Friday, March 30, 2018

When You Wish Progress was a Cheetah, Not a Snail

Timing is everything. Or so they say. The problem with timing is that it’s often out of our control and isn't usually concerned with our opinion on how quickly it should move. There are few times this is better illustrated than when you’re working toward a dream. Dreams are rarely instantaneous, just-add-water-and-viola sort of things. And if that dream involves the publishing world, buckle up and enjoy the ride. For most of us, it will be proceeding at a snail’s pace. I hope you brought some snacks. 



But the idea of timing, while frustrating at times, has also become a source of comfort for me when I feel stuck in the middle, between where I am and where I hope to be.

As a Christian, my personal belief is that timing is all about God knowing what’s best for future me better than I do. But whether you believe things happen as a result of divine orchestration, or fate, or serendipity, or pure chance, I would bet you’ve uttered the phrase “perfect timing” at least once in your life. I've been thinking about this a lot lately—how perfect timing doesn't usually feel perfect in the moment. More like everyone else is speeding past you while you're standing still and screaming at them to WAIT UP like an irate toddler. 




That's the other problem with timing: It usually takes being on the other side of something to appreciate the path you took to get there. When it feels like you've forever been in a season of waiting—just on the cusp of seeing dreams come to fruition—it's hard to stop and think of the good things that have happened in the wait. To be honest, I'd often rather whine about how I'm feeling than have someone remind me to take a different perspective (and if that's you too, and you already want to strangle me, I feel you, but just walk with me for a minute...)

If my agent had signed me for the first book I submitted to her (almost 5 years ago), I would have never entered Pitch Wars. I would have never formed the close-knit friendships that have sustained me through the ups and downs of the writing process. I would never have had the opportunity to mentor other writers and their beautiful stories. Not only that, but I was a fairly new author, it was my first children’s book, and I was still ignorant (and in many ways just naive) about so much of what it takes to write and publish great stories. I’d never experienced the self-imposed pressure and expectations that come with writing book #2 (or #3, or #4). I hadn’t yet questioned my dream, or wondered if it was all worth it. If I’d gotten everything I’d hoped and dreamed of in that moment five years ago, quite frankly, it probably would have wrecked me. 

In the moment, it felt like failure. Now, I look back with gratitude for how things have ultimately progressed. 

This doesn’t mean I’m perfect. I have plenty of days where I'd rather just wallow—in disappointment, in sadness, in jealousy. Days when my inner critic tells me I'm a big fat failure. On those days, I need someone else to nudge me in a different, more honest direction. To remind me that I have to trust the process—I have to believe that when the time is right, it will happen. And that someday, I’ll look back and say, “Thank goodness it worked out this way.” 

Recently, I was listening to Annie F. Downs'* podcast conversation with singer/songwriter Ellie Holcomb. Ellie was telling the story behind her album, Red Sea Road. As she was getting ready to release it, her dad was diagnosed with cancer, and in the midst of his diagnosis and treatment Ellie missed a deadline, which caused the record release to be delayed. It was an additional blow in the middle of an already difficult time. But when her record finally did release, she received so many messages from people who had listened to her album in the midst of their own personal struggle and heartache who told her, “Your song came at the perfect time.”

And therein lies the comfort. So much is out of our control, but if we have faith in the process and trust the timing, we can believe that we will be better for the wait. And we can believe that the wait isn’t just about us, but about that one kid, out there in the universe, who will pick up our book one day...at just the right time. 


*Annie F. Downs is one of my favorite humans on the planet. We're not, like, IRL friends or anything, but I wish we were. Go listen to her podcast: That Sounds Fun.

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