Writing Your Story Again

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My wife and I have been DEEP into the editing process with our publisher. Much of this entire process of publishing has been new to us. We received a book contract, signed it, and sent our manuscript to the publisher. Then we received a “developmental edit”, which was more about style and larger issues. For example, our editor wanted us to better connect some of the scripture we had cited to our proposed exercises or to clarify some of our thoughts or stories.

There is a sort of pause that many of us take when receiving criticism. It can dig down into some old beliefs about “what if we can’t do this” or “are we good enough”.

And although we did have a sort of pride in our work, we did need the editing.

As we worked through what our editor had proposed, again and again we could see the places where our wording was vague … or that ideas that seemed clear to us needed to be fleshed out for the reader.

We had started writing this work five years ago. Yet this process of working through the manuscript alerted me to the ways in which my own thinking and feelings about anxiety had changed. We had grown and changed through these years, with experience and with knowledge.

Yet to learn and grow through this process, we had to stop ourselves from wincing at some errors and problems in wording; instead, we needed to look for the lessons along the way.

We all can use some “revision” and “rethinking”.

Photo by hannah grace 
on Unsplash

Any of us can get very stuck in our thinking. Try talking to someone about their opinions on any sort of political or religious issue and you will quickly find where people are very reluctant to revise or rethink a deeply held opinion. The same is true for feelings about ourselves, about our worth or value or competence in the world.

The challenge is to allow just enough flexibility in our “vision” and our “thinking” for change to be possible. It only takes a bit of space, a breath, to imagine a world where our fear or sadness is relieved, even just for the space of that breath.

For me, as a therapist, I know that part of the work of therapy is talking about some of the events that have led us to have fearful and negative narratives about ourselves. Then, with the help of a guide, we can rethink, revise, and rewrite what those events mean to us.

Remember to approach any work on yourself with grace and understanding.

As my wife and I continued through the edits, we found ourselves, again and again, erring on the side of grace. There were multiple places where we remembered that whoever may be reading this book would often be blaming themselves for the times when they felt panicky and fearful. The best approach is one of grace and understanding, not criticism or judgment. The same is true for any of us that are doing some new work with ourselves.

Be gentle as you look at yourself; treat yourself with the sort of kindness with which this God of love sees you.

Once you are able to see that vision of God’s love for everyone, even you, then consider what “revisions” that you need to make in your own life and relationships.

We all have to let go of some control.

As my wife and I have moved through this process of writing, submitting, editing, and submitting again, of choosing a title, and all these next steps with a cover and marketing … we are learning to let go of control … of the book.

Yes, of course, there was a bit of a sigh for both of us as we hit the [send] button that submitted our initial manuscript to the publisher. As we have edited and revised, there was another [send] moment as we sent our editor our revisions and comments and concerns.

We practice letting go … of our control.

This practice of letting go is as easy as taking a deep breath, then having a long, slow exhale. The more challenging parts of letting go are about our work or our parenting. Or perhaps the difficult piece to let go has to do with past hurts and wrongs. Whatever it is we use to define ourselves, there is a gift to receive in our giving it away, of opening our hands instead of holding a closed fist.

Reach out to others. Work with them.

Working with others and trusting their expertise can feel scary, but it is worth it. All along this path, from working with an agent to our interactions with our publisher, this journey has been one of reaching out and trusting.

For some of us, reaching out and opening our hands to others for help and support can be frightening. We have been hurt before. It is hard to trust that someone else will be there for us. Sometimes our own thoughts about what is “right” will conflict with others.

This work is not just about you; it is for all of us.

We are all in some sense a “work in progress”. One point we return to again and again in the book is how much the “journey of faith” is just that … a journey. Yes, there is a beginning, but there are many points of struggle and resolution, of “revision” and “rewriting” along the way.

Photo by Vlad Bagacian on Unsplash

My hope is that as we move along this way, and as many of you journey with us, that we do so with openness to God and each other.

If you are interested in following along on this journey, go to my “books” page, enter your email, and receive updates as we make our way toward publishing.

Not on the journey alone

on walking and writing and walking and writing

This is one of those lessons that I learn over and over again: you are not alone, nor should you be. I am aware that it speaks to something foundational for me, and perhaps for you. As for me, I’ve been walking and hiking more of late, mostly due to a running injury that has kept me from logging my usual mile after mile. In its place, my time has been consumed with writing and editing ahead of signing a book contract, revamping websites, adjusting online profiles so that it all fits some marketing niche (yes, you can tell I don’t exactly love this part).

But there it is. One step. Another step. Watch where you step. Listen to where others encourage you to step. Walk with them.

You see, I’m used to running on my own, at my own pace (which is not so slow I must say). Running solo typically means getting up early, lacing up my shoes, and going for a run when I want to … for as long as I want to. But at this point, I am a middle-aged runner with an injury.

When you are injured, your first best step is to deny, deny, deny, right?!?

But the pain reminds you. And when you decide that you can try to go out for a longer run this time the injury will remind you that you are in a season of “one step at a time”. It may also be helpful to reach out for some help along the way … which brings me to the writing piece.

My lovely wife and I have signed a book contract. Now this has come after many hours (especially for her) of blogging and writing, self-publishing her own book, eventually, me catching up and self-publishing my own work, a lot of work to secure a literary agent and agency, and finally getting to the point of having an actual contract with a publisher! Whew. This process has been a journey, a journey that has been step by step by step, word by word by word. And in the end, we haven’t been alone.

Each part of the way it feels that we have gathered additional support for the journey. Initially, it was my wife and I deciding to try to have an eight-week class on anxiety by combining sound clinical information with Christian spiritual practices. To our delight, we had a classful who wanted to walk that journey with us! We wrote and led and learned from the class participants.

We wrote and revised, rewrote and changed based on what seemed to work and what didn’t work in that class setting (and the other two classes after). We imagined what it would be like for someone to read the book as an individual, not in a class at a church, or not with a clinician or pastoral counselor alongside them.

And along the way, we picked up supporters, people saying “you can do this”, a supportive agent and agency, and now a publisher and editor that are excited about these next steps. For me, it connects to a quote from Anne Lamott:

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. … It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

So on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, we were grateful for a supportive conversation with our editor. He gave us helpful and supportive feedback, and we feel we have another person to help us know where to step and to accompany us on this journey.

There are still steps to go and sites to see along the way. We’ve got some revising to do. We will be part of a team that chooses a cover for the book, that makes decisions about audience and marketing, but also gets to launch a book out into the world that is full of God’s grace for people who are struggling with anxiety.

And for those of you who have taken a lot of these steps with us: thank you.

We’re all still on the path, taking it step by step, and we are grateful for your presence with us.