Thursday, July 7, 2011

That self pity twists our thinking



This has turned out to be a longer reflection than my usual ones, but please bear with me. It's been a wonderful revelation to me and I hope it may be to you too.

I'd honestly decided I was going to quit writing books but didn't tell anybody. I kept it to myself knowing that nobody else wants to accept the invitation to the sort of party I was having, that is, the self-pity party. I'd tried wearing my heart on my sleeve in the past and discovered it never really works and I don't enjoy doing it.

The catalysts were varied. There were two events I'd planned for April and May, poured a lot of heart into, and not many people showed up. One was a book launch for "Best Forgotten" and another was an evening which affected four other South Australian authors as well as me. Then a sort of sad ripple effect happened in my spirit. I thought of all the "Light the Dark" parties which have been canceled because nobody committed themselves to turning up and the luke-warm responses I've been having from our Christian bookstores such as Koorong and Word. I hate the heavy, dragging-down feeling I get when I find a stream of Face Book messages along the theme of, "I'm sorry I won't be able to make it to your lovely event but I wish you all the best." I'd had enough "best wishes" over the years I'd been writing to fill an ocean liner but best wishes never put food on the table or help us pay our bills. I was going to stop writing. I really meant it.

I didn't tell anybody else but I made this sort of statement to myself.
"I'm obviously inept so what's the use?"
"Nobody can accuse me of not giving this a good go. I have seven novels and over fifteen years of effort to show."
"I'll still try to sell those seven, but I'm fed up with pouring so much mental and emotional energy into something that yields such paltry returns."
"Nobody's really interested! That's all!"

The first feeling after this decision was a tired sort of relief. I felt as if I'd thrown off the shackles of a self-made chain, a bit like Jacob Marley's ghost in "A Christmas Carol." This was quickly followed by a weird sort of empty feeling I wasn't sure I liked. I think I can understand how retirees might feel. I was now a lady-of-leisure as far as those spare moments I used to fill with writing were concerned. I started looking for cross-stitches to do instead. Might as well have some pretty bookmarks or wall hangings. Somehow, it wasn't quite the same. Ideas for brand new plots would begin to fill my head, but I'd have to shake them out and remind myself, "I'm not doing that anymore."

The ideas were persistent. Finally, I had to cave in and admit to myself that I simply love to write. It's far more to me than just a career choice or way of impressing people. It turned out the chain I'd forged wasn't heavy and clanky like Jacob Marley's after all. It was more like a shining, unique necklace full of precious gems that I loved.

So I've left the self-pity party. What's the point of cutting of my own life blood? Quitting something you love just because of other people's reactions or adverse circumstances is just crazy, like wanting to shoot your enemy by pulling the trigger on your own head. How mad is that. I'm still going to keep writing, thank you, and now I can face each project with new freedom because I know that I'm doing it because I want to do it, not for any external glory I may get from it.

Somebody else went through a moment similar to mine.* It was the prophet Elijah, who sat by scrubby broom tree in the wilderness, and told God, "I've had enough!" He'd just completed a stunning task, showing the prophets of Baal up as the charlatans they were. Perhaps he'd expected a bit of personal glory, but instead, he got a death threat from Queen Jezebel, a woman used to getting her own way. When the Lord asked him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?" get his reply.

Elijah said, "I have zealously served the Lord God Almighty. But the people of God have broken their covenant with you, torn down your altar and killed every one of your prophets. I am the only one left and now they are trying to kill me too."This was a massive exaggeration, because there were several prophets and true followers of God still left in Israel. Self-pity makes you exaggerate. I know, for example, that I've had plenty of support and encouraging feedback for my writing over the years.

God's reply to Elijah is interesting. Perhaps he would have appreciated a pat on the shoulder and some, "There, there, you did a fine job and you're a wonderful, faithful fellow," sort of feedback, but he got nothing like this. This is what God told him. "Go back the same way you came... when you get there anoint Hazael to be king of Aram. Then anoint Jehu to be king of Israel and Elisha to replace you as my prophet."

Huh??? My initial reaction is, "What does all this have to do with what Elijah just said?" I believe God doesn't want to waste time coddling people out of self-pity. He knows the ultimate cure for this self-focused, twisted thinking. What is it? Simply getting them to replace it with something more worthwhile, or in other words, get to work on something good.

So I'm believing his response to my pity-party is, "I'm giving you some brand new ideas. Get to work and make reflections and stories out of them."

*1 Kings 19

12 comments:

  1. It's so so easy to have a pity party isn't it?! I've not been writing as long as you, but I've had my fair share of 'I QUIT' moments!

    I agree with all your thoughts, we can't just stop something we love and I don't think God wants us to either. After all He gave us these good gifts to use for HIS glory :)

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  2. Oh and I know you aren't looking for praise, but I'm glad you are going to keep writing. I love your fiction!!

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  3. I've felt similarly many times Paula. I hate the rigmarole of holding up a brave face and pushing sales - but I do love to write. Thanks for another good reminder to keep our eyes focused upwards in this writing journey.
    May you experience peace of heart.
    Penny.

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  4. You had me giggling for the first half! I've so heard that voice... and I don't have 7 books under my sleeve!
    Great perception. x

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  5. I believe God is training an army of Aussies authors. Those who have laid down their lives to serve Him. One day soon the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit will ignite. With this move of the Spirit will come revelation and wisdom, knowledge and understanding that will go from here to the world. Yes he needs good authors.

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  6. So glad you made the decision to keep going. I love you comparison to Elijah too. Obviously the Lord has more in store for you on this journey if he didn't let you give up. Keep pressing on! :) XXOO

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  7. It's supportive to know that others have the same feelings too. I'm sure none of us are going to give up.
    Jo, there is definitely something in the air, I think. Others are beginning to feel the same as you and I'm getting a whiff of anticipation too.
    Narelle,thanks. Even though we know having praise our chief motivation is a no-no, I consider it a gift from God when it comes, like a fresh oasis to keep us motivated.
    Penny, Michelle and Amanda, I know there's no need to say keep going, my friends.
    Blessings,
    Paula

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  8. The truly creative have to express themselves. It's painful to hold it all inside.

    I wish I had realized you were feeling that way lately. I've felt that way too. It's been keeping me from opening up the document where I'm working on my comics and doing some writing to go with them. I keep thinking, "No one is even reading my blog anymore, why should I try to publish these? No one will want them."

    Maybe this is why artists usually form communities, to boost one another when someone needs support.

    Oh, and it's probably odd to think this, but I find it comforting that God chooses to ignore the whining. Because I'm prone to whine when I'm tired, but I usually get over it after I rest. :o)

    Peace and Laughter!

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  9. Im late posting due to being sick as a dog this week. but I am so glad you are not giving up. I am sorry some of your parties have been cancelled I loved the one here in Naracoorte. I am excited to see so much aussie fiction out now and I just hope more Aussies start to find it also.

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  10. Thanks Cristina, I find it significant that those who have commented on this post are fellow writer/reader/creative types rather than the people I knock around with every day. It's great to be able to boost each other. And I stick to my opinion that your homeschooling comic strips cry out to be published.
    Jenny, I enjoyed that "Light the Dark" party in Naracoorte too. It would probably be silly of me to quit just when Aussie fiction is beginning to boom. I just wish it would boom more as far as Koorong and Word are concerned, but hey, we can still make great strides without them.

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  11. I'm so glad you have come through this difficult time and decided to write because you enjoy it. Two words (and you'll hate this, I'm sure): Be patient. You may never fully know the hows and whys of writing your books but God does. Perhaps the financial part isn't the important part to God (though it is important to you, understandably). Maybe it's the process, the goal, the finality of finishing a book, that is important to Him. I don't know where these words I'm writing came from but I felt the need to tell you these things. I'm proud of you, you know.
    God bless - Kate

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  12. Kate, you're absolutely right. Sometimes when I examine my impatience and frustration, I realise that they stem motives which aren't really God's best for anyone. I'd rather be a clean vessel than a very well-selling, wealthier, but more self focused one.

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Thanks for your comments.

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