Thursday, March 26, 2009

Robin's Deep Dark Confessions, Part I

Little Fish Kristi has been busy telling you about herself and her plans. I've been sort of lax about that, so I thought I'd better introduce myself to those of you who don't know me. For those who read my other blog, I wanted to tell you how I got here.

If you don't know, for about two years I had a blog called The Queen of Perseverance. I laughingly gave myself that crown and dared people to challenge me, because I figure I've been writing and trying to publish a book longer than just about anybody. As a matter of fact, I sometimes feel that my whole life has been about God teaching me patience. I've become an expert in waiting.

For example, I didn't get married until I was thirty. I used to fret that Mr. Right would never come into my life, but finally he did. Then we started waiting for the babies to come. That never did happen.

As for writing, I knew I wanted to be a novelist when I was seven. When I was eighteen, I sent away my first novel manuscript. Now here I am, still on that elusive road to publication thirty-two years later. (Yes, you can do the math. I don't mind.) After thirty-plus years in this game, I figured I had a lot to share about writing and waiting. I had discovered things about writing that I wish I had known earlier. And as I learned those lessons, I finaled in a contest, drew encouragement and support from two well-known authors, and signed with an agent.

God had also shown me so much about the process of waiting. He taught me that sometimes you hold on and keep persevering--and sometimes you let go. I know now I'll probably never have children. That was one of my dreams I had to relinquish.

When I was younger, I knew a lot of people who wrote or painted or did all sorts of creative things, but their dreams fizzled out. So I started The Queen of Perseverance to share and to encourage other people to hang in there with me through those long dry spells.

But a sad thing happened. The more I wrote about persevering, the less I seemed to want to hang in there, myself. Here's something I wrote and almost posted about a year ago:

Last week, I ran completely out of perseverance. Not because God isn’t good or he can’t energize you. I just flat out wasn’t interested anymore. And it’s hard to write a blog and try to encourage everyone else when you don’t even want to be encouraged yourself.

I was really stuck. When I did grab a moment to sit down with my writing, I wanted to scream. I stared at the same sentence on the screen, with that stupid cursor blinking at me. I would pull up the blog and couldn’t think of anything to say, except, “I want to quit.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I figured that wouldn’t be very encouraging. So there I was, stuck.

This feeling came to a head last week, but it didn’t start then. Oddly enough, my desire to quit started growing right when I started this blog labeling myself the “Queen of Perseverance.” Does God have a sense of humor, maybe?

I think there’s a Scripture that warns you to be careful of setting yourself up as a teacher—or thinking you’re very strong in a certain area and don’t have to worry about temptation coming from that direction. Because that's exactly where temptation will come from. It will catch you off guard. I seem to be living proof of this.

I’ve wanted to be a novelist since I was seven years old. That’s approximately 42 years ago. I’ve thought about writing and publishing a novel every day since. I couldn’t imagine not being a writer.

In fact, sometimes I was afraid that I was too obsessed with writing—not only with my publishing dream, but with my characters and their worlds. Every now and then I would panic and think, what if God asked me to give up writing? Maybe I’m placing too much importance on it, even placing it before him. But how could I possibly give it up?

I finally managed to pray the words, at least in my head: if you want me to do something else, just show me, and I’ll stop writing.

The story of how God kept me writing during that time is, I think, pretty amazing. But for now, let me return to the current crisis, which is completely different from anything I’ve experienced before.

For the first time I’m not sure I want to be a writer. Instead of telling God I’m willing to quit, I’ve been praying for him to let me quit.

Stories no longer fill my head. The only time I think about my stories is when I sit there in front of that blinking cursor, forcing myself to think about them. And finding time and energy to sit there in front of that computer screen gets harder every week, not easier. I find myself asking, “Why exactly are you torturing yourself? You’re the one who started this. No one is making you do it. In fact, all your family and friends would be happy if you quit, because you might actually have time for them.”

I decided that this year is going to be sort of “my year of the fleece.” I’m laying a fleece before God, that if he wants me to keep writing, he will show me in some definitive way this year. Hopefully this will involve some kind of encouragement. I’ve sort of committed to my agent to finish two novels this year, so I want to try to do that. But after that, if nothing has changed, I’M TAKING SOME TIME OFF. This does not necessarily mean I’m quitting. But it will mean a big change.

So there it is, the sad state I was in about a year ago. Fortunately, I didn't post that whiney little diatribe, although I did tell my readers that I was trying to make some decisions about my writing. When I ran across the draft of that post a few days ago, it shocked me. Had I really reached such a low point in creativity? Had I really been that angry and frustrated?

Because here I am, a year later, itching to write. I am no closer to publication, no more successful, but for now at least, my passion is back.

It's always good to end on a cliff-hanger, so I'll tell you next time what happened to get the creative juices flowing again. I'll have to confess something that may shock some of you, but I've decided to go for it. So tune in for more of my Deep Dark Confessions.


  1. Thanks, Robin, for sharing such personal confessions, especially about your struggle with discouragement. I'm very thankful you came out of it, and thankful for the Potter series and its road signs to God as well.

    One of my favorite aspects of the series is the non-relative nature of its concepts of good and evil. I am hoping certain atheists I know who are reading it will be moved by this element. We'll see.

  2. This may shock YOU, Robin, but I was in that exact same place this past December! I said, God, please just let me quit and do something else. I applied for some jobs, and I waited. I didn't get the jobs, but starting in January and ending Wednesday night, I wrote almost my entire book. I've never been so inspired or written so fast. But I remember one day in December I was so depressed I couldn't imagine being able to continue, didn't even want to continue. But I felt that God told me (and I won't tell you how, because you will laugh ... okay, my kids were watching Tinker Bell). Anyway, I felt God telling me, "You're a writer. Be proud of it and keep writing."

    So I said all that to say, I know exactly what you're talking about.