I feel like a fraud.
In 2019 I wrote my first book, Someone to Look Up To. It came pouring out of me, actually, with three more lining up behind it. It wasn’t at all the kind of book I dreamed of writing in my youth; it isn’t particularly funny, and it isn’t sweeping fiction. The fantasy stories I wrote when I was twelve, the existentialist poetry I had a whack at in my teens – none of that is evident in my little book about the effects of leadership on lay people. The only ‘real’ writing I’ve done in the last decade has been this blog, largely because I spent all of my twenties and thirties trying to master songwriting.
So, here I find myself, a member of three writers’ groups, all of them very serious and dedicated to their craft. I am the awkward Plus One in the foyer, with pixels and quavers under my nails. Do I write every day to hone my skills? No. Do I enter competitions? Um. Do I have an agent, a publisher, a five-year plan? Do I lie awake at night, dreaming of tighter sentences and literary awards, logging a daily word count? I’m afraid not.
I probably should, you know. Take it seriously, that is.
The reason I feel like a fraud, hanging out in writing groups, has nothing to do with whether I believe in what I do. It doesn’t mean that I doubt God has gifted me for it or called me to it. It definitely isn’t any kind of poke at the intensity of others. It’s about my identity.
Up until now, I’ve lumped all ‘arts ministries’ in this one, big category, where Special People do Special Things and everyone claps/is blessed/has their lives powerfully transformed. I say that without any mockery. I was called at 15 to be a singer, songwriter and recording artist, writing skills notwithstanding. I spent the next 35 years massaging my middling musical talents into something middling-plus. And this is where it’s gotten complicated for me. I have been deeply, inextricably invested in my identity as a Christian musician for most of my life. It has been overthought and overtaught and overwrought in me for more than thirty years. As I begin to pull back from that investment, I find a slight repugnance for it. The very last thing I want to do is jump out of the ‘I am a Serious Musician™ ’ frypan, and dive headlong into the ‘I am a Serious Writer™ ’ fire. So, hanging out with people who really are serious writers leaves me with impostor syndrome. I’m not laughing at them; I just don’t know if I can immerse myself the way they do. To be honest, I’m frightened to. I know exactly the sort of obsessiveness I can produce. I don’t want to drown in a new pool.
I am so much more that the things I can do. As I grow in grace, grow closer to Jesus, so much of that old thinking falls away, redundant. I am His child, first and foremost, recipient of the astounding gift of grace which inspires all the other gifts. They are tools vouchsafed to me as an apprentice to the Master; they’re not, strictly speaking, mine by origin. The weightiness of giving myself to an identity as a writer is problematic for me, but what really repels me is the pretentiousness I know I am capable of.
Here in this new direction, I have found an unexpected boon. It turns out that writer circles – against all probability – are less bouji than the music world. I did not expect that. In the music industry there is de rigueur aesthetics, attitude, skill levels, and above all, coolness. Imagine my surprise at attending my first writers’ event and finding the group completely disparate and completely welcoming. And these were not even the people of God. They didn’t care what I wore, how old I was, what my gender was, or that I wrote for a niche. I didn’t need a persona; they just wanted to share the journey.
Perhaps I don’t need to find my ‘writer groove.’ Perhaps I just need to write when I write. Perhaps God never needed me to struggle to find a niche as a singer in a world glutted with them. Perhaps I don’t have to choose between my skills, or rank them ‘primary ministry, secondary ministry, tertiary ministry’ but just listen for His prompting every day. That might be all the ‘success’ He needs to see. Maybe it’s enough to bask and plant in the riotous garden that is the lived experience of being a creative mind. Maybe, just maybe, I don’t need a label for that. What counts, after all, isn’t the plaque on my proverbial door – ‘AUTHOR AT WORK’ – but faith expressing itself through love. And if I can do that in several directions, so much the more fun.
‘Take heed to the ministry which you have received in the Lord, that you may fulfil it,’ says Colossians 4:17. Archippus isn’t towelled up about military discipline, only about faithfulness. I am no good at clockwork, but I know all about doggedness, all about tensility and resilience and persistence. I can apply these to writing just as well as I can to singing. So, if I don’t self-identify as a writer among writers, forgive me and accept me; I’m just one of God’s kids – a person – growing into my gifts and enjoying them all along the way. And, occasionally, whirling out handfuls of vocal and verbal glitter into the world.