I won't deny it: the box is comfortable.
There's Ghiradelli brownies, a leather couch and my favorite blankie from Barnes & Noble, aptly named "the chocolate blanket." Not to mention there's air conditioning and books. A schedule. No surprises. No worries. Nothing that could possibly shake up my cozy little world.
Yes, we all have our comfy place.
Sometimes the comfy place becomes our cage, though.
Maybe you saw this picture on Facebook? My son is caring for his father's snakes. These reptiles are in little plastic containers that sit on shelves. Some friends on Facebook were concerned about the snakes escaping. They won't and they can't. There isn't enough space for them to slither out. Perhaps with creativity and persistence, freedom might be attained. If the snake grew desperate to escape, it might slam its body to the side. Even forward. And with enough momentum, perhaps the box might slide forward enough to allow the snake its release. But then maybe the snake might land on the ground and break some ribs? Or now, free of its cage, find himself hungry with no food in sight.
As I looked at this picture, I was reminded of my own boxed life. Of yours. Of humanity's. Mothers. Fathers. Writers.
Sometimes what we think is Home is actually a cage. Like an exotic bird, we swing on our perch, chirp our songs and live with the door to the world locked. There is nothing wrong with being comfortable and safe. There is nothing wrong with having a home. One of my favorite verses is "Contentment with Godliness is great gain." Aspiring to find a contented place in life is a good thing.
But what if you're on that swing, singing your song, and you lift your wings? What if you begin flapping and there is some deep, raw part of you waiting expectantly for the lift. For the rush of air beneath your wings. For change.
You remain on the swing. There is an uncomfortable, painful gnawing in your gut that something more should have happened. But you can't figure out why it didn't. You can't find the change.
You are locked in a cage and your wings are clipped.
The world offers us so many different kinds of cages. The lifetime worker bee cage. The religious cage. The political cage. I could go on and on, but if I control searched this post, I'd find way too many instances of the word cage. ;-) And that would drive the editor in me absolutely bonkers.
It really doesn't matter how many prisons I can think of. What matters is: are you in caged?
Sometimes we have no one to blame for our limitations but ourselves. We've clipped our own wings. Certainly, there are perils to living unboxed. Dreams can be squished. Ground into pieces by the harsh realities of life. For some people, shattered dreams is a danger too risky to encounter. Even if they are desperately unhappy, at least it is the unhappiness they know.
Why do we trap ourselves?
I think anyone who reads the Seekerville blog is smart enough to know the answer to that question. Remember my first paragraph? Yeah...the box is safe. There's not a whole lot to fear when we have food, water, and bedding. But is clipping our wings living to our fullest potential?
How exactly does it feel to know we're meant for more, to feel that when we flap our wings, we should be exploding upward in a flurry of sound and rhythm to meet the sky. We flap...and nothing happens. How does that feel?
It feels terrible. Yet people do it all the time. They choose a box for themselves, they hunker down, and even if they grow to hate their enclosure, they are too afraid to venture somewhere new.
Let's tie this into writing. The genres we settle into. The face we present to the reading community. Brand is meant to help readers, not trap writers. A good publisher encourages us to become stronger and deeper writers. We should never let these things keep our creativity locked up, though.
You might wonder if you are at home or if you are caged up. They have similarities.
1. Both are comfortable.
2. Both are safe.
3. Both are familiar.
There is a difference, though, and in my opinion, it is the power of fear. When you are home, you may be afraid to leave, but you still do it. Fear of the unknown does not hold you back. You wake up in the morning, eat, poke your head out and say, "What adventure can I embark on today?" You spend the day exploring, but you love coming home.
If you don't like your home (the life you've created for yourself), yet you are afraid to do something new, to step out of your comfort zone, then perhaps you have clipped your own wings. Perhaps you are afraid to fly.
Let's say you've been writing suspense for fifteen years but there's a woman's fiction playing out in your mind...but you don't write it because you have spent so much time studying the art of writing suspense that you refuse to do something new. What if you fail? What if you change to women's fiction and the market tanks? What if you invest more time into this new genre and you still don't get a contract? Or maybe you've always published devotionals but one day, this man runs into this woman in your imagination. And they are so real! They have pasts and they don't like each other, but external forces are drawing them together. You want to write this book so badly, but you're successfully published with devotionals. You have limited yourself.
It's an unhappy place to be.
There are ways to live unboxed. Here are a few:
1. Be Flexible
So an editor says she likes your story, but it's leaning toward romance and her publisher is acquiring women's fiction. Be limber, dear writer! If you want to see a new place in your writing life, then maybe you can take this story in a new direction. What comes out may surprise you!
2. Look for opportunities
A new publisher is opening up? Remember that one manuscript collecting dust on your hard drive? The one that won all those awards? It would be perfect for this publisher. Dust it off. Send it in.
3. Expand Your Network
There's a big world out there filled with readers! With wonderful people who share our love of books and stories and dreams. Don't let your introversion keep you from developing new relationships.
4. Stretch Yourself
It's hard to be flexible when you don't stretch. If you are unhappy with where you are, or if you are just looking for more, do a little bit of stretching. Stick your neck out and take a peek at the world. It might be worth the discomfort. They don't call them growing pains for no reason!
What kind of growing pains are you going through? Do you love what you write or have you unwittingly boxed yourself in?
Leave a comment and your name will be put in today's drawing. One commenter will win a copy of A Hasty Betrothal along with a bit of chocolate. Winner announced in the next Weekend Edition.
Jessica Nelson believes romance happens every day, and thinks the greatest, most intense romance comes from a God who woos people to himself with passionate tenderness. When Jessica is not chasing her three beautiful, wild little boys around the living room, she can be found staring into space as she plots her next story. Or she might be daydreaming about a raspberry mocha from Starbucks. Or thinking about what kind of chocolate she should have for dinner that night. She could be thinking of any number of things, really. One thing is for certain, she is blessed with a wonderful family and a lovely life.
A Hasty Betrothal
A Practical Proposal
Though Lady Elizabeth Wayland would rather spend her days with her beloved books than an uncaring spouse, scandal forces her to find a match posthaste. To escape the scoundrel who almost ruined her, Elizabeth accepts an unconventional proposal from a childhood friend. But when she finds herself falling for her husband-to-be, will she be able to convince him to return her love?
Widowed cotton mill owner Miles Hawthorne vowed to never marry again—until Elizabeth's reputation is on the line. Their betrothal begins as a simple favor. As he spends more time with his fiancée, though, Miles finds that there's more to her than he ever saw before. And Elizabeth just might be the only woman who can slip into his heart.