Hello from Jeanette. Today I spent 20 minutes in the backseat of our car with a trembling 50-lb dog. Car rides turn our pit mix, Belle, into a spineless mutt. They trigger memories of shots and other unpleasant vet visits. I assured Belle that we were only going to PetSmart to get her nails trimmed but she continued to squeal and pace, starring helplessly out the window, silently pleading to passersby, “Help me! I’m on my way to the manicurist. It’s so scary there.” I teased Belle about being a big baby, reminded her of her bread, but nothing worked. We dragged her into PetSmart, handed her over to the torturers . . . I mean the guy with the clippers, and waited for the wails. Of course we heard none. Like a two-year-old who only cries long enough to make Mom feel guilty for leaving her in the church nursery, she was fine as soon as we walked away with our receipt. We returned in ten minutes to a relaxed dog. The clipping was over. And it wasn’t so bad. In fact, judging from the look on her face, it felt good to have those claws out of the way. All that whimpering for nothing.
So what does this have to do with writing, speaking, and book promotion? A lot, actually.
As I reassured our terrified dog, I reflected on how often I freak out at the thought of facing something that seems scary. When my first book came out and a friend reminded me that I should visit our local Christian bookstores and introduce myself as a local author, I learned the true meaning of “with fear and trembling.” She offered to go with me and I still walked into each store with my hands shaking, sure that I knew what a heart attack felt like and that I was having one. But as we debriefed over lunch, I looked back on the experience as a wonderful time. I was a local author! And the bookstore owners in Reno and Sparks were carrying my book!
A couple of years later, I accepted an opportunity to speak to the girls in our church youth group about the importance of treating their bodies well, based on my experience with an eating disorder and other self-destructive behavior. Then it hit me that I would be talking to girls that I’d known since they were eight. I would tell them things that they did not know about me, and they would go home and tell their moms and dads what Jeanette Hanscome used to do. I’d written articles about these things and spoken to other groups. Many of my friends knew what God had freed me from. But something about telling those girls from church made me rethink my choice. Until I started sharing and sensed them listening intently. Suddenly the idea of them going home and giving a full report didn’t make me wonder if I should skip services that Sunday. As a speaker I needed to learn to open up to strangers and familiar faces, and with God’s strength I really could do it.
The writing life calls us to some uncomfortable places. We must step out of our shyness to promote our books, drop our pride to speak or write about our darkest secrets, and send our work to publishers knowing it might be rejected. How often do we whine like a dog going to get her nails clipped, only to bounce back into the car with a big smile saying, “That wasn’t so bad. In fact, when can I do it again?”
So what frightening adventure is on your schedule? Ask God to give you His courage, even in your fear and trembling.