Two years ago I started reading a bunch of Christian bloggers. I started learning who the talented writers and the popular bloggers were. Severals of these writers published books, which I read. I experienced wonder. I saw beauty in a lot of this writing. I was inspired.
I also experienced jealousy. But jealousy can be a motivator, let me tell you. In an effort to grow my blog and build a platform as I wrote my spiritual memoir, I started commenting on blogs I read and following Christian bloggers on twitter. I started making connections with people online, and then via email, and occasionally in person. My blog morphed into a faith blog primarily. Instead of seeking publication in literary journals, I began seeking publication on online Christian sites.
I have been fortunate to have been published in a few Christian outlets, but none of them are major players when it comes to the rat race. Despite all the connections I was making and the writing I was putting out there, which I consider to be just as good as a lot of the other spiritual writing I read, I was not making a name for myself. My blog was not getting lots of views, none of the popular sites for Christian writers were accepting my submissions, and no one seemed to care about my story. Yet I pressed on. I started a Facebook writer page and promoted myself even more on Twitter. I did guest posts on other bloggers’ sites and asked other bloggers to post on mine. I kept running and running in that spinning wheel, and I got nowhere.
This is what I was talking about in yesterday’s blog post when I said there is the struggle of always attempting to make it out on top.
It turns out that I am not alone. I have a friend who had a major article published in a major spiritual magazine, and her article got 1.6 million views. And yet she still feels like her blog hasn’t gotten the traction she wants, and she feels confined to writing about topics that will build her “platform.” I have another friend who has an agent and is almost done writing a book, but is afraid her agent will drop her because her blog may not be popular enough. We’re all running in this rat race, and none of us know how to win it.
I haven’t figured out how the winners got to the finish line, and I’m not trying to blame them for my failure. But the realm of spiritual writing/blogging is extremely difficult to break in to. And quite frankly, I am done with the worrying and the waiting and the hoping and the wondering when my writing will be “noticed.” I am done trying to keep up with the big guys and trying to make it out on top. I am done with the over-promotion and the constant search for a place that might like my writing style and content. I also think it would be good to have a deep conversation about blogging versus writing, and how they each change a person, and how they each affect a person’s message. I think the spiritual blogging world sometimes gets confused about what true writing is. But maybe that is a blog post for another day.
Something has changed. I finished writing my spiritual book, and then suddenly I didn’t really care if it ever got published or not. I wonder if I was writing the book in order to get published instead of writing the book in order to tell my story. I wonder if I was trying to prove something instead of trying to create something beautiful for the world. And I wonder if, when I finished, I had lost a love for my own manuscript because I’d written it for all the wrong reasons.
I cannot tell you how agonizing the last two years have been. They have been fruitful, yes, and I absolutely do not regret writing full manuscript. I learned a lot about writing, and I learned a lot about myself. One of the best things that came from writing my manuscript was that I was finally able to confront my past and write about my upbringing in Thailand. There are so many complexities there, and they have to do with culture, language, place, relationships, loss, love, and heartbreak. And I can write about them now. But the constant push to write and publish was so prevalent everywhere. I felt like I was rushing against time, trying my best to get myself out there before I was too old and it was too late.
What I meant by yesterday’s post is that I am stepping out of the rat race. It is too hard, and I can’t keep running anymore. I can’t keeping trying to make it to the top. I’m sticking to the cave beneath the mountain, where the air is cool and the space is not crowded. I’ve been turning back to my more literary roots and submitting to literary magazines and journals. I’m about to work on a YA novel. I even have some new ideas for the blog. I want to write about the homeless people who sell the $2 newspaper on street corners in Nashville. I want to write about riding in riverboats (without life jackets) in Thailand. And I want to write about the curse of the square kitchen.
I think the hard part about all of this is that moving away from faith writing and moving away from faith kind of feel synonymous. If I quit writing about belief, does that mean I lose it? Or was it already lost? Faith has surrounded me my entire life, and there are times I feel like I don’t know what else to write about. But another thing I came to learn from writing that manuscript of mine? One of the early drafts was all beliefs and ideas. But I had forgotten to write about the relationships. I had forgotten about the stories that make it all come true. I had forgotten that life is about the love we can share with people, not the dogmas we can articulate.
So I can write about small encounters, and almost lost conversations, and quiet memories. I can write about the people and places that remind me every day of the urgency and strength of humanity.
Here is my manifesto, stolen from Rilke:
And if the earthly has forgotten you,
say to the still earth: I flow.
To the rushing water speak: I am.