Do What You Do, Be What You Are


Milestone: I no longer feel weird calling myself a writer. Even out loud. To strangers. Even when they follow up with, “Oh, what do you write?” and my response is “I have a blog” (though I can now add “…and I write for Memphis Type History,” which sounds slightly more accomplished).

Because writing was never really presented to me as a valid (read: secure) career choice, legitimizing my own writing took me many years. I used to think that since I didn’t have a published book on a shelf, wasn’t being paid to write, and had no guarantee that either of those things would ever happen, there was no point in truly pursuing writing. That would be embarrassing proof that I cared too much about my silly, selfish hobby and, even worse, believed other people might care too. But a few years ago, I started taking halting steps toward progress. The dam broke in 2013, when I took a Story 101 course that addressed wounds and fears I never even knew I had as a woman, Christian, writer. I cried a lot and then I was finally ready to take myself seriously.

While authenticity and humility are really important to me, I think some degree of “fake it till you make it” is unavoidable when you’re first starting to own your calling. If I hadn’t done that, I never would have started. (Some days that’s still true.) I had to fake a confidence I didn’t feel. I had to choose to turn my back on the Regina George-like critic in my head, eternally rolling her eyes and saying, Stop acting like this matters. All you’re doing is talking about your loser feelings and epiphanies. Noooooo one caaaaaares.

Now I can shut her up about 75% of the time. I can approach my writing as work. Good work that I want and even need to do for my own wellness, but work, because it has weight. It means something. It takes a lot of guts to believe this day-to-day, because it repeatedly raises the challenge, Who do you think you are? You can’t believe in the work you were made to do until you know and believe in what you are. I know in my bones, in a way I didn’t a few years ago, that writing is my ministry and what I was made to do. Even though it’s not perfect, God can still use it. Even if I never earn a cent from it, it’s my job. Even if I never have a significant number of readers, I am here to talk to those 50 people. Even when people say my vulnerability is stupid and I should stop caring so much about things, I will brush myself off and continue on. Because writing is my main vehicle for my increasingly sure purpose: to be a voice for the voiceless. Not on a save-the-orphans, end-world-poverty scale, but on an everyday human scale. For those who are still too afraid to speak up and open up (as I was for much of my life). In my experience, isolation and shame are the devil’s greatest tools. We pretend everything’s great and life isn’t hard because we want to look like we have it all together. We struggle with so many of the same things, but we stay alone in the dark because we’re too afraid to talk about them. If I can give someone the courage to bring their own junk out into the light and find hope and healing there, I’m willing to look a little foolish. As the great philosopher Miranda Lambert once said, “Somebody’s gotta walk into the night, and I’m gonna be that one.”

Whatever your gifts are, you don’t have to use them on a huge, impressive scale for them to matter. They already matter even if the only recipients are your family and friends or even just yourself. You can start developing them and taking them seriously right now. You’ll be surprised by the sense of confirmation and fulfillment you will feel. And if anyone asks you, Who do you think you are? or Who gave you permission?, tell them to come talk to me.

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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4 Responses to Do What You Do, Be What You Are

  1. Milissa says:

    ❤️ this. Thank you.

  2. I think this is so awesome!

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is amazing. I’m going to link to you again. :)

  4. Jamie Wright Bagley says:

    Girl! Preach it. Yeah! I needed to read this. Thank you, thank you.

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