Guest post by Erin Taylor Young
Erin Taylor Young has a remarkable gift for making her readers laugh out loud even as she’s delivering hard truths about living a life of faith. Her down-to-earth writing style invites readers into the books that God has given her and sends them away refreshed and the assured that we’re not in this gig alone. Her first humorous nonfiction, Surviving Henry: Adventures in Loving a Canine Catastrophe, will release August 5, 2014. Which just happens to be my (Karen Ball’s) birthday. Now that’s a loyal client! Erin lives in the Southwest with her husband, their two sons, and the infamous—and, against all odds, still alive–Henry.
I love my husband. Really I do. But there are occasions I’m tempted to take a sharp, pointy pencil and stab him somewhere non-fatal. Especially when I’m torqued over my anemic word count, frustrated by a recent edit, or discouraged by yet another rejection.
I’m venting why, why, WHY, and my hubby turns into a fixer. Worse, he’s a fixer with a PhD, so when he tells me exactly what’s going on inside me and how to change it—apparently it’s some stupid cycle between my situation, my brain, and my emotions—he’s right. I hate that.
Can I not just have five minutes to wallow?
Sometimes that’s exactly what we need. You know, like a good mud bath. People pay money for that.
Then again, people also get sucked into mud bogs and are never seen again.
The difference is in knowing what you’re doing in the mud and how to get out when it’s time. Which means understanding that cycle between situation, brain, and emotion is actually helpful. I’ll give you the elevator pitch though, so your eyes don’t glaze over.
We have goals. We try to achieve them. We fail.
Then we feel rotten because the mismatch between our goals and our ability to achieve them creates frustration. This is perfectly normal, and in fact a GOOD THING because it compels us to adjust our methods or our goals, i.e. get a grip on reality.
Sometimes it’s easy. Like that six-figure book contract with an eighty-city tour? Give it up.
Sometimes adjusting our goals is hard, because what if we did everything right? We wrote a great book, we’d be giddy over a puny contract, and the manuscript went to pub board at three houses. Then got rejected.
Our perfectly normal frustration makes us wrack our brains to figure out what we could’ve done differently, or what we can change now. But there’s nothing. So our brains keep cycling until we exhaust ourselves straight into discouragement.
And that, my friends, is a bog we can drown in.
Yet there are things we can change, and our why, why, WHY questions can actually help us find them.
If God is calling me to a writing career, why did I get rejected again?
No matter how much I claim to be prepared for rejection, if I’m asking why it happened, my little heart wasn’t ready to go there. I’ve just uncovered an expectation that needs to change, so I have to ask myself a new question. Am I willing to be rejected a hundred times without good reason until God deems my umpteenth try to be accepted?
Sounds depressing when I put it that way. But if my expectation is that I’ll be rejected until the one day that maybe I won’t be, then I can focus on the greater issue: obedience. God is calling me to be faithful to the task, without regard to public success. Changing my goal to obedience breaks the cycle of frustration and discouragement. I can even find joy in rejection because it means I’m moving forward, doing my job.
If God gave me a gift for writing, why is it so hard?
Um, right, somewhere I got the idea that using my gifts would be easy. Another hidden expectation that needs to die. A better question is am I willing to wrestle with this task, to work harder and then harder yet, because is there one person in the Bible who had a God-given task that was a cakewalk?
What if instead I expect a stinking hard task and acknowledge my weakness? Then I can focus on a greater goal—to bring glory to God. Because I know, and so will the world, that it’s only by his power, his purpose, and his grace that I’m able to do impossible things. Actually sounds exciting, right?
Why did that last edit/critique/contest entry have to be so humiliating?
Well ouch. No one should expect to be humiliated. But I can’t expect improving my writing to be simple either. Growth is not a warm fuzzy. The real question is am I willing to endure, to stretch, to press on no matter how painful?
We all love stories where tormented characters struggle their way through an epic journey to victory. The more times they’re crushed and still rise up, the more we cheer.
From the sidelines.
Where we don’t actually have to be that character…
Well that’s just boring.
What if we really are that character, living out the story God has for us? We can expect a knock-down, drag-out, good-versus-evil fight. We can expect an enemy who keeps shoving us into bogs. We can expect to fall, hurt, and be discouraged.
But the difference between discouragement and hope is the choice we make to hang onto the best expectation yet:
God. Is. With. Us.
So what can stand against us?
I’m not saying we’re all going to be published. I’m not saying we’ll all have a paying writing career. That’s not the point of our life story. The point is to rise up out of our bogs and do whatever task God calls us to because he makes us able. Because it brings him glory. Because it’s what we’re made to do.
And in all these things, we can expect to triumph.
Because that’s the way God wrote the story.
Here is the book trailer Erin created for the new book Surviving Henry:
Oh, Erin, I can really relate to the husband bit. Seems husbands want to be problem solvers so we wives don’t have to suffer. Duh…let me suffer a little bit when things go wrong.
Great post with sensible answers to questions most writers will ask themselves at one time or another. While receiving rejections is disappointing and sometimes hard to take, having patience in waiting for an answer from an editor is even more difficult for me.
Thanks for great advice.
Erin Taylor Young
Martha, I’ll let you borrow my sharp pointy pencil if you want, but you’ve probably got your own. : ) I hear you about patience. For me, I fall into the trap of expecting things to happen on my timeline instead of God’s. You know, as if I’m the one running the universe. We seriously don’t want that…
Nicole L Rivera
I soooooo needed this this morning.
Erin, how did you know I would need to read this THIS morning? Struggling to breathe in the bog of discouragement. I’m coming back to read it again. And probably again. I think now I need to go back and figure out what expectation led me to this place. And then put my eyes back on the big picture.
Thank you for this.
Erin Taylor Young
Oh, Jeanne, I feel for you. Haven’t we all SO been there, barely sucking in half a breath? I will be praying for you, that our God will help you find that expectation and let him transform it to his will. This verse comes to my mind for you, so I’ll post it. Not as a pat answer, but as oxygen. “I lift up my eyes to the hills–where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;” Psalm 121:1-3
Thank you, Erin. What a perfect verse for today. 🙂 I appreciate your prayers too.
Great post! I’m pretty sure I ask myself why writing has to be so hard every single day.
And I love the trailer. So fun!
Erin Taylor Young
Julie, It’s nice to know I’m not the only one asking why writing is hard. : )
As for the trailer, honestly I can’t take credit for it. The great folks at Revell put it together from video footage I had.
And there ARE more fun videos coming…
Erin, beautifully–and hilariously–put. It’s just so true that no matter how much we prepare ourselves for the struggles of life like rejection or hard work, our hearts still feel pushed into the bog when we get there. It’s like we’re always coming up against our messed-up expectations and letting God fix them again–for the umpteenth time.
Blessings on you and your upcoming book. Thanks for sharing with us today.
Enjoyed the post, Erin. You always make me smile…and make me think, deep down where it counts. I’ve so looked forward to this book, and the trailer made me giggle. I know the book is going to be laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m not a person who does that easily. Can’t wait!!
::Raising hand:: because I have a fixer husband too. Sometimes I tell him to just be quiet and listen. 🙂
And great advice about expectation. I am one to set lofty goals (because why not shoot for the stars?) and sometimes the discouragement is painful. Lovely post.
And the trailer… I really did laugh out loud. Love it! Can’t wait to read the book!
Erin, you are stinking hilarious and spot on about expectations & discouragement. I’m beginning to notice a pattern in my own journey…I seem to sink deep in that nasty bog at the first of every year. I haven’t taken the time to analyze why, but just recognizing that I do has helped me kick it quicker this time around.
Excellent post! LOVE your trailer and I can’t wait to read your book. 🙂
Erin Taylor Young
Susan, I love how you’ve spotted your pattern and how that’s helping you kick discouragement to the curb. You’ve hit on a great expectation that always helps me–God is faithful. He’s safely brought us out of discouragement before, so we can expect he’ll do that again. It’s not like the stock market where companies say past performance is no guarantee of future results. Instead, God’s past performance IS his guarantee. He WANTS us to remember his works and declare them to the next generation so we all put our trust in him (Psalm 78:4-7). THAT is one mighty awesome God.
“God’s past performance IS his guarantee.” Well said!
Erin, your words were like a good tasting prescription this morning. I’ve spent some bog time during the holidays and am cleaning up and drying off, ready to move forward in 2014. Great post. Thank you.
Erin, thanks for the slap in the face with a tuna—I really enjoyed it! You are funny and honest—what a gift.
I’ll remember the image of “drowning in a bog,” sounds slow and nasty, not something I want to get caught in.
Really? Only a sharp pointy pencil?
Erin Taylor Young
Christine, thanks for your encouragement!
As for the pointy pencil…machete seemed kinda harsh. : )
Erin Taylor Young
Just noticed I spelled your name wrong, Cristine. Sorry about that. Consider the “h” hacked out of there with my machete.
Thank you, Erin, for the timely reminder of what it is we’re striving for in this crazy journey called writing. Your words echoed my daily talks with God and His reminder that it’s obedience He asks of me–not perfection. My life is His to do with as He deems. And even on those days when I wonder if I’m wasting my time staring at my computer screen, it’s His time and His purpose. Your post blessed me greatly!
Erin – what an uplifting post. WritIng is tough and sometimes it makes me want to pull my hair out, but I just can’t quit. Thanks for helping me to remember callings can be tough.
Love Henry! He is adorable and I can’t wait to read the book. You did an amazing job on the trailer.
Great post, Erin. Hm. Sounds familiar 😉
My poor hubby tries to fix my problems, too, but he just doesn’t understand the complexities of my situation! I loved the trailer and the book cover. Really looking forward to reading the book.
Erin Taylor Young
Thanks for your encouragement, Danni.
I’m starting to think we need a support group for all of us with fixer spouses. Or maybe we just need to get THEM together, and they can occupy themselves by getting out their power tools and building stuff.
Great post, Erin. I’m bookmarking it for the next time I want to wallow…although God can still hear me from the mud, right?
Thanks for sharing your brilliant humor!
Erin Taylor Young
You crack me up, Regina.
Yes, I think God can not only hear us in the mud, but he’s willing to dive in and haul us out. : )
Erin, I loved these words: “Um, right, somewhere I got the idea that using my gifts would be easy. Another hidden expectation that needs to die.” Yes. Yes. Yes. It reminds me of 1 Corinthians 16:9–God opens doors AND there are many obstacles. Great words!
Erin Taylor Young
VERY cool verse, Erin Bartels. Thanks!
Erin, as usual, you nailed it with both wisdom and humor. I love reading your writing, and I can’t wait to hold Surviving Henry in my hands. You have a gift.
As for the discouragement, like Susan, I have a cycle. For me, the day after Christmas is about the worst day of the year. There’s something so final about that day. Christmas is over, the year is over, and it’s it’s too late to accomplish those myriad goals I set for myself in December. I love the idea of looking for unmet expectations when I’m discouraged. I’m definitely going to have to do some soul-searching about that.
Thanks for the great post!
Robin, have you ever heard Matthew West’s song Happy Day After Christmas? Please check it out if you haven’t. I too have struggled with that day as well.
The entire post and comments have made me shout a ‘thank you’ to the Lord! Uplifting reminders, friends.
Erin, the first 2 questions you posed resonate well with me. As do the answers. Obedience and bring glory to God. Yep. So simply freeing. I gave an air high five when I read “So what can stand against us?” It reminded me of the end of Hebrews 13:5 …”so that we may boldly say, the Lord is my helper, I shall not fear. What can man do to me?”
Absolutely nothing. Halleluiah!
Erin, I’m more than a little ashamed to admit to wallowing. If God calls you to do something it’s supposed to be easy, right? It’s supposed to be successful, right? If God puts you on a path, its supposed to be straight, right?
My characters are great at dwelling in the how comes and what ifs. They must get it from me.
Henry is a great story, the video was too funny. I know it’s just the beginning of great things for you!
Erin, thank you for this post. I enjoyed reading it.
Xochi E Dixon
Erin, I love sweet Henry and the reminder that obedience is all about trusting God, even when His plans toss a wrench in our mapped out adventures. God’s way always works out better, even when we’re nudged out of our comfort zone or into the waiting room. I look forward to getting to know Henry better and being inspired by how God is helping you survive with that adorable pooch!