~~ 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) ~~ For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
by Carley Cooper
We’re working on habit number thirteen in the 15 Habits of Great Writers challenge. Just to recap for those new to this series, so far the habits we’ve talked about are: Declare, Believe, Initiate, Practice, Prepare, Steal, Start Ugly, Build, Connect, Share Others Work, Declutter, and Provoke.
The next habit of great writers, our challenge host, Jeff Goins, tells us is to Publish. OK, seriously; Goins has finally thrown a challenge at me that I can’t do right now. At least, not in full. All the other tests, I had either already done, or I did it when asked to do (and got great devotional messages to prove it). This task, isn’t quite so quick at being completed. He says “The amateur doesn’t understand this. And let’s be honest: There’s a bit of amateur in all of us, isn’t there? We struggle with this discipline of sharing our work. All because of the most potent enemy of art: fear.”
It’s human nature to fear the unknown. We’re afraid of everything; even success half the time. Goins tells us to stretch ourselves. Get over it already and share the fruits of our labour! We are to publish something; and it needs to be more than another blog post. It should be a manuscript, article, ebook; something. Anything. However, all my works are incomplete. I have my ‘big’ manuscript project half done. Actually, I’m thinking more than half, but that, in itself, probably tells me that it’s half or less! I have no doubt that there’s more to this than meets the eye. Anyway, I have another that will likely be an ebook, that is also not completed. Another ebook started; and several ideas for more. But nothing that is far enough along to publish.
Is this really the fear he’s talking about? I wasn’t really thinking about this as fear of sharing. I really thought it was about not being finished my projects yet. As I sit here on my couch with my laptop in front of me working on this blog post, I’m learning a lesson. It seems that part of my anxiety is indeed about fear. Wow! Who knew?! Goins was right. Good job, Dude! Thanks for helping. Oh and as a side note, congrats on being a new daddy!
God has led me through so much, and fear is just one of those things. I am a survivor in so many ways, and I have the SurvivorsVoices support group to prove it. I’ve learned that if I am to be a success then I have to wait for God’s leading. Conquering the ghosts is only half the problem. As much as I’ve over come, and I am proud of myself for those accomplishments, I still have a lot more to achieve and learn. I can defeat anything with God’s help. I will publish, when His timing says it is so.
As it’s turned out, this challenge is a two part trial. First part, kicking fear habit. Secondly, following God as He leads me to share my work. When that day happens, and I can share my completed work I will shout it from the rooftops; and write an awesome devotional message about it. I am confident that it is not too far away. In the mean time, so I don’t keep kicking myself for not completing a challenge, and to take that first step outside of my comfort zone... which is always the first thing God will have us do when we are growing... I will tell you a few things about my manuscript. As it stands right now:
- The title is Cocoa with Jesus (there may be some slight adjustment to that later such as Drinking Cocoa with Jesus, or I Drank Cocoa with Jesus.)
- It is the story of my life
- It is divided into four parts (the book, not my life)
- The first 3 parts are to provide information that will help others in similar situations, and help readers understand the story of my life
- The first part is about mental illness
- The second part is about abuse
- The third part is about how it feels (the mental illness and abuse). This part is important as it will tie in with the very end of the book. It will show how it felt to finally be released and into the arms of Jesus.
- The forth part is my story.
It was sometime early 2007, and I was on the phone with Paul. So, ‘Who’s he’, you ask? Well, our relationship falls somewhere between friends and ex’s. We’re not together any more; that ship has long since sailed, but we have managed to salvage a friendship. As usual, we were laughing our way through our conversation. For years, we even giggled our way through many of our arguments. Of course, there were lots of discussions that were nowhere near as warm and fuzzy as this one. As a matter of fact there were times when we practically clobbered each other over the head to get a point across.
This particular day, I was talking to him, yet again, about ‘the book’. It is the same book that I had talked about to him for years. The book, that ‘maybe I’ll write some day’. I hit a nerve with him. He said to me, in a rather stern and snappy voice, “Carley you have to shut up talking about this book and either write it or give up the idea”.
He called me “Carley” even though that is not my given name. I told him how I had always wanted a nickname. I always thought it showed ‘extra love’. I’m not even sure that I really knew what that idea meant. I just always knew that women who were called “Honey”, “Sweet Pea”; or “Baby” by their mates, or even parents, had something special that I did not have. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out what that missing bond could be, but I wished my whole life that I could have it. Paul came up with a myriad of pet names, but “Carley” was the main one; and it really did make me feel special. After a while, though, others picked up on it too; and it stuck. Though the real ‘glue’ didn’t take affect with others until after we broke up. I didn’t want to let it go. I missed hearing it all the time. Suddenly “Carla” seemed all wrong. So I made a point of reminding people that all my friends call me “Carley”. Not that I really had many friends at that time in my life, but I’ll get around to that later. Though, I wasn’t aware of it at the time, God’s was leading me; and it would come to symbolize so much more than just a simple nick name.
We finished our conversation; I hung up the phone and thought to myself “Huh. I wonder who rattled his cage this morning? He didn’t have to snap at me.”
Then it hit me. “Oh my gosh, he’s right. He is so right. I have to make a decision. Do I really want to write this book about my life?”
There was only one answer. “Yes. Yes, I do want to write this book. So I am making the decision right here, right now that I am going to write a book about my life.”
“OK, so I’m writing a book. Now what? If I’m doing it, I’m doing it right. There’s not going to be any half hearted, unprofessional type work.”
I thought for a minute. I realized the first step was to pray about it. I didn’t know why this was the first step, but I knew it was. God was whispering to me again. I didn’t have a relationship with Him yet; but I have learned, since, that God has always been by my side guiding me. I just had to learn to listen to Him. I’ve also learned that unless God is at the center of everything in my life, as the most important priority; things won’t work out in my favor.
So I said a prayer to God, and found myself being completely surprised at what I heard coming out of my mouth:
“Dear God, please help me write this book. Please make it a book that will; one, show Your awesome grace and glory through the telling of my story of...”
Then, I got stuck. My first thought was “triumph over tragedy.” However, I knew if I asked for “tragedy” than I would likely get it. How did I know this? God was telling me. Somewhere inside me I knew that God is faithful and loyal to the very last detail. “Tragedy”, I decided, was much too strong a word. I need a new word. What word? Then it hit me... “Trauma!” I figured trauma is hard times, but not as bad as a tragedy. I mean, tragedy is terrible, awful things... people dying, getting cancer, kids getting hurt... really dreadful stuff. I didn’t want to write a book so badly that people would have to go through that kind of thing; especially if it was going to be my fault.
So I continued with my prayer, “Dear God, make my book a story that will show Your awesome grace and glory through my story of triumph over trauma. Secondly, make it a story that will help people with mental illness see that there is hope. Thirdly, help those who live with people with mental illness gain information and understanding that will help their lives and relationships. Fourth, help relieve some of the stigma that the public has about mental illness. The stigma against mental illness makes living with it much harder than it needs to be. Next, that it would be therapy for me. I pray these things in Jesus name, AMEN.”
One day all will be revealed; every thought, word, and deed. I thought that, if I tell my story now, the hardest things will be revealed in circumstances that I get some say about. Plus, if I keep my heart in the right place, I figured, it could help a lot of people at the same time. A story; a true story, that is a good testimony with the potential of helping people and leading others to Jesus cannot be told by leaving out bad things or keeping secrets; especially to have goals, such as mine, be met efficiently. As I thought about some of the details in my life and how I felt about them I realized that there was a lot of pain and frustration underlying it all. I was fearful of hurting those I love the most; and very worried of letting them down or disappointing them in some way. I was also troubled that it might end up sounding like someone who was simply lashing out in anger toward the world. This was absolutely not the story I wanted to tell the world. Deep inside, I knew that this is actually God’s story; and writing it without Him is impossible. I wanted my story to show believers and non-believers, alike, the reality that is God, and that Jesus is alive today and He loves each and every one of us that believes in Him.
So, later with all this in mind, I also asked God to please help me tell this story, all of it; in a way that will not hurt those I love the most. Then, the final thing I prayed for was that He would lead me to the people that I would need in my life to complete this project.Little did I know at that point how much work there was to preparing to write this book; and I don’t just mean studying and learning about the writing process. First, there was work to be done on and inside me. God had an incredible plan to let that happen. I was about to take an amazing life-altering journey; one that would be worth writing about!
Over the next couple of years or so I came up with ideas, and made stacks of notes and plans. I learned later, as well, that nothing we will ever do that means getting close to God or doing His work will be done without interference from Satan. Then, right on cue, the enemy started to influence my thinking because I started to doubt myself. I wondered “Should I really be doing this? Is it just a pipe dream that will never come to be? I don’t have professional writing education? Is this beyond me? Will anyone want to read it? If they do, will they take me seriously, or just laugh at me?”
Then, also right on cue, God sent me confirmations to ensure me that writing my story is the right decision. He did that by sending people to tell me as much. Within a two week period in the summer of 2009, I had several people suggest to me that I should be writing a book about my life; because, they said, it would inspire others. None of these people knew that I had already hoped to do that, or that others had told me the same thing. Not only that, but I felt that all these individuals were in such positions in life that I should, no doubt, highly respect their opinions. God didn’t stop there, though, with the encouragement. I started writing blogs; and the followers were loving what I was writing. I heard, all the time, how much I inspired people, and that I had a true gift for writing.
As I think back, now, on the story that would have been told if I had started writing back when the decision was first made; I realize that it would have been the hashing out of a lot of pain, hurting everyone that I love, and accomplishing nothing that would help people or lead them to God. The journey that I’ve been through since the day I made the decision to turn my dream into a reality, has made this a vastly different story. Now, it’s a story about God. One by one, God erased all the uncertainties in my mind.
After those first couple of years writing notes, life started to get busy; which was a great excuse to use for the following two years as to why I wasn’t actually sitting down writing my manuscript. Remember those people that I asked God to put in place to help me? Well, the next one to help me entered the scene. It was my friend, and author, Brenda Wood, who contacted me after she read one of my blogs where I mentioned, for what was likely the 5,267th time, about this book that I intend on writing. Her email told me about a writing challenge that she was entering. She suggested that I also join this challenge and write my book… in one month! Next month, November! But that wasn’t all of it. See it was only about four days until the end of the month.
I immediately came up with a list of reasons why this was not possible. “I’m not ready”, I said. “It’s way too soon. I have much more preparation, reading and research to do.”
“Forget all that stuff”, she said. “Just start writing. Worry about all that later.”God was telling my heart that “It’s time to stop puttering around and making excuses. It’s time to get started.”
“OK, Lord”, I said. “I’ll do it, but I need Your help. I need You to tell me what to write. I cannot do this on my own.”
I spent the next few days reading, planning and preparing as best as I could for the start date. I started writing on November 1, 2011. By the 30th I had met, and surpassed, the challenge goal of fifty thousand words. I was declared one of the winners; even though my first draft wasn’t finished, but I kept on writing.
As I held the certificate that I was given, it hit me “I am a writer. I’m a real writer! Thank You, Lord.” I have to say that this was an incredible shock to me. It never would have been a career choice that I would have ever chosen for myself. God led me to this path, and now that I’m here I can’t imagine being anywhere else. Way to many writers, poets, artists, musicians, pastors, and even truck drivers don’t ever have the courage to chase their dreams, let alone share their gift, to change lives with it. I’ve learned that the first step in achieving a dream, is to acknowledge that you have it. How can others believe it about me, if I don’t believe it myself? This was an important lesson. I am a writer. The next step is to trust God, and jump! If you don’t land where you expect, that’s OK, because He will catch you and set you down in a place that is awesome. I am honored to be given the opportunity to share my words with you. I hope my story, and my words, touch your heart and help you.
Well, now that it’s time to start telling you about my life, where do I even begin? It sounds rather corny, or maybe it sounds more like common sense. Sometimes, I’m not sure there’s a difference; but “at the beginning” keeps coming to mind.
~~ Dear God ~~ Thank You for the journey that You lead each of us on, that brings us closer to You each and every day. Thank You for loving me enough to want to change me and help me grow. You are always me protecting me. I have no reason to fear. In Jesus name, AMEN.
Here is a PDF of the Survivor Voices manual if you would like to know more. Click here. [You need a PDF viewer installed on your computer to read]