I’m writing a book.
Every Friday morning at 9am, I sit down to continue working on it, and every time I sit down I’m hit with the same sinking feeling. It comes in the form of a question: What if these words don’t matter? It’s a crippling thought, a dreadful feeling that keeps me looking back at the sentence I’ve just written, questioning, doubting, sinking deeper and deeper into the rhetorical quicksand.
What if my words don’t matter?
A question that disguises another question: What if I don’t matter?
But last Friday, something different happened. As I began to sink into the quagmire, I heard the still, small whisper of grace: Kelly, you don’t write a book because you think it will matter—you write a book in spite of the fact it probably won’t matter.
You do what you love because the desire has been written on your heart, implanted in your soul, and engraved into your DNA. You do it because you aren’t you unless you do it.
Author Madeleine L’Engle recalls being rejected by yet another publisher on her fortieth birthday:
“I covered the typewriter in a great gesture of renunciation. Then I walked around and around the room, bawling my head off. I was totally, unutterably miserable.
Suddenly I stopped, because I realized what my subconscious mind was doing while I was sobbing: my subconscious mind was busy working out a novel about failure.
I uncovered the typewriter. In my journal I recorded this moment of decision, for that’s what it was. I had to write. I had no choice in the matter. It was not up to me to say I would stop, because I could not. It didn’t matter how small or inadequate my talent. If I never had another book published, and it was very clear to me that this was a real possibility, I still had to go on writing…Success is pleasant; of course you want it; but it isn’t what makes you write.”
Our secret insecurity is always focused on outcome, while our heart of hearts is always focused on coming out. Stepping out. Trying out. Striking out. And trying again. Because there is joy in showing up, because there is joy in becoming more who we already are.
No goals, no expectations, just freedom.
Hearts finally moving to the music they’ve been hearing all along. Souls transformed from wallflowers into dancers, falling into the arms of grace and being reminded: there is nothing to prove, our worth is not up for grabs, all that’s left to do is to enjoy who we are and to live it out in the world.
On a Friday morning, as I hear the voice of grace, a different kind of sinking feeling happens—the thought sinks from my head to my heart, and my fingers come alive on the keyboard.
Meanwhile, outside my window, the wind blows fallen leaves like autumn tumbleweed. And I watch as a gray-bearded, retired man from down the block pushes a massive lawnmower up the middle of the street, toward the home of an old-ailing woman whose yard is buried in un-raked leaves. I watch as he runs his mower over the lawn and solves her leaf problem in a matter of minutes.
She’s not home.
She’ll never know who did it.
Will it matter to her? Maybe.
Does that matter to him? Nope.
I watch as he pushes his mower home. He’s not caring for his neighbor because it matters—he’s caring for his neighbor in spite of the fact it probably won’t matter. Because it’s who he is. Because he wouldn’t be himself if he didn’t do it.
Because growing up doesn’t mean becoming more mature—it means becoming more you.
If you were given permission to simply be more you, what would you do? Start speaking up? Standing up? Standing out? Walking out? Reaching out? Pouring out? Sitting in? Giving in? Giving up? Opening up? To what? Dance lessons? Photography school? Medical school? Dropping out of school? Starting a band? Starting a business? Starting a movement?Dominoes?
Listen for the still, small voice nudging you toward something good and challenging and beautiful and scary. Because your purpose isn’t to do something that is more meaningful—you’re purpose is to do something that is more you. And inside of that you will find all the meaning you can handle.
After all, you weren’t created to be successful. You were created to be you.
In his debut novel, Kelly weaves a page-turning, plot-twisting tale that explores the spiritual depths of identity and relationships, amidst themes of healing, grace, faith, forgiveness, and freedom.
Connect with Kelly
Dr. Kelly Flanagan is a psychologist, author, consultant, and speaker who enjoys walking with people through the three essentials of a truly satisfying life: worthiness, belonging, and purpose. His blog writings have been featured in Reader’s Digest, The Huffington Post, The 5 Love Languages, and the TODAY Show. Kelly is the author of Loveable and True Companions.