As I wrote up the posts about the fun time I had in Oregon, picking and choosing what I ought to share and what I ought not, it got me thinking about a few things of the utmost importance to all of us--and how to balance them.
The first, as my post's title would indicate, is encouragement. Encouragement is one of the most important parts of faith--the thing that edifies us, that builds us up. Encouragement is born of love and respect, either in a general form or a more familiar one. And I gotta say, it's one of the biggest blessings on my life.
Writing can be a very solitary endeavor, and after years and years of it, you start to wonder about your own work. I once thought myself an amazing writer--then I learned all I'd done wrong. So I set about relearning, honing the craft, and in a lot of ways starting over. I've never quite been able to shake the uncertainty that came with that epiphany. Which is good--I needed a good dose of humility (more on that in a bit, LOL). But it also means that whenever I know someone is reading one of my books, I'm nervous. Wondering if they'll love it, hate it, or give it a resounding "meh." (Which may be the worst of the three.)
Because I'm so acutely aware of my own need for encouragement, I will always, always try to offer some to other writers, even if I don't necessarily like their work. They still put a lot of time and effort into it, and my tastes are hardly the end-all, be-all. In Oregon, one of the ladies who had an appointment with me sat down looking totally dejected. Overwhelmed. Close to tears. So rather than just invite her to launch into her pitch, I talked to her first. Asked her some questions about her experience thus far. Then listened to her tell me about her book. And before I looked at a word she'd written, before I knew if she was the next big thing or destined to shove the manuscript in a drawer forever more, I gave her the words the Lord had placed in my heart before this conference--that He does not discourage, ever. He corrects, He reshapes, and sometimes that's painful. But He never, ever discourages. I really, truly hope that I gave her a measure of the encouragement that I received from others last week.
And encouragement I received by the bucketful. From the other authors who had read A Stray Drop of Blood or Jewel of Persia and took the time to tell me how much they liked it to feedback from agents and editors who had read my work-in-progress--I was floating through much of the conference. Yet with every praise, I felt a pang of caution. It would be easy to let the good stuff go to my head, and brag about it all over creation. But I still remember where that lack-of-humility landed me.
It's a strange balance we have to strike. Encouraging others is entirely necessary, and receiving it ourselves can do the work of the Lord. But we then have to careful that we don't use it to do our own work instead. Encouragement builds us up--but the building must belong to Him.
I think it's important to have those moments of excitement, and to have those people we can share them with. But I never want to forget that when encouragement rests on someone's opinion, you can bet the opposite opinion is out there too. I cling to positive feedback, and I incorporate it prayerfully into my life. But I have to incorporate the negative too.
So as we all journey from our valleys to our mountaintops and back again, let's keep the balance in mind. Let's find ways to pull up our brothers and sisters when they're headed downward. And when we're on the top, riding high, feeling great, full of encouragement, maybe that's when we've got so much to spare that we ought to share it with those around us. Spill it onto them, as I've mentioned before.
It'll do good for those around us, then. And also keep us from focusing too much on ourselves.