An open letter to my readers
Being a writer does not always lend itself to humility.
There are moments when I sit here at this keyboard and write words and marvel at the brilliance of them, the uniqueness, the ingenuity. Surely I have unlocked a secret of the universe hitherto undiscovered. Caught up in my own magnificence, I send the words off to a friend and wait anxiously for them to eagerly open the gift of my precious thoughts on their screen, then reply in complete awe of my wit and insight. They will say that they laughed, they cried, they thought about life and faith in a new way. And all because of some words on a page. I would humbly reply with gratitude and modestly attribute any perceived brilliance to God, from whom all blessings flow.
It never goes down like that. Shockingly, my thoughts are never as good right out of the gate as I think they are. If writing does not always lend itself to humility, editing is the remedy.
I have a few friends who have been kind enough to give me feedback and free editing. I mean “kind” like how I talked about kindness in last week’s blog where they honestly point out what’s not working in my story. Don’t get me wrong, they are also supportive and encouraging. But sometimes, they ask me to give up the things in my writing that are most connected to my pride, the things that make me look clever and insightful. And at first, it can be annoying.
Writing is a labor of love. I love you, my reader. I also love the ideas and words I have been given. I love crafting an excellent story. Part of that creative work is known as “Killing your darlings.” I suppose a less morbid way to phrase it would be some sort of sifting for gold metaphor. But this is me we’re talking about; of course I’m going to use the dark one. To kill your darling is to be willing to let go of the part of your creation that you are most emotionally attached to. For me, those parts are generally the ones that are an attempt to cover up something I don’t want the reader to see. Sure I messed up but look over here at all the things I’ve learned and how put together and smart I am now. In short, they are things that bolster my pride.
Once I recover from my initial reluctance to accept feedback, I start to realize that my editors are generally correct. I realize that I cannot serve you, my reader, by making myself look better. I start to realize, Maybe I don’t need to use this page to prove my brilliance or my wisdom. Maybe I am not loving the reader well in doing so. Maybe the best way I can serve my reader is to humbly tell them what happened and let the rest take care of itself. It might make you angry or frustrated or sad or happy. It might make me look like an idiot. But the best parts of a story are the ones that hit you, the reader, in your humanity, that connect you to a part of yourself you might not have looked at in a while. I do you a disservice when I try to manhandle that process.
Pride says that I am capable of manipulating you into feeling a certain way about me and these words. Arrogance tells me I can control your perception. Pride gives you advice before taking the time to get to know you, your fears and your hopes. Arrogance presumes that by writing a certain way, I can wrestle my sense of worth from your approval.
It is a job for which I am unsuitable. But thankfully, it is a job I was never supposed to be good at.
Dear reader, I want you to believe I have some answers so that I can legitimize the time we spend together. And yet I also want to be able to serve you humbly. I want to be self-deprecating and human without discrediting myself. There are things I know, things I study, things I ponder. But there are many answers I do not have for you. There are answers that you have to find for yourself, and answers that you will never get. I cannot tell you why that hard thing happened. I cannot tell you why the deepest prayer of your soul has not been answered. I cannot make you believe that you are worthy of love. I can’t even do those things for myself.
But I can tell you stories that I think will help. I can ask you questions that challenge your assumptions. I can point you to books and voices that have helped me. I can encourage you to dive deep in your life and relationships. I can assure you that it’s ok to feel frustrated and angry and sad. I can stay with you while you wonder if any of this faith stuff is even real or worth it.
But that’s about all I can do. The rest is up to God. And I believe that God is far more qualified than I am. What I can do, and will endeavor to continue to do, is sit here with you every week and share bits of myself with you, and trust that that is enough.
All the best,
P.S. Friend editors, if you are reading this, I appreciate the heck out of you and your willingness to be honest and kind. Thank you for keeping my feet on the ground and my heart in check. You are the best.
Picking up what I’m putting down?
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