Identity: You Are More Than a Writer

Guest post by Michelle Vandepol

 

I heard a keynote at a recent online conference I really appreciated. This author, who had reached the goals many of us are currently setting for ourselves, was saying that he now enjoys his writing more than ever precisely because he hasn’t made it the sum of who he is. This wasn’t always the case. He had to be intentional about expanding the other aspects of his life so he wasn’t talking, breathing, and living only in pursuit of his writing. This is especially important in the digital age when building a writing platform takes time and can quickly overshadow things that are actually of more importance. Not to worry.

 

Here are 5 easy ways to move forward on your goals while not losing yourself in your ambitions.

 

1.     Keep a sense of humour about the climb

Between aiming for growth on word counts, book sales, and social media followers; hyper attention or discouragement are both risks. Adopting self-deprecating humour and knowing that it will happen when it is meant to keeps the writer productive as well as happy. If our identities are not all wrapped up in whether a review is stellar or less so, whether a book takes off or needs a follow up to draw attention to it, or whether someone follows or unfollows us; pursuing the writing life is enjoyable. Humour lets us step back and gain perspective. Check out the hashtag #writerhumor or others like it to indulge.

2.     Think about the expanse of a lifetime and beyond

When the day feels like a write-off  because the words are not coming quickly or if they’re arriving, but you don’t feel like they’re ones you can rave about, know that there are still days ahead in which to polish and have flurries of writing happen. There is an oft quoted adage about examining whether something will matter in a week, a month, a year, or ten. The farther we go out (I recommend thinking lifetime and beyond) the more we realize that it is our small attempts pieced together for bigger use, our relationship building, and keeping our eyes on the real prize that builds something of legacy and purpose.

3.     Nurture hobbies and interests outside of writing

Other interests can complement your writing life (think book reviewing, bookstagramming, journal art, or a side craft business that builds on your bookishness), but it can also be something completely unrelated like a sport, nature, spiritual practice, your day job, or volunteer work. All of the pieces together make you a more interesting multi-dimensional human and in turn lessen the stakes of any one thing in your writing life. This, ironically enough, is what allows the emotional angst that prevents productive writing sessions to fall away and get replaced by something much healthier and much more enjoyable.

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photo by ashley mckinney

4.     Bond with your writer friends about more than who they are as writers

We may meet our writing friends primarily because of our shared interest, but if the friend chemistry is there, it will still be there when we are focusing not only on writing. It is a heart affirming thing to learn more about your writing friends, celebrate similarities and differences, and move forward with intention to be a part of lives beyond word count and market recommendations.

5.     Spend some time appreciating who you were created to be

It takes courage to out ourselves as writers so it makes sense that sometimes our writer identities take on lives of their own. To only celebrate one aspect of oneself though, is to limit greater joy. There are many ways to fill your bucket and thinking about what you’re good at, enjoy doing, want to learn, and would like to make more time for is a good place to start. You were created for more than one purpose. Live like it.

 

 Michelle Vandepol is a writer, editor, and bookish Canadian who loves connecting with other readers and writers on instagram at @michellevandepol. For more articles on the writing life, visit her website www.michellevandepol.com

So we do not lose heart…

“So we do not lose heart…” 2 Corinthians 16.

 

I didn’t know how to weep – I didn’t know what weeping meant.

Not until my (mercifully short) season of infertility.

I quickly learned.

The carpet floors of our sweet townhome have known well the salt of my tears, my cries of ache, anguish, and fear, and my whispered prayers of mustard-seed hope.

I’ve learned what it is to simply get out of bed because I can do all things through Jesus, Who surely carries me through.

I’ve learned what it is to full-out wail for a child not yet.

I’ve stopped judging Sarah from the Bible for throwing her husband at another woman just to get a baby. Infertility is an ache like no other.

And yet…there’s this: Infertility also leaves space for a holiness, a sacred intimacy with Jesus like no other.

I have experienced the love the Father has for His daughters…the special nearness He gives to his daughters who ache.

I want to share my story here, not to give anyone an “answer.” Not to say “If you do ___, then ___ will happen.” That’s not at all what I’m saying. I don’t think God works that way, as frustrating as that is at times.

But I do want to share what God has done for me and for my family.

I want to point us to Perfect Love who heals, Who works miracles, Who does more than we can imagine.

I am here to share my story. Glory be to God.

“I am my Beloved’s and He is mine, His banner over me is Love.” This is the song I played to and from every doctor appointment, beginning with the one when Michael and I heard my doctor sigh and say, “Robyn, you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. It’s a disease. It can be managed, but it cannot be cured. Your hormones – even for this disease – are very uneven. They make it so that your body doesn’t do what it’s supposed to. This makes it…very tricky to conceive.”

Michael held my hand on the way home from that appointment. It was a bright, sunny day. A beautiful work day, cars whizzing by, people going to lunch.

And I felt so alone.

No one knew.

No one knew what I was going through.

It was too personal. Too raw to write about.

Too raw for anyone but Jesus.

You know those trials we face that are so tender to the heart that if you tell even one person who speaks a careless word in response, you might just break?

Those trials where if ONE MORE PERSON gives you a contrite Christian saying, trying their best to make an uncomfortable situation feel better, you might (not so)accidentally punch them in the face?

This was one of those.

In her book “Every Bitter Thing is Sweet,” Sarah Hagerty writes, “While mothers cradled their babies at night, I cradled my barren womb.”

Oh, the pain. The pain.

I can’t describe it.

But in the dark, in the pit, in the nausea from medication trials, in the endless, quiet appointments, in the aching emptiness of my womb, in the heart-stabbing dig that was every baby shower invitation, Jesus was not only there, but He whispered a different tune.

Hear me, Beloved. I am bigger than doctors. I am bigger than your body. I am bigger than disease. I AM.

all bundles by Erica Zoller

photo by ashley mckinney

Michael came to me one day, strolling in the warmth of summer. “I get the feeling we’ll have a baby in 2018. I even…” he paused. “I think we’ll be pregnant before this year is over.”

I narrowed my eyes. I’m the one with all the “feelings.” He’s the one with very mature, rational thoughts.

“Why?” I asked. “Why do you think that?”

He gave a small smile, raised his eyebrows, and shook his head. “I don’t know. I just…I just do.”

“Do you think…should we, like, pray for that?”

Oh, gosh. I can’t pray for something that may or may not happen. I can’t open myself up to disappointment. Shouldn’t I only pray for God’s will? Because then I can’t ever be disappointed…

(I TOLD you. I had mustard-seed faith. Not the big, giant kind of faith. I had the little, scaredy-cat kind that wanted to pray “correct, A+” prayers.)

Michael nodded. “Heck yes we should pray!” (I love my husband.)

And so we did.

At first it was hard to pray. I didn’t want to ask anything of God that He might not want to do.

But then, as the days turned into weeks and the weeks into months and as the tears fell one by one into His hands, the praying got easier.

Because I knew Him more.

I loved Him more. Trusted Him more.

And yet, by the fall, my body still didn’t do what it was supposed to do. The medicine still hurt; my body still didn’t “work.”

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photo by ashley mckinney

I yelled at God. “Why me? Why? What have I done?”

God simply held me. Rocked me. Comforted me.

And by the grace of Jesus Christ who strengthens me, I forged ahead, continuing a trial of different medicines.

Fall leaves drifted to the ground, and Michael and I fell to our knees, eyes on the calendar.

We prayed fervently for our baby. Every night. In the hushed quiet of longing, we held hands and prayed.

Snow fell and winter rolled in.

And suddenly, gently, I felt strange.

Peaceful.

And…weird.

Hope against hope, praying silently “Can it be, Lord?” I drove to the doctor and took a blood test.

A few hours later, back at home, I got the call.

The smile in the nurse’s voice was unmistakable.

The miracle had happened.

I was with child.

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photo by emily youngo

 

I fell to the ground and cried. I couldn’t believe it.

What happened next, I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember.

As I pen this now, fatigued with pregnancy hormones, full of baby in womb, I am still teary-eyed and at a loss for words.

“Wow…look at what your hormone levels were,” another doctor said, looking back over my file. She handed me the ultrasound of my baby, heart beating loud and strong and full of miracle in my womb. “How did you…?”

“Yeah,” I said, looking at Michael, shaking my head. “I know. It’s…it’s a miracle.”

Beloved Sister, this is my story. It will not look like yours, and yours will not look like mine. But something is the same in all our stories.

God hears. God heals. God is able. God provides. God does miracles.

Sister, I don’t know what your miracle will look like.

I don’t know. I wish I did. I wish I could comfort you and balm your ache and tell you it’s going to be all right, but only Jesus can do that.

Beloved, pray for what’s in your heart. Don’t ever stop. Don’t be afraid of disappointment. Let the salt of your tears be the fragrance of your prayer and rest assured each tear is held close to His heart in the quiet.

My prayer for you, Mother-to-Be:

I pray that the God of miracles Himself would bless you with abundantly more than all we can ask or imagine. I pray for healthy, strong, beautiful babies filling your wombs and homes. I pray for safe pregnancies and for anointed adoptions. I pray for healed bodies and for blessed marriages. I pray that you would soon receive the desires of your heart. I pray that you might know intimately the God who loves you, the God who heals, the God who is so, so pleased with you. May you know fruitfulness in every area of your life. May your family and your children and your children’s children be a lineage who rock the generations with His love. May you be a beautiful story of His faithfulness. May you quickly and safely have in your arms the perfect baby God has for you. May you know intimately His love.

 

In Him,

Robyn

 

P.S. – If you or a loved one are diagnosed with PCOS, it would be my privilege to share any information I have with you, and to pray for you. My email is rfieldwriting (at) gmail.com.

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photo by emily youngo