Does knowing about the power of first impressions paralyze you? Keep you from starting something new, joining a new group, meeting someone new? I often feel that way. I know I will dump water all over the table, or talk so fast and so much that people will think I’m just strange, or I’m afraid I won’t be able to do the new thing as well as the old thing. Maybe you do what I do, when I am faced with meeting a new neighbor, starting a new blog post or chapter or project–I procrastinate and tell myself all the reasons why I shouldn’t do it quite yet. I had to do all those things this week!
Maybe that’s why revision is my favorite part of writing–all those wonderful words already on the page, just waiting to be improved upon or deleted. Much easier than a blank page and nothing but my own imagination and an Amy Grant CD for company. . . .
The beginning chapter of my upcoming novel has been written, deleted, and re-written MANY times. It’s scary to start something as big as a novel, and all the experts say that publishers will give you five pages–or five paragraphs or five sentences–to convince them they should read more. If not, in the trash it goes, and if you’re lucky, you get acknowledgement in the form of a rejection letter for your trouble (many times, there’s nothing but silence in return). This past week, I faced a potentially even tougher audience! A group of first graders studying fiction wanted to hear my novel’s first chapter. My excitement turned to panic, however, when I looked at chapter one and realized that the “fun part” didn’t start for several pages. Wiggling bottoms, whispering friends, and stern teacher looks filled my imagination. Moved by this sudden dose of reality, I chopped off those first five pages, condensed what they needed to know into two paragraphs, and went to school. We started with a “What if?” game, I read several pages, and there were smiles all around.
But, beginnings are scary. “What if” games are not always fun to play. What if the new neighbor doesn’t like me? What if the new blog post is boring or doesn’t resonate with anyone? What if my new book makes some people angry? Religion in a book for kids can make people squirm–or worse. What if people judge its contents without reading it? My twin sister asked me this week if I was scared, and I have to admit that I am a little. It’s a tough world out there! Writing reveals yourself to people. What if people don’t like what they see?
I’ve realized, however, that the only thing worse than being afraid of new beginnings is to let those fears keep you from ever starting what God has called you to do. In essence, paralyzing fear tells God that we don’t think he can handle our problems–that we don’t trust him to take care of us when he has given us a job to do. What’s the job God gave you? Can he handle it? Like Indiana Jones, who has to take that step into the abyss in order to get to the cup that will help save his father’s life, we also need faith that God can–and will–guide our steps.
Psalm 33:20-21 says, “We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and shield. In him our hearts rejoice, four we trust his holy name.” Amen!