By Suzanne Bratcher
December 20, five days until Christmas. The waiting is almost over! Then come the gifts. Right? Waiting isn’t a gift: waiting is the time before the Big Event.
For most writers, the Big Event is publication of their debut novel. Everything that comes before is waiting. I felt called to be a fiction writer when I was nine years old. I expected to step into that call after I graduated from college. But instead of being twenty-two when my debut novel was published, I was sixty-eight. I waited forty-six years for the Big Event! When Mantle Rock Publishing released The Copper Box six months ago, my friends congratulated me on my persistence. But maybe the gift of those years of waiting wasn’t persistence; maybe it was trust.
I first experienced waiting as a gift in a doctor’s office. I have Multiple Sclerosis, a disease of the central nervous system. While each case is unique, chronic debilitating fatigue is the most difficult symptom to live with. As I waited for my appointment, I was too tired to scan emails on my cellphone, too tired to read the eBook I’d brought, too tired even to think about my WIP. I was almost too tired to stay upright. That day the doctor was running later than usual, but I didn’t notice. I was sitting in a comfortable chair in a quiet room with nothing required of me. I never doubted my turn would come. I simply waited. When the nurse came to get me, she apologized for the delay, but I felt like thanking her. I felt rested and ready to deal with the appointment. The wait had been a gift.
We know God works for our good when we love him and when we’re called according to his purpose. Now as I look back on the forty-six years I thought I was waiting for my turn to come, I see God working to give me the gifts I needed for writing fiction. During thirty years of teaching, I found my voice writing professional articles, poetry, short stories, and two textbooks. I honed my critique skills as I helped student writers improve. During seven years of attending conferences to learn the craft of fiction, I met multi-published writers who encouraged me and shared their expertise. During three years waiting to find an agent and then a publisher, I caught a glimpse of the business side of writing before I had to jump into the fray. As I look back, I don’t see persistence. I see God teaching me to trust His call.
Most of the time, I’m able see God’s hand more clearly in the past than in the present. These days I’m learning to trust God with my writing each day. MS is a highly unpredictable disease, both in the progression of disability and from day to day. Energy comes and goes without warning. Some days I’m able to write for two or even three hours, some days for fifteen minutes, some days not at all. None of the popular strategies for getting a book done (write every day, keep writing until you reach a set number of words, schedule a time for your writing) work with MS. Each day I wait, not for the Big Event, but for energy to keep following the call. Each day I’m deeply grateful for the gift of waiting: trust.
What about you? What are you waiting for in your writing journey? What are you learning to trust God for along the way? Whatever it may be, I wish you a joyful and blessed Christmas.
Suzanne Bratcher read a biography of Louisa May Alcott in third grade and has been writing ever since. When she’s not chasing characters in her head, she reads, quilts, and plays with her cats, Scamp and Mini Pearl. She’s an enthusiastic champion of the power nap. Visit Suzanne at www.suzannebratcher.com