Monday, November 7, 2011

Learning to live with vulnerability

I remember the moment it first dawned on me what a vulnerable activity it is to write published novels. One day, I opened an email from my publisher to find an attachment featuring the proposed front cover of my first novel. As I saw my name printed there in bold letters, horror overwhelmed me. What had I done? What would people think about my writing? Had a made a huge fool of myself? But it was too late now – I couldn’t turn back.

Now, four more published novels on, I have discovered one can’t please everyone—and I think I’ve grown a slightly thicker skin too. But I can see my vulnerability levels will soon be tested out again. You see, after producing six novels, I have just completed writing the first draft of my very first full length non-fiction work. Now I am poised to tackle the many re-writes that are no doubt ahead of me as I and my manuscript readers assess it.

I never envisaged I would write non-fiction—I love the freedom of writing my novels, watching a story develop and letting it take on a life of its own. Yet I have loved my non-fiction journey as well and have benefited so much from it. You see, my book is a type of memoir—an account of a spiritual friendship I have enjoyed with a dear, older Christian friend for many years now. To write this, I have delved into my old journals where I kept a record of many of the deep conversations my friend and I have enjoyed while sitting together in her lovely, old home in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. As I read, I saw not only the richness of our relationship but also the incredible grace of God in my life during these years. My friend has met with me since my second year at theological college around fifteen years ago and seen me through many stretching experiences—including embarking on writing my first novel in my late fifties!

Given this is the type of non-fiction I have written, perhaps you can imagine how vulnerable I now feel at the thought of exposing my innermost thoughts and fears to my readers in this way. Many times in my novels I have been able to express my own feelings and opinions through the lives of my characters. But here in this non-fiction work, there is nowhere to hide! Now that I have finished writing it, am I willing, I ask myself, to allow anyone and everyone to read it? Is this even a wise thing to do?

But then I remember why I decided to write it in the first place. I wanted to show what a wonderful gift it is for someone older in the faith to come alongside a younger Christian in an encouraging, supportive relationship and hopefully challenge more mature Christians to do this. I also wanted to inspire those younger in the faith to seek out older Christians to walk with them on their journey. And finally, I wanted to be honest about my own struggles so that those going through similar experiences might feel encouraged and understood and even perhaps given a glimpse of a way forward. So for these reasons I hope this book does succeed in being published—despite my misgivings.

But for now it’s back to editing and re-writing—and then perhaps dreaming of that next novel already outlined on my computer! 


  1. Jo-anne, the book sounds lovely. How blessed you are to have such a mentor.

  2. My thoughts exactly, Sandra. Whatever happens with the book, your life has been richly blessed by your friend.
    Best of luck with the rewrites.

  3. Yes, I agree, Sandra and Alice - I have been richly blessed. And that's one of the main reasons I also mentor others now, because I have seen the value of it myself. I even find myself saying things to these women I mentor that I know my own spiritual friend would say to me! We definitely are blessed to be a blessing - and I hope and pray my book will eventually bless others too.

  4. I can relate to that vulnerable feeling. I tend to write from my personal experience. It is gratifying when others get it. May many people get the joy of the journey you have had with your friend. May you new book bless many lives.

  5. Hi Jo - Anne,
    Your book sounds great. I'll look forward to reading it.

  6. Jo-Anne, may God use your offering of vulnerability in a powerful way. My eighty-seven-year-old father is committed to discipling younger men. He has met regularly with some for many years, and they are now bringing their adolescent sons to study what it means to be a Christian man. Some other have been through some difficult things over the years. I'm so glad you had a mentor in your ups and downs.

  7. Thanks for all your comments. And Leanne, what a wonderful example your father is of being a true mentor! His example has certainly challenged me. Sorry I couldn't respond earlier to your comments, but I was away at the Word Writers' Fair in Brisbane, presenting a workshop and mentoring other authors!