I can’t say I’ve known forever that I wanted to write. I liked to write; just wasn’t sure I had anything worth saying. But look what’s happened in this past year. I went to Italy and learned from Elizabeth Berg (and met a lovely group of women I’m happy to call my friends). An agent and publisher responded to my first batch of queries. I signed with the agent and got another offer. Signed a contract. Started writing. Won first place in a big writing competition. And now I am only one month away from finishing my final manuscript! This time last year I wasn’t even sure this book would happen. I am loving every minute of it — even the stressful ones, and the ones in which I feel like my brain is churning, frantic to make sense of all the thoughts swirling inside, not sure if the pieces of the puzzle will ever all fit into place.
The writing — well, yes, of course it’s a blessing. The act itself makes it worthwhile, even if there were no other aspects to discuss. Writing has always been healing to me. It helps me discover what I think or feel. But I keep being surprised by the other blessings I didn’t know would be wrapped up in the middle of it all.
1. Discovering a new community, both nearby and far away. Support, encouragement, acceptance. True friendships. People who understand me on a different level than my other friends — not better or worse, just different. One will never replace the other, but having both kinds of friends makes me feel impossibly full. Rich. I am a part of the amazing Cool Kids, a group of writers who came together through the Midwest Writers Workshop. We share in each other’s successes (including one woman who got two publishing offers this week and now has a decision to make!). We read each other’s work, solicit each other’s advice — and never run out of things to say. Seeing each other in person once a year wasn’t enough, so we’ve added a winter writing retreat. I’m already counting down the days. I’ve met people locally, including a critique partner and friend here in Crawfordsville who just signed a book deal! (Yea, Alison!) I’ve met people online — other writers who share the same agent; women who also are mourning the loss of their mothers and who share so many other things in common with me; as well as the authors of some of my favorite blogs and books. I may never see them in person but I am better for my exposure to them and their words.
2. Seeing my children being proud of me. I know my kids love me, even when they don’t want to admit it. But my daughter who refuses to hug me (or, pretty much, anyone else) has shared some of my posts about my awards or other writing milestones on her Facebook, commenting, “That’s my mama!” My 13-year-old son asked me to print out a copy of my manuscript and put it in a binder so he can read it during his reading time in school. And he’s really doing it, coming home and commenting on things I’ve written. I’d like to think maybe this is helping my kids know that if you truly seek God and that He is the guiding force behind your dreams, good things can happen.
3. A sense of awe, of wonder — because I see now that everything in my life up to now has led to this place. My struggles, my experience, my education, my work, my relationships, and the ups and downs of my faith all pointed to this book. I feel like my whole life — all that I know, all that I’ve learned, all that I’ve seen — is in this book. But that keeps me humble, too, because it’s not all that long of a book! I guess that just means that I’ll have to write another.
4. Unexpected conversations. When people learn I’m writing a book, they want to know about it. And since the topic is faith, invariably people either ask questions about mine or want to share theirs. I’ve talked to a wonderful Jewish man on a plane. Pastors from other local churches in coffee shops. Friends, family members, former and current clients, and other acquaintances who have never talked to me about these things before. Atheists, agnostics, pagans, Catholics, Methodists, Pentecostals, Universal Unitarians. Suddenly it seems they have permission to talk. To ask. And there’s really nothing I’d rather talk about, so I find each conversation exciting and challenging and I walk away, energized, grateful, and full of wonder.
5. Discovering the depth of my faith. Going into this book, I was struggling with many things. My faith had once been strong, but I was floundering in so many ways. As I’m writing, I’m seeing how much I believe what I’m writing. How deep my convictions go. And that, no matter how I may fall short living this life, it is all I want, and it is the very source of who I am. Even when I forget to pray. Even when I don’t always feel passionate. Even when I don’t get around to reading the Bible. Because although I have specific doubts, and I’m a cynic at heart, I now realize how strong my belief is that God is there. That He is who He says He is. That He never fails, and He never ceases to pursue and adore us. My pastors often say they find themselves preaching the very message they needed to hear. And I’m finding that this book I’m writing is exactly the one I needed to read. It is reinforcing all that I knew and reviving me daily.
Have you been surprised by the unexpected you’ve found along the way? Whether you’re a writer, engineer, artist, musician, nurse, hair stylist or accountant, what are some of the blessings you’ve discovered as you’ve walked down that path? I’d love to hear…