Thursday, November 23, 2017

Like Waiting for Rain in a Drought



In our culture, I think it's easy to get the idea that fame and fortune is the ultimate measure of success. Especially for writers, artists, musicians and others in creative professions and hobbies. If you're not getting accolades, and if your target audience don't recognise your name, some might suggest you're not doing the 'platform' thing properly. The juicy carrot is always dangling a few inches beyond your reach. Yet you assume the goal of fame must be achievable, because you see others in your same field taking great, crunchy bites of their own magnificent carrots. Sometimes that encourages you to never give up, and other times, if you're honest, it makes you envious because the quality of their offerings seems to be no better (or maybe even worse) than yours.

Many of us are probably familiar with the author Julia Cameron, who helped several creative people break out of their non-productive ruts with her book, 'The Artist's Way.' She suggests that longing for fame feels a bit like waiting for rain in a drought. 'We keep squinting toward the horizon, jealous of our luckier neighbours and dissatisfied with our own condition,' she says. Her words gave me funny images of Elijah asking his servant, 'Can you see anything yet?'

Can you imagine this? After several fruitless looks, the young man replies, 'Yes, there are a couple of new reviews on Goodreads and a slight increase in your Amazon sales ranking.'

Well, we know what happened in the Bible. Elijah and his servant rushed out in order to beat the soaking deluge they'd already predicted to King Ahab. So in our analogy, we grasp these measly signs and push on, trying to prepare ourselves for the downpour of sales, ads, notoriety and money we hope will follow. But maybe in our case, the small cloud will just waft away. 'Hey,' we complain. 'That's not what happened with Elijah!'

Julia Cameron goes on to muse that our culture has taught us to think of fame as a necessary by-product, but she also suggests that it's full of empty calories with no nutritional value. We are taught even by some Christian media moguls to keep seeking the amazing breakthrough, after which our lives will be abundantly blessed. But we need only look at the sad revelations, not to mention several premature deaths, of many celebrities who seemed to have it all to see that fame is not all it's cracked up to be.

'Not all artists will lead public lives,' Cameron goes on to say. 'Many of us as talented as those who fame strikes may toil out our own days in relative anonymity.' And that's okay, because it may not even be healthy for us. I'm reminded of another article, this time written by Ann Voskamp, in which she argues convincingly that the human soul isn't really even designed for fame.

So this sort of message encourages us to make sure we're listening to our Creator rather than our culture. Keeping in mind how easy it is to get the two mixed up may be a key to help. I appreciate anything that may clear my mind in this confusing world where we're brought up not to be attention seekers as children, and then later, chastised for not seeking attention in the adult world of self-promotion. Let's enjoy any praise and accolades that come our way, but not at the cost of forgetting to stay focused on the main thing. If our love for God, others, and the joy of our work is what drives us, then our lives are full of what matters most regardless of the fame and attention we're receiving from other people.

Paula Vince is a South Australian author of contemporary, inspirational fiction. She lives in the beautiful Adelaide Hills, with its four distinct seasons, and loves to use her environment as settings for her stories. Her novel, 'Picking up the Pieces' won the religious fiction section of the International Book Awards in 2011, and 'Best Forgotten' was winner of the CALEB prize the same year. She is also one of the four authors of 'The Greenfield Legacy', Australia's first and only collaborated Christian novel. Her most recent novel, 'Imogen's Chance' was published April 2014. For more of Paula's reflections, you may like to visit her book review blog, The Vince Review.
 


20 comments:

  1. Loved your post Paula and so beautifully written. Chuckled over your humour too. So true... success by God's standards are vastly different to what the world thinks is success, that's for sure! It's tempting at times to be swayed by the world's accolades though it's the Father's Well done that should drive us. Love what you say that we need to listen to our Creator than our culture. A definite must if we are to do as God asks and if we are to bring Him glory! Thanks Paula.

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Anusha. As you say, the Father's 'Well Done' is the main thing, and it can come in many different ways that look nothing like the world's, 'Well Done.'

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  2. Thanks Paula. A great reminder to follow our God, not the god of this world. Our culture is growing alarmingly corrupt at speed. We are called to be light in the midst not go with the flow. Great post

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    1. Thanks Jo. The scary thing is that it's so easy to swept along in the tide, because even Christians so often forget to separate God's priorities from the world's. You're absolutely right.

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    2. Agree with you Jo. Eyes on God is a good place to view His love for us.

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  3. Thanks Paula. Your writing came along just at the time I needed it. I was feeling low because so few people turned up for my author talk and the Lord sent me a gentle reminder through you. God Bless!

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    1. Sorry to hear you didn't get many people, Hazel, but you never know how your words may have spoken to the people who were there and hopefully they'll tell their friends. I really enjoyed 'Heaven Tempers the Wind'. Take care

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    2. I agree with Nola, Hazel. I'm so sorry that only a few people turned up for your talk. Always disappointing. And yet - who knows what those who came took away and the ripple effect of that Hazel. God's often reminded me that numbers don't matter in the big scheme of things. Ah.. heaven's perspective is a wonderful thing. :) May your writing continue to bless others. Well done Hazel!

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    3. Hi Hazel, I'm sorry to hear about the small turn-out, but agree with what the others have said. Sometimes small turn-outs have been the start of great, although maybe hidden things. I'm sure many of us can relate. I sure can. And I'm glad this blog post encouraged you when you needed it.

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  4. Great post, Paula. I've read a few chapters of Julia Cameron's book and loved it, but somehow didn't get back to it. I must try to finish it. I think it was just that I got so much out of those first few chapters that I had to ponder it for a while. I love the thought of Elijah's servant saying, 'Yes, there are a couple of new reviews on Goodreads and a slight increase in your Amazon sales ranking.' LOL

    It's easy to focus on all of those 'successful' people out there, but in God's scheme of things, being faithful to what He's called us to do is the most important thing. Thanks for the reminder :)

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    1. Hi Nola, it certainly is a book in which you can take breaks to stop and think. I've gleaned a lot from her wise words at different stages, and will probably keep returning. And yes, any little reminder to help us keep being faithful may be all we need.

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  5. Thanks so much, Paula, for this wonderful article wrapped in thoughtful truths and reminders. Loved your analogies and humour. We really do need to chill as authors and not feel gloomy because others are ahead in some way.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, I love the way you put that. Yes, if we take time to chill and keep our eyes off comparisons and statistics, we might find things flow a lot easier :) I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

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  6. Thanks for a great post, Paula. I too loved the analogy of looking at the stats. Some good points about fame - and how unfulfilling it can be. I'd love my books to get into the hands and kindles of readers - not so enamoured about the whole fame thing. But in the end, it is God who gives the increase. It's a good reminder to rest in Him more, though never an excuse, I think, to sit idle and do nothing.

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    1. Hi Jenny, yes definitely, if we can do the work, including the promotional side of things, and trust God for any increase instead of getting tied up in knots over it, that's probably a pretty good place to be. It's also good to keep in mind that several people who have achieved fame have reported that it's not all it's cracked up to be for its own sake. Food for thought.

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  7. Thanks Paula, Loved 'The Artists Way'. Your post reminded me about 'the audience of One'. It's a hard line, wanting to influence our culture, striving for those empty calories, and yet we are dealing with so much resistance to our message.

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    1. Hi Raelene, yes definitely, the Audience of One is something to always keep before us for peace of mind. However the balancing act can feel so tricky, for the reasons you say. Impacting hearts and influencing our culture are great ideals, but sometimes there's nothing we can do but leave it to God to determine our reach.

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  8. Thank you Paula �� I haven't yet read The Artist's Way, but now I know I must. I loved reading your post, as always, but this one truly resonated with me. I love what I do each day, and the older I get the more I appreciate just being me. Love your humour and crunchy analogies.

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    1. Hi Jo'Anne, I'm sure you'd appreciate The Artist's Way, as Julia Cameron encourages us with a beneficial habit and mindset in each chapter. I think being grounded with love for God and our work really is the main thing, and the rest is just sugar on top :)

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    2. Thanks Paula :-)
      This could be a good book to read over the holiday period.

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