10 Common Misconceptions of the Wannabe Novelist, #9
See Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, and Part 8.
#9: Once I publish my novel, I’ll finally be someone people notice.
Oh, this is a sad, sad way to live—to be a slave of others’ approval.
When I was a child, I wrote stories simply because I enjoyed writing them. As I grew older and became more self-conscious, I realized that writing could be more than fun and games. I could actually get published and “be somebody” (as if I wasn’t somebody already). Someone important. Someone people would notice. Who knows? Maybe I’d even write best-selling books, and then people would know who I am, and I’d be famous.
(Do you hear the pride ringing in those statements? Perhaps the pride of life described in 1 John 2:16?) In my opinion, the most genuine famous people I’ve ever met are the ones who never sought attention.
Unfortunately, I fell into a mental trap that assigns personal worth based on accomplishments and performance. If I excel and win awards, I told myself, I’ll get recognized as the best, and then I’ll be somebody.
Have you ever thought this way?
This problem became worse as I grew older. I started late in Awana Clubs. No biggie. I finished my handbook early and did all the previous handbooks I’d missed. I was a driven person . . . to the point of extremism. In one night I passed something like forty-plus sections. If you know anything about Awana, you know that’s a lot of Bible memorization and hard work.
Taking Its Toll
Unfortunately, this thinking followed me into high school . . . and not just in my writing. If I had an exam, I had to get an A. The high grade was nonnegotiable. And if I didn’t accomplish what I set out to do, I became discouraged. In a big way.
Maintaining these high self-imposed standards took its toll. The pressure I put on myself made me a nervous wreck. I worried about exams. I bit hangnails until they bled. I remember state competitions and feeling sick to my stomach as I sang solos, lent my voice to choirs, and presented my calligraphy for others to judge. (Okay, not always but most of the time.)
Sure, I knew that winning wasn’t everything and that just doing my best to please the Lord was what was important. My parents gave me godly, biblical counsel—they aren’t to blame. I knew it was silly to take things so personally, but still I did.
When I compared myself to others, I realized I wasn’t good enough in some areas. And because I assigned personal worth to performance, that meant I wasn’t good enough.
The Big Lie
Perhaps you’ve watched the Olympics and seen those athletes who literally give their whole lives to train for one sport. While the whole word watches, they have only minutes to show their worth. When they fail, they must feel like nobody in the worst way imaginable. I can relate to that thinking because I was in the same trap.
But it wasn’t true. It was all a big lie.
Now as an adult and a published author, I’m hopefully older and wiser. I can look back and see where ungodly thinking led me. Yes, ungodly. Because my worth is not based on what I do or how well I perform (pride) as if I can somehow attain worth by working harder, running faster. Christian novelist Mary DeMuth says it best:
Thank God, my worth is not dependent on whether I disappoint someone or fail to live up to expectations. It may feel that way, but that belief is simply untrue.
God breathes worth into us when He ignites our life, from the moment we existed. Because we are His creation, and He is worthy, we as His image bearers are worthy. (http://www.marydemuth.com/2011/12/criticism-does-not-define-you/)
My worth is based on who I am in Christ and on what He did for me. What He did—dying on the cross for me—was good enough to meet the Father’s expectations. He assigns His worth to me—and that’s why I’m good enough too.
Though I should work hard and do what God has called me to do to the best of my ability (Eccles. 9:10), His grace gives me worth and makes me who I am. Pardoned. Forgiven. Accepted in the beloved.
Accepted. That means I have worth. Because Jesus won the ultimate Olympics and gave the trophy to me.
Do I still struggle with this performance/self-worth anxiety? Sometimes. Plenty of other authors outperform me in too many ways to count. They spit out books so quickly they make my head spin. They win awards. They get multibook contracts while I’m still trying to write novel three and find an agent. Comparison can kill. Christian novelist Katie Ganshert says it well:
We pay attention to how long it takes other writers to get an agent, who’s getting book deals, who’s self-publishing, who’s selling more books, who has more blog readers, who’s winning awards, who’s receiving accolades, etc, etc. Before we know it, we’re wishing for so-and-so’s journey instead of our own. Remember, everybody’s writing journey is unique. God has us on our own path for a reason. (http://www.novelrocket.com/2012/06/publishing-landmines-tips-by-katie.html)
If I measured my worth by how well I compared to others, I would be one miserable guy. And yes, sometimes I’m tempted to feel discouraged . . . until God gives me an attitude check and reminds me that Jesus has done enough for both of us. I have worth because God says so (Ps. 139:14). There’s no need to strive to “be somebody.”
Oh yes. I have plenty of pep talks. I remind myself that I am publishing novels (just not as quickly as everybody else). I put life in biblical perspective and remind myself that plenty of things are more important than publishing novels and getting big contracts and large advances. My family, for example. My wife and my relationship with her. My daughters. My health. My church. And of course my God . . . and taking life at His pace.
So why would I be consumed with being someone people notice? I already have God’s approval. What more could I want?
What about you? Do you struggle with trying to do enough to obtain self-worth? Been there. Done that. Maybe I can help. I’d love to hear from you.
- Should I Be a Novelist? Five Critical Questions
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This is great and applies to so many of us, whether we are authors or not! I think this is one of Satan’s biggest weapons and lies. And it’s an age-old struggle. Cain killed Abel over it. And Peter asked Jesus “What about him?” regarding John, even after Jesus’ resurrection and His forgiveness and restoration of Peter! I think we are so mired in this world and don’t fix our eyes on Jesus — we look horizontally instead of vertically.
Thanks for this reminder.
Thanks for responding, Linda. I think this is a universal problem but even more so the way our society is. We constantly idolize certain people and ignore others. On reality shows, the losers are mocked, and the winners get a million dollars. Life is full of competition, but I think there is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Unfortunately, society teaches us to do in a lot of wrong ways. And comparison is rarely a good thing. Yes, we need to keep our eyes on Jesus, but it is challenging.
Thanks so much for the blog post shout out, Adam! Wonderful post!
You’re welcome. It was a great article, and that part in particular really resonated with me. Congrats on your novel!
I hear ya! Well written. Great topic to “discuss”. Bringing our flops and misguided thinking into the light of Christ and truth will always bring about freedom. Thanks for sharing!
Thanks, Heather! It’s humbling to admit flaws and mistakes, but God gives grace to the humble. And it’s only by taking this step that God can step in and do His work.