Identity {Real Talk: When Arting is Hard}

Y’all, reading yesterday’s post from way-back-when made me want to look further into my blogging archives. Today’s post I wrote on December 3rd, 2014 after I book signing where I had a very small turn out. To this day it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written.
* * *
Yesterday I sat down with my computer determined to write.
Writing has not come easily recently. It’s more like I have to fight the words to get them on paper. Even blogging hasn’t been as natural as it used to be. Right now I have a strong urge to go and take a walk then come back and finish this post. Or maybe I should start my load of laundry. Or read some more of that book. Or clean my office. Or go work in the kitchen. Excuses are easy to come by and the more I don’t feel like doing something, the more easily justified my excuses seem to be.
It’s not the writing itself that has me tripping, it’s more what comes after the writing. Or what doesn’t come after the writing, to be more specific.
I know it probably sounds silly, but I sort of have this happy expectation that when someone publishes a book, they sell copies of it. Or that when someone hosts a giveaway, they’ll get lots of entries for it. Or that when someone pours their life into a project for four years that people will actually show interest in it.
I don’t know why. I guess I’m a natural born optimist.
Then reality crashes down.
I publish a book. I sell a few copies, mostly to family and friends.
I host giveaways worth a couple hundred dollars and some of them only had three people enter them.
I work and work and work on a project and then hardly anyone seems to care.
It’s a good reminder that my life is little. Minuscule. A tiny drop that in the grand coronation of life doesn’t make much of a difference.
A family friend visited last year and she told me she wanted to write a book one day and asked for advice on how to get started. I happily gave her some advice and a lot of encouragement. It’s hard, but you can do it! It’s hard, but just keep going, it will be worth it in the end!
This year she came back and brought the subject up again. I pasted a smile on my face as I nodded, feeling like a hypocrite. It’s hard, was all I said, no advice attached. What I wanted to say was It’s not worth it. Run the other way. Forget it. You’ll spill your heart onto paper and no one will take any notice.
I’ve discovered a very important truth: Being an author is not easy. It’s not all rainbows and glitter and strawberry cheesecake.
It’s not the hard work that gets to me. It’s not the edits. It’s not the hours spent alone each day perfecting my craft. It’s nothing to do with the actual writing.
It’s the balance between needing to have something to look forward to and knowing how to handle disappointments.
Being a writer means you have to be self-motivated. I don’t have anyone standing behind my shoulder cheering me on as I eke out another difficult scene. I don’t have anyone tell me Just one more thousand words and you’ll be done. I set my own limits. I give myself rewards. I’m the one pushing myself to reach the next level.
To motivate myself, I look into the distance, imagining what it will be like to have a completed book. To sign a copy for a random stranger. To have kids love it. To be a real, live, breathing author on a book tour.
Then my daydreams don’t pan out. My expectations aren’t met. My grand plans seem like a dud.
And I’m back to the basics. Back to trying to figure out how I’m going to make this thing work. Back to the reality that I’m a struggling-along-in-obscurity-hard-working-author who’s pretty much clueless.
In October I went and stayed with my oldest sister for a week to help her out with her six kids because she wasn’t feeling well. One of the days when I was there she prayed something like Please bless my sister for spending a week doing the most unglamorous job possible. My eyes popped open. My sister is a very thankful person and all I could think of was that my sister had thanked me more in one week for helping her than I’d been thanked in my entire writing career for being a writer.
Helping out with dishes, housework, and laundry had seemed so much more rewarding than being an author because I got to see the fruits of my labor right away. I knew that what I was doing was being appreciated. That I was making a difference in someone’s life. I was making their world better at that moment.
Being an author is more about faith. Faith that someday you’ll reach a point where you’re making a difference. Where the hours, the years, you’ve slaved over a manuscript will actually end up bearing fruit. That one day your writing will touch someone’s life and make it better.
But when you reach a point where you think you should begin to see the reality of the daydreams that helped keep you going and instead all you see is the road continuing to stretch in front of you with no end in sight, then what do you do?

You stumble. You fall. And you want to stay down. Getting up seems like too much work. Too hard. Not worth the pain it will cause.

I recently asked an artist friend how he did it. How could he continue going year after year? I can’t keep going without giving myself something to look forward to, yet if everything I look forward to falls flat, then how am I going to be able to continue motivating myself?

By finding your worth, your safe place, in God. That’s what my friend told me. Yes, it’s ok to look forward to something, to dream about it, to imagine it, but ultimately my encouragement needs to come from God.

At some time or another, everything is going to fail me. My daydreams will fall through. I’ll make mistakes. People will let me down. Even when I’m a bestselling author my life will have twists and curves I wasn’t expecting.

Safe places aren’t really that safe after all,

Unless they’re in Jesus.

When we take our eyes off the ultimate goal, off the real prize, that’s when discouragement wash over us like a tsunami wave.

My goal in life isn’t to be the most acclaimed author. My goal in life isn’t to have hordes of people stampeding into bookstores, rushing to get a new copy of my latest book. My goal in life isn’t to be a larger-than-life author who can do no wrong.

My goal in life is to be the person who God created me to be. To give God glory in the good, the bad, and the oh-my-goodness-is-this-really-happening moments. My goal in life is to share God’s love and truth with the world. My goal in life is to become more like Him and to help others become more like Him, too.

Writing is a means to that end. Writing is the gift God has given to me to help share Him with others. Writing is how I can multiply my life and make it far more effective than I could ever be on my own.

Writing is my chance to extend my influence beyond the little flame of life I’m living that will all-too-soon be snuffed out by the reality of time.

Writing is a gift, not an identity.

Being a writer is part of who I am, but being a writer doesn’t need to define me.

Being God’s child, that IS who I am.

That IS what defines me.

On my own? I create nothing that’s worth lasting throughout all eternity.

In Him? I’m priceless. I’m remarkable. I’m a ransomed princess.

How in the world could I even dare define myself by the meager worth of the world’s acknowledgment of my literary achievements when I’ve been bought by the blood of the Creator of the universe?

Having a spectacular turn-out for a book signing would be nice, but it doesn’t compare to the realization that the King of Kings has endowed me with the gift of being able to spin words into sentences, paragraphs, stories.

Somehow I end up confusing priorities. I look at people and seek their validation. I try and morph my writing style into what I think they want so they’ll praise me. I’ll assume an act of happy success, even when I’m screaming inside that I can’t keep going. I hide my true feelings, seeking the approval of numbed strangers.

I forget that I’ve been given my words by the Creator of Languages.

The words I use to express my thoughts and feelings are a gift, yet I try to hide them. I corner them, beating out the truth from their expressive descriptions, then throw them together in some semblance of order where they reflect thoughts, but not my own. Emotions, but not the true ones.

I hide behind my ability to make sense and then justify it, telling myself that people don’t really care.

And maybe they don’t care. But I do.

So many people out there are hurting and alone. Alone. Not because other people can’t understand what they’re going through, but because each of us hides behind a facade of having it all together and so we’re afraid to be honest and let the crack of our imperfection show through.

We each struggle to find our identity in what we do, in who we’re seen as. We forget that our identity has nothing to do with us. It’s all about Him.

Book sales, friends, achievements and skills don’t define who I am. Those are gifts. Not Identity.

My identity,

my safe place,

is found


in God.

4 thoughts on “Identity {Real Talk: When Arting is Hard}

    • Lydia Howe says:

      Thank you, Emily! I appreciate your encouragement. This post has meant a lot to me over the years because it really sums up something I’ve had to work on a lot.


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