When I recently transitioned from pastoring to writing, the learning curve was much steeper than I anticipated. I foolishly assumed that since I had been crafting sermons and talks on a weekly basis, I would be able to seamlessly redirect my creativity. I been warned about how insanely competitive and arduous a writer’s life could be—but no one bothered to mention the following eight dangers.
1. Weight gain. I recently slashed 500 calories from my daily diet in a last ditch effort to keep some of my wardrobe. My twenty pound gain can be blamed on menopause, sitting for extended stretches of time, and searching for my muse in high caloric venues. Apparently, I should heed the sage advice that Rachel Held Evans dished out at the Festival of Faith and Writing—“The next sentence is not in the refrigerator” (or chocolate tin).
2. Out of control book buying. How else can I find comps for my proposals? And yes, I have heard of the library and I have tried attaching sticky notes to passages I want to quote or remember but when the book has to be returned, my sticky note filing system simply descends into utter chaos.
3. Closely connected to #2, an addiction to reading. Because writers have a tendency to quote and laud other writers, many of whom I am not familiar with, I continue to discover more and more and more writers who are producing inspiring and awesome work. (I still shake my head in disbelief that I had not read anything by Carolyn Custis James until last year. How could I have missed this scholar/prophet’s work?)
4. Ongoing pressure to keep up with every single latest and greatest (as if) social media innovation. For example, having a Twitter handle. I resisted for a LONG time, I really did, but then caved in and joined the twittersphere. While I appreciate that the 140 word count generally limits the nasty, inane comments, this arm of social media has truly redefined my understanding of what it means to follow someone.
5. Writing reveals the true state of my soul: my crankiness, my envy, and my impatience, to name a few. This manifests most frequently when I read the comment section for an article I have spent eight to ten hours writing. Here’s a sample of the type of response that triggers my immaturity: “Oh its [sic] not a REAL desert. Its a metaphor. Got it. So she didn’t actually spend time in a desert. And since Dallas Willard is quoted, this must be about spiritual formation. Got it. I should have figured as much. No thank you.” How does one respond to such brilliance? In an effort to subdue my sin nature, I have decided to limit or eliminate my involvement with certain sites*—at least until I can consistently demonstrate the maturity of a forty-year-old. (*My tenure with Reddit lasted about as long as a contraction.)
6. Lack of financial compensation. Nearly twenty years ago, the fee for freelance photography work at the New York Times was slashed in half. When I called and asked the editor what was going on, she replied, “Really, you should be grateful that our newspaper wants to print your work. It’s an honor to have your byline in the Times.” It was the last assignment I ever did for them. Apparently, I forgot that lesson. I do write for the sheer joy of it and it is an honor to have access to many readers. However, it’s difficult to not wonder if my time would be better spent doing something that paid a bit more—say telemarketing or dog walking.
7. Informational overload. Pre-writing, I limited my reading to a few carefully chosen classics and the Scripture simply because parenting/wifing/making photos/pastoring left me little leisure. Currently, I am aware of more social, spiritual, economic, and environmental issues than I can keep track of, let alone pray for. This sometimes leads to insomnia and a general feeling of overwhelm.
8. Writing has ruined reading for pleasure. This is unequivocally the most painful repercussion of becoming a writer. Rare is the article, book, or review that does not inspire an idea (which then must immediately be catalogued and later developed) or cause me to collapse into self-doubt about my own ability to write well. Every once in a while I pull a children’s book from our shelves simply to read for the joy of it.
As those of you who write know, it’s not all loss. There’s been a definite elevation of my social status. When asked, “What do you do for work?” I can now respond, “I write.” Where my earlier professions—home schooling mom or pastor—created an instantaneous urge for the listener to get a drink refill or answer an urgent text message, this answer generally earns me at least a two minute conversation.
What compensates for all of the exorbitant costs are the new friendships I’ve developed with a cadre of smart, funny, thoughtful, and deeply committed writers. I’ve been challenged, encouraged, and repeatedly buoyed up. They speak the truth, edit my work (for the sheer joy of it apparently), and draw me deeper into my faith. I am indebted. Thank you (you know who you are) for making space in your lives for me and for welcoming me into the crazy—and dangerous—world of writing. At this juncture of my life, there’s no where else I’d rather be.