Stories that Matter

Owning It – A Few Thoughts From The Front Lines

It’s been a crazy few weeks. But this is my current location. And I’m trying to relax.

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Trying being the operative word.

All the excitement and anticipation leading up to the release of The Things We Knew, has simmered down. Now it’s out there, and I’m busy with promoting and working on other projects and doing life, all the while trying to stay sane. Because although it isn’t my first book release, it kind of feels that way.

I think maybe, to me at least, this one matters more. Maybe it’s because it took so many years to get published. Maybe it’s because we worked on it for such a long time. Maybe it’s because I’m so grateful for the people who were willing to invest their time, effort and a bit of their heart to push this baby toward publication. And dang if we didn’t do it.

Funny thing is, I thought that was the hard part. Getting to this.

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But what do I know? Not much, apparently. Because the hard part? That’s only just beginning. The hard part is letting your baby go out into the world and being completely unprepared for the reception it will get. Completely unprepared for the critics. Okay, not completely unprepared. But perhaps a little blindsided.

I haven’t been here before in quite this way. More people have access to this book than any of my previous ones. It’s in actual bookstores – freaking Barnes & Noble for crying out loud – and if that doesn’t make this whole whacked and wild dream real, I don’t know what does. It’s different this time because there’s advertising and reviews that kind of matter and my book is probably popping up more places than I know about. It’s different this time because now?

Now I really need to know who I am as an author and what that means for the books I write. 

Now I need to own this.

As people are discovering who I am and what I write, I’m learning to live with the fact that not everyone will like me.

Ouch. 

Okay, so there it is. Yes, I’ve been reading the reviews. No, it’s probably not a smart thing to do. But I was always the kid who crept a little closer to the flame when nobody was looking and stuck my finger out anyway, just to see if it really would burn. Not much has changed. Flames still burn.

But here’s the thing. This is my book. My story. My heart. And I’ve offered it not for the glory, not for the fun of seeing my name on the cover, not for any fame or fortune (cue raucous laughter), I’ve offered it because I feel like I have something to say. Like maybe I can offer a hurting world a little hope.

It sounds so simple. But that’s the truth. That’s why I write. That’s why I long to share my stories. And yes, that makes me vulnerable. Because it’s not easy putting yourself out there. Sharing your heart. Actually, it’s probably one of the hardest things in the world.

And honestly? This journey cost me. Emotionally. Spiritually. Physically even, because it’s easy to get stressed and overwhelmed and not take time to treat yourself well. But was all that worth it? Absolutely. This is my victory. My reward.

I need to own that. 

I need to stop cringing when I read words that try to tear down and belittle. People are not kind, but I knew that. It shouldn’t surprise me. I need to stop apologizing in my head and feeling bad when I hear that what I’ve offered wasn’t what a particular reader expected or wanted. I need to realize that I’m never ever going to please everybody.

I need to own who I am and what I write and not worry about how it is received.

This is my lesson, and maybe it’s been slow in coming, but I better get it down now or I’m not going to survive this game.

Yes, I am a Christian. I write for a Christian publisher. But I’m not your pastor. Not your Bible or your Sunday School.

I am a broken person put together by grace and mercy and forgiveness and I write about broken people in need of grace and mercy and forgiveness.

If you want to chew on Scripture and platitudes and everybody gets saved at the end stories, then I’m probably not the author for you. And that’s fine.

God is big enough for all of us in all our brokenness.

Grace come quiet, simply, unobtrusively. It comes when we need it most. When we least expect it. When we don’t deserve it. And sometimes when we don’t even know we need it. But there it is.

If you want to find a little faith – that quiet steadfast heartbeat of the only one thing in this crazy world that will carry you through – I believe it is there in the pages of the books I write. Because that’s how they were written. By faith. Through struggles and doubts, carried on the wind of grace. God is very much present in every word I write. How could He not be?

Maybe that message of hope and healing might look a little different to you and yeah, you might not like it that way.

That’s okay.

I’m not going to please everybody. 

I don’t need to.

Today, I make my peace with this.

My words are written for a higher purpose. And I will continue to write them in the way I feel led, without worrying about rejection or craving acceptance or seeking any glory that really doesn’t belong to me anyway.

I will write for the sheer joy of knowing that I can. Knowing that this is my gift and it pleases Him. And that truth? That’s all that matters in the end.

And today,  I will own that. 

 

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11 Comments

  1. melonyteagueauthor on August 4, 2016 at 11:12 am

    Thank you Cathy, Enjoy your lake and your time of rest and recharge. Thanks for pouring your heart into your work. I for one, am blessed by it.

  2. merrypenny7 on August 4, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    Thank you for being willing to put yourself out there and make a difference! Though its always nice to hear others enjoy and are blessed by what you write, most importantly, our Lord is your Audience of One & He is well pleased! God bless you a whole bunch ~ press on!

    • Cathy West on August 4, 2016 at 1:38 pm

      Exactly. 🙂 That is what I am trying to keep in mind first and foremost on this adventure! Thank you for reading and commenting!

      • merrypenny7 on August 4, 2016 at 2:55 pm

        You’re very welcome ~ forgot to add, enjoy your rest 🙂

      • merrypenny7 on October 17, 2016 at 11:34 am

        You’re very welcome 🙂

  3. Bonnie Roof on August 4, 2016 at 12:53 pm

    Amen, Cathy!! It has to be very hard to read criticisms of your book “baby”. Please know you’re not the only author who has struggled with this, and take comfort in the knowledge that being led by, and writing for, Him – you pleased Him (the most important One), yourself, and so many readers (as you stated, you will never please them all). In continuing to write your way, and with His guidance – He will handle the rest, seeing that each of those readers ready to positively accept and be influenced by your work – does. Not all are there yet. ‘The Things We Knew’ was a blessing and inspiration to me – thank you!! Prayers for your writing, Cathy – hugs!!

    • Cathy West on August 4, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Thank you, Bonnie! I ALWAYS appreciate your support and encouragement. So glad our paths have crossed. 🙂

  4. Rebecca Maney on August 4, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Such honest conversation. I can hardly post a review without wondering if someone might disagree with me, I cannot imagine the vulnerability associated with writing the kind of stories that you have published. “The Things We Knew” is stunning and I am so glad that you persevered and published it.

    • Cathy West on August 4, 2016 at 1:42 pm

      Rebecca, your words mean so much. Thank you. 🙂 It is hard to read the criticism but I do get so much from those who’ve enjoyed my books and have been blessed by them. I suppose that’s what will keep me reading the reviews now and again, because not everyone will reach out in a personal email or FB message to share their thoughts, so sometimes it IS encouraging to read those positive reviews. 🙂 And of course, authors need them to encourage new readers. I don’t even mind a negative review if it’s honest with valid reasons for their thoughts. I don’t understand the ones that are just nasty though.

  5. Beth Wood on August 4, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Enjoy your time of relaxation. Just for the record, I LOVED reading The Things We Knew and can’t wait for your next book. Pleasing God is the only thing that matters.

    • Cathy West on August 4, 2016 at 1:43 pm

      Thank you, Beth! I am so glad to hear that. 🙂 And yes, His opinion matters most.

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