This post is part of a series telling a longer story. You can find yesterday’s post I Am From White Also, But Not Only here and Standing at the Margins: I Don’t Belong here. It makes more sense if you read them in order but I get that you probably also have a life and may not have the time to read 4,000+ words. Carry on.
If you know where you’re going, you might not always know how you’re going to get there, but you’ll know when you’ve arrived.
The biggest battle to get words to the page is believing you’ve got a story worth hearing. That you are enough to show up for.
There’s platform building and social media and WordPress plugins and a million other components that you can google but no one can make you feel worthy enough to tell your story and believe you have a voice worth listening to.
In my four years of blogging, I have never submitted a single query or pitch or guest post to any blog or magazine on my own. I have always waited in the margins until someone invited me to the table. I’ve never asked about opportunities to speak, I’ve never been brave enough for longterm hope. Even if I think I can do the writing or the speaking, I also wonder, what qualifications do I have? Why would they listen to me? What would I put on my dreaded bio?
The one time I submitted an application was when (in)courage had an open call for new contributors. I wasn’t going to apply because I knew there would be hundreds of people vying for a few spots. But a few friends wrote me to encourage me to do it anyway.
Your voice is needed there, they said.
I opened the application and it had spaces to tell about how you’ve been involved with the (in)courage community. I could do this. I had answers to put in the spaces. Ironically, I’d served as a community leader trying to coax words out of other writers, helping them find their voice, and the bravery to hit publish. It didn’t ask for degrees or expertise.
I could just be me, maybe I would be good enough.
I got the job. I made it to the table, and every month since then when my deadline comes up, I talk myself into writing my post and fear it’s not good enough. I’m not good enough.
I used to tell myself it was because I was all about the writing and the platform building is nonsense I couldn’t be bothered with. It feels schmoozy and insincere to network and often platform building looked more like collecting fans or trying to snag the attention of the cool kids with bigger brands so you could leverage them to boost yourself. Hey, look at me! I’m one of the super special cool people too.
But that’s never been me. I usually just sit at whatever table has an empty space and hope I don’t spill anything or make a mess. I’m thankful for the kind ones who notice the other standing there awkwardly scanning the room for a place to belong. I’m forever grateful to the ones who skooch over and make space. God bless the kind ones and the space-makers, they will always have a piece of my heart.
So I have never tried with any intentionality to be a rockstar. I have kept to my corner and written the words that come when they come. I have killed this blog a hundred times when the doubt and the fear and the exhaustion wipes me out and I cannot find my voice in the dark.
Readers go away when you don’t write. I turn off the statistics, I don’t need those numbers bouncing around in my head when I bring my story. But I know at times there have been five of you. My mom and my husband always read my blog, so I had to decide if it’s worth writing for the other three who might have clicked on my Pinterest freezer cooking post from ages ago and accidentally found themselves in a vat of my feelings. Don’t ask.
It’s hard to restart again and again.
I’ve written for myself and for the faithful few. I’ve written for the new ones and the ones who can’t find a seat at the table either. On the good days, I believe the work matters and it’s a good and holy thing to overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimonies.
But I have bad days. Bipolar is a beast.
I’ve wandered in the process. My husband, who is good to me, reminds me. He tells me to make a file with the emails and the comments that say, “I feel less alone now,” and to read them when there are only 5 and that doesn’t seem good enough.
A few days ago, after I hyperventillated on the couch and cried and told him I don’t know if I can do the things that make me come alive because being fully alive and fully myself is the most vulnerable and scary place of all.
After I curled in a ball and he stroked my hair and I said all the desperate things one more time he said to write the reminders. The altars to remember. He didn’t say it in those words because I’m the writer and he’s mostly quiet in the way he serves but that was basically it.
The next morning I woke up early to write when the sky was black as pitch and I pulled back the blinds to watch the sunrise over my laptop, and when the light broke, I saw he had written You’re Good Enough in window marker from the outside in.
I got to work.
I’ve been waking early every morning to write. When the sky is still pitch black, I pull the blinds and watch the sunrise over my laptop. This morning as the light broke, these words appeared on my window. Josh had written them with window marker the day before. You’re good enough. Sometimes knowing one person believes that about you can give you the courage to do those things that make you want to pee a little. #iwrotethethings #lovethisman
I’ve known I want to write books someday but knowing the destination doesn’t mean the journey is any easier. I’ve said no and it’s not time for years. I said I would know when it was. I haven’t been in any kind of rush. I don’t want to put down words I don’t really know yet. I don’t want to fill the pages with premature stories so I can have my name on a shelf. I know too many published authors to believe this is any kind of holy grail achievement or that I will somehow be ‘good enough’ with my name for sale on Amazon.
I drove to the second day of the Author’s Retreat voxing a blogging friend a long message about dreams and dream-breakers. I knew my destination but the journey terrified me. She agreed bipolar is a beast. Dreams are hard to hold onto. Sometimes surviving sucks the hopeful spaces from my days.
I could feel the tension in my shoulders, like bound corded bundles tightening up around my ears, as I climbed the stairs back to the gathered ones.
I poured hot water into a container of gluten-free oatmeal and let it simmer while I found a seat. I asked one of the attendees how she slept, how was the jet-lag. And then I said how intimidated I was the night before and how I felt so awkward because I didn’t really know this retreat was for ‘real’ leaders not just writers.
It just came tumbling out, rolling up through my tension and suddenly it was spilling from my lips like I had just burped up something unpleasant. I felt I needed to apologize for being there. And she said, “Oh, me too. I totally felt that way too.” And then she shared and I heard every single word as if it were my own.
The tension eased in my neck and I breathed a little deeper in my lungs. I’m not the only one.
The first session Al Hsu, senior editor at Intervarsity Press, shared a presentation on The Publishing World, Trends, Context, and Where You Fit.
Where I fit? But I’m the girl who doesn’t fit. I’m the girl who doesn’t belong.
Sometimes God sends someone into your life. They’re just doing their work. They’re doing what they were made to do, same as any other day. And they’re oblivious to the places God prepared ahead of time, but on that day, they speak hope into your weary shame filled places. On that day, their words open up places to dream again. On that day, they showed up to do work they’re good at, but it’s more than a job, it’s a ministry, and they have no idea what their obedience to their one thing has done for someone else.
I’d never heard someone Asian address issues specific to me. Specific to shame and culture, and wanting to do the work but not knowing how to get past the hurdles that keep me silent and strangled. When he started sharing the Where I Fit portion, I could feel my eyes get watery and I stared at my laptop screen blinking them back. I would not ugly cry in the middle of this session! There are limits to my humility, people.
My oldest son said I might be a weeping prophet… or Moaning Myrtle. He gets me.
God was reaching into the tension, into the places where I’ve believed I wasn’t good enough. My shoulders melted down into the whole of me. I was breathing all the way down to my gut.
The weekend continued and in tiny pockets of conversation, I began to see how each person was doing their work, holy important things in both big and small spaces. How everyone wrestled with bringing their voice in one way or another. I felt myself unfiltered for the first time because I am always in white spaces and I guard my words there. And although we all came with different goals and various obstacles, I started to believe I have a story not just worth telling but worth hearing.
Al Hsu said, “No book is for everybody, but every book is for somebody.”
Somehow I’d forgotten about my somebodies.
I’d forgotten about the people who need space to believe God is still good. Even when I’m crushed with despair, even when my body fails, even when my kids have needs I cannot meet. Even when I have more questions than answers and my faith feels like stumbling around in the dark, God is still good. I’d forgotten about the people who need to know that the way they see the world isn’t the only way to see the world and that maybe we could all learn something by listening better.
I’d forgotten about the people who need to be reminded of that.
I’d forgotten how often I write words only to read them later and remember that God still moves in the scorched land, in the bruised and busted up parts, in the lack and the weakness and the never enough, in the halves of me that never seem to add up to a whole, God still redeems.
Sometimes it looks like ordinary. Sometimes it looks like miracle. I believe it is both.
I’d forgotten how in telling our stories we don’t just relate to each other, we belong to each other. I am not alone. And neither are you.
Write the reminders.
This is a four part series on my blog. I’m telling a longer story but instead of hurling 5,000 words at you, I’m going to spread them out in this series. I’m going somewhere with all of this. I’d love it if you’d join me as I tell this story, my story.