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.

A,

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.

A,

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.

And respond.

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.

All,
Rachel


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)courageThe 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.

rachelmariekang.com

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Success and All His ‘Friends’

I watched Bohemian Rhapsody last week.

When I first saw the trailer, I remember swearing that I wouldn’t pay money to see it because it didn’t seem like my type of movie. But then life, with its funny sense of humour, dropped 4 free tickets into my inbox to see it at the Open-Air Cinema. Side note: I ended up loving the movie so much I watched it again the very next night.

As we curled up on a picnic blanket and watched Freddie Mecury transition from baggage handler at Heathrow to the lead singer of Queen, I remember wondering, ‘When is the drama going to start?’ The first 30 minutes felt like a montage of him reaching milestone after milestone. He became lead singer, got the girl, landed an international tour and become world renowned, all within 5 years.

Even though Freddie and Queen were pursuing a vastly different goals than I was, I couldn’t help but feel little aches and twinges inside as I wondered why certain things hadn’t unfolded just as easily or quickly for me. Anyone with lofty dreams and big goals knows that having high aspirations comes with conditions attached. Namely, the self-doubt and anxiety that asks: Why aren’t things happening quickly for me? Why am I not there? How come I’m not as successful yet?

I want to pause and say that I know the producers probably didn’t have time to show all the initial striving and disappointments in Queen’s first five years. And surely it wasn’t as easy as I’ve described. But sometimes I think that’s all we see when we look at other people’s lives. At a distance, we only get to watch the highlight reel of someone else’s life and a surface level indication of the challenges they’ve faced. As a result, it can be really easy to doubt our capabilities and wonder if good things are only reserved for others.

From the outside, life really looked like it was coming together for Freddie Mercury.

Until it all fell apart.

The drama erupted halfway through the film when Freddie had to wrestle with the choices he’d made and his identity. I don’t want to ruin the plot, but anyone who’s aware of his life knows there was a point where everything came crashing down.

I heard someone say that becoming ‘successful’ opens you up to more vulnerabilities. That behind all the glitz and glamour, you have to deal with the side-effects of being in the public eye or having more responsibilities. The higher you climb, the further you fall. The bigger you get, the more public opinion you’ll inevitably attract. You’ll wonder if certain friends are genuine or just wanting a slice of the pie, and you’ll clash with people who don’t have the same vision as you.

Hearing that and watching Freddie’s character fall apart on the screen got me thinking that maybe I’m not ‘there’ yet because my character needs to be developed first. A lot of us fantasise about what it’d be like once we become successful, but we don’t stop to ask if the person we are today can handle the consequences of getting everything we want.

Obtaining the dream doesn’t transform us into someone different. We’re still the same person with the same insecurities and flaws. If we can’t handle rejection now, we won’t magically be able to handle it once we’ve made it. If we attach our worth to what people think of us, it’ll only magnify once we reach our version of success.

Getting somewhere too fast, too soon can attract a bunch of gate-crashers to a party with poor security. Left unchecked, Depression can slip in and drain your energy. Anxiety invites all his other friends, like Imposter Syndrome. They can squash you and your good intentions so you can’t remember why you started in the first place.  

While it can be easy for me to get trapped in my feelings and get salty about why I’m not where I want to be, I also know that I don’t want to be someone who crashes and burns once I reach my goals. Maybe all the waiting and the lengthy distance between our goals is so we can be ready to handle the ‘consequences’ come attached with my success. Because the good and the bad always come as a package deal. Above all, I want to be faithful with the little I have now before I ask for more.

It’s a hard sentence to process when someone says, ‘maybe you’re not ready yet.’ I’d be lying if I said I handle that thought with grace and poise. In reality, I throw mini temper tantrums because it feels like everything I’m doing isn’t enough.

Someone is probably going to read this and ask, ‘But when will I be ready?’ And the truth is, I don’t know. No one else will be able to know but you. You’ll most likely hate this answer, because I did when someone else said the same thing to me two days ago. But it’s true.

Being ready isn’t a destination you arrive at. No one hands you a certificate that says ‘You Made It.’ There’s no map that marks X as the spot and the trail you use to get there. A map implies that there’s a chance you’ll go the wrong direction. But no matter how long or slow it takes, or what path you choose, everything that’s happening is refining you into the person you’re supposed to be when things do fall into place.

It’s easy to discount the places where we feel like we’re moving backwards or are stagnant. I remember having dinner with a friend last year who told me there was a time where it felt like absolutely nothing was happening for her.

“A few months ago, I landed this job, then aced this comp, and figured out what I wanted to do. And now I feel like nothing’s happening and I’m not moving forward. I just want to go back to those months where I was kicking goal after goal and winning at life,” she told me.

What I wished I’d said back then was that it’s easy to desire this idea of always jumping from one mountaintop to the other. It’s easy to crave the cheap thrill of a victory over and over again. But it doesn’t work like that. We eventually have to come down from the mountaintop and live our life in the valley in-between. Because it’s in our everyday life that we get to encounter all the things that’s going to prepare and equip us for the next victory we’re about to have. Your valley may be teaching you how to be patient with people or how to handle your finances. It may give you the opportunity to be a follower so you’ll know how to be an effective leader. And what a pity it would be if you missed all that gold because you were too busy chasing after accolades and validation.

Instead of wondering why we aren’t there yet, we have to appreciate the valley we’re in and trust it’s preparing us for the next level. So for the people who are going to read this then go back to scrolling and feeling discouraged, know that your mountaintop moment will come again soon and you’re exactly where you need to be.

THE WEDNESDAY CLUB

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