Remember that manuscript I told you about? The draft of a memoir, the story of our daughters.
I wrote tens of thousands of words in the years after they died, words I never shared with a soul. Then I shoved them in a drawer and plowed into another book, two. Anything to hold off on the hardest story I had to tell.
I pulled that manuscript out last year. On Instagram I told you how I dusted it off, skimmed through, heart sinking, and thought: ugh.
No good. All wrong.
I decided I had to let it go, trash it again, start over fresh. So I did. Started clean last spring with a brand new document, brand new folder, brand new ambition, brand new determination.
Guess what? Wrong again. Turns out I couldn’t read my own words with true eyes.
One night in prayer, I told God I was ready to jump in and start this brand-new book—and clear as day, I heard one word. No.
No? NO?! What do you mean NO? I was ready for this, I protested. I had a plan for starting anew, and everything would be so much better. Smashing success. Let me start. Why would the Infinite Yes of the Universe say NO?
I stewed for months on that strange no, simmering about what seemed an unfair answer. I knew I owed obedience, deep listening and trust. I’ve done this work long enough to know that if the Spirit isn’t in it, I’ll spin my selfish wheels, dirt and debris flying, and get nowhere but a deeper rut.
So I didn’t start the new book.
I groaned and grumbled about it to my inner circle of writer-friends, how annoyed I was at this needless no, how lost I felt about what came next. I scuffed my heels in the dirt of prayer. I threw a few tantrums at God. I demanded to know precisely what NO meant: not now? not in this way? not ever?
One day, discouraged, I opened up the manuscript again. Half cringing, half curious. I wanted to see the proof of how shabby it was, to thrust it back at God in a petty fling of see?! This trash is why I need to do a new thing! And You need to let me.
But a small surprise crept in. As I started to read, I grew confused. Convinced this couldn’t be the same junk I’d almost deleted months before. I checked the document twice, kept scrolling, wondering why I’d been so harsh before. It wasn’t trash, far from it. It was rough and raw, but it was…good. Surprisingly good in a few parts, like I hadn’t been the one who’d written it.
To be clear: it needs years of work, long hours, sweat and tears. The manuscript has to be hacked apart and hemmed back together, turned inside out and upside down. But it is the right place to start.
The moral of my story is this: you are not trash. Your work is not trash. Neither is it perfection, polished by your ego’s vainglory. Far is it from ideal. But it can still be good. We are created by Goodness, for goodness, but too often we can’t see our own truth with kind eyes.
Today I leave for a writing retreat. Five whole days to myself, off the grid, in the woods, away from everyone. As a mother of young children, I had to move heaven and earth to make this happen. A gift from me, to me.
I am going to work on this book.
I am going to pray and think and cry and laugh at myself and go for walks when I want to give up. I have no goals, no word count, no ambitions. For the first time in my writing career, I have no deadline. No agent, no publisher. To be honest, I do not want any of those things for a long time. I simply want to write this book, for a long time.
I will not tie up these words with a cutesy chorus about thanking God for unanswered prayers. Instead this is an honest admission about being wrong about myself and wrong about God—and the freedom that comes with releasing both.
I sense God’s silence on the subject now, in the best way. Not a snarky smirk or a punishing scowl, but a simple retreat from our wrestling round the meaning of no. I am left with clearer vision and a quieter heart. Turns out I needed God’s hand to press pause when I wanted to barrel ahead, wrong about myself and my work and what could come next.
I believe that a calling can come from yes and a calling can come from no. Once in a blue moon, strange goodness sprouts in the space between.
Today I am starting something new that is not new.
How grateful I am for the wonder of wrong.