Priorities And Progress.
A few Novembers ago I was working on this series of posts called 12 Days of Cookies. I can’t remember what my blog was called at the time but it was an Instagram campaign aimed at driving traffic to my site and increasing my number of subscribers. Just typing those words makes my skin crawl. My stress levels creep up even, and I feel like I need to apologize. I can’t remember why I cared so much - likely because I equated subscriber numbers with success or something dumb like that. What I do remember is sitting at my best friend’s dining room table over Thanksgiving break (like I’m in college) cursing InDesign and drowning in anxiety over the right hashtags, email automation glitches, and recipe accuracy, and missing entirely the pre-turkey day chill going on around me. Worse even was the fact that I wasn’t the only one hovering over my laptop in a cold sweat. At the end of the table another guest was stressing over a work deliverable and across from me my friend was hammering away at her own side hustle. Hustle and break don’t have much in common. In fact, it’s impossible for them to share the same table. Collectively, our priorities were off.
At the time I remember thinking that there was one formulaic way to get a blog right. I was wrong. And praise God for that. I’ve repeatedly tried my best to put on the mind of a marketer, to value the analytics, but that just isn’t what motivates me. At the end of the day, I just love to write. I like to talk to people about the things they dream for themselves and the mostly internal obstacles that keep them from pushing forward. And I like wrestling through those things for myself too. But I spent so much time marketing and analyzing and perfecting the thing that I rarely ever got to the thing itself. Once again my priorities were off. And for how much mental space it ate up, I was barely in-tune with life around me.
Fast forward a few years. In a few days I’m jetting off to North Carolina to a writing conference to present a book proposal to a few major publishers. It’s something I have no business doing at this stage in the game but suffice it to say I’m after my call. Like the actual properly prioritized vocational call to write. Not to market, promote, or analyze the writing. These are tasks that belong to marketers and editors. But to actually do the writing. We’re always after our call, right? Forever questioning, what is our calling? How do we find it? If and when we do, how will we know? Is this it? Is it not? What if I pour myself into something that turns out to be a complete waste of time? What if I’m supposed to be over there doing that thing instead? I often wonder if the hours I spend pouring words out onto the keyboard are a complete and utter waste of time. I fear it so much so that my tendency is to bury myself in the marketing tasks just to avoid utter ambiguity of writing, which is literally never finished. But that’s the very nature of vocation: the ongoing work of a lifetime of which there is no point of completion. It’s exhilarating and overwhelming, a little frustrating and more than a little perplexing. At least with an Instagram post I can check a box. Something simple, straightforward, and deeply satisfying for my Type A soul that loves the sound of a pencil scratching off a task. But the satisfaction is short-lived and the progress illusory. And thank God my call is bigger than that.
This morning I took a few minutes to mindlessly tidy up my apartment and out of nowhere I got that strange tingling sensation in my stomach of falling at rapid pace. I realized, now that the business cards and the book proposals are printed, I have nothing left to do but write. I can’t side, top, bottom, or back hustle my way around the call. Like any kind of worthy spiritual or emotional work, there’s no going around it. Only through it. My calling is to a ministry of writing. And I think it always has been. I’ve just been focused on the wrong aspects of it. The misconception that I held is that once I finally discovered this seemingly elusive calling (which, upon reflection, was really quite clear) that it would manifest itself in my life beautifully wrapped and automatically successful with a thorough set of instructions and an insurance policy against failure. It did not. I would have to figure it out. Not one Instagram post or one Trello task list or one beautifully designed newsletter at a time but one sentence at a time, knowing full well that many of them will never see the light of published day. And to see the rest for what it is: distraction.
As part of this book proposal I’ve promised to market the hell out of myself in places where I’m a fish out of water, like social media. And I’m apprehensive about it. The temptation to hide in the busy work takes me back to that dining room table just a few Novembers ago. Awareness doesn’t equal infallibility but it’s a start. A good start.
So hey listen, if, come this December, a series of curated posts surrounding Advent start popping up in your Insta feed please don’t take me for a hypocrite. Such a thing has been on my heart for a couple of years now. And I think I’ve got my priorities straight(er) this time around.