Your Words Matter (even when it doesn’t look or feel like it)
There are days where I literally can’t stop the words from flowing out, and there are weeks when they all dry up. At times like these, I like to turn to my crazy talented friends to fill in the gaps for me. A few months ago, I sent an email to a dear Instagram friend asking for hope and encouragement. This is what she sent back to me. I hope it inspires you just as much as it has inspired me.
Originally published on Feb 6th 2019 on www.rachelmariekang.com
I’d toss my iPhone into the ocean and live off of handwritten letters and emails typed on computers for the rest of my life if I could.
There is something about communication that is lengthy and takes a long time. Drawn out response time, carefully chosen words and phrases. The waiting. The anticipation. The angst. The trust. The thrill.
Why, yes, email—you have my heart.
The following is my response to a dear friend and follower. I thought I’d take what I shared with her and share it with other as well. I love it when questions like hers come through in email.
May the sentiments sink in deep, deep, deep.
PS: Feel free to comment below or email me with your questions on writing or being a want-to-be writer.
Girl. Thank you for giving me some time to wrap back around to this email.
I stinking love emails. I love getting them and sending them. And I love emails like this one. I love sitting on them…ruminating a bit. Gathering my thoughts and sharing them full.
First of all, thank you. Thank you for taking your honest heart and bringing it here. Thank you for trusting me…for feeling safe to share what you did. But also for trusting that I might have something worthwhile to say. I’m humbled. Honored. Encouraged. Spurred on. The list goes on. Adore you, truly.
If the stars aligned and you and I were in breathing distance from each other, latte in hand and all, I’d be pretty happy too—swaping stories and talking life.
Until then, here’s this. Your question:
I was wondering if you could pass on one bit of advice to a novice writer. The you five or ten years ago who was just venturing out in this uncertain world of creativity. What do you do when you put something you created out there, and it doesn’t get the response you want? How do you deal with the disappointment and the shame after being vulnerable and then getting no reception? I know my worth doesn’t hinge on the views, the likes or the comments I get. But it’s still anxiety-inducing and disappointing nonetheless.
I read an Instagram post by writer and author Ally Fallon. I love what she said about the younger version of herself.
“Watching all the #10yearchallenge posts has made me feel a little defensive of these younger versions of us—these extra rosy-cheeked human beings who were misguided in some ways, sure, but also trying and failing and so [explicit] brave to get up and do it all again, and again and again. There are a lot of things I could say about 25-year-old Allison. She was naive and hurting and didn’t know how to talk about what she needed or who she was. But she was also sweet and funny and loyal as hell and a fighter of the best variety. The kind of friend you want on your side. Not all that much has changed, when I think about it.”
And so, I want to start off by saying that this is exactly how I feel about me from ten years ago. I was a stumbling mess trying to figure out life and figure out myself. And I was writing my way through the mess. Maybe I was brave for sharing the words that came from that season. Brave, or crazy. But I did it anyway.
And I’m so glad that I did.
To be honest, me from ten years ago remembers when writing Facebook notes was all the rage. It was a momentary fad that is reminiscent of Instagram, sans the carefully curated graphics and pretty photos.
I had written a couple of notes and, really, I wrote them for the sake of creative expression and not so much to be read by others. But when I saw that others enjoyed reading them, it began to change the way I thought and felt about writing and sharing my writing.
Through it all, there is one thing I did, without fail, every time I wrote.
I prayed before I hit publish.
Not because I’m some super saint. But because I knew I needed to. I knew how deep the root of insecurity was wrapped within me—how wide it spread in thought throughout my brain.
Through all of the many changes that Facebook has brought throughout the years, one thing has remained the same—the tiny red notification alert that flashes on your homepage when someone likes or comments on something you’ve posted.
I hated how my worth became attached to the number of likes and comments that I got. So I prayed before hitting publish.
And when I say that I prayed, I mean that I prayed.
I didn’t just whisper under my breath high hopes for God to bless me.
I got on my actual hands and knees and I put my forehead to the floor. And I wailed. And I cried. And sobbed. And I pleaded. I pleaded, not because God needed to hear me begging, but because I….me…I needed to cry it out. I needed to pour until the burden and the brokenness in me released from within. I wrestled there, on the ground, confessing the ugly in me…listing every insecurity, every time. Listing every lie and every haughty dream that was born from thoughts other than those that might glorify Him.
I asked God to take my ugly eyes off of the numbers. I asked him to kill the part of me that fed ravishly off of the words of others. And, instead, I asked for him to fill me with every confidence so that who I was in Him, before Him, with Him, because of Him would always be all that I’d need.
I dared not hit publish until I could trust that I had fully relinquished every part of my writing heart into His hands.
When the comments came, and the notifications flooded my feed, and even when they didn’t, I no longer saw it as the result of me doing or not doing something right. I saw it as God using words, written by my hand, to move and work in the hearts and lives of real people with real souls behind real computer screens.
Because of this, my writing became less about showcasing myself and more about serving others.
I don’t think that prayer is the end all when it comes to writing—there is obviously much more to say when it comes to learning and perfecting the art, craft, discipline, and (dare I say) business of writing.
But, perhaps, prayer isn’t such a bad place to start?
Even still, beyond just telling you what to do, like pray or be patient or just hold on tight—I want to share a deeper truth in hopes that it will change the way you think, not merely change the things you do.How do we handle quiet moments when the shares and the likes and the comments are slim to none?
Your answer is in the unseen. We plant the seeds and God is faithful to do the rest. Sometimes that looks like us sticking around to see the fruit. And sometimes, it doesn’t. And when we know this—truly know and believe this. We can work and write and sing and be and serve and teach and sell and create and lead and weld and sculpt and calculate knowing that the result does not make or break us. It was never meant to, and it never will.
As a writer, there will come a lesson. It might look like a long walk up a high hill. Or a hard wrestle with self and with worth. But when you do finally emerge—a light, in even the darkest and loneliest places within you, will turn on and illuminate the truth that your words are enough.
You words—every dripping syllable in ink or sound—matter.
So right now, A, right now this very second. The dreaming you, the caring you, the creative you, the earnest you, the you that longs to connect and cultivate conversations and community. The you that dares to lead with written words—Let the small moments matter. If that looks like your mom being the only person sharing your words, then that matter. If it looks like the same 23 likes from the same 23 people, then you thank God for those 23 people—and you say a prayer for them. If this looks like only one person commenting and opening to respond to something you’ve written and posted, then you find a chair and make some time to pour out your heart and respond to that one person. You do not give them a one-liner like, “Wow, thanks so much for your thoughts.” You do not give them 5 emojis and 10 exclamation points. You sit down and you write to them. Heart to heart. For, when you do this, it is your heart that will expand. Your lungs that will fill with breath and air; your heart that will fill with grief and the hurt and the need that is so prevalent in our word. And as you are filled with these things, whisper an honest and humble prayer. Ask that God might fill you with the words and vulnerability to speak with savage courage to these very things. And He will.
And you will overflow.
And you will write.
And the world around you, be it little or large, will hear those words.
A comment here, an email there.
In time, you will see that this journey doesn’t disappoint.
Let the small moments matter. Stick with it and don’t give up. Write words that speak to the hurt and need in the world. Pray before you hit publish. And if all else fails—
It’s okay if your words only matter to only you.
Crazy proud of you and excited and all kinds of teary-eyed for the adventure that you are about to embark on. Embrace and enjoy it.
Rachel Kang is a writer and editor. She is the creator of Indelible Ink, an online community for writers and want-to-be writers. She has written for (in)courage, The Daily Grace Co., and Charlotte Magazine, and is unapologetically passionate about words, stories, the creative process, deep cups of tea, and you. Hellos always welcome at Instagram.