I will warn you that I’m going to write this post in one sitting and probably won’t edit it a lick before I post it. There’s a young’un in this house with a full line-up of practices and other assorted fun this afternoon / evening, so I’m a smidge pressed for time. But I want to be sure to write this down in a blog post – because it’s something that keeps coming up and I hope maybe the story behind it will encourage you / put some pep in your step / remind you and me both how much we need each other (so many times for reasons we can’t even see yet).
All righty. How’s that for an overly wordy set-up?
(Also: I used the phrase “pep in your step.” I am 109.)
I knew when I started writing Giddy Up, Eunice that it was going to push me outside of my comfort zone a little (lot). It was clear pretty early on that the book was going to circle around the stories of three pairs of women from the Bible, and I don’t know if you know this or not, but I’ve never really written about the Bible. I mean, I’ve written a blog post here and there, and I’ve spoken at some events, but a whole book? With Bible stories at the heart of it? Not really my wheelhouse.
(By the way, David likes to kid me and say that, if nothing else, my publishing legacy will be, “And then Mama tooted, y’all.”)
(I’d really be so fine with that, truth be told.)
Somewhere early on in our first books Melanie and I began sending each other chapters as we finished them. We were both so used to immediate feedback from blog posts – that is the wonder of a comments section – and it felt a little weird to write a whole chapter and then not have anyone else read it. So we sent chapters back and forth, and I guess in doing that we sort of became each other’s book-writing commenters. I don’t think I would have finished a single book without that system in place, even though sometimes it felt like the most vulnerable thing in the world to let another set of eyes look at a chapter I’d written – especially when I didn’t think what I’d written was particularly, you know, good.
I had the idea for Eunice in the fall of 2014 – just a few months after I finished writing Home is Where My People Are – and then I spent probably six months thinking about it / praying about it / figuring out what it was going to be. While all that was going on I was working on a proposal for it, trying to outline chapters, mapping out the structure – but I wasn’t doing any real writing. So, when I started the actual writing, I remember thinking two things: 1) do I even know how to do this? and 2) this is going to be a little more serious in places…how’s that gonna fly?
So I wrote the intro and the first chapter, and I got Melanie’s feedback, and if memory serves she already knew some of the content because we had talked through it and she’d heard a talk I did about Mary and Elizabeth.
When I was working on chapter two, I was walking down the hall to my office one afternoon when a thought came to me out of nowhere: “When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.” It hit me so hard that I went straight to the computer and typed it out, and I remember thinking how weird it was to write that sentence because it’s not how I normally talk or even think. But I put it in the chapter, and I was immediately so uncomfortable with how people might respond to it – if they would think that I was getting all touchy-feely-pin-this-to-Pinterest on them – that I quickly wrote a joke underneath it. I don’t know that the joke fully undermined the sentence, but it certainly made light of it and diminished its impact.
Then I finished the chapter and sent it to Melanie and maybe winced a little bit because I didn’t want her to think that I had gotten all touchy-feely-pin-this-to-Pinterest-y.
The next day Melanie sent me her feedback, and it was all very kind and encouraging. Then she hit me with some truth:
Here’s my only thought and maybe it’s me being protective of you. But this statement –
When the Holy Spirit in one woman recognizes and responds to the Holy Spirit in another woman, safe places become sacred spaces.
– I think I’d lose the parenthetical (after it)…because it distracts from it in my opinion. Own that God gave you that word and that you wrote it. And I know that may be silly but that’s my thought.
So I took out the joke.
And I let the sentence stand on its own.
It didn’t just change the tone of the chapter; it changed the tone of the whole book. Melanie, without knowing it, gave me the confidence I needed to write what I was supposed to write.
And I have to tell y’all: since the book came out two weeks ago, that sentence is the one people have mentioned to me more than any other. On Twitter, on Facebook, in conversations – that sentence is the one that people have quoted back to me the most.
A reader named Melissa Crawford actually made this graphic and posted it on the launch team page, and I had to laugh a little because it really should say “(and Melanie Shankle)” next to my name.
And every single time that someone has mentioned it, I think about Melanie telling me, in so many words, “OWN THAT. GOD GAVE YOU THOSE WORDS.”
So often, I think, we have our “thing” – whether it’s singing or painting or cycling or organizing or teaching or leading or writing or running or whatever – and our temptation is to hold it super close to our chest with our arms wrapped ALL THE WAY AROUND IT and not let anybody else peek in for fear that they’ll laugh at us or judge us or criticize us or etc. We start to tell ourselves that our interests are dumb and we’re not any good and really there are thousands of people who can design logos / bake / sell houses / create marketing campaigns.
And we’re right, you know. There are thousands of people who can do all of those things. What we forget is that we need thousands of people. After all, how boring would the world be if we only had, like, seven chefs?
Not to mention that those seven folks would be completely overwhelmed by all the cooking they’d have to do.
But my bigger point is this: if there’s something you love to do – maybe even something you feel like you were made to do – then look for a person or the people who will cheer you on and tell you the truth. Make yourself vulnerable and share your songwriting / app coding / business consulting / oboe playing with them. They might tell you how phenomenal you are. They might tell you that a certain element needs some work. They might tell you to go back to the drawing board. They might tell you to stay after it because there really is something there.
If they’re people who really love you and truly have your best interest at heart, they’ll be honest with you. They’ll spur you on. They’ll push you in the right direction – even if the direction isn’t what you expected.
That thing you love to do might not feel as safe. You might not be able to hold it quite as close.
But it’ll be better for the sharing. You will, too.
So in the words of my friend Melanie: OWN IT. GOD GAVE YOU THAT THING.
And I just wanted to tell you that on this fine Monday afternoon.
Good talk, team.