This Woman's Work

I really didn’t think anything could bludgeon my particular affection for this little space on the web but it turns out writing a book could. If I’m honest, I was afraid of that, and it’s one reason I hemmed and hawed on the outskirts of writing a book for so long. I love blogging. I hate the term but I love the practice. It has been such a singular act of faith, powerful tool of sanctification, and helpful habit to keep for nearly twenty years now. (Twenty years? Yes, Sayable’s first iteration is some livejournal page somewhere in the deepest recesses of the web. No, I will not tell you its name.)

In the aftermath of 60,000 words on a subject I feel even more woefully inadequate to talk about now than when I started writing, I find the words come in fits and starts and feeble falls. There are more unfinished drafts in my folder than there have been in a long time. The thing is, I know this way and I’ve been here before. Not exactly here, here, but here enough. I know the way through is the way through. Just write and keep writing and press publish even if it’s dreary and rambling and nearly embarrassing to have written. I say nearly because I am even less impressed by myself than I want you to be by me. Sayable has always been an exercise in shamelessness (And by that I mean an exercise in saying, “Here I am, such as I am, today, maybe tomorrow, but probably not.).

I’ve been having conversations with my peers lately and there’s a lot of talk about passing the baton to the next generation of writers. We the pioneers in the blogging and online writing world, making space for the settler’s offspring. I like that picture but I loathe the idea that I’m somehow ahead of others. I have always been an early adopter and late bloomer. I love the idea of making space for risk, experimentation, ingenuity, and try, try agains. But I also take a long, long time to see if this thing works.

I used to think there would come a point in writing at which I would have felt arrived. A pitch from a certain publication. My name on a cover. Paying work (!). But the truth is, arrival never happens, does it? I’m not asking you as much as, in the words of the great Kathleen Kelly, “Sending this cosmic question out into the void.” There never comes a time at which we feel totally accomplished. Did the pioneers always feel like pioneers? Does the blood of explorers always run fast and far to four corners of the earth? Does a proclivity toward risk always leave one wanting more? Or is this just the human condition? The endless pursuit of being like God and knowing all?

Like I said, this is a question for the void and not for an answer. I know the answer, after all, at least the Sunday School one (which doesn’t make it less true even if it’s more cliché). Here’s what I do know, the more I work at my work, the less adequate I feel at it. I think this must be true of everyone and most of us pretend it’s not. We pretend at being the masters or mistresses of the work of our hands, but I wonder if we all feel that irksome doubt just one glance over our shoulder.

My husband and I have been talking about the imaginary ladder we all mingle around. In the vernacular, “The Five Year Plan,” or, if you’re a really good pretender, “The Ten Year Plan.” I really mean it when I say I’m doing good if I can nail down a week or a day. A month feels insurmountable most of the time. A year almost impossible. Five years unthinkable. Ten years a lifetime. Ten years ago this summer I was laying on my snot soaked carpet denying the God I didn’t think existed, standing up a few hours later an agnostic (at best). Any “plan” I might have made at any point upon my life (pick a point, any point) would not have led me to where I am today.

That’s not to say I’m discontent with today. I have an enviable life. I envied the life I have now five, ten years back. I know the blessing of this day, the gift of it. But I would be lying if I said it comes easy, every day a joy, a total delight. I feel like a great pretender most of the time. And I think most of us do. At least most women, almost every woman I know. Imposter’s syndrome. Even the most successful of us still has that irksome friend Doubt forcing them to play the game as best they can as long as they can.

Today’s episode of The Good Enough Podcast has three of us on it, three women you might look at and say, “Well, they seem like they love their work, have plenty of opportunities, and never feel confused or like a failure about it.” I guess I just wanted to take a long, rambling path to telling you that simply isn’t true. We all doubt ourselves and our work and our adequacy again and again. It’s one reason I love the name of the podcast, “Good Enough: Finding the Good in a Never Enough World.” Because I think most of us struggle with that concept, being good enough or doing good enough or even being okay with things being good enough and not perfect. But I guess I just wanted to say sometimes Good Enough is just what I can do today. Good Enough is just sending this missive out into the void.

Newsflash: you don’t even have to read it, but I needed to write it, so thanks for receiving it.

this woman's work

Link Love: Long time comin'

It’s been a long time since I’ve shared a load of links I love. I’m not sure why. Perhaps content fatigue. I absorbed so much information while writing Handle With Care and then tried to distill so much of it, that I’ve just felt smaller, quieter, and less of everything over the past few months. This little pile of links, quotes, content, and books, though, has been growing slowly and I thought maybe now would be a good time to share.

Waiting Time isn’t Wasted Time, by Ashley Hales

Shabbat + Sabbath, by Bethany Douglass

The Quiet Revolution in Evangelical Christian Publishing, by Kathryn Watson

Liturgies of Less…and More, by Tish Harrison Warren and Sarah Hamersma

Who Will Replace Eugene Peterson and Other Giants We’ve Lost, by Carey Nieuwhof

Some books I’ve added to my Idea List on Amazon recently,

Placemaker, by Christie Purifoy

Surprised by Paradox, by Jen Pollock Michel

Embodied Hope, by Kelly Kapic

Finding Holy in the Suburbs, by Ashley Hales

Who God Says You Are, by Klyne Snodgrass

A quote I read today that I found to be sadly true of the writing process,

"This book I have not yet written one word of is a thing of undescribable beauty, unpredictable in its patterns, piercing in its colour, so wild and loyal in its nature that my love for this book, and my faith in it as I track its lazy flight, is the single perfect joy in my life… 

When I can’t think of another stall, when putting it off has actually become more painful than doing it, I reach up and pluck the butterfly from the air. I take it from the region of my head and I press it down against my desk, and there, with my own hand, I kill it. It’s not that I want to kill it, but it’s the only way I can get something that is so three-dimensional onto the flat page. Just to make sure the job is done I stick it into place with a pin. Imagine running over a butterfly with an SUV. Everything that was beautiful about this living thing – all the colour, the light and movement – is gone. What I’m left with is the dry husk of my friend, the broken body chipped, dismantled, and poorly reassembled. Dead. That’s my book." —Ann Patchett, on writing books

A excerpt from a poem I’ve been ruminating on recently,

Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nie

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.

And, finally, we released the freshman episode of our new podcast, The Good Enough Podcast, yesterday. If you’re interested in listening or subscribing, you can do so here.

This is just the intro episode, but we will have episodes on Pinterest Perfect Homes, Diet Culture, Self-Care, Meditation, Dating, and so, so much more. Guests like Lauren Chandler, Brietta Paladin, Becky Wilson, Jasmine Holmes, Kelsey Hencey, and so many more are joining us each week to talk through trends in the church and in culture, and how to think through them in a way that honors God and others. I hope you’ll join us!

A Friday desk, which is a whole different thing than a Monday desk.

A Friday desk, which is a whole different thing than a Monday desk.