I love podcasts. It seems I can’t clean a counter, prep a meal, or take a walk without one lately. I love learning and taking in information in this intimate, friendly, funny format. I have dozens of podcasts on my phone at a given time, their subjects ranging from improv comedy to storytelling to inspirational. Podcasts are kind of contagious; you hear one guest who’s interesting and intriguing and then you find them on other shows, and on and on. That’s how I found “The Glorious in the Mundane.” I had followed author Annie Downs there, and from the moment I started listening, I was hooked. Host Christy Nockels, a Nashville Christian artist, was slowly telling her story about faith and rest in the context of her vocation as a musician. God had led her to come off the road as a touring musician, compelled her, really, to stay home with her little ones and wait for the next direction. It was so counter-intuitive to Christy in the midst of her success ,when her business was all about striving and reaching for the next level. She even lost an agent over it. But over time, Christy was being taught about the faithfulness of God and His provision. If she laid down her dreams and operated from what she calls the “bullseye”, what was most important and right in front of her, namely her family, God would pick up the rest and make something even bigger than she had yet dreamed. That time was about trust, and putting things in right order. Christy’s guests often gave the same testimony about their own vocations, whether it be in the music industry or a literary or speaking career. They testified that God had their cause, even through the hard, cold times, maybe especially then. God made the blooming happen even in the darkest, coldest winters of their spiritual lives. This resonated with me deeply. In my prayer life, I often felt the leadings of God toward making writing a bigger part of my vocational life. I followed Him through some pretty unlikely steps and some truly miraculous happenings to what ultimately felt like a dead end, a brick wall. God’s promptings had fizzled, or maybe I had heard them wrong from the very start. I had no idea what to do next.
Cue the next podcast. I found “Next Right Thing” at the bottom of my hopelessness, and host and author Emily P. Freeman gave voice to my aimless, discouraged wandering. Her “hope*writers” podcast offered ideas about next steps, about how to market one’s writing in a way that felt life-giving, not life-sucking. They were great ideas, and such nice people. I loved Emily’s books and felt certain I would never have found her were it not for a certain level of self-promotion on her part. So, why was I still struggling with doing the same myself?
The truth is that the publishing industry today is all about platform. That’s what they tell you. You need a certain number of ‘followers’ on social media in order for a publisher or agent to even look at your writing. Most queries and proposals won’t even be considered without that platform, and you’ll never know they’ve rejected you until you hear silence, until nothing comes in the mail. That’s how it works. That’s what they tell you.
So, here I am, with two book proposals completed and one full draft done, at a total loss still, listening to two podcasts with pretty contradictory ideas about how to move forward. Christy and Emily both benefit from their platforms and they are both faithful to where God has them in their industries. They are each motivated by God’s will for them. They’re good people, but their teachings in this area are opposite. So do I sit back and let God act, as Christy might suggest? Or do I work to get myself out there, hash-tagging, and gaining blog followers as Emily might advise? Here I can only listen to the still, quiet voice of my spirit, who says very little these days. I wish it would be louder.
Does God have my cause? Is there a plan for me and for my writing? Is there something happening below the surface which will ultimately bloom or should I roll up my sleeves and devote energy to marketing myself? Is there some combination of both? Gosh, I don’t know. I know when I hear Christy speak about a faithful, waiting approach through my ear-buds, my spirit feels nothing but peace and hope. When I pursue more blog followers, or re-blogs, or platform-building, I feel frantic and defeated. In this ‘Tale of Two Podcasts’, I have to listen to that soul-response, I think, even if it means never publishing. Even if nothing ever happens. Even if it changes my experience of my faith in a way that feels like submission but also like the color has drained out of how I live my daily life. I used to find God in the details. I used to see signs and experience “lightbulb moments” of inspiration. I used to feel nudges and leanings, and I haven’t felt that in a while, not in the way I used to.
Last weekend, I planted four tulip bulbs in the ground and shared some more from the batch with two dear friends. We agreed to plant them, dry and dead-looking as they were, and encourage each other through the winter and spring. There’s so much that happens just under the surface that you can’t see, after all. Just because you can’t see what’s happening doesn’t mean it’s not happening, right? It takes a great force of faith to envision spring in the midst of winter, to imagine a shoot coming through the cold, dark earth, to know it’s been in process all along. This is the way my spirit wants to operate through my life, even if it’s hard, even if it’s fruitless.
I hope I’m up to it.