This past October I was offered a book deal. A few days ago, I turned it down.
I hadn’t sent out a book proposal because I wasn’t even considering writing nonfiction. But a publishing house had somehow discovered my blog, liked what they saw, and wanted me to write a book. It’s strange to even type that.
When they first emailed me, I was in the Lima airport in Peru at four in the morning. I think I literally squealed. I was elated, delighted, flattered, exhausted, and shocked. Mostly I couldn’t believe it. I read the email over and over again, and I remember feeling like I was still on the plane, like I was flying or hovering, like my backpack didn’t weigh a thing. I also distinctly remember feeling like I was on fire.
There was a lot going on inside of me that day.
Over the next few months the publisher, editor, marketer, and I chatted. They were nothing if not kind. We conceptualized ideas, talked about titles, looked over marketing plans, and did a lot of other book-ish things. I was happily overwhelmed through the whole process, until one week when I started having nightmares.
I am slowly learning that when I have anxiety, she often shows her face through dreams. She sneaks into my head at night, and I wake up feeling sad and confused and lonely. That happened for a week and a half. I was so tired, and didn’t have much energy. I binge-watched a lot of Grey’s. I didn’t write.
Since they had offered me the deal, an endless loop had been playing in my mind: I’m going to be published! I’m going to be published! I’m going to be published!
I thought being published was the epitome of success. I thought I would have something worthwhile to tell people when they asked me what I did for a living. I thought I would write this book, but I was thinking that for all of the wrong reasons.
I made a promise to myself years and years ago, back when I was seventeen-years-old, when I began writing a novel. The promise was this:
I will not write a book solely to get published. I will only write a book if I desperately, relentlessly, urgently need to write the book. I will write because I need to write, not because I hope to be published.
That was a promise I made to my heart, if only to help me come back to the reason why I started writing in the first place.
I can’t write a book just to write a book. I mean I could — but I don’t want to. It has to be carved so deep within me that I will do literally anything to see its release. I feel this about other projects, other words. I didn’t feel that about this one.
I will be so 100%, blatantly honest with you: for me, this book wouldn’t have been about the words. It would have been about the idea that being published somehow would make me enough.
One day after the anxiety was on full blast in my brain, I woke up and started to fervently pray, using Philippians 4:6 and 7 as my lifeline: “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and mind as you live in Christ Jesus.”
I wanted peace more than anxiety. I wanted my enough-ness to stem from God and not a publishing deal. I wanted Jesus more than anything. So I took my shaky hands and typed an email, clicked send, and didn’t have a book deal any longer.
Immediately I wondered if I made a huge mistake. Would this be my only opportunity to be published? I asked God to confirm that I did the right thing. Not even a half hour later, I felt inexplicable peace.
Everything about this was good. The publishing house was kind, the concept was fantastic, the timeline lovely. It was all good. Which is, I think, why I was feeling so confused. If all of it was lovely, why was I anxious?
When the world offers you something gleaming on a shiny silver platter, it seems foolish to say no. It’s so pretty, so tantalizing, so easy to pick up and run with. But in the deep recesses of my heart and soul I knew this shiny morsel wasn’t right for me yet. I have to believe that what God has for me — though perhaps not gleaming or shiny or silver — is so much better.
Writing a book to try and prove your worth is not nearly a good enough reason to write a book.
I thought long and prayed hard about this, and the storyteller inside of me wants to write fiction until my fingers bleed. I thought I needed to be a nonfiction writer because that’s what was being offered, but I know now that’s not true. I thought I needed to accept a publishing deal, because maybe it will be the only one ever offered. But I want to trust God far more than all of this. I need to instead lean into what God has in store for me — and quite honestly, I have no idea what that is.
So there we have it. Maybe foolish. Maybe brave. You can decide, because the truth is I don’t mind which one you choose.