heard the words, “Just have fun” in my head. Was it from God? I don’t know. What I do know is that this phrase is something I’ve held on to for the last two years. Whenever I have started to compare myself to more successful authors, or started to become overwhelmed with what I “should do”, those three words have popped into my head.
It reminds me of a time when I was going through a dark time and suffering from panic attacks (again) a few years ago. I remember drawing a bath for my daughter, my thoughts rushing through my brain like the water from the faucet. I heard a voice in my mind, a voice that was not my own, say clearly, “Be still.” It was a bit unnerving, to be honest. I thought I might finally be losing it. This was not my thought. My thoughts had been chaotic and panicked, not calm and reassuring.
I remember sitting back on my feet, kneeling next to the tub and saying, “What was that?”
“Be still,” I heard again.
I took a deep breath and I said, “Okay, Lord. I’m going to try.”
From then on, anytime I would get nerved up about something I would say those words again, “Be still.”
I’m trying to do the same now with my writing journey and when I get overwhelmed and think I’m not enough or am not doing enough I whisper to myself, “just have fun.”
I wrote a blog post not along ago called, “Here’s Your Reminder to Close Some Tabs.”
In that post, I wrote about how many of us try to do too much at one time, but also how we try to think about too much at one time.
I’ve been doing that recently with my writing journey, as much as I have with life in general. I have been sucking the joy out of what I love to do.
As a follower of Christ, I need to stop and listen to the Holy Spirit who is urging me to, please, please, just slow down and find joy in where I am right now in my journey.
And I am finding joy.
I am finding joy in the creation of characters and stories, and in the simple act of putting the words together. I am also finding joy in the interactions I am making when I share my writing, even if that interaction comes only through one person.
Our brains were not made to take in all the information available to us on one or many topics at one time. We were not made to do everything all at one time. It’s not how God wants us to be. He wants us to enjoy the gifts he has given us and to do that we need to place one foot in front of the other and remember that our journeys are a marathon, not a race (as a fellow author reminded me recently).
God has given me a love for photography and writing and he is asking me to use it to the best of my abilities.
The best of my abilities.
That means trying my best, learning along the way, and being content that my journey will be forever changing and progressing. It also means doing the two things I feel God has asked me to do in my creative endeavors and in life: having fun and being still. Being still is not easy for me and the area where I am not still most often is in my mind. I believe when God encourages us to be still, he isn’t actually talking about being physically still. He’s asking us to still our thoughts and our striving.
What I need to stand in is the knowledge that all things will work together for good because I am being called, ultimately to His purpose. And that purpose may not mean success or popularity the way the world sees it, but instead the way God sees it.
Reminding myself that I don’t need to live up to a standard that the world has set is helping me not lose my love for this lifeline — this creative outlet through the written word — and it’s also helped bring back my love of seeing the world through the lens of a camera.
Are you losing love for something that once gave you joy?
Ask God to give you a new passion, to help you close some tabs, and to rest in the knowledge that he will bring you through your journey according to the purpose and path he has set for you.
Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (ESV)