Fear and the Christian Writer

I’ve mentioned Pastor Alistair Begg enough that regular visitors here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction may realized I listen to him on the radio most mornings.

Interestingly his broadcast ministry, Truth for Life, has begun airing a series of sermons on the topic of anxiety. I say “interestingly” because a friend of mine has been posting about panic attacks. Soon after her latest, Mike Morrell—whose article “Is God a Recovering Practitioner of Violence?” was the catalyst for my post (and the ensuing pages of comments) “Attacks on God from Within” (followed by two related posts “The Emerging Heresy” and “Attacks against God from Within, Part 2”)—also posted on his own experience of severe anxiety.

All that to say, the topic of fear/worry has been on my mind, and I can’t help but apply it to the writing world since that’s where I live.

I think we writers are a fearful bunch on the whole. Those who aren’t in the profession might be surprised at all we can find to worry about. Here are some I’m aware of.

  • The ability to finish a project
  • Writing a query/proposal that will grab someone’s attention
  • Rejection by a preferred agent
  • Rejection by a publisher (any publisher)
  • Finding someone to endorse the book
  • Receiving editing letters
  • Making changes
  • Meeting deadlines
  • A bad cover
  • Bad reviews
  • Poor sales
  • Not earning out (writer-speak for not making as much money for the publisher as they had expected—it makes getting another contract dicey)
  • Book signings
  • Setting up a Web site
  • Time management
  • Blogging
  • Not blogging
  • Speaking
  • Not speaking
  • Book tours
  • No book tours
  • Radio interviews
  • No radio interviews
  • A new book idea
  • Another contract
  • Failure
  • Success

Throw in an economy that still has buyers proceeding with caution and the digital revolution that will profoundly affect the book business, and writers have good cause to fear.

Or do we?

I think about the people of Israel making a break for freedom, fleeing from Pharaoh and his army straight for the Red Sea. Yes, their lives had been hard, but were things getting any better? They were going into the unknown and to get there had to escape the pursuit of a fully equipped army, then survive the wilderness. Oh, yeah, on the other side awaited giants they’d need to fight.

No wonder Moses addressed the subject of fear with some frequency in Deuteronomy. Here’s a sample:

Then I said to you, ‘Do not be shocked, nor fear them. The LORD your God who goes before you will Himself fight on your behalf, just as He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,’
– Deut 1:29-30

“You shall not dread them, for the LORD your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.”
– Deut 7:21

“Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid or tremble at them, for the LORD your God is the one who goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.”
– Deut 31:6

Has God changed since those days? Will He fail me or forsake me? Perhaps He’s no longer great and awesome. 🙄

Writing may seem like a wilderness most days, and the unknown might to be the only constant. But maybe anxiety-producing circumstances are a good thing.

The more I feel unable to manage, the more I realize how much I need God.

Published in: on August 4, 2010 at 4:13 pm  Comments (9)  
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9 Comments

  1. It seems it is the writer’s job to be constantly fearful of nebulous calamity caused by the things neglected, by leaving something OUT.

    You left off your list:
    to Facebook or not to Facebook.
    To Twitter or not to Twitter!
    To LiveJournal or not to LiveJournal.
    To Squiddoo or not to Squiddoo (am I spelling that correctly?)!

    Actually, I think it’s a wonderful thing that we have all these opportunities as writers for spreading the word about our work. There’s no possible way I or anyone I know can possibly take advantage of all of the exploding opportunities out there, especially all at the same time. Daily I find there’s more important things that I must get done, and I’ve got to do them one at a time. Multi-tasking hampers higher brain function. So I hardly ever have time now for Facebook.

    But because God is holding my hand and directing my way, because I am in the Scripture daily, I seek to view the things He sends my way as opportunities and gifts instead of with anxiety. As these opportunities come into my life (like now, when I’m editing my book under the tutelage of an associate editor for a publisher who may or may not take my book at the end of the edits), I acknowledge them as God’s Hand leading me, and opening or shutting doors, and I seek to walk by faith.

    Having Him shut windows of opportunity on me is painful, but I realized recently that He knows if He left me to pursue every good opportunity known to man, I’d die in failure, of old age, before reaping any blessing from a single one of them. Talk about scatterbrained!)

    And so I learn to deal with disappointment and not be anxious, because God also blesses with opened doors, and He’s very good at opening them one door at a time. Isn’t that so?

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  2. I love Deuteronomy. And love this post.

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  3. I’ll add my BIG one to the list: Producing writing that comes off sounding cheesy.

    It’s a fear that can cause me to procrastinate for months.

    “The more I feel unable to manage, the more I realize how much I need God.” Yes. When I feel like I’m starting to “get it all together”, I begin to rely less on God, and eventually wind up in some sort of pit.

    p.s. Squidoo? I don’t know what that is. Should I be worried? 😉 (Seriously, though…what’s Squidoo…)

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  4. LOL, Jessica!

    Squidoo is a great sales and marketing tool. You can use it to make a “lens” that features similar products, say like Christian Romance novels from all your favorite author-friends complete with links to where their books can be bought, or dishwasher magnets (dirty/clean) (and again with the links) or…whatever you want to put on the lens! I signed up, but the last time I had time to mess with Squidoo, something wasn’t right, and I couldn’t get it to make a lens. I’ve got to find time to go back and figure it out.

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  5. I, too love Deuteronomy. So many great nondual, panentheistic depictions of God:

    Listen, Israel, YHWH is God; YHWH is one. – the Shema

    “For you were shown, to know it, that YHVH is the God; there is nothing else beside Him.” – Deuteronomy 4:35, the ein od milvado

    “Know this day, and lay it on your heart, that YHVH is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is nothing else.” – Deuteronomy 4:39

    “When we say ‘the Lord is One,’ we mean that nothing other than God exists in all the universe.” – Rabbi Baal Shem Tov

    “The meaning of ‘YHVH is One’ is not that He is the only God negating other gods, but…there is no being other than Him, even thought it seems otherwise to most people.”
    – Rabbi Sfat Emet

    Anyway, that’s neither here nor there. I appreciate your continued posting on anxiety – and the heck of a lot more consideration you (and even Sally) show me and other anxiety sufferers than those clowns over at Remonstrans. (Sheesh)

    A nit-pick: I’m not sure clinical panic disorder and writer’s jitters are really in the same league with each other. I say this both as both the former and the latter, my vocational writer-self (nonetheless) identifying with what you write here.

    I hear, by the way, that a disproportionate amount of creative types, self-employed types, and freelance types are prone to my maladies…there’s probably something to our lack of structure contributing to lack in our hypothalamus, brain chemistry, adrenal system, etc…alas!

    I’ll check out the Begg message, thanks. And please, no need to disclaim everything as though we exist on different planets. I know that in the heat of blog debates I might seem like John Shelby Spong and you, Jerry Falwell. But I believe that the Church is big enough for us both; Christ can hold our different (and I’m sure, mutually inaccurate) pictures of God, Scripture, etc., within the strong bonds of His mercy, grace, and judgment.

    Thank God!

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  6. Sally, Jessica, and Krysti, thanks for your input and for the adds to the list. Love them.

    Krysti, I loved this: But because God is holding my hand and directing my way, because I am in the Scripture daily, I seek to view the things He sends my way as opportunities and gifts instead of with anxiety.

    That, I think, is the crux of the issue.

    Becky

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  7. Mike, great to have you visit A Christian Worldview of Fiction again. Thanks for stopping by. I hope you do get to listen to that Alister Begg message and the Part B that follows it.

    I agree with you that the regular anxieties of a writer’s life don’t stack up against clinical anxiety. However, I suspect they can lead there if left alone.

    All the talk about anxiety and it’s place in the brain, when in fact studies have shown that the brain remaps far more than scientists previously thought.

    In fact there was a news idem about this recently. Brain imaging on serial killers and there was a pattern that was markedly different from non-serial killers. Except the scientist who did the testing discovered his own brain had the serial-killer pattern. His conclusion? Other factors had to be a part of actually acting out and becoming a serial killer (as opposed to someone fascinated with serial killers to the point of studying their brains).

    All this to say, small anxieties can become big ones if left to grow, but big anxieties don’t need to dominate our lives if countered.

    Of course my contention is that God alone can provide the counter measures for us to effectively deal with something so ingrained in us as clinical anxiety.

    But your interpretation of the verses you quoted from Deut. only shows me how vastly different we see God, Mike. How I wish you knew Him as He has revealed Himself instead of as the speculations of man have schooled you to see him.

    Becky

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  8. I think it’s pretty cool (and very encouraging) that whenever we see God interacting with people in the Bible, the words, “Fear not,” “Be not afraid,” “Be of good courage,” etc, almost always come up in the conversation.

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  9. Great point, Fred. I’m glad you brought that point up. God doesn’t want us to be ruled by fear. Thankfully our trust in Him can lead us from it.

    Becky

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