You’re at a family gathering, and you’re catching up with your cousin Louie who you haven’t seen in a hundred years. If truth be told, you thought he had passed away or moved to Canada.
But here he is back in the deep south. You exchange a few pleasantries and then he asks that question. The one every writer and stay at home mom hates. “What do you do?”
Heaven help you, if like me, you’re both.
You stare at him for a few seconds, unsure of how to answer.
Should you say you’re a writer? After all, what have you published lately?
You could mention the marketing or the critiquing for others or your weekly blog, but none of it sounds like what normal people do.
Then the winds of self-doubt begin to stir, and the old familiar questions whisper to your heart.
How can you call yourself a writer? Aren’t you a fraud? What value does your writing bring to the world anyway?
You do write, but often you feel it is more of a hobby then a career. Sure, you’ve spent money going to conferences, buying books on the craft, and paying for edits to polish your manuscripts, but what does all that really mean?
By the end of the evening, those inner voices of self-doubt and Louie’s weird comments send you home to toss your laptop out the window, into the trash bin.
We all face these inner questions as writers.
The struggle exists. One minute we are all in. No doubts, sure of our calling. The next we wonder why on earth we pushed the send button on that email to the editor or posted that piece online.
We want to share our words, to give hope, to encourage, to point to Christ.
Here, in the hesitation, we find the truth.
Self-doubt is fear, all gussied up.
Fear of failure.
Funny enough, sometimes fear of success.
Fear of criticism and judgement.
Fear of public exposure when we share parts of our journey.
Fear of what others will think. Of us.
So, what is a writer to do? Well, we are word nerds, so let’s take apart the word.
First, let’s look at the word self.
We must remember it’s not about us. “The Lord is my helper.” Our confidence pours from Him, the living water. We aren’t supposed to try and do our writing in our own strength. Our life and our calling are in the Lord’s hands, and He is the cornerstone of both.
And second, let’s look at the word doubt.
With the Lord as our helper, we need not fear, because no man can stand against the plans of the Lord, or as Romans 8:13 says “If God is for us, who can be against us?” What can mere mortals do? We can not determine the course of our calling based on the consensus of man. It won’t work that way. Fear of man is a trap, and our love for God is the only way out.
Our doubts must be bathed in prayer and held to the light of God’s Word. Then the Lord will calm our fears and help us do what He has called us to do—write.
Self-doubt for the writer comes as part of the journey. All of us battle it, but once it has been exposed as fear, we have a better chance to quiet those whispers and settle those winds.
Because as Courageous Writers, we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.” Hebrews 13:6 (NIV).
Bonita Y. McCoy