As a writer I hate walking into a bookstore. Part of me wants to find something interesting to connect with, some new writer that will affect my life like Anne Lamott or Eugene Peterson. All the covers plead for me to judge their contents by their prettiness. Truth is, sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. But instead of discovering beautiful new literary connections, I get bowled over by the silence. Like leafing through page after page of a dating service notebook filled with women last named A-G. So much muted potential, prettied-up with a fancy exterior. Mostly, it’s the overwhelming silence of all those unsold books that is so deafening to me. And I really want to be one more of the unsold authors stacked on those disorganized shelves? What could possibly be wrong with me?
All those words on all those pages. All those hours spent by someone somewhere, hoping their efforts would have some value. All those months waiting for a publisher to pick up their manuscript. All those hours wondering if that publisher will ever do anything to promote their dang book, or if it will just get lost in the shuffle of their better-selling, celebrity-driven, ghost-written titles.
It’s very similar to going into a record store and seeing all those unsold CDs just sitting there, patiently waiting for someone to give them a chance. So much unnoticed music. At the same time, there are so many artists that sell a ton of records. So many authors who sell a ton of books. And still, so many artists and authors who have personally affected me. I’m grateful they chose to throw their heart down the chute of creativity so that I could have my life changed by their expressions.
This, I believe, is truly what compels me to create—to write, to sing, to communicate. Because I still have a glimmer of hope that it’s possible to affect another person with what I create. People usually throw out the flippant cliché de significance: “Even if just one person was affected by what I created, it will have been worth it.” Bleck. I agree in theory. But if one person was affected, couldn’t there possibly be one million more people who could be affected as well? Wouldn’t that be better for everyone? And by everyone, I mean my bank account…
There’s significant symbolism in desiring to have my voice heard. So much in society tells me I’m just like everyone else, that there really is nothing special about me. I can’t escape the feeling inside of me, though, telling me I am actually a very unique and special individual. Heck, that even you are a very unique and special individual! That indeed there is a very special story being written with my life, and that by telling that story, other people can be inspired and encouraged to live out their own story with more clarity and significance. That by my sharing how I’ve been awakened to the power I have to love and serve others, and the incredible consequences of living life that way, that just maybe you might want to join me on this journey as well. And that just maybe, the heavy load you have been asked to carry around will somehow get a little lighter. That somehow one or two layers of onion-skin-like filters will be peeled off of your eyes so you’ll be able to see more clearly the beauty of this life. For that reason, I keep creating. To say thank you to those who have gone before me and changed my life, and trusting that something beautiful happens when I shed my fear and (alleged) stupidity, and simply step up to the challenge of telling my beautiful story.
I learned a great lesson from my dog Kirby on the very first day I met her. I had just bought my first house and knew I needed to add a dog to the picture. So I visited the local animal shelter to take a look at the most needy, abandoned dogs.
They know. The dogs know when a potential master walks through the door to all their pens. They can smell it, I believe. So they do what I would do if I was in that same predicament. The door creaks open, and they start barking at the top of their lungs. “Me! Me!! Over here!!! Way in the back!! Don’t forget me!! Pick me!! I’ll be awesome, I promise!” they yip and howl. I was just browsing, trying to hold my heart in check. I walked past one obnoxious dog after another. I didn’t want a housemate who would drive me crazy with her incessant noisemaking. Then I saw her. As soon as our eyes met, this most beautiful of yellow labs dropped her front legs straight in front of her, as if she was actually bowing toward me. She stretched for a brief second, and ended lying down flat, staring straight up at me with her huge brown eyes. Not a noise. Nothing but a gentle, noiseless plea to be chosen. Brilliant. The more the barking continued from all the other dogs, I knew I found the one for me.
There are many days I feel like I’m stuck in a cage, certain that if someone important would just pick me and my impressive creative projects, my life would be as it is intended to be. Full of joy and significance. The truth is that I truly am free. I am free to create and express my heart and explore this life, seeking ways to find understanding and truth through it all. I am free to live outside the cage of others’ expectations. And I am free to be a quiet participant on the bookshelf of life. There’s great value in my story and I trust it will find the exact audience that needs to read it, so there’s no need to worry about the days that pass when no one gives my cover a second glance.