Monday, February 24, 2014

You're Not a Writer!

I can feel the sting as if it were yesterday, those words that cut deep down into my soul. “You’re not a writer and you shouldn’t even think of yourself as a writer.” I was 18, unable to utter a single word. I just stood there as he placed the paper back into my hands with an F in red pencil written at the top. I’ll never forget that feeling, the feeling of what little self-esteem I had being sucked out and thrown in the trash can.

Just one year earlier as a senior in high school, my Comp II teacher had given me an A for the class and had submitted one of my papers to a young writer’s publication. I was so proud and confident of myself and excited about even being considered a writer.
I had always loved to write stories, poems and my thoughts down on paper. So having a paper submitted and my teacher acknowledging that I was good enough gave my confidence the boost it needed.

How did I go from excitement to humiliation?
It was a class that the college I attended required all freshmen to take. The class was called “Liberal Arts” and was led by a panel of 6-8 professors from different departments of the college. Each professor then was over a group of students. They would mentor and grade the papers and exams for their particular group.

Various topics were discussed in class. There was a lot of reading and many papers that were written.
The group of students that I was placed in was led by a professor from the Science department, a chemistry professor. He was arrogant and behaved as if it was a complete waste of his time to be involved with the class.

I had worked so hard on that paper and because it was college I felt that I deserved a B or at the least a C on it.
I walked away with tears in my eyes. The words playing over and over in my head, “You’re not a writer.” My mom worked at the college in the business office and so I walked over to see her. I needed her words of assurance and asked her to read my paper. She read it and told me to go see one of the English professors to get their opinion.

The next day I mustered up the courage and walked into the English department and asked to see a professor. The professor I spoke to was also a member of the panel from the class. I explained to her the situation and asked if she would read my paper, knowing that it wouldn’t get the grade changed but I needed to know if it was true, that I had no talent for writing.
She read the paper, looked at me and told me that I was talented. That the grade I received was in no way equal to the grade I deserved. She couldn’t change the grade but she did change me to another group.

That was 30 years ago and the pain of that moment is still embedded in my soul. I’ve never been able to let go of those words that pierced me so deeply. A little voice still speaks, “You’re not a writer.”
Words fill my mind and they float around like snow in a shaken snow globe just wanting to be released. I jot down thoughts and reflections in journals but when I sit down and place my hands above the keyboard of my computer that little voice begins to speak, “You’re not a writer” and I pull my hands away.

Fear grips me and I’m 18 again and the feeling of self-doubt comes over me. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not talented enough. I’m not a writer.
A few years ago I went to God seeking answers to questions that I had regarding my life. It was an afternoon that I found myself sitting next to a lake and opening up my mind and soul to hear God speak to me. He did and during that conversation God said something that I didn’t quite understand. God told me to write. He told me to write and write and write and that many people would read my words.

I had no idea what he meant. Write what? Did he want me to write a book, devotions, letters, articles…? Over the next few weeks I did try to write but every time I would sit down I would hear those old familiar words, “You’re not a writer” and I would stop.
The dream of being a writer never left me. I tucked it deep down inside where only I knew where it was.

Last year I attended the Refresh My Heart Conference and was blessed to share a room with Michelle DeRusha and Jen Sandbulte. Michelle was in the process of writing a book and I sat in that room listening to her talk, about agents, publishers and the highs and lows of writing. It was exciting and I hung on every word she spoke. The dream I had of writing began to resurface.
And this past summer during lunch with my best friend from high school, who was back for our class reunion, I shared with her that one of my dreams is that someday I would love to write a book, a dream that I have only shared with my husband and couple of other people.

Last week as I was writing my sermon on the topic of loving your enemies, I asked myself if I had any enemies. The person, who came to mind, was the professor who gave me that F, 30 years ago.
Why is it that I have allowed the words of a professor to speak louder to me then the words of God?

The words from the One who created me, who gave me my gifts, my calling, who loves me unconditionally, are the words I push away.
Why do we allow others to shatter our dreams when the dreams we have are God’s dreams for us?

Over 30 years I have hung on to the dream of being a writer. I’ve purchased more pretty journals and notebooks then I can count. Opening them up, staring at the blank pages and then closing them shut.
Too afraid to put pen to paper, that what I would write someone would read. And when I would finally write I would rip out the pages, tear them in half and throw them in the trash. Each time hearing the words, “You’re not a writer.”

Those words have haunted me for 30 years while fear grips. Fear of criticism, rejection and fear of it being true. And all the while God continues to say, “Write your words. Tell your story.”
The only way to conquer the fear is to look it straight in the face, stand before it and claim victory, by picking up a pen, writing down words and leaving the pages in the book.

So I take my red leather journal off the shelf, open the cover, take my pen and begin to write. Writing the words that have been filling my mind as my pen flows across the page like a skater on ice, making lines and curves as the letters form words.
I may never write a book but I will continue to keep the dream alive.

And those words that stung my soul 30 years ago have begun to fade away and grow quiet as God smiles and says to me, “You’re a writer.”

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