Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Owls, moles and a new door by Sue Russell

I confess to breaking one of the ten commandments.
I am a sinner, of course. But I have tried to honour my father and mother; I attempt to keep the Sabbath holy; and I have not (that I know of) bowed down to idols, murdered, thieved or lusted after my neighbour's husband (nice chap though he is.)
What I have done is rather less tabloid-worthy, and more mean-spirited - to my shame. I have coveted: not my neighbour's new car, not his cellar full of wine, not even his roses free of aphids. I have coveted the success of others, specifically the success of other writers. Thinking about this I realise that I have not actually begrudged them their day of glory - not at all. I have applauded them and wished them well. I know that in many cases they have worked long and hard, honed their craft, studied the market, endured setbacks, disappointments and failure. Some are superb networkers, brilliant at publicity and marketing. They deserve their success. For those of us who are working for God's glory (all of us, in one way or another) the success of one is the success of all, and we should all be cheering: as I see others do, and I do myself.
Why is it, then, seeing others succeed, that I can so often feel such a wave of discouragement and hopelessness? What causes me to ask 'Why do I bother?' and 'What's the point?' If I am truly working for God's glory rather than my own should I not be doing what he has asked of me to the best of my ability and leaving the outcome to him? I should, and I do - but sometimes I wonder if I do so only because I don't really have the choice to do otherwise. Giving up was never an option: writing is part of who I am, and without it I would be less myself and certainly more miserable.
So what is the problem? Is it just that I am sinfully desiring things I shouldn't? Or is it simpler, a longing for a drip-feed of encouragement to keep me going?
You write your novel (or whatever your WIP may be), using the ideas that come to you and such skills as you have. You edit and polish it within an inch of its life, and ask trusted readers to comment. When it emerges into public view, for a while there's a ripple of interest, people buy copies, some enthuse, some even post a review. And then it all goes dead.
Is this your experience? I wonder, if you are doing better (and I know some are) perhaps you could offer me some insights.
Meanwhile, don't let's forget that many, maybe most, of us are battling away unseen and unsung. Let's offer encouragement where we can: reading each other's work, and then reviewing or some other form of feedback. How else are we to learn to do better? There are those who like my work, but they are the only ones I know about, because they've told me, and I am very thankful  - to both of them. (I jest, of course - surely there are more than two?)
While in the confessional, I admit to a ridiculous tendency to self-dramatise. At a particularly low point I decided that my epitaph should read: SHE HOPED FOR AN OWL, BUT ALL SHE GOT WAS MOLES. (For clarification, read my blog - in short, I have been hoping for the barn owl to return to our garden in France, and equally fervently wishing that the moles currently so rampant in the same garden would pack their bags and leave!)

I realise all too well how these admissions make me look: nasty, petty and stupid. I can only hope that honesty at least may strike a chord with you.
As I write, here we are at our crumbling pile in France, awaiting the installation of a new front door. The old one has been here a lot longer than we have - fourteen years - and is rotting from the bottom up. Daylight can be seen through various holes, the glass is cracked, and it is neither draught-proof nor secure.  Doors, of course, have a symbolism of which we are all aware: they close, keeping the world and the weather out, but they also open, letting in the air and the view. I will try, with God's help, to keep the door of my spirit open - to his gracious guidance, even in the face of my foot-stamping truculence, and to hope. May it spring eternal.

The old door.

Sue writes as S.L.Russell and has published five novels from a Christian point of view: Leviathan with a Fish-hook, The Monster Behemoth, The Land of Nimrod, A Shed in a Cucumber Field and And Iron Yoke. A sixth is almost finished in draft.


  1. Hi Sue. This is a familiar feeling. I'm not sure you are actually guilty of breaking the 10th commandment - you don't want what they have, just people to read your books as much as theirs. Well, that's what I tell myself when I read successful authors and dream.
    And I guess most of us would be envious of you. Having 18 reviews for 'The Iron Yoke' on Amazon puts you fairly well up the pecking order. And as for having a house in France - even one with a broken door... So that might make me the greater sinner!
    Have fun with your sixth and more to come.
    PS. You've got me to buy 'The Iron Yoke' ebook. It's comparatively expensive - maybe bringing the cost down would help. I don't know, I'm no marketing expert.

    1. Thank you for your comment, Trevor - and for downloading 'Yoke.' You have made my day. Sadly I am not in control of pricing. Amazon do their own thing - just lately they have put the price of each of my books up by £1. I am not impressed.I hope you enjoy the read and would be delighted to know what you think.

  2. Sue I love, love, love this post! So honest and well explained. That is exactly how I feel at the moment, as though my writing must be second-class although deep down I know this is not how God and certain valued others see it. As for your writing I have greatly enjoyed all your books and am looking forward to the next one. Meanwhile, let's resolve, if we ever achieve our dream (whatever that may be) to remember how this feels and to determinedly encourage others. Such a great post. Will definitely reread...

  3. Deborah, you are a great encourager and I am thankful for your words. I try to comment on the work of others, however briefly, but I am sure there are many I have neglected. Yes, let's be determined to be encouragers. It's a fair bet there are many who feel as we often do.

  4. I suspect we all suffer moments of doubt - some worse than others. You don't covet the success of others as much as need some positive feedback from time to time. And isn't that permissible? Isn't that normal? Doesn't everybody need to know occasionally that they are on the right track, whatever road they might be on. It isn't just creative types who need that, but people from the tiny tot leaning to walk, to the top athlete, from the chef in the local cafe, to the business mogul running a national chain of shops. Your honesty is refreshing - enlightening - it is also hopeful. You say what so many of us feel and that lets us voice our own doubts and fears. Thanks for a helpful, thoughtful post.

  5. It's all perspective, isn't it? When I'd published one article, I was jealous of those who'd published two. When I'd published two, I was jealous of ..... you know where this is going. You have published so much and I certainly loved your Shed book, which Deborah J recommended to me.

  6. Thank you, Fran: I appreciate your comments.

  7. Sue, you don't look 'nasty, petty and stupid' - just human. Envy is my besetting sin too - it comes from being Enneagram Type 4! (the Romantic - each type has its own shadow side). Of course we want the success others have. I want to be the female Adrian Plass, but I'm not, and I would have to put in too much work to become that (and even then, probably not make it). All we need to do is be honest to God and others about our feelings.

  8. Thanks, Veronica. Honesty I can probably do!