There is a dark side of writing, specifically blogging, that I believe many people experience but few talk about. I have known this dark side very well and have become so accustomed to it that it took a long time for me to even understand it or do anything about it.
I wrote a blog post last July about why I stopped writing, and at that time I was fully committed to putting that part of my life behind me. I already had done so for quite some time before really announcing it and I figured I’d be too busy being a mom to even want to pursue writing again.
But shortly after my daughter was born this past October, I began feeling a longing to write again — about my new experiences as a mom, what God has been teaching me, some more details about my pregnancy and birth, the challenges I’ve been facing — but I fought that longing and tried to push it as far away from me as I could. Instead of it going away, it only became stronger. So strong that even when I would rather have been thinking about anything else, I was already writing full length blog posts in my head. No matter how hard I tried to distract myself or think about something else, the words would not stop coming to mind. I thought the enemy was trying to tempt me and that giving in would only upset God, who I assumed was proud of me for putting writing aside in the pursuit of godlier things.
Honestly, I was scared.
I knew what writing had done to me, how I had pursued this “calling” and worked on finessing this “gift” to the point of losing myself. When I look back, I see the way it brought out this ugly monster inside of me — this greedy, insecure, jealous person who cared too much about gaining a following and keeping up appearances on social media. I was fame-hungry and applause-driven. What had been a passion became an obsession.
I don’t think I’m the only one who can attest to the way that being in the spotlight and having a platform can bring out the worst in you, yet this dark side to writing is not talked about. Even I didn’t want to admit to it for the longest time. Because why would people look up to us or admire our gifts if our character is slipping away? Being vulnerable to this level doesn’t seem so exciting anymore when you know it may negatively affect the way people perceive your “brand.”
And that’s what mattered to me, really. The brand. I was trying to sell myself to the public without even fully realizing it. And in doing so, I feel like I was also selling little parts of my soul, like the part that enabled me to celebrate other people’s successes without feeling like I need to compete with them or the part that was able to enjoy life without caring what other people think of me.
Yes, there is a but.
But God, in his immeasurable grace, still somehow used me. Because when I look back, I also see the way my truth encouraged and ministered to others. I remember my stories reaching the hearts of hurting people. With the gift of writing I was able to put into words what other people were experiencing, whether the aches of being a young twenty-something, the woes of relationships, the bitter seasons of loneliness, or the inner conflicts of our spiritual walk.
When I look at my journey as a writer as a whole picture instead of just focus on my shortcomings, I am reminded that writing was never my sin. It was many things — a hobby, a gift, a passion, a ministry, a calling — but a sin was not one of them. I lost myself for some time and sin found a way to creep into my life, but that didn’t negate what God was able to do with a testimony and a gift. And it still doesn’t.
I am thankful for the season when I wasn’t writing because it led me to understand there is a more graceful way to live that doesn’t involve so much selfish ambition or people-pleasing. But I’m ready to rediscover my passion for writing again. I am putting several safeguards in place this time, aware that the enemy is always going to want to corrupt a good gift, especially when the aim of it is God-glorifying. Even though I don’t know how often I will write or what exactly I’ll even write about, I trust that God can do something with my mess and use me once again.
I still believe there is a dark side to writing, but I know there is also a beautiful one. I realize now that it’s up to us to decide which side we’ll give power to and I want to pick the right one this time.
I have to admit something to you.
I’ve been cowardly for the past couple months. You wouldn’t know it from looking at me considering my new Facebook page for my blog, the investment I put into this site to make it my own, and the book proposal I’ve been steadily working on for the past month.
But I have been cowardly because I intentionally didn’t do something I felt God calling me to do because I was afraid of failing.
A few months ago, something began formulating in my head. A project of some sorts. I spent weeks planning it, praying about it, and contemplating it, and I felt the push from the Spirit to jump into it after returning from Clarkston. But when I did return, I became complacent and I pushed the project to the side.
I was scared.
I decided to do something more safe, like sharing cool blog posts and article once a week and calling it Friday Finds. It was a nifty idea, I thought. But it was only giving me more reason to hold off on the idea God was birthing in me.
And if that’s what Friday Finds is doing, then I don’t want to do Friday Finds anymore.
In fact, I’m removing Friday Finds altogether. I share a good majority of those links on my Twitter already. Friday Finds just takes up space on this blog that I could be giving to God and to this project.
I see now that I can’t keep writing about being brave if I’m not willing to be brave with this.
So I am officially announcing my upcoming project, one that I think you’ll like and benefit from greatly. I believe this is something God’s been leading me into and I want Him to get the glory and credit in this.
More details are coming soon, I promise. For right now, I’m just going to give you a name. I know that if I at least do that, then I can’t easily back down.
I’m tired of letting my fears dictate my life. I know what is true. I know God’s sovereignty and goodness is true. I know His work in my life is true.
And my desperation to be brave is true, too.
If I really think about it, I have nothing to lose. And if this is where God is leading me, I have everything to gain.
My lovely readers!
Thank you so very very much for your encouragement this past week! In case some of you don’t know, there have been quite a few changes taking place in my blog space. Allow me to introduce you to my blog with ITS VERY OWN DOMAIN NAME.
That’s right, folks! I am now the proud owner of http://www.jessienyland.com. I held off on registering my own name for years because I was afraid of never becoming anything big. I’m still not “anything big.” But I’m braver now and I felt like this bravery should be accompanied by taking full ownership of my blog (I’m still using WordPress, by the way. BUT I HAVE MY OWN NAME NOW).
I am also the proud owner of my first ever Facebook page! You can now like me on Facebook here. And while you’re at it, don’t hesitate to follow me on Twitter or Instagram! If you look at the sidebar on the left, you’ll see that I added some nifty social media buttons. These buttons will take you directly to my sites.
Along with these things, I have begun releasing a couple banners that I am pretty sure will be my “signatures” for the remainder of my blogging career. Or, you know, until I get bored and decide to switch it up.
Also, as I’m sure you’ve noticed, I have a new theme and totally new look. This is another attempt to finally make this space my own. I decided that if I’m going to stick around, then this blog is probably worth a little investment. I paid a few extra bucks to get custom design options and I have not regretted it one bit. How do you guys like the new look?
Lastly (and yes, I saved the best for last), I am in the beginning stages of writing *gasp* A BOOK. I don’t want to give too much away, but things are coming along quite steadily and I am excited to send my proposal out to publishers. The goal is to have my proposal done within the next month or two. And from there, who knows? I believe God has planted a vision in my heart and He’s equipped me with the right tools and gifts and opportunities to make that vision come to life. Hey, I’m only twenty, but that doesn’t mean I can’t chase my dreams. More details are to come, I promise.
Thank you for your support. Truly, it means so much to me. I love receiving your feedback on everything I post and I’m dying to know what you think about all of these new things happening! Please drop a line if you get a chance and let me know.
You are awesome. Now make like a tiger and go get them.
People have been telling me that I’m brave for writing about the things I do and putting myself out there the way I do, but can I just fess up to the honest-to-God truth that I have a hard time receiving that?
I don’t feel brave.
I feel desperate.
I don’t sit down with my laptop and Bible and ask myself, “Jessie, what courageous and bold things do you wish to declare over yourself and people today?” I don’t crack my knuckles as I set to writing and feel like I’m doing something victorious or brave.
You want to know how it really goes? While crying and praying and reading and thinking, God occasionally hits me with something that I can’t get out of my head, a truth I so desperately have longed to hear. And it’s so prominent, I feel the need to immediately pull out my laptop and write a post. I think to myself that if I can write these things down fast enough and put it out there for the world to see, then maybe I can believe these things for just a little while longer. I’m desperate to grab onto these truths before they escape me and I’m faced with another frustrating, tear-stained day.
You see, there are lies all around me and they are skilled in the art of imposing forgetfulness where truth is concerned.
I’m grateful that my attempt to grab onto truth and peace means something to you, but it doesn’t feel all that brave to me. Despite the messages I receive, the gratitude and compliments that come my way from strangers and friends, I feel like just one girl who pecks away at her keyboard because she simply doesn’t know what else to do.
The idea of me being brave feels farfetched in my mind, like a label I could never earn even as it’s shoved in my face by people who don’t really know me.
Writing doesn’t feel like an act of bravery. It feels like an act of desperation.
I am desperate to push these things out of me and place them onto paper or out into the world because the things God speaks over me are often forgotten when the enemy’s lies come back.
If you were really so brave, you wouldn’t hide behind a computer. You’d say things to people’s faces. You wouldn’t be so shy and force yourself to be alone. If you were really so brave, you wouldn’t be curled up in that chair, unable to move. You’d be out there, doing things. You’d be productive. You wouldn’t need to beg for strength just to face another day.
This morning, I was curled up in my bedroom chair, unable to move. I knew I should get up and do something. I should open my Bible and sip my coffee and believe the things God says. But instead, I was staring at the wall, questioning my existence, wishing for a different and improved version of the Jessie I live with every day.
And then I got a text that said things like how God is going to heal me and He’s going to answer my prayers and bring me out of this sadness. And all I wanted to do was retort with, “but I want to be healed now.” And I meant it. I was desperate.
Get on your knees and pray, I was then commanded. Whether the command came from heaven or from my mind, I was so desperate that I somehow found the strength to leave my cushion of sorrow and do just that in the middle of my bedroom floor.
Praying like this is a rare occurrence for me. Placing my knees on carpet and bowing my head to the ground felt foreign and awkward. Yet humble prayers soon tumbled out of my mouth. I don’t know what to do. God, I need you. I don’t even know what to say. I’m desperate.
Somewhere along the way, my desperation drove me to madness. I was mad enough to spit out the words, Do something! I don’t want to be this way. I want to feel lovely and beautiful and graceful. I don’t want to feel weak like this anymore.
I want to be brave.
As I was on my knees and these words escaped my lips, a story of a desperate woman came to mind.
When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. (Luke 7:36-38)
She was desperate. She was so desperate she was willing to enter in this man’s home, despite the judgmental things he would say about her. She was so desperate, she was willing to approach Jesus, give him her nicest perfume, and let him receive her sorrowful tears. She was so desperate, she found herself on the ground, grasping for even just his feet.
She was so desperate, she became brave.
And I realize now that maybe this is me, too. I see desperation while I am told I am brave, but perhaps the two can both be true.
Maybe I am brave after all. Not because I say bold words and write my heart out for the world to see, but because I’m desperate enough to sit down and do this. For myself. For you. For God.
I’m so desperate for the truth to be declared. I’m desperate for healing in my life. I’m desperate for God to be glorified through me. And this desperation has driven me to say things, do things, and believe things I wouldn’t otherwise. If I were this image of a normal nineteen-year-old with average hopes and stable emotions that I envision, would I have anything to say when I sit down to write?
I’m desperate and I do like to think that I’m brave. On a good day, at least. Who’s to say where I’ll be tomorrow? In the morning, you might find me again in my chair, unable to move.
But when I do move (and I always do), may my mind believe bold things, my hand write great things, and my heart know that I am brave.
This is my prayer. Not just for me, but for you, as well.
We all need to be told that we are brave. We don’t just need the world to say it; we need God to declare it.
And yes, we sometimes need desperation to drive us to believe it and be it.
One of the scariest things about writing is just not knowing if what you have to say is worth saying.
Like how do you know if people even want to read your stuff? What if it’s read and you end up just hearing crickets chirping because you failed to realize how unimportant and mundane your “great masterpiece” was?
I’ll be honest. A part of me is terrified every time I sit down and pull up my WordPress to sift through my thoughts. I mean, I’ll just be real here. I hardly ever plan what I’m going to write. I just write and hope for the best. And somewhere along the way, I realize what it is I’m really trying to say and then attempt to shorten all the random tangents I somehow went off on.
I know people tell me, “Jessie, you’re such a great writer”, “Jessie, I love your blog”, “Jessie, what you wrote like really encouraged me.”
(Thank you so much, by the way, for encouraging me the way you do)
But despite the affirmation and the assurances that what I am writing is good and worth reading, I have doubts. And I think those doubts come from a place of insecurity brought on by the evil cousin of jealousy: comparison.
For me, writing is both a catalyst for and product of reading. I love to read, particularly memoirs and blogs and personal stories of strong, confident women. When I read, I want to be inspired.
I’m a bit of a blog creeper, meaning I have a few people’s blogs that I check DAILY. Yes, I said daily. Even blogs that I know are only updated once every week or so. What can I say? I’m hungry for inspiration!
But when I read some of these great works, I find myself feeling less and less confident about my own because I end up comparing myself to these writers. I see how strong and beautiful these women are and how that strength and beauty came from a place of tragedy and brokenness.
And I’ve never had a tragedy. I’ve never had a deep brokenness. At least, not like these women.
I have struggles, yes. I do face tough things in life. I go through trials and grieve. I have felt a broken heart.
But when I look back on my life, it’s hard for me to justify my feelings and my thoughts and my creations. I don’t see how I could possibly have credibility when I haven’t faced half the things other people have.
I’m a white, female, middle-class, nineteen-year-old college student living in Georgia, for crying out loud.
But here’s something I’m realizing: we all have our own stories.
And if I can so easily discount mine, then what’s stopping me from discounting everyone else’s?
How dare I believe that only those who have faced tragedy can have a voice or something to offer? That’s like putting darkness up on a pedestal.
Darkness can inspire, but it’s not the only thing.
You know what inspires me? I’m inspired when things I’ve read in God’s Word a billion times are all of a sudden super relevant to my life. I’m inspired when I listen to pastors and speakers who explain something I’ve never understood before. I’m inspired when I find the perfect metaphor for something I’ve felt or experienced but couldn’t explain. I’m inspired when my best friend encourages me. I’m inspired when my boyfriend shows me an act of love. I’m inspired when I get to know my family better. I’m inspired when I’m serving others. I’m inspired when I’m watching silly romantic comedies. I’m inspired when I worship.
And it’s what I do with that inspiration that really matters, not necessarily what inspired me in the first place.
So I’m going to keep writing and I’m going to keep creating. I’m going to keep telling myself that what I have is worth saying.
And I dare you to keep creating, too. Maybe you’re not a writer, but you love to sing. Or maybe you like to draw or come up with cool projects to work on. Maybe you love planning gifts and parties for friends. Maybe you like to share your thoughts with friends.
Let your inspiration direct you to greater things, and kick that comparison out the door! YOU have a voice and it ought to be heard.
That is all, my friends.