The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. **Mark Twain

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Misunderstood Box

I am not a sports fan type person.  I don't think there's anything wrong with sports or games, but since it was never a part of our family - I don't enjoy competitive games. 

There's one sports image that has come to mind several times lately.  I know nothing about hockey so correct me if I'm wrong.  It seems that while everyone in the game is encouraged to "fight, fight, fight" over a hockey puck, the players are often penalized and forced to sit out the game in a penalty box that looks a lot like a time out corner for a two year old.

While I think it's a good analogy for a parent to teach their own toddlers that "even adults are put in a penalty box if they do something wrong..."  I often feel for the players.  It seems they have to walk a fine line between what their coaches and the spectators are screaming and what the referee is demanding.  Lately I've wondered if the feel like they are "Alone in the misunderstood box".  Perhaps they are thinking, "I did what they wanted and instead of being rewarded, I'm stuck in here."

I'm sure the fear of being shoved into that box is why so many writers quit before they begin.  I admit I am plagued with that fear.  What if I write something important but others don't understand where I'm coming from and are even less willing to ask for clarification?  What if they attack me? 

We have been trained to think negatively about our work.  Editors want us to be our best so they go over our manuscripts with a microscope.  Publishers want to stir the masses but it can't be too far into the negative or the masses will stop buying - so...they scrutinize every viewpoint.  When your piece actually hits the market, passionate souls are poised to throw rocks at your now glass house.  All that's needed to get the fear juices going is to watch a newscaster present a new book in a negative light or find out that some new author is being sued for his/her opinions.

Writing that touches a reader's heart must be felt by the author as well as the reader.  If you don't share your feelings, the reader will get a sense that your writing is flat or bland. 

The path to writing that touches readers is as frightening as walking a tightrope over the grand canyon.  You must share your story, your viewpoint, your wisdom and hope that you are understood.  You must put your life on the stage and hope it doesn't draw tomatoes. 

I don't know about you but I struggle everyday to be sure I have learned the truth.  Can I be trusted to share nuggets of wisdom with those around me?  I listen to a lot of "stars" on the stage who have no idea of truth and consequently are leading others down a dark path.  I hate that.  I don't want to be like that. 

I work and pray and beg God to help me have a voice on stage.  When the moment arrives, I'm excited.  I step to the front and share my story, my life, my wisdom.  I am sure people will "understand" and like what I have to say.  I'm sure that I've worded it right and my purpose is clear.  My editors are sure that it will strike a cord and will be helpful to others. 

When I'm through, the hall is silent.  10, 15, 40 people give me the thumbs up and then quietly walk out of the room.  I smile.  I'm glad.  I was hoping for thunderous applause (what can I say - I'm human) but a thumbs up is nice too.  I accept the fact that not every article or book is going to be a knock it out of the park winner.  I glance down to the second row and watch as someone wrinkles his nose and shakes his head.  Two more join in the opinion.  I feel small.  I listen to their opinions and suddenly I'm being sent to my room...alone and misunderstood.  The things they said weren't right.  They don't know me.  The accusations were completely off base.  It must be my fault.  I didn't write clearly.  I was over dramatic.  I confused the issue.  The walls of the Misunderstood box begin to form and there's no way to fix the problem.  They didn't get my point and I'm helpless.

Alone in this miserable misunderstood box, I begin to question my calling.  I start to wonder if I'm qualified.  I wonder if I have the right to continue.  Maybe I wasn't called at all. can follow this can't you?  You've probably wondered these same things even before you sent the piece in.  Maybe even before you wrote your piece.  What if no one understands what I'm trying to say.  Our world is poised to attack anything they don't understand.  What if they attack me?

Matthew 10: 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

We have a calling to be strong.  We have a calling to tell the truth.  We have a calling to be real and not so pious that no one can relate to us.  We have a calling to make a difference.  You can't make a difference in this sick and needy world unless you are real, honest and bold.

Last week an atheist blew me away about an article I wrote on my Family Tracks blog.  Girl Scouts have been in the news because they are pushing a leftist, atheistic view.  I commented and the attack was ruthless. This week Kyria posted my article Do you see me?  While 45 people liked it, the star rating and the comment section was brutal.  They questioned my life, my marriage, my faith and said I made them uncomfortable.  What should I do?  If I comment back to them I might seem argumentative.  If I leave it alone others might not read the article because it's rated so low.  If I contact my friends for help, I might seem weak and unable to withstand a little criticism.  Alone and miserable in the misunderstood box.

It's a fine line we all walk.  As authors we must be tough as nails.  Why?  Why do we have to stand on that stage, smile at the flying tomatoes and continue to speak?  Because of the one.  Jesus said that the one lost sheep was worth anything the Shepherd had to do to save it. (Luke 15:4-7) In the middle of all the flurry of negative comments, I received one personal e-mail that thanked me for exposing Girl Scouts.  "I was about to allow my daughter to join.  We are devout Christians and she's too young to be attacked by left leaning forces.  Thank you for helping me avoid a problem."

And on the Kyria site, there was one comment in the middle of all the negative.  "So much that it helps me to continue with the good works even though its not appreciated but that someday, somehow , somewhere there's a reward for our good deeds since our God is not a wicked God who will not forget our labour of love.Thanks Kyria for this initiative...keep up the good just might be what somebody needs to get his life back. God Bless you real good for being real about our struggles and the practical solution therein."

That one person is worth all the pain we have to endure to get the message across.   Most writing courses will tell you to have a clear picture of your readers (plural) in mind when you write.  Let me suggest that it's helpful to remember the one reader....the one individual that will connect with what you have to say.  Love that one struggling lost sheep that needs to see your hand of help or hear your message.  And what is that message?  That Jesus is there and is real for every problem, every situation, every issue and moment in our lives.  When we are good and when we struggle - Jesus is there.

I do have a suggestion.  Every author must sit in a quiet lonely room or office and produce work.  That can become a dangerous place to be.  We often see the world through the articles we write.  Be sure you have author friends that you can share struggles with. I hope you will forward or suggest that your writing friends become a part of this blog.  We need to be just as verbal with our support of other writers as we are about the work we show to the world.  I hope all of you who read this blog will consider how important it is to comment, to share and to pray for each other.  We need the support of our friends.  When I wrote a friend and cried on her shoulder - not only did she understand (which took me out of the box) but she prayed and then she re-read the article, commented on the site and sent me a comforting e-mail.  *Sigh*  Thank you God for a wonderful support system.  Thank you for Laura.  I can write again.

God loves you and has called you to write,


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