My first book came out over three years ago. I have been thinking about the life of this book and how it has formed mine.
I turned in last minute edits for Running a week before I went into labor with our girl. I finished writing it the year I started homeschooling our boys. I look back and see I might have been a might wee bit crazy. But that is usually how I roll. Ask my poor family. So the boys and I sat on the couch everyday in the midst of unpacked boxes from our recent move. We lived out of suitcases in our rented duplex until the book was done. I had one boy and their respective pile of home-school books on either side of me. Before I would begin my work, those little hands would rest upon my aging laptop and pray for the words that would come forth and all those around the world that might receive them. One day they even rested actual seeds about my keyboard and told me their faith that this book would bring many to Jesus was bigger than those little seeds. Meanwhile, my hard-working husband of endless ingenuity was out searching for work as an independent contractor and fighting depression from years of doing the same in a tough economy. He was born a glass-half-full sort of man, so women I know how hard this is to witness.
Those years and all the ones before it where I began the stages of the book were lean and mean. Ravaging. We never knew how we would pay rent or eat from week to week (which wasn’t bad because we spent so many days fasting and praying). Our only vehicle caught on fire. Our duplex became infested with German roaches and then wasps. Our renter of the house we could not sell at the time in Michigan died in the living room. A myriad of other strange things occurred. Yes, this was intense spiritual warfare.
But the writing, in a way, saved me, saved us. It became our family’s mission call at the time. And boy is this family made for a call or we wilt away. My soul was about bursting at the seams from all the years of thinking and praying, researching and dreaming. I needed a place to put it all and we needed, like Noah and his family, to “build a boat”. So we did, with all our might.
I pick up that “boat” now once and awhile and thumb through it. Hmmm…I think like any self-respecting perfectionist, I would have deleted this, re-worded this, yada-yada. But all artists have to accept their performance as is, in the then that was the now. Overall, I am proud of the work. I know the cost.
It certainly has not been a best-seller or marketed well (it was with Biblica/Authentic and then sold to IVP). I doubt is has even sold over 1,500 copies. I’ve got about 200 sitting in my closet (so hit me up). It has gotten into the hands of “influential” people from the wife of a supreme court judge, to a vast array of Christian artists, to radio producers and members of senate, to college professors, visual artists and journalists, to the Dobsons, MOPS founder, Grahams and leaders in foreign countries. Many of these I have personally met in these last three years, albeit briefly. Those experiences I have never written about, mainly because I have found some puzzling and others just natural, flowing in the Spirit.
I have gotten emails now and then from women in Africa, Asia, Europe and Central America who have read it and applied it personally in their own lives and ministries. I have spoken overseas and with women stateside at various conferences. The book is in pregnancy resource centers and counseling offices, hospitals and orphanages. It has taken on a life of its own; I really had little to do with any of its travels. My all-time favorite has been sitting down with women like you and I, as they tell me about how the book gave them a voice for all the sensations and questions they could never put to words. This has brought me to tears because everything they spoke about has everything to do with Jesus and nothing about me. I love that. Some of those women have become my dear friends. All because of a little book that God used to open doors. Our obedience is never just about us; it’s that domino effect I am always preaching about to my children.
So I have been thinking about this whole book-thing. I dreamed since I was a little girl of writing books (and preaching, being an artist and a missionary). I did not know the aftermath of a book’s release is harder than the actual writing, at least for me. You can stay in the cave while you write, but you know the day to emerge will eventually come. And then you become not only a writer, but a speaker, a preacher, an advocate, an activist. Ready or not.
There have been some nasty rejections and interestingly enough, as any author will tell you usually those you would expect to embrace it the most, receive it the least. There have been stupid (very stupid) questions and blank (painfully blank) stares. Even confessions that they donated your book to Goodwill. Asking people you know who have read it to write a review on Amazon is excruciating The worst feeling, which I have only done twice, is asking someone, especially a friend, what they thought of your book. It is like asking someone if you have a wad of spinach in your teeth. Some people get the idea that you are super-intelligent and feel inferior around you or wonder why you are not as impressive as they thought you might be. The cave looks tempting at this point. As does questioning if you are cut out for this author-thing. If they only knew that although you can outline the skeleton of a future book in five minutes, you still could not give the proper definition of an adverb.
You learn to get over yourself and come to terms with your own person hood. You see, although the work is an expression of your soul, it is not your soul. The Spirit begins to unveil your horrid sin of pride and undoes you to your core. You find that you are more free than ever before, untouched by what others may or may not think about you and your work. You wonder if you have become uncaring and unprofessional but then you see that this might be what true rest and an easy yoke might feel like. And you would be crazy not to remain in that good place, regardless of book sales. After all, at least to me, the writing was all done out of praise and obedience, faith and worship. God would give me dreams as I wrote of women running, swimming, diving into Him. More so dreams of Himself and a longing after Him that simply will not diminish. Yes, I would have rather written than not.
Although I finally got the courage to believe I could speak before an audience (it feels natural now and I love it), I am still a fairly quiet person. I’ve grown more so. I have a hard time talking about “my work” because I am honestly more interested in hearing the hearts of others. Are not all writers? I think people are astonishing and sacred. It feels I am on a quest to hear and observe from others what I might not already know about God and this wondrous thing called living. If I am so busy spouting off, I just might miss it! My husband says I have a hard time understanding that my thoughts and impressions are not as common to others as I assume. Perhaps.
The book’s release and it’s aftermath has formed in me greater compassion, quickened my ears to listen, grown in me deeper sensitivity and made me less confident that I can really change the world and start and sustain a movement of women running hard into God. I think that is a good thing. I trust more than ever before in the power of the Holy Spirit to move the hearts and minds of women. I want to live and write and speak out of this power. There is nothing in me that is interested in calculating or ensuring my fruitfulness; that is the gardener’s prerogative. My desire is to abide.
Since the birth of a book, there was the birth of a girl, another few moves, living at a missions sending agency serving global missionaries, plenty of travels, homeschooling the gang and now in just over 100 days a move to Mexico. Where– glory be– I will not continue to home school. The boys will go to the same school my husband went to as a boy! You know the water crisis I wrote about in the back of the book? Little did we know the next call God would give our family would be to go and physically help bring villages clean water. I get to sit down with those women and write their stories.
Imagine! Those little seeds sure did grow.
When the dust settles I think it will be time to build another boat. Don’t think I can help it. There are a few blueprints drawn up.
Your prayers can help me hammer.
3 Replies to “How Writing a Book Beats You Up (in a good way).”
Angela! I just took the time to read this post and I found myself wondering…in a panicky sort of way…”What if Angela never wrote that book??!!! What would I do?!” Seriously…your book was like….I can’t describe it….maybe scratching my itchy soul? The xanax for my anxious soul? The wooly warm SOCK for the cold toes of my soul? It was exactly what this mom of 3 kids, one of which has special needs, needed. It was what this wife, sister, daughter, aunt, boss, friend, rich-white-church-attender needed desperately. It drove me to dig deeper, pray harder, listen more intently and praise more joyfully. It was the insight that I needed and shared with others that needed it as well. What an absolutely inspired and inspiring work it is. Thank you for your obedience in writing it. It will change the lives of many women for years to come. Thank you! Can’t wait for the next one.
I love this, Angela. And I love you!