The last few weeks I’ve been talking about my writing journey related to my novel, Final Moment.
About hanging onto our dreams with God while letting go of our agendas regarding how he’ll bring them to fruition.
And how we can find freedom within the rejection we might face in one way or another.
This week, I want to talk about freeing ourselves from the need for permission to follow our dreams.
The trap of permission-seeking
There are all kinds of permission-seeking scenarios in which we trap our ourselves.
In the context of my novel-writing journey, there are a number of contexts in which I’ve allowed this to take place.
When contest results provide validation, I’ll know my writing is good enough to move forward.
When an agent thinks my manuscript has potential and I’ve met specific book proposal requirements, then I can get going.
When said agent helps me navigate all the publishing industry requirements that will lead to a contract, then I’ll know I’m almost there.
And when the first copy of my book arrives at my doorstep and I can hold it in my hands, I’ll know I’ve finally arrived.
Good grief, who decided all is this permission was necessary to move forward with my novel-writing dreams?
Well, apparently I did.
In today’s growing world of independent (indie) publishing, many of my novel-writing friends have moved forward with their dreams instead of waiting for permission from the traditional publishing industry to do so.
But me? I’m realizing that I’ve been allowing myself to remain in the permission-seeking trap of waiting for approval before moving ahead.
Finding gifts in the journey
That’s one of the gifts emerging from this novel-writing journey I’ve been on.
In truth, Final Moment isn’t my first novel, it’s actually my third.
My first was practice—and something bad enough to remain as such. Just an exercise to prove to myself that I could write something that long with some semblance of a storyline.
My second was better, and actually did quite well in a big writing contest (there I go, focusing on contest results again). God has refocused my writing since then, and I’m not interested in pursuing that one further at this point in my life.
But Final Moment is a different story, because this novel is something God has specifically planted in my heart.
The long wait for permission
I share all that as evidence that I’ve been waiting a long time for the permission to embrace my dreams as a novelist.
Actually, since I finished that first manuscript in the early 90’s, I’ve been waiting almost 30 years.
And I’ve done that with other aspects of my writing identity, too.
I clearly remember the day the nursing magazine arrived with my first paid article in print.
I’d been published in print once before, and had been paid to write things online, but had never received money for something I’d written that I could hold in my hand.
That day, I finally felt like I had permission to call myself a writer.
And who decided I needed permission to do that?
Seeking God’s approval
I think these external constraints we place on ourselves are unfortunate, because we don’t need the permission of others to follow our dreams.
Or define our identities.
Or determine our steps.
Instead, God wants us to look to him for all of that.
To embrace our individual journeys with him and savor the permission he offers to step into the dreams he plants in our hearts.
Last week I shared about a talk I heard from Allen Arnold at a writers conference last year. In it, he emphasized creating with God instead of for God—and used four concentric circles to demonstrate his point.
When I described his outer circle of “reaction and distraction” as a place we don’t want to stay, and his center circle of creating and living with God as the sweet spot toward which we should strive, I promised to share more about the other two circles this week.
As it would happen, they align with the topic of permission-seeking we’re covering today.
The hungry audience
In the third ring of the circle—just inside the outer one—is what Allen refers to as our “hungry audience,” which he describes as “The specific audience who needs to hear what God has given me to say.”
Does that mean those I’ve been seeking-but-failing to gain permission from all these years in one way or another was the wrong focus for my efforts?
Perhaps. But let’s dig into that a little more.
Allen also says that when we focus on the needs of our hungry audience, the story then becomes about the reader.
Which means it’s not about the writer.
And it’s not about all the other entities that cause distraction and reaction within us along the way.
Let me go one step further and say that this doesn’t just apply to writers and other creative types.
This also applies to anyone who seeks to use their gifts with God to serve the Hungry Audience they are uniquely equipped to serve.
I love the name of Allen’s second circle—the one that makes up the space between the Hungry Audience and the center with God.
The trusted bohemians.
Allen says our trusted bohemians are essential because they help us hone our gifting: “We need gathering places where we live and create with God and others rather than alone. We need two or so trusted bohemians who help us stay grounded and focused on our gifting.”
I’m blessed with some trusted bohemians in my life, and I bet you are, too. But maybe you just haven’t called them that or viewed them in that way.
I think one of the dynamics of permission-seeking I’ve gotten caught up in relates to the need for gatekeepers who will screen my stuff.
Who will give a nod of approval that says this isn’t goofy and it’s good enough for others to read.
I still think that’s important, because we need the objective input of others to improve and grow.
But we don’t need to look for that from those who don’t know us well or who aren’t invested in the journey we’re on.
Instead, we need to look to our trusted bohemians to provide the honest and loving feedback we need.
Don’t wait for permission
If God has planted dream seeds in your heart, I encourage you to quit waiting for the permission of others to nurture them.
To discard the reactions and distractions of the outer circle of naysayers.
To identify the hungry audience who needs what only you can offer.
To find and savor your trusted bohemians.
To step into your journey with God and look forward to all that lies ahead.
Feature photo by JP Valery on Unsplash.