The Writing Life
In my dreams I always pictured a quiet, peaceful place where I could focus on writing and not feel the pressure of an alarm clock and a boss who wanted me to do things I didn’t care about. But it was really hard for me to trust that marrying Rick and moving to the country was the right thing to do. I had my own ideas of what it would take to be a successful writer – specifically living in Nashville, the heart of Christian publishing. It IS good here though and I think I appreciate it more than most because I’ve been through a lot of challenges.
Almost ten years ago, I went through an extremely difficult time. I’d decided to go back to school, but it’s amazing that you can’t just decide to go to grad school and poof! Be there in a month! I couldn’t share with my colleagues or supervisor that I’d be moving because it was too soon. When I’d accepted the position, the supervisor who hired me had requested that if I ever left, I give her at least six weeks’ notice so she could find someone to replace me. She had retired and I didn’t have a similar agreement with the new supervisor, but I felt it was important to keep my promise.
I had a good track record with the company and knew my position well. When the new supervisor came in, she had received little training. Because I was leaving, I tried to be as helpful as possible, attempting to teach her all I could before I left. My attempt at helpfulness backfired though. She felt threatened and did all she could to force me to quit. I couldn’t quit before the last possible minute because I needed to keep making a salary. I couldn’t get another job for such a short period of time. So six weeks before I was to move, I turned in my letter of resignation. My supervisor tried to let me go immediately, but her supervisor refused to let her do so. So I braced myself to just grin and bear it.
Infuriated that she wasn’t able to tell me not to come back, she did all she could to make those last several weeks miserable. For example, she gave me a large planning calendar from the previous year and had me use white out and black pen to do the tedious work of making it into a blank calendar for the upcoming year! If I left my office for any reason, she met me to ask where I was going. No one else in the department could speak to me. If they tried, she asked them what they needed and how she could help them. She grilled them privately, asking if they’d spoken to me on the phone after hours and what we’d discussed. Then to top it all off, she told my coworkers I had said terrible things about them. I couldn’t defend myself because they weren’t allowed to speak to me. People I had worked with closely and considered dear friends had to either reject me or suffer the same fate. I was heartsick.
The only way I kept my sanity and made it through was by singing praise songs to the Lord. I sat at my desk every day and very, very quietly sang my praise to God. I gritted my teeth, determined to be above reproach. I spoke kindly to her and kept away from my colleagues so as not to incite her against them. When I got home at night, I pulled out my journal and wrote. I poured out all my feelings and prayed for God to help me.
After four weeks, I received my freedom. I would be paid for those last two weeks and my personnel file would reflect that I left on good terms, but I didn’t have to go into the office. Relieved, I gathered up my things, walked around the building and said goodbye to a few people I’d worked with for so long, and got the heck out of there.
During those last two weeks at home, which were really a blessing because I needed time to pack, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. I had to get all the stress and frustration I’d been under OUT in some sort of positive way. I filled notebooks with reflections, lessons learned, angry outbursts of “no fair!”, and so much more.
As painful as that time in my life was, it’s the time I look back on as the beautiful revelation. Singing praise to God and writing got me through that terrible time. It allowed me to see that God had called me to write. I’d always been a writer, but making that my vocation hadn’t occurred to me. I decided during that terrible time that writing was what I wanted to do. That was it.
Years of healing followed while I was in seminary. God used that place to pour soothing balm into the cracks in my soul. The work problems had come on the heels of a broken engagement and those two years in seminary gave me a chance to breathe and heal. I wrote nearly every day – journaling, writing papers, and journaling some more. ( I also learned that my former supervisor was fired after repeatedly submitting other employees to the same abuse.)
I began reading books on the writing life. How do I turn this passion into a career? How do I become a better writer? To my dismay, I kept reading that someone who wants to make a career of writing needs to focus solely on writing. In order to get better, you have to practice more, read more, edit more. All that stuff takes time and while you’re getting better, you aren’t getting paid. As a single woman with a theological education, I wasn’t seeing much hope of ever making enough money to just quit working!
And then Rick came into my life. Before we ever got serious, we talked about what I would do if we got married. He listened while I shared my dreams of becoming a “real” writer. He understood that marrying me meant his life would often be the subject of my writing. To my complete amazement, he believed in me. He supported me. He encouraged me. We agreed that if our relationship progressed to marriage, I could be a full-time housewife/writer. He understood that it might take a long time for me to ever make money as a writer, if I ever did, and he encouraged me anyway. If you ask him, there’s no question about it: I will be a successful writer some day.
So I am joyfully living the writing life. Keeping the house, cooking the meals, and doing the books, among other tasks, compose my day. And in between those tasks, I write. I read more books on writing. I talk to him about writing. Rick typically reads my blogs before I post them and lets me know what he thinks. He tells me if there’s a subject he doesn’t want me to write publicly about. He points out typos and confusing spots where I use the same word too many times. And he encourages me.
So for now, my job description is freelance writer/editor. I’ve been submitting articles for consideration to other blogs and magazines and making my new blog a priority. I’ve also been helping out others who write, providing editing and helping them develop their ideas.
I stand in awe of God, who has led me to this place. I tried to achieve the things I felt God called me to do in the way I thought was best and failed miserably. The moment I stopped trying to figure it out myself and followed the path of peace, He gave me the desires of my heart. He said, “Be still. Stop struggling. Wait for My redemption.” I finally obeyed and can only give glory to God for what He has done. I’ve even given up my ideas of what kind of writer I need to be for my writing to be successful. Just having the privilege of living in the age of the internet and knowing I can post on this blog, brings me great joy. Every one of you who read my blog make me a “real” writer. Thank you for giving me that gift.