Written by Eleana Norton

For as long as I’ve had a bucket list, the first item on it has been to write a poetry book. This goal felt as realistic as the second item: to go skydiving. 

In other words, the perfectionist in me didn’t think I would be ready to publish any time soon. I assumed I would need to master my craft before sharing it. 

I didn’t believe my poetry was good enough to withstand serious criticism. So when I did share little snippets, I hoped other people wouldn’t take it too seriously. My name on instagram was “i wRiTe pOEtrY” so I would seem aware of the fact that I thought posting poetry was dramatic and cringy. 

But the truth was, my writing did mean a lot to me. And I wanted it to resonate with others too. 

Eventually, I had to realize it wasn’t really about me. A friend of mine encouraged me: “Jesus gave you a gift, so it serves him when you share it.” She reminded me that just as he asks me to use my time and finances for others, my gifts are something to hold open-handedly too. 

When my classes ended during a study-abroad semester in France, I found myself without school and a job for a little over a month. It was the first time I’ve had so much free time since I was thirteen years old. So I finally committed to writing and publishing my poetry collection. 

Community to cast out fear

I started carrying my notebook with me whenever I left the house, and became a frequent visitor to a couple local cafés. I compiled all the poems I wanted to use in a document on Canva. Then, I found common themes in my writing, and decided which ones to focus on: childhood, womanhood, and joy. 

More importantly, I also told every friend I encountered about this project. I hoped this would make it too embarrassing for me to quit. It worked well, because it pushed me to write more consistently, rather than only when I felt like it. 

I wrote for my new exchange friends, to put into words how thankful I was for our unique relationship.

I wrote to make my siblings back home proud. 

I wrote to give my dad an opportunity to illustrate. 

Suddenly, I was writing for all the people with whom I had shared this passion project. 

I was met with unwavering support. I had friends who would accompany me to cafés and work alongside me, sharing in my excitement when I got a poem “just right.” 

Others lent an ear when I wanted to work through a troublesome section. They were eager to hear all my updates, even the minor ones. 

My community made me feel that I couldn’t fail. They believed in me and my work. I knew I would make them proud, whether I became a bestselling author or sold 10 copies. The confident voices of my community spoke louder than the fearful voice of my self-doubt

Podcast Minisode: Let us practice the discipline of community

Discipline in trusting the Spirit

When it came to writing new poems, I felt graced by inspiration. Grace sometimes looks like sudden inspiration on a walk or on the subway. But there are also times where it looks like discipline. I would sit down, take out a notebook, and trust that inspiration would come. 

It felt a bit like improv dancing. When I sat down to write, I often didn’t have a clue what I wanted to say, in the same way I don’t know the next steps when I’m dancing. When the fear of not being a good-enough writer came back, a friend of mine encouraged me: “You make words dance like you dance for God. Exhale what God has breathed into you.” 

Blank pages are intimidating. But in this discipline, I trusted that God’s Spirit would carry me to the next verse, like music. 

Read more: The Holy Spirit is at work in you; can you recognize him?

Through this process, I learned that there is no sense in waiting to master a skill. To wait for my fear of failing to simply subside would be to wait a lifetime. My writing is bound to improve, but that’s not to say my current work isn’t worth sharing. 

The reason I could surrender my perfectionism was because Jesus leaves space for fear and failure. I felt so empowered by the security found in my relationship with him. No fear is insurmountable with him. No failure will affect his love for me.

Read more: How to live in the true story of being beloved by God

Weakness is a strength

Writing was only the beginning though. In the following months, I slowly ventured through the publishing process. I submitted to small publishing companies. I also began investigating self-publishing, which was the path I ultimately pursued. 

During this time, many people were reading my work for the sake of editing or publishing. I became afraid that I was sharing too much. The doubt made me consider taking out entire sections of my manuscript. 

In particular, I felt very exposed by opening up about my loneliness in singleness. Sharing with strangers felt okay. Sharing my fears and heartaches with friends did not. I didn’t want my parents to worry. I didn’t want my friends to think I was more unhappy than I appeared. I didn’t want their image of me—content and single-by-choice—to change. 

Fortunately, my editor helped me to see that my strength as a writer comes from my vulnerability. She had the most praise for the poems where I really dug deep into those uncomfortable emotions that I try to hide. 

Read more: God meets us in hard emotions

In fact, this strength applies to far more than just writing. I am often reminded of 2 Corinthians 2:19, where Paul comments on what Jesus said to him: 

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 

My weaknesses have allowed others to feel seen, and less alone. I am more confident than ever that there is purpose in my pain and loneliness. 

A year before publishing, I didn’t know I would write a book. Ten months before, I considered the risk of failure too big to overcome. Six months before, I had a manuscript, but was questioning its purpose. Today, I’m the self-published author of Little Dancers

Perfect love from God—reflected by my community—casts out the fear of failure. And God’s grace transforms my vulnerability into strength. 

Eleana Norton is a French and education student at York University’s Glendon College. She loves to teach, write, dance, and spend time with people. You can find her first book of poetry at Indigo

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