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Keep On Writing—You Don’t Know What’s Happening Backstage

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Hutchmoot for the first time. For people involved with the Rabbit Room, an organization that celebrates, enlightens, and encourages Christians in the creative arts, Hutchmoot is the mecca of everything we hold dear.

There are presentations that engage with art in meaningful, enlightening ways, times to create with each other, delicious feasts, musical performances, and so much more.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the experience. I attended Hutchmoot online in 2020 and 2021 when it went virtual because of the pandemic, but I had questions about how the conference would work in an in-person format. I knew I would see many friends from previous gatherings and had a few meetups planned.

But one big thing happened that I did not anticipate.

I had been at Hutchmoot for maybe 20 minutes when this guy came up to me with a look of recognition and a finger pointed outward at me. “You—” he said. “You’re that girl in the video!”

I did a double-take. “Sorry?”

“You know. The video. The thing on Instagram about writing. Yeah! That’s it! You’re the Inkling girl!”

You could have dubbed in a record scratch noise here. Had my fame preceded me? Someone knew who I was?

Stunned, I thanked the guy and told him I appreciated him checking out my content.

It wasn’t just that guy. Throughout the evening, as I was greeting fellow attendees, I met a few other people who were familiar with Inkling. They had enjoyed my Instagram content, read my weekly newsletter, and regularly checked out my blog posts.

The following day, I was grabbing some coffee when another guy came up to me. He told me that he’d done a free consultation with me about a year and a half earlier and that our conversation had solved a major plot problem he’d been experiencing.

I was totally overwhelmed.

Most artists work in little silos, engaging with people online but largely writing and creating content alone. Every day, I go into my small home office, which is made even smaller by three bookshelves and my big, century-old oak desk, and write, work on client projects, and do the general work of running a business. I go on Zoom meetings to connect with clients and potential clients, where people see the Inkling logo on a sign over my desk.

I do this day after day, powered by prayer, coffee, punk rock and country music, and faith.

To step into a physical space with real people and hear their stories of how what I’m doing has impacted them was powerful. It showed that even though I largely show up to do this alone, real people benefit from my work.

We never know who is coming into contact with what we create.

That’s why we have to keep on writing.

That’s why we need to keep showing up.

When Showing Up is Hard

I understand that “keep on writing” sounds like some pat motivational axiom you’d seen on a social media graphic—like “keep calm and write on.”

That’s not my intention here. I hate that crap.

The main reason I hate it is that those phrases oversimplify the task of “keeping on writing,” as if being a successful writer is just a matter of brushing aside the rest of your life, putting your butt in a chair, and throwing down words.

We all know that’s not real.

Take what I just said about my own work day. Before I walk into my office and sit at my century-old desk (which sounds way more romantic than it actually is), there are other things I do.

I lie in bed and stare at the ceiling fan, debating about how much stuff I really have to do today so I know whether sleeping for another hour is an option. (This is indeed one of the perils of being an entrepreneur in a company where you are the sole employee.)

I sit at the table and drink a lot of coffee.

I get dragged into phone conversations that probably don’t need to happen.

I spend about twenty minutes deciding what to listen to on Spotify.

I’m not saying this stuff because I’m trying to make myself sound human or something. It’s just what’s real, and I know if I’m experiencing it, then you are, too.

For some reason, nearly every creative person I’ve met is fantastic at being a procrastinator. I think we do this because although being creative doesn’t seem like an urgent matter to us, we aren’t aware that somewhere, someone is paying attention.

That’s the thing about writing at this unique time—when we share work online, we open up conversations. But because little heart emojis and “likes” are the currency of online communication, we often don’t get more evidence of an active audience than that.

What if we knew people were watching for our blog posts, newsletters, fan fiction, stories, or whatever you put online?

Would that impact the way we show up? Would “keep on writing” become less of a vague motivational slogan and more of a reality?

The Degree of Uncertainty in a “Keep Writing” Attitude

You might be thinking, “Okay, but how do I know for sure that people are reading my stuff? I can’t afford to go to a conference, and while I’ve heard of tools where you can track engagement with your content, I don’t know how to work that stuff. And I can’t afford that either.”

It’s fine. Those things aren’t required.

What is required is a certain amount of faith that as you put work out there, even as you work on something that isn’t ready to be shared yet and won’t be for some time, it will find its way to the person who needs it.

In biblical language, we call this providence. God is constantly behind the scenes doing things that we aren’t aware of and don’t even think about. And here’s the kicker—He cares about art.

That means He is deeply interested not just in what you’re making and how the process impacts you, but He also cares about who will eventually become the audience.

I need to think about this fact more often. If I did, maybe I’d lie in bed less, be less concerned about Spotify, or drink less coffee.

(Yeah, not that last one, but still.)

We might be unaware of how it will happen, but your efforts aren’t just going to go nowhere. Not unless you consciously decide to short-circuit your project.

I learned something really interesting about this at Hutchmoot. Did you know that Vincent van Gogh sold one painting during his lifetime?

Not one of many paintings.

Just one.

Yet, we all know his work. He’s considered one of the most brilliant creative individuals of all time, not just a great painter. People stand in line to catch a glimpse of his original works in museums.

But he sold one painting.

I wouldn’t call myself a Dr. Whovian by any stretch of the imagination, but it makes me think of this clip, which emotionally destroys me every time I watch it:

We really don’t know what’s going on backstage.

Okay . . . So What Do I Do Now?

That’s the thing. I don’t have a list of advice for you. I don’t have any keyword-loaded subheadings that present a formula to help you with your focus issues or imposter syndrome.

This isn’t that kind of blog post.

All I want to do is make you aware of what I became conscious of at Hutchmoot: whether you realize it or not, people are watching.

Maybe they aren’t watching things online, either. Perhaps they’re watching you create. Maybe when you think, “Why am I even doing this? This is stupid,” they’re admiring your dedication to your craft.

Maybe they even think what you are doing is really cool.

So, keep on writing. Get out of bed a little earlier. Drink less coffee, or don’t. Stop playing around so much on Spotify.

There’s work for you to do, and it matters.

Also . . . do you need a sounding board for your concerns? I’m here to help.

Book a 30-minute call to talk with me for free. No strings attached. No need to buy anything. Let’s talk about your writing questions and your art. AND—I’ll give you something else for free as a thank you so you can make the writing process that much easier.

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