I saw a 2-panel cartoon once describing an author's life. In the first panel a writer is sitting at his typewriter, daydreaming about the celebration and adulation, acclaim and honor he's going to enjoy with his new best-selling book. In the next panel he's begrudgingly tapping out the first chapter after his frazzled wife, with a baby on her hip and 3 more screaming toddlers in tow, has stomped into his office and given him an earful about rent, groceries and late car payments.
Real life can be a downer when you're full of unfulfilled dreams and aspirations.
Especially if you're an author or illustrator trying to get noticed by publishers.
There are those fortunate few with just the right amounts of talent, luck and timing that can pound out a story and hit pay dirt after just a few submission tries. But for the vast majority of us it will be try and fail, try and fail, try and fail for many years before things finally begin to click. Sometimes many decades.
I can remember a particular afternoon so clearly ... sitting in my mom's kitchen breathlessly telling her about some story I had written and how I'd been reading and studying about how to type and submit the manuscript, and all about the publishers I had researched in Writer's Digest. I had it all figured out and was on my way to a great career in writing and illustrating children's books.
But it would be over three decades before I had a published children's book.
Was I not serious enough? Or persistent enough? Maybe I just didn't have a real burning desire to pursue it? Maybe I did it wrong? How could I do it better? Have I wasted my life? Missed my opportunity?
Time gives you perspective. At the beginning of this process it can get discouraging ... all the waiting and wondering. But all these years later, I have the advantage of looking backwards at the path I've been on, and it's not so frustrating any more. While I still have unmet goals and will continue to work towards those, now I know I've been on the exact right path I was supposed to be on. What I couldn't see going forward, I can see when looking back. Even during the years when I wasn't actively engaged in book-related activities, my life experiences were influencing me in ways that have a direct impact on my work today.
Allow me to tell you about a man I know ...
He was born to a family living in abject poverty, but was adopted while still an infant by an aristocratic family. Pampered, spoiled, and surrounded by luxury, he had the finest education and hobnobbed with the elites and influential of society.
Pampered and spoiled children can grow into self-righteous and hot-headed adults. One day as a grown man he witnessed a man treating another unfairly and, instead of alerting the authorities, he took matters into his own hands and murdered the perpetrator.
Too cowardly to face the consequences of his actions, he fled the law, leaving behind his family and aristocratic lifestyle to hide and live among the commoners in another country. He ended up marrying a commoner and took on menial work to support himself and his family.
Can you imagine what thoughts plagued him? What if the law caught up with him? How disappointed was his family? How disappointed was he with himself? With his education and prestige, he surely had some lofty goals and plans for his life. But now he only felt like a failure. A failure who had to constantly look over his shoulder to see if secret sins from his past would find him out. A failure who had missed his opportunites and wasted his life.
He lived with these thoughts of regret and failure for forty years.
Don't despise the slow and seemingly dry and empty years, no matter how long they last. Because those are the years where you are being shaped and molded and prepared for your destiny. There will be things happening inside you and around you – you might not even be aware – and when the season is right, it will all culminate and you will see your purpose and understand the why and how of it all.
Those are the "waiting" years. And to wait well, just get up everyday and tend to the tasks at hand. Do make goals and move towards them. If you want to write or draw or be a doctor ... then practice, study, enroll in school. But don't worry about instant results and don't waste yourself fretting over what has or has not happened yet. Don't try to manipulate circumstances or force life to fit your agenda. In the mundanest of tasks, perform with excellence.
Back to our man's story ...
At the age of eighty, circumstances he could not have anticipated and had no control over crashed into his life and his world was turned upside down. The course of his life suddenly changed directions, and, still filled with crippling self doubt and uncertainty, he proceeded down a path that would complete his destiny and literally change world history.
With the hope to perhaps encourage someone who is getting frustrated while stuck in their own waiting years, in this month's blogs I'd like to share some of the surprising people and things in life that have inspired and influenced me during my own waiting years.
God is not limited by time. He has amazing plans for each of us if only we will get out of His way and submit to Him. I wanted to remind you of the man's story, because it's a perfect picture of this. I say remind you, because we all know who that man is ... his name is Moses.