it takes courage

I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, really. A musician, an artist, a creator? Yes, but not much of a writer.  During my senior year of high school I had a tutor for my college entrance essay assignments, and I remember confessing this frustration during an editing session. Nearly every other form of creative expression came easily for me. I could write a song, arrange a collage, perform a piano solo, lead in a musical, knit a scarf, or decorate a room with confidence, but every time I tried to write, I questioned myself and was consistently unhappy with the results of my hard work. She listened patiently, and then suggested that frustration about my challenges as a writer might actually be a cover for the fear that my ideas weren’t valuable. Writing doesn’t have to come naturally to matter, she assured me, and good things are worth working for. I didn’t really understand what she meant for several years, and I rarely thought of this conversation after it happened. (I can recount this now because, in a move that is admittedly ironic, I recorded her comments in my journal, which is my long-standing habit after all thought-provoking conversations.)

Though I got plenty of challenging writing assignments once I started college (thank you, Dr. Freeh, et al!), I spent most of those years surrounded by absolute geniuses in every variety of written communication – literature analysts, poets, journalists, scriptural exegetes, curriculum editors, and columnists of every sort. I’m sure my writing competence sharpened significantly during this time, but I never felt like I was even close to average abilities. My insecurity might make even more sense if you know that I was tight with these writers: I married a scholarship-winning journalist, one of my wedding bridesmaids has now published a book, and several other friends from that life are in graduate school or regularly writing things read by people they don’t know. Spending my life with people who were beyond my own mastery in this one area was a fertile breeding ground for that long-held fear of inadequacy, the nagging sense that I just didn’t have much to say. I didn’t realize this was exactly what my tutor meant yet by then, or even in the following years when I would escape boredom at work by maintaining frighteningly voluminous email correspondence.

I finally remembered the admonition about writing-insecurity hiding my idea-insecurity again at the end of our recent Michigan vacation when I was packing up a box of my belongings from my old bedroom in my parents’ house. It’s been four years since I “officially” moved out after graduating from college and marrying Aaron, and we own our home so I don’t have many things left there. This final load was a collection of my journals, now chronicling over half of my life. There were twenty-five notebooks that I brought home, with dates stretching back to 1998. I was twelve years old then.

After arriving back in Iowa, I organized this small library by date and added my other recent journals, which brings the total number to thirty-four. While setting things in order, I thumbed through a few books and recalled God’s kindness and my growth with laughter and cringing. I’m glad I don’t have to go back to middle school… or high school, for that matter!

And maybe it’s a sign of that same kindness and growth that in the middle of this project (besides wondering where on earth I am actually going to keep these) I couldn’t help but think: It’s probably time to stop pretending I don’t write. And I should stop being afraid of my ideas, too.

It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
– e. e. cummings.

7 thoughts on “it takes courage

  1. It *does* take courage to do what God calls you to do, even writing a blog. Awesome post, and you better believe you’re one of the best writers I know. You have a depth of experience and just all-around thoughtfulness that is rare indeed. God’s used your blog posts a lot in my life over the last year, and I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom this is true.

    • Thanks, Kjerstin. You’re wonderful, and I hope we get to talk soon! Or that Baby Buggy makes an appearance so I can stalk his adorable self online. Yes, Aaron’s canoe experience is one of the funniest things we’ve caught on camera lately! We relived the fateful overturn at least 20 times in a row. It also went viral at my in-law’s but I’m still waiting for the rest of the nation to catch up.

  2. Also, you’re hilarious (and so, I’m afraid, are videos of Aaron’s canoe capsizing).

  3. LOL Oh Abby YES! I know exactly what you mean! I have always been a keeper of journals, but honestly I never considered myself a “writer” until, well, I had to write that book of mine. I had to write it for myself, I had to write it so I could process the experience and work through the grief and the struggles of faith.
    Now, it’s obvious. I am a writer.
    Welcome to the club. 🙂

    You might enjoy this :
    (I did)

    And also his book, I am a Writer 🙂

    • I knew you were a writer when you sent me stuff from your journal while Aaron was getting ready to go to Iraq… Great site! I will be sure to check it out more later.

  4. Abby, your writing is superb. Other than that I simply enjoy keeping up with friends and this blog provides a way to do that for you and Aaron, I thoroughly enjoy this blog for the quality of writing. I echo Kjerstin’s comment that your writing is extraordinarily thoughtful. You think seriously about things and cause your readers to do so as well. Keep up the good work!

    • Thank you so much, Ben! We are so happy to keep up with you these days, too — it’s so exciting to see what growth TLI is fueling around the world!

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