Here’s the good news: I am a guest author at not one, but two different science fiction conventions this October, SWFL Writer’s Showcase and NecronomiCon. Here’s the bad news: I don’t feel like an author.
There’s a tendency for artists and creators to get in a kind of funk when they haven’t been producing much. Legitimately or not, we often think of ourselves only as good as our most recent work output—I may have edited a pretty great book last year (check out Silent Screams if you haven’t yet), but… well… I haven’t had a story published in a while. Even worse, more and more when I sit down to write, I’ve been having trouble solidifying my imagination into words and getting them onto paper. I have some killer ideas for my next novel, and some fun short fiction concepts rattling around the brain-box, but haven’t had anything to share with my writing critique group for the past month or so.
Here’s where self-doubt comes in—the nagging thought that maybe I just suck at this and my previous successes were flukes. This is compounded by things like being a guest at conventions. Who the heck am I to sit on panels next to way more successful and famous people and give others writing advice?
In Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast,” Lumiere laments that “life is so unnerving for a servant who’s not serving.” I second that emotion. When I’m not actively producing, I feel… well, less somehow. There’s a weird sort of guilt, like I’m wasting time and not living up to my potential. We like to put ourselves into boxes and categorize ourselves with neat definitions. I am a painter, so I paint. I am an athlete, so I compete. I am an intellectual, so I debate.
I am an author, so I write.
I think, therefore, I am.
But what of the painter who can do no more than doodle swirly lines on her canvas? What of the athlete who, through a tragic accident, winds up confined to a wheelchair? What of the intellectual who struggles with bouts of depression or crippling headaches?
Am I still an author when I’m hitting the writer’s block wall or when I’d rather crank up Steam than my word processor? Am I still a Christian when my devotional life tanks and my prayers are empty parrot-talk? Am I still a teacher when, despite my best intentions, I don’t communicate what I want my students to learn?
Of course, the answer to all three of these is yes. Failure is a normal part of life. That doesn’t mean I quit trying, but it does mean that I can cut myself a little slack when things aren’t going so well. The fact that I’m concerned about the times I’m not doing so well helps prove that my heart is in the right place, and that I will eventually wind up back on top. The struggle isn’t what defines me, but what I do through it.
God’s grace is bigger than my sin. He will see me through, because it’s in His nature. It’s what He does.
My imagination is bigger than my writer’s block, and one day, soon, the stories will flow again. It’s in my nature. It’s what I do.
I am an author, so I write.
And sometimes, that’s good enough.