So here's a new book for your summer list, especially if you're an artist, a dreamer, or a candlestick maker...
I admit, it's not my usual kind of recommendation. A book about business, Christian media, VeggieTales, success, failure... not my typical cup of tea. And I thought it was an okay book, until I hit Chapter 21: "Dreams, Part II."
Which is currently changing my life.
Phil Vischer, obviously enough, created VeggieTales. Watched it get really really big. Watched it die. And in the end, he learned a lot about business management, creative enterprise... and dreams.
It's the dreaming thing that got to me.
I've dreamed of writing for as long as I can remember. I was a good student all through school, a super good student. Give me a tough assignment, I double-dog-dare you. I worked hard; I did well. And when I graduated, I came home to write, determined to change the world.
Or at the very least, the young adult section of every bookstore in the U.S.
(What can I say, I'm modest. Ha ha ha.)
Over the last five years, I've worked hard. I've got drafts of three novels, in various states of disrepair. I've learned a ton about characters, pacing, plot, setting, dialogue...
I also decided that my identity was that of Girl Writer Taking Over The World. My sense of worth depended on how well work was going. I loved the books I was writing. I also hated how crazy I felt, how exhausted I was, and how it felt like these books would never be good enough. Ever.
I knew I was working against myself somehow, but I couldn't quite put my finger on it. (Hence #10 on The List: my attempt at quelling the noise in my head.) And I was pretty sure that if I just worked harder, it would all be good.
Enter Phil Vischer, Me, Myself, & Bob, and Chapter 21. Where Vischer talks about a lot of crazy things, super-crazy. He talks about Christians and their dreams of changing the world for God. And a lot of what he says sounds just like me. Exhausted, driven, determined, Girl Writer me.
Crazy things. Like:
When people of great faith in the Bible don't know what God wants them to do, they don't just run off and make stuff up. They wait on him.
I've actually read that before. I've read this chapter before, nodding my way through. I know what God wants me to do: how many times have I said I was called home to write? I sincerely believed that, and I still do.
But what to write?
That's where I made stuff up.
Then he said this:
The Christian life wasn't about running like a maniac; it was about walking with God. It wasn't about impact; it was about obedience. It wasn't about making stuff up; it was about listening.
Maniac. That rings a bell. So does "impact." And "making stuff up."
He asks if we serve our dreams, or if we serve our God. And he also says of himself:
My ambition, my dreams, my misplaced sense of identity and value were dragged kicking and screaming up onto the altar. And now they were dead.
Like I said, I've read this chapter before. I always flinched away from those sentences, but this week, this week it feels like something's unraveling inside me.
Something that, surprisingly, I don't mind losing as much as I thought I would.
Misplaced sense of identity and value? Hmm. Hmmmm.
God is enough for you, Vischer writes. But you can't discover the truth of that statement while you're clutching at your dreams. You need to let them go. ... The impact God has planned for us doesn't occur when we're pursuing impact. It occurs when we're pursuing God.
Over and over, Vischer talks about walking with God. And waiting on God. Waiting. That's what got me. Wait? I don't want to wait for anything. I wanted to write a brilliant novel in one year flat.
But this week, that goal has fallen away. All that running uphill, all the urgency and frustration... those crazy ambitions are unstitching in my heart.
And here's what I'm left with: if I write at all, I only want to write the book God tells me to write.
I don't mean that in a silly way--like there would be a cherub sitting on my shoulder, dictating every paragraph. That's not what I mean. But I want to be still in the midst of my writing life. To be still, and to listen, and to wait.
I don't want to keep chasing every novel idea that comes along. I want to write the book I'm supposed to write. It's actually that simple, that strange, and takes effect immediately.
My June plans are still in full swing: I'm still journaling, reading, doing those writing exercises. I'm also praying a lot more, and feeling the burden of my writing life slip from my shoulders. And can I just say: that's a huge relief.
So that's summer. Tending the soil of my writing life. Being faithful to still put my time in, practicing, and listening. I don't know what's coming next, what seeds there might be in this soil. But I'll keep watering it and waiting, and we'll see.
I feel free. Excited. And free.
Recommendation: Frankly, you don't even have to read this whole book if you aren't interested in VeggieTales. Just skim it, get the gist of it, and then slow way down at Chapter 21.
Read every word, my dreaming friends, and I promise it will change you.