A Purposeful WIP Wakes up to Worth

From the first moment that I was brave enough to announce that I was writing a novel, I have had the good fortune of being surrounded by many gentle cheerleaders. Those family members and friends and acquaintances who, anytime they saw me, would ask about my progress. Unfortunately, due to my perpetual lack of said progress, my answers were often vague and semi-evasive, which limited the likelihood of follow up questions and prompted the asker to move the conversation to safer, more comfortable ground. But only after reminding me of their desire to be informed once I completed the novel.

If you happen to be one of those people, let me first thank you for your encouragement. Although it may not have seemed like it at the time, your sincere interest and inquiries, kept me going. Secondly, in case you missed my post on Monday—which you should definitely go back and read—consider this your official notice: I have finished the novel manuscript. The big edit is done, as well as a final read-through, which provoked a few minor tweaks here and there. So as of today, the manuscript is resting peacefully while I am taking some time to focus on the upcoming holiday.

I’ll write more over the following weeks about what’s up next, but for now, I am kind of in a weird haze, vacillating between relief and disbelief. I’m not exactly sure what I expected—Tears of joy? An impromptu, celebratory dance? A sense of satisfaction?—but it certainly wasn’t this. After typing the words “The End” I didn’t anticipate that the first feelings I noticed would be the same ones that picked at me throughout the entire process: fear and doubt. Is it good enough? Am I good enough? Are my words worthy of publication?

Over the last many weeks, during The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP series, I’ve talked about many things that can both fuel our journey toward our goals and many that can hold us back from reaching them. But I think a lot of the poor habits and automatic behaviors and negative thought patterns many of us fall into actually stem from underlying feelings of unworthiness. We don’t consider ourselves worthy of success. We don’t believe our gifts and talents and abilities are valuable enough to share with the world. Thoughts like these are unmotivating for sure. They keep us stuck. They keep us from trying. When we wrestle with the belief that what we have to offer is unimportant, then we are tempted to hide away. And when we get cozy in that comfortable little box we live in, with our comfortable old mindsets, it becomes really difficult to grow and change and make progress.

The trick is to remember that our value isn’t a function of others. Our worth isn’t dependent on approval and opinions, nor is it wrapped up in what we can do or what we accomplish or how much money we make. We have worth, innately and eternally, by our very existence. God created us each for purpose, for love, and we are worthy of that love, His love, without needing to do anything to earn it. (As an aside: Please don’t misunderstand this as an invitation to lean toward laziness because we are all called to contribute to the goodness of mankind through the use of our God-given gifts. We are all called to help each other using those same gifts.)

This is a tough concept for me, for us all, but it is especially difficult to accept when your work is, at its core, reliant on another person’s judgment. Whether or not my book gets published will be determined by someone else seeing the value in my words. But the value of my words will not increase or decrease based on that recognition. I still wrote them. I still benefitted greatly from having written them.

As another example, let’s say you make the decision to be healthier. You start working out, eating a more balanced diet, and soon you’ve shed those extra fifty pounds. You feel great, your treat yourself to a whole new wardrobe, and your overall outlook is incredibly improved. But what if no one noticed? What if no one called attention to how amazing you look? Would that change the value of your achievement? No. Naturally, we all get a little lift from praise and accolades, but even without it, even if no one remarked about your improved health, your body would still feel the positive effects of those new and better habits.

So when you think about that goal, when you think about taking the leap and doing that thing that’s been on your heart to do, don’t worry about gaining the approval and acceptance of others. Doing so gives away the power of your own worth, and while you may initially succeed in winning them over, people are fickle and will eventually move on to the next big thing, taking your power with them. Instead, wake up to your own worth. Believe that you are capable. Believe that you are loved. Believe that the light you carry inside is valuable, so let it shine courageously, confidently, and purposefully.

How I Made It To The End

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to direct your attention to the two words shown in the photo above. Do you see them? Those are magical words, my dear friends. They’re magical because, by definition, they are the mark of completion; however, today, they indicate a new beginning. They’re magical because, although short and sweet, they bear a tremendous amount of significance, for in the midst of those six letters lies the power of persistence, the pride of completion, the proof of progress. They’re magical because the moment I typed them, I transformed from someone who is writing a novel, to someone who has written one.

At the very same moment you’re reading it, that two syllable phrase is resting nicely in its place of honor at the bottom of a 289-page, 88,755-word document that I have spent three years molding and shaping into its current form. Is it perfect? No. Is it better than it was a year ago? Absolutely. As am I. A better writer, a better editor, a better person for having accomplished that which I set out to do.

This journey has required more of me than I ever thought possible—more resilience, more commitment, more effort, more vulnerability—and although the process has been mottled with toil, tears, and the temptation to quit, I persevered. Despite the days and weeks and months I spent analyzing the calendar and creating word-count and completion goals that went unachieved; despite the years that began with the dogged resolution to finish my novel manuscript and ended with a sigh of regret and defeat; despite the hours I wasted hoping and praying that this attempt would be different only to fall into the same self-sabotaging habits, this time around did, indeed, turn out to be different.

As I sat at my computer staring at the two words I’d dreamed of writing for a very long time, I wondered why. Why was this year, this time, this go-round different from all the others? What kept me going even when the going got tough and my natural inclination to quit kicked into high gear? My initial thoughts were too numerous and lengthy to mention here—though I have expounded upon many of such subjects during The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP series I started back in May—but as I pondered it further, I realized the simplest, yet most substantial addition to my life over the last year and a half was the element of accountability.

Life coaching, as well as a website, blog, and Facebook page all provided for me a sense of responsibility. Whereas I used to hold my goals and doubts and fears close to my chest so no one could see them, I began to share them. With my coach, with my Facebook followers, and with all of you. Holding on to an even remote possibility that my words could reach just one person who needed encouragement, who needed inspiration, who needed to believe that she/he, too, could trade in the habit of inertia for the push of progress, I determined to keep going.

But that accountability was only the beginning. It led to a personal vow to build a purposeful and consistent online presence. And that blog and Facebook-posting consistency bled into my daily routine, forcing me to create boundaries around my writing time, which, among other things, contributed to self-discipline, growth, and progress.

I have been touting the phrase “progress is possible” for months and now I am living proof of it. People, if there is a dream you’ve been chasing, a goal you’ve been aspiring to achieve, a seemingly out-of-reach desire that you hold and hide in a secret place, I am here to tell you that you can do it. If I, a self-proclaimed quitter, could finish this novel manuscript after a lifetime of unfinished stories and unfollowed paths, then you, too, can do that thing God has put on your heart to do. If you believe it, you can achieve it. So believe it. And then go do it.

A Purposeful WIP Values Vulnerability

Similar to last week, I really don’t have much of a writing update this week. I’m still editing the manuscript, still making progress, and actually getting a little more done each day than I had originally planned, so I may even finish earlier than expected . . . I’ll keep you posted.

With that I’m just going to jump right into The ABCs of a Purposeful WIP. Today’s subject is a bit of a touchy one. We’re talking about vulnerability. I say it’s touchy because vulnerability is often seen as a weakness. And for good reason. A quick glance at a thesaurus will show you its synonyms are: open (to attack), defenseless, assailable, and susceptible. Who wants to be identified as any of those things? But I’m here to tell you that as purposeful works-in-progress, vulnerability is incredibly valuable.

Although it is in our nature to flaunt our strengths and gloss over our weaknesses, in one of Paul’s letters to the Corinthians in the Bible, he talks about how he actually boasts only about his weaknesses. In this same passage Paul goes on to mention a thorn in his side that he was given to prevent him from becoming prideful. He prays for it to be taken away, but God only says, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.”*

And don’t we all have those weaknesses, those thorns in our sides? Those relentless reminders of our humanness that we contend with over and over again. A lack of patience, a short fuse, a habit of procrastination, the inability to see things through. All of these things can prevent us from making progress, from reaching goals, from growing into self-awareness, but they’re also given to us for a reason.

Like Paul’s, the thorns in our own sides serve a purpose. Our not-so-desirable qualities exist both so we don’t become overly arrogant, believing we can get through life on our own merit and without reliance on God, and also so we can help each other. When shared, openly and honestly, our vulnerabilities make us real and raw and approachable. Eleanor Roosevelt says we should learn from the mistakes of others because we can’t live long enough to make them all ourselves. True as this may be, it isn’t possible if we only ever show the filtered, edited, rosy-colored versions of ourselves and our lives. All those images do is add to our vulnerabilities and incite feelings of inferiority.

So we must be brave enough to defy what has become the cultural norm. We must rip off our masks, boldly revealing that underneath we are indeed human beings, complete with the weaknesses and flaws and tendencies that make us who we are. I’ll tell you from experience it’s not easy. These blog posts I’ve been writing these last many months may seem like nothing to some of you, but they’re actually a challenge for me. Every single one of the topics I’ve discussed is something I’ve struggled with at some point and opening up about them has been really difficult. It’s hard for me to sit here and let my vulnerabilities show—like the fear that my words don’t matter.

But despite my inclination to hole up and hide from the world, I felt moved to do it. I thought if talking honestly about my meandering novel-writing, self-growth journey encouraged even one other person to dare to do that thing she’s always wanted to do, then the insecurity that picks at me when I sit down each week to record these words will be well worth it. The thing about this method of outreach, though, is that I don’t always know whether my messages are reaching anybody. I don’t know whether anyone reads them. But I do know that the simple act of showing up, of showing that the pathway to progress is often, if not always, a bumpy one, has helped me in ways immeasurable.

So thank you for tuning in today. Whoever and wherever you are, I hope this message emboldens you. I hope you are encouraged to not only take a leap toward your own goal, but to share the vulnerable truth of your journey with others. Like Paul says at the end of that Bible passage: For when I am weak, then I am strong.* And I will amend that to say for when we are weak, then we are strong. Together.

*Bible passage is from 2 Corinthians 12:5-10 NLT

CON-tent vs Contentment

Photo by Luca Laurence on Unsplash

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about CON-tent (the noun meaning all that is contained in something*) versus contentment (the adjective which describes the feeling of being happy with what one has*) and how the two relate to each other. It’s practically impossible to have such a discussion without acknowledging that while the former may have, at one time, referred only to the actual physical stuff of our lives, it now also encompasses the barrage of information that most of us consume on a daily basis.

All of this CON-tent—the media and opinions and social media posts, as well as our belongings: our furniture and electronics and keepsakes—is meant to make us feel more connected and make our lives easier and more complete. But anymore, it seems the opposite is true. That the more time we spend absorbing the ins and outs of other people’s filtered online lives and the more we clutter our homes with all the modern conveniences available to us, the less satisfied we actually become.

Regardless of how much we acquire or achieve or experience, there seems to remain an underlying desire for more, a persistent fear that we are or will be missing out on something if we don’t keep on or keep up, and a certainty that our happiness will rise along with the number of likes our latest Instagram pic reaps.

I fall into these traps as much as the next person, and although there are numerous improvements and worthwhile attributes associated with CON-tent, I sometimes find myself getting caught up in the negative aspects. When that happens, when I start to feel overstimulated and underwhelmed and discontented, I know it’s time to take stock of the CON-tent in my life. The physical crap, as well as the emotional that accumulates over time, creating chaos in my space and spirit and obstructing my pathway to joy.

Because the thing is, our CON-tent and our contentment are directly linked. The CON-tent that we allow to enter into our minds and hearts and homes influences our level of contentment. The good news is we’re in charge of both. So if you find your energy dragging, your mood sagging, and your contentment flagging, it may be time to re-evaluate your CON-tent. If meaning, purpose, and fulfilment is what you seek, then fill your days with meaningful, purposeful, and fulfilling people and possessions and practices. The CON-tent of your life feeds your contentment, choose wisely.

*Both definitions are from Webster’s NewWorld Dictionary, 2nd College Edition

A Purposeful WIP Unpacks Uncertainty

I really don’t have anything new to report on the novel-writing front as I’m still in the midst of my big final edit, but as I move forward and make progress, approaching the next step in the process, I will say that I continue to be surprised (for lack of a better word) that I have made it this far. One reason for that feeling of surprise is the topic of this week’s ABCs of a Purposeful WIP message. And that is uncertainty.

For anyone—writer or not—who has aimed to reach a goal or make a change or stretch the limits of your comfort zone, feelings of uncertainty, although completely normal, can be downright debilitating. It’s difficult to keep dreaming the big dream, making the plans, and working toward that achievement when we’re not even sure ourselves that we can do it. It’s hard to convince others of our determination when we are terrified to a state of immobility by our own doubts.

I’m here to tell you that I understand. I’ve been there. That state of doubt-induced inertia is one I’ve found myself sinking into time and time again over the last few years. But I’m also here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to allow our doubts to have the last word, or dictate the direction of our lives, or crush our motivation. Progress is possible despite the regular appearance of doubt as long as we know where it’s coming from. If we take the time to unpack our uncertainty, if we determine to understand the cause, then we can acknowledge it, resolve it, and move past it.

But how do we do that? Depending on your level of commitment for digging into your feelings, this can be both simple and not. It’s as simple as getting out a piece of paper and pen and journaling through some prompts, though your responses, themselves, will likely be complicated. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What is the doubt that holds you back? Identify it, name it, and be as specific as possible. My biggest doubt is that my words are unimportant. And you can imagine how incapacitating such a belief can be on a writer’s morale.
  2. Where does the doubt come from? Listen to the voice that pipes up when you’re in the throes of uncertainty. Is it yours or someone else’s? Mine is a mish-mash. Snippets of pointed conversations and humiliating experiences from years past, the accumulation of which clings to me and weighs me down if I let it.
  3. Write a letter to your doubt. Tell it that while you’ve appreciated its presence in the past—after all, it did save you from failing because it kept you from even trying—you are no longer in need of its assistance. List all the reasons you won’t be buying into its lies anymore (e.g. you’re no longer the same person), then remind your doubt (and therefore yourself) how awesome, capable, and well-equipped you are to accomplish your goal.

I encourage you to repeat this process anytime your uncertainties come back, and unfortunately, they will resurface. But I can tell you from experience, that if you remain diligent, if you don’t allow them to get the upper hand, then any setbacks you might encounter will be minimal.