It’s World Book Day today, apparently. That is appropriate.
Why? Well, today is the first anniversary of my becoming a published author! Yes, really. Today, Revelation is a year old.
Thinking back to a year ago, when I hit that “publish” button on Amazon, is a bit strange. A strange mix of fear and excitement mixed with a lot of exhaustion.
You see, this is also the anniversary of a pretty heartbreaking event in our family. The week that Revelation was set to debut, my mom was hospitalized for an infection from her breast reconstruction surgery. While she was in the hospital, we discovered that not only was her cancer not gone, like we had previously thought, it had spread. She went from being “Cancer free” (at least in our minds) to being stage four within the course of a few scans and a couple tests.
I won’t go into much detail of that. Mostly because it’s not fully my story to tell. Also because, well, that’s not the point of this post.
What is the point is the strange dichotomy I felt. One the one hand, I spent the majority of my week crying. I was in and out of the hospital every day after work. Always feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, or that I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even control my own reaction to it. Anger, sorrow, and guilt dominated my mind and heart. Most of all, I just felt useless. My whole family was suffering, and I was right there but couldn’t do anything. For someone like me, who feels overwhelming anxiety and guilt if she can’t cook a decent meal for dinner, this was killing me.
At the same time, I had just accomplished something extraordinary. Revelation was only a 25,000-word novella going for free on Amazon, but who can even boast that? There are many people who have talked for years about writing a book and haven’t been able to get past the first chapter. Here I was with a well-received novella, a gorgeous cover, and over 400 downloads in the first week. I had three books lined up to follow it out into the world, and a whole career before me. I had just achieved a dream that I had since I was a little girl, curled up in bed with one of a million life-forming books.
My life was a collision of heaven and hell, and it seemed that the evil had easily overwhelmed anything lovely and good. Looking back now, that whole month is a dark spot in my life. Not without joy, of course, but not what someone imagines when they are thinking about “achieving a dream”.
So now, having dive-bombed through a year as a published author with two novellas, two novelettes, two short stories, and a novel out, I’m taking a moment to breathe and to look back on what I’ve accomplished.
Warning, I’m probably going to get mushy, personal, and spiritual. If you can’t stand any of those things...get out now.
Here are a few things I’ve learned over the course of the last year:
I need to accept grace.
One of my worst flaws, whether in writing or in life, is to set my standards for myself higher than is really humanly possible. I’ve had more than one anxiety attack in the last year because of deadlines and expectations that no one has put on me. No one but myself. I hate failure, and I tend to feel guilty over just about everything, from dirty dishes to postponing a book release. But it’s burning me out as an author, and as a person in general.
I’m not a Savior
Here is the problem with refusing grace: It’s not just about me. When I refuse grace I devalue the love of the people around me, and I deny the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
I told you it would get spiritual.
When it comes to book releases and my writing schedule, the truth is, my readers probably don’t care that much if I say “look, this book needs to be better. I need more time.” Refusing their grace burns me out as a business person and will damage the life of my career.
As a person, refusing grace means that I believe the worst lies about my friends and family. I somehow think that their love or respect depends on how I look or act, or if I’m meeting a goal.
As a Christian, refusing grace means that I am looking at Christ on the cross and saying, in effect “No, that’s not enough. Your blood can’t cover my sin, it’s too big. I have to take care of it myself.”
What kind of arrogance is that?
You get Joy from Giving when You Know you are Worth Something.
The best part of writing? Well, there are two things I can think of. The actual writing is fantastic. Maybe I like the control. Maybe I like the invention. But I LOVE creating a new world.
But there are also the reviews. I love reading reviews. Mostly positive ones. When someone picks up something I created with nothing but my mind and hours of hard work, it feels like heaven.
The worst thing about that is second-guessing those reviews. Feeling like they would hate me (not my book, me) if they just looked a bit deeper.
Giving is one of the greatest joys you can have. But if you don’t think that anyone will want what you have to offer, you will be robbed of it.
The overall truth I’ve learned from writing is the same I’ve been learning all my life: It doesn’t matter if I’m good enough. Why? Because I am already loved! I can fight for the rest of my life to be worth something. Whether it's through my writing, my marriage, my faith, or a million little laws I set up for myself. The key to escape is not in accepting myself of lowering the bar. The key to escape is finding out that I’ve already won the prize. I have family and friends who love me. I have my sins forgiven through the blood of Christ.
So what am I going to change this year: I’m going, to be honest. Probably nothing. I’m still going to stumble the same way I always do because I’m HUMAN. I’m going to keep learning the same lesson, and few new ones, because that is what life is. And I’m going to keep writing and publishing because that is what I love. And I will celebrate the accomplishments that I make. I hope you will be there with me as I do.