Ted and Tosca both said things that I've heard before in one form or another, but for some reason, when they said it, it stuck. I'm sure it has something to do with the season I'm in and what God is trying to say to me at this particular moment in my life. It felt like He sent them to speak truth into the deep places of my heart.
The thing that struck me as profoundly beautiful about these two amazing, successful authors is that they know who they are. I hear the phrase "comfortable in their own skin" thrown around a lot, but that really does perfectly describe Ted and Tosca. They have their own style (which involves tattoos and wearing black) that was different from the rest of us at the table, but they didn't make us feel like we weren't cool enough or hip enough to be with them. And they easily could've, because they're very cool people.
|See how cool they are? I may have worn my black shirt in honor of them.|
Instead of being too cool, they intentionally engaged with every single one of us. They wanted to hear our stories, and they loved and encouraged us to the point that we walked away wanting to be more like them in all the ways that matter. (And I may or may not have had daydreams about getting a tattoo) :-) The weird thing about it, though, is that by being true to who they are, they encouraged me to fully embrace who I am. I can't really explain it, but I've felt utterly trapped by the need to meet certain expectations and follow the rules and, if I'm honest, gain approval from people. It's time for me to break free from all that.
Along those lines, the thing Ted said that impacted me the most was this (paraphrased)...
Just put your heart on the page. Find that vein of gold--that place where all the stuff in your heart just flows and tears are streaming down your face because you've found a way to put truth into words. Tell the story of your heart and don't worry about getting published or following the rules.
And Tosca said something along the lines of...
When I write, I have to pretend like no one is ever going to read it. If I worried about what people will think, I'd never get anything written. (I think she actually used the term "literary constipation," which is hilarious).
The whole experience swirled together to create some serious self-evaluation for me. I walked away asking questions like:
Why am I struggling so much with my current story?
What are the deep and true reasons I'm writing?
Why do I want to be published? For real.
How can I figure out how to put my heart on the page?
After lots of prayer and processing, I feel like God gave me a very simple answer. I can't put my heart on the page because I'm not writing the story of my heart. My heart's story for this season is a freedom story, but I abandoned it at the beginning of the year. I had gotten lots of feedback that the concept was too controversial, that it probably wouldn't ever sell. So, I put it away and started on a new, less controversial project. I still like that new story, but I've had to fight through every step along the way. It felt like I was trying to write my way through a brick wall and couldn't for the life of me figure out why it was so difficult. Now, I think it's just not the time for that story. God put a freedom story in my heart, and it's time for me to go back and tell that story with everything I've got, without worrying about if it'll ever sell.
So that's what I'm going to do.
Thanks, Ted and Tosca for being true to who God made you and for speaking life into this writer's heart.