There’s a common belief around that if God wants you to do something he’ll open the doors for you. Conversely, if he doesn’t want you to do it, he’ll shut them.
If this is true, I’m not sure God’s met many writers.
Perhaps I’ve understood it wrong all these years, but the idea seems to be that if everything works out smoothly and easily, it’s obviously God’s will. If it’s not that simple, perhaps he’s saying ‘no’.
Since day dot I’ve wanted to be a writer. But to do it, I’ve had to beat down a lot of doors and find alternative entrances. Sometimes I’ve even had to sneak under fences and scratch through bushes to get in.
Take for example, my novel Invisible. To even find the time to write it, I had to seriously reorganize my life and make difficult choices about not mopping floors and such. (Actually, that particular decision probably wasn’t that difficult…) More than not, putting the words onto the screen felt like torture. If I’d been using a pen I would have tried to poke my own eyes out. (It’s not so easy to do that kind of damage with a keyboard.)
Once it was written, the really hard work began. Agents didn’t bother replying to my query letters. The manuscript was rejected by every Australian publisher except one and every rejection was like a punch in the stomach. The publisher who didn’t reject it, didn’t accept it. But they did suggest I rewrite it. So I did that. Twice. Then they said, ‘yes, we like it’ and then they said, ‘sorry, no, we don’t’.
A year after I’d finished it, it looked like Invisible was done for. In desperation I decided to do what I then considered the unthinkable - publish it myself. So I did the work and put it out there for free on all the places you can download e-books.
At that point all I could see was the closed doors and the very large sledgehammer I was wielding.
And then I started to feel guilty.
Should I be spending all this time writing?
In fact, should I be writing fiction at all? Was it just a vanity thing? Did God really want me to be doing something else? Like sticking to Christian non-fiction. Or starting an orphanage. Or working against climate change. Or maybe just doing a better job of organizing Sunday School.
But then, people started to download and read Invisible. And the letters started to come in.
For one girl with dyslexia, it was the first book she’d ever read start to finish. For another, it gave her courage to stand up and find her own voice. One 70 year old woman told me it opened up old wounds from her childhood but in a healing way.
And then a Christian teenager who had been struggling for a long time read it with her dad. She loved it so much that she went out and bought a journal to write down her feelings in, just like the main character, Jazmine. When she brought it home, she turned it over to see that the name ‘Jasmine’ was written on the back.
“I think that’s God saying that He’s with you,” said her dad. I think he was right.
That email was important for me. It means God is using my work and my writing, even though I haven’t been sure about it and even despite the many locked and bolted doors.
So I feel affirmed. And I’ll also continue to break down barriers and find ways to do what I’m passionate about, even if it seems like the doors aren’t wide ‘open’.
(Actually, I’m always telling my kids to shut the doors because they let in the flies and mosquitoes. Perhaps there’s something in that…)
Cecily Paterson is the author of the award-winning memoir Love Tears & Autism and is currently working on her third novel for young teenage girls.