[This blog post appeared in the International Christian Fiction Writers blog http://internationalchristianfictionwriters.blogspot.com.au/ on May 4].
For the past few months, I’ve had a thought at the back of my mind, casting a long shadow of doubt over my confidence. You see, seven weeks ago, I entered my manuscript into the Genesis competition at American Christian Fiction Writers.
I’ve been through seven-week waits before – everything from bank approvals to finance a family home to hoping my football team would finally win another game. But this one has been far more intense. From the moment I clicked “send” on my entry to now, that long shadow of doubt has stretched across my thinking. Should I have changed that first line? Should I have given my character another name or tried to shoehorn in some kind of romance/fantasy/sci-fi/young adult angle, just in case? (My book is contemporary fiction.)
So why is the wait so difficult? Surely it’s just a competition, whereby someone wins and countless others don’t. I’ve entered competitions since I was a kid, cutting out coupons from cereal boxes or carefully coloring in between the lines. I know how it works. But none of those competitions came with this kind of . . . what?
Then God revealed a word to me: Validation. This was important to me because it seemed if I could be deemed a Finalist, then I could confidently call myself a writer. Validation is a current that runs through our world. People seek to be validated about their looks, their careers, their possessions, their opinions, and their connections. The media is crammed with it; social media drips with it.
I’ve come to realize this is especially the case in the creative field. Writers, painters, artists, and dancers, we all need acceptance, not just for what we do, but for who we are, which is often defined by what we do.
This is strange for me. I’m ALREADY a writer. I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts that I’ve been writing for 25 years as a copywriter for businesses, government departments, and not-for-profits. My work with words puts food on my family’s table. But these words have always been someone else’s story, copy that bares someone else’s soul for the marketplace. Now it’s my soul that’s been bared.
Maybe it’s because until I’m published I won’t feel like a writer. Maybe until someone recognizes my talent or calling, I’ll doubt whether or not I can – or should – do this. Or maybe it’s even deeper; this isn’t validation that I can write but that I’ve got something to say.
Then God challenged me with this verse from Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
That’s been my challenge for these seven weeks. God knows me. Sure, it’s important to connect with the right publisher or agent, or to have my work recognized as a step to being published, but the God who created me, knows me.
I am ALREADY validated.
Maybe that’s your challenge, as well. If you’re awaiting feedback from competition judges or a publisher, or even if you get a rejection letter from an agent, I would encourage you to look past the moment and realize this: we don’t need validation. The One who created us knows us.
Isn’t that enough validation for those of us who feel called to write?