spirituality

For those of you who have followed my writing career, you may have wondered why you haven’t heard from me lately. This post will hopefully explain my intentional absence. My journey doesn’t end in a traditional account of success, at least not by the world’s standards of fame, status, or lucrative contracts. And, yet, in my heart I know I have achieved something much more valuable—victory over myself.

Before I dive into what I mean by that let me first tell you how my writing trek began. To put quite plainly, I adore books. There’s not much I’d prefer to do over curling up with an engaging read that stimulates my imagination, causes me to feel deeply, or leaves me reflecting upon my own life. As a former career woman and now stay-at-home mom, I was finally in a situation where my kids were older and my brain power had returned after years of baby-induced sleep deprivation (well, maybe not full wattage, but close enough). You can find more about my credentials and background on my bio page.

With a desire to speak to and inspire teens, I easily fell into writing for the young adult genre. Six years and four books later, I managed to meet a few contacts in the writing biz, learned the ropes of self-publishing, and was left with the overwhelming task of self-promotion in an industry where social media and the self-published author were exploding. Up to this point, I had enjoyed skating along this massive learning curve. The writing was challenging, thrilling, and pushed me to study how to improve my skills. The online writing environment was filled with generous, kind, supportive writers, readers, and bloggers, willing to do whatever they could to help.

My intentions with this self-made career/hobby, I believed, were honorable. As a Christian, I always want to please God with my life choices, and I did feel His blessing through writing each book. I was following my passion during the hours the kids were at school, while still being able to juggle all the tasks required to keep a family clean, fed, loved, and supported. Yay me! What would’ve made this venture even sweeter was if I could’ve earned enough income to help pay bills. Maybe an unrealistic goal, but worthy all the same.

Some time between peddling my books at the Tucson Book Festival and initiating yet another online blog tour, everything seemed to shift. Instead of filling my mind with the pure joy of deciding what to write next, I began number counting. My days were consumed with how many likes my Goodreads blog or Facebook author page received, how many RTs, favorites, and followers did I inspire on Twitter, how many visitors roamed my website and did they leave any comments, how many members did my Goodreads fan group gain, what was my latest Amazon author ranking, and how many likes did I spark on Instagram. And don’t even get me started on reviews! I sweated over each book’s number of reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords, and the hundreds of websites where bloggers live and breath to review books.

Counting became a despairing obsession where writing was no longer the focus. I didn’t like the person the competitiveness for attention on social media shaped me into—a needy sheep following the pattern of most every other writer starting out, centered on one thing . . . me. Self-promotion, to use my most eloquent of words, is icky. All the online contests, sales, blog tours, giveaways etc., I realize, are necessary to let readers know about your books and why they should buy them, but I wasn’t able to find a graceful path through it. It became more about pleasing Man rather than God, and it took me away from more important pursuits—family, friendships, (the tennis court!), and studying God’s Word. Maybe the situation would’ve been different if I had been traditionally published, but I don’t think so. Either way, I was new on the scene and needed to introduce myself to the writing world. The problem was, I let myself get caught up in it. I let it become an idol.

Unhappiness. That was basically where this road led me to wallow. I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I had moments of depression, crying and shaking my fist to God in frustration for why He wasn’t making it happen for me the way I envisioned. Oh, you can be sure the self-pity was as thick as mud. And who’s to say I failed? I bonded with many a reader over the years, received lots of good reviews on my work, some awesome ones even, but it never seemed to be enough. No longer could I enjoy my favorite pastime of reading books. I couldn’t stop myself from comparing the author’s work to my own, internally debating why this work received a publishing contract and what it would take for me to achieve a similar fate. At the same time, I was annoyed with my own network of people. I couldn’t understand why they didn’t support me in the way I thought they would have. So not good. So not healthy. What happened to my fun, exciting, just-want-to-connect-with-teens, writing hobby?

Then God did something miraculous. He told me to walk away from it all. I’d been praying for answers, pleading with God that if He didn’t want me to pursue this writing thing, could He please take away the desire to be successful at it, at least by what the world defined as successful, and He did just that. The perpetual pressure to write another book that might turn this whole thing around, the book that would launch my career, soon faded. It was difficult to turn my back on the internet at first, like a drug addict going through detox. But, little by little, I began to feel lighter, freer, and happier the less time I focused my energy and thoughts on it, until I pretty much stopped altogether.

I’ve had a year to think back over my experience. One critical life lesson I’ve learned is, it’s not about me. It’s about Jesus. It’s about serving others. That’s where true happiness can be found, not the world’s view of personal achievement. John the Baptist had it right, “He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). What I thought I needed to make me special or stand out was purely of the world and of little significance to God.

The question now is, will I ever write another book? The honest answer is I simply don’t know. Maybe. If God inspires me with a story that must be told, then sure. I’m not going to limit anything He wants to do in my life. But, for now, I think I’ll stick to blogging. It’s free, readers can take it or leave it, and I’ll get to write again. So with that, I leave you until my next post where I’ll probably admit more embarrassing and humbling truths about myself. Ugh, personal growth is painful, am I right?

About Janine

YA Author of The Vortex Series. REMATCH, DOUBLE FAULT, DEUCE. Secret drummer & avid reader.