If you’ll recall, last semester I took a class known as Poetry Workshop. When I first went into that class, I knew next to nothing about poems. I mean, I’ve been writing poems for myself for years, but I’d never actually studied them. I ended that class with a whole lot more knowledge about poetry and greatly improved skills (I use that term loosely). I enjoy writing poems, but poetry isn’t my thing.
I like fiction. This semester, I’m in a class called Fiction Workshop. What happens is everyone submits short stories for the class to shred into hamburger meat critique. Then, armed with tips and a dose of humility, you take your story home and revise the stew out of that puppy.
Even though my turn to submit hasn’t come yet, I’m already learning so much just by critiquing my peers’ stuff. Each day, I’m seeing how other people do this thing called writing, and it’s helpful to see other people’s techniques. It’s also helpful to hear what the professor has to say about everyone’s writing. I’m constantly making mental notes on how I can incorporate his advice into my stories.
The good news is, I’m nowhere near as lost in this workshop as I was when I first started studying poetry. My heart beats a little faster whenever someone mentions voice or point-of-view, and I’m pretty sure my ears perk whenever the phrase “dialogue tag” is tossed around. I’m a huge writing nerd. Man, I love that stuff! And for the most part, I understand it. The problem is applying it to my work.
Look, I’ve written a novel. It’s not yet up to publishing quality by any means (sing with me now: A dream is a wish your heart makes…), but it’s complete. Whole. Baked. Whatever. I wasn’t nervous while writing that novel, and I’m not nervous whenever I sit down to work on the draft of my newer one. And yet, when it comes to preparing this little short story, I’m on the verge of a freak-out.
And here’s why: While working on my novel, I was writing it for myself. I wasn’t obligated to show anything to anyone. That was a choice I could make if/when I wanted. I mentioned this before, but even after I typed “The End” and hummed the “Hallelujah Chorus,” I still didn’t show it to that many people. Even after finishing the second draft, I still haven’t shown it to many more people. And that’s because there’s no pressure when you’re not trying to live up to people’s expectations.
My workshop class may not have any expectations of me or my work, but there’s still pressure because they’ll be critiquing it while it’s still in the rough draft form. It’s enough to make me shiver, but I know this class is good for me. It’s my first little taste of what it’ll be like in the publishing world. I’ll one day deal with agents, editors, publishing houses, and readers. I’ve heard you have to have tough skin to be a writer, but honestly? Sometimes I feel like one of those off-brand trash bags on the TV commercials. You know: wimpy, wimpy, wimpy.
A little while ago, I blogged about feeling unqualified to be a writer in “The Humble State”. God has definitely helped me out in that area, but I’m still learning. Sometimes, I still crawl into bed at the end of the day and wonder how God could possibly use me.
But wouldn’t you know, during those nights when I’m sitting in bed, reading God’s Love Letter to me, He leads me to Scripture that perfectly addresses my concerns. As strange as it may seem to say I’m comparing myself to a guy known as The Weeping Prophet, I’ve found great encouragement from the moment God called Jeremiah to be His messenger.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’
‘Ah, Sovereign Lord,’ I said, ‘I do not know how to speak; I am only a child.’
But the Lord said to me, ‘Do not say, “I am only a child.” You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you.’” –Jeremiah 1:4-7
Did you see the part where Jeremiah told God he couldn’t deliver the Lord’s messages because he was young and inexperienced? And did you see where God says (and I paraphrase here), “I know you and what you’re capable of. You think you’re too young and inexperienced? Go anyway, I’ll take care of you.”
Okay, whoa. I read that passage often, and it still hits me every single time.
I don’t know what God’s called you to do, but I’m guessing I’m not the only one who has moments of “I’m not going to make it.” We all have those moments. The important thing to remember is, if God says He’s with you (and He is), then that’s a promise. And He always keeps His promises. Always. He is the Author and Perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), and if we’re walking (or writing, as the case may be) in faith, He will take care of us.
So here’s what I’m doing: I’m stepping out in faith. I know I have a long way to go in my writing, but I’m not worrying about what others will think. This is where God has planted me, and I’m going to concentrate on growing in faith. I’m striving to do my part, gaining confidence and experience and trusting that He who is faithful will work everything according to His most excellent plans.
In His love,
P.S. Since we’re on the topic of gaining confidence, walking in faith, stepping out of our comfort zones, and whatnot, I should probably mention that some of my writing is available online. If you check out the following links, you should be able to get a sense of my writing voice and the genre (young adult) in which I write.
A snippet of the first 500 words of my first novel are posted on a writing blog I’m a member of: Go Teen Writers. The site is aimed at teens, but you can still participate in contests as long as you’re under 21. And might I add that I have a while before I’m over 21. I’m embracing that. I know I’ve mentioned it before, and several of you are already members of the site, but if you’re not and you’re interested in a fantastic online writing community—and I do mean fantastic—there is a button you can click somewhere along the right side of this page that’ll take you to the homepage.
So anyway, this novel snippet (sorry, I just like saying that. Snippet. Ha) has been online since *cough* September. You can read it by clicking here and scrolling down a little ways until you come to the entry under—surprise—”Anna Schaeffer.”
I also recently placed in a contest known as the “Great First Lines” contest on the same website, and if you’d like to see my idea of a novel-opener, you can click here to see those. There’s one towards the top of the page, then another down a little ways.
Ooookay. I think that’s enough exposure to that which is Anna’s writing style. For now, at least. I recently realized that I talk about writing a lot, and yet I never really share any of my more recent stuff. Hence the aforementioned links.
Later fellow dreamers,