I stood on my deck and leaned against the railing overlooking a deep ravine that made up the boundary on one side of our yard. I cradled my morning cup of coffee in my hands, soaking up the warmth as the sun peeked bleary-eyed through the clouds. Shaking my head to clear it, I gazed down into the ravine, seeking to be reminded that I am small and God is big. The ravine was steep and overgrown with blackberry bushes - everything, even the tall trees growing out of the sides and base of the ravine, was covered in blackberry vines. They were insatiable, covering and suffocating everything in their reach.
My attempt at letting go failed. Instead I felt just the familiar, dull ache of not-enough.
I’d had a vicious attack from the inner critic that morning, telling me I was a fraud and a failure with nothing to offer. You know, the usual. I’d felt this way before, and I knew it was a lie. But this morning it felt like the absolute Bible truth.
The lie was so insidious, you see, that once it showed up it covered everything in it’s reach until I couldn’t see what was under the lie, I only saw the lie and that became my reality. I couldn’t believe my head when it tried to tell me that I wasn’t a failure, because suddenly, spread out before me in all of it’s long-reaching vivacity, was the evidence of my failure.
It was like standing at the edge of a cliff and being told that I wouldn’t fall if I stepped off it, that there was a glass ledge there. Yeah, I’m no fool. I can’t see the glass, I’m not stepping off the cliff.
That’s what the lies we believe do to us: they keep us frozen and trapped in a false reality. And the reality is always horrifying - it’s our failure, our worthlessness, our mediocrity, our brokenness beyond repair; it’s that she was right all along and that I knew I shouldn’t have tried.
And we don’t have a way of escaping it because we’re basically in the matrix. How can you escape through a door you can’t see? How do you find the path through the woods when it’s an overgrown mess of blackberry bushes with vicious thorns that tear up your hands everytime you touch them?
We do this all the time as writers, don’t we? We believe all sorts of lies like I have no talent or the world doesn’t need another writer or what do I have to add to the conversation that hasn’t already been said or I’ll never finish my book or I’ll never get published.
Does this sound familiar? I’m willing to bet that’s a soothing soundtrack you’ve been playing to yourself for some time - so soft and subtle that you hardly knew it was there, like elevator music. But subtle or not, it impacted the choices you made:
I’ll just sit down and watch Netflix tonight - after all, no one’s going to publish my book anyway. Or
Why bother keeping a blog? It’s just another blog among millions. No one will ever visit it - let alone read it.
I’m not buying that book about how to be a better writer. That would be such a waste of money.
When Neo first meets Morpheus, he’s given the choice between two pills. If he takes the blue pill, he will return to his old, familiar life in the Matrix. If he takes the red pill, he will learn the truth about the Matrix. We have the same choice. We can choose to start undermining the lies in our lives and grounding ourselves in truth, or we can keep accepting the lies, letting them lull us into inaction until they actually do become our reality.
If any part of you is starting to wonder if maybe, just maybe, your words do matter, or you could become a published author, or you do have something to add to the conversation, then get ready: it’s time to break the matrix.
Here’s how to deconstruct the lies:
Speak only the truth.
I love hyperbole, but it’s actually not that good for you. And lies are typically hyperbolic. Lie: I’ll never get published. Never? Not even on the internet? What about Wattpad where anyone can publish their stories? Ever heard of self-publishing? And why won’t you ever get published? Because you haven’t written your book yet? Because you don’t think it’s any good? Speak the truth to yourself and beware of thinking in absolutes: Getting published is hard and not everyone makes it but I can still try. Or I might not get published by a major company, but there are many ways I can publish my work.
Sure it’s scary to step off that cliff when you can’t see the glass. Do it anyway. Ask yourself what you would do if you believed the exact opposite of the lie. So I don’t think my words matter. Okay. What would I do if I thought my words did matter - that they mattered a great deal? Well, I’d probably try to get other people to read them because they are so important. Bingo. Go do that.
Become an amazing problem solver.
Whenever you catch yourself making excuses or giving explanations about why you can’t do or achieve something, get curious. Ask yourself why. Why won’t I finish my book? I don’t have time to write it. Why don’t you have time to write it? Because I’m too tired at the end of the day, I work all the time, and I have to watch every episode of Friends at least 10 times.
Valid points. What could fix that? Don’t go with the run-of-the-mill answers here (I could burn my television and become a homeless author with no job). Think bigger. Think beyond any cliche, any expected solution, and don’t stop until you work yourself out of the box you made up in your head.
Think: if I worked out and took vitamins and ate better I wouldn’t need as much sleep. Actually, come to think of it I sleep ten hours a day. That’s excessive. Why do I need so much sleep? I’m going to get books about improving your sleep so I will sleep better and can get on a sleep schedule for 8 hours instead of ten and then I will use those extra two hours to write.
Don’t live in the box. Whenever you find yourself making excuses, dig deep and don’t stop until you see exactly what your box is made of and how you can get out of it.
Dismantle the lies.
List the lies you believe and then for each one, write the truth. Hang the list of truths on the wall and read them every day. Seriously. You will feel silly. You will get bored doing this. You will think it’s a gimmick. And then one day you will realize that you are starting to believe them and that the lies have less hold over you than they did before.
That morning, staring out into the ravine, I spoke the truth to myself (I’m not a failure, I’m learning, and I’m seeing lots of small successes) and then I took action. I went on with my chores and my to-do list; I worked on my writing and my business; I played with my daughter. Slowly, the feeling of inadequacy crept back into the darkness of the ravine, revealing trees and bushes and dirt paths for my feet to wander down.
If this is you friend, I hope you choose to break free of the lies today. I pray you break into the truth of who you are, how loved and important you are, and how valued your words are. Don’t wait for the lies to disappear because they won’t. Choose the red pill. Take a step. Grab some clippers. And dig into the truth.
- Share the lie you are believing and what your new truth is in the comments.
- Write down your truths and hang it up where you will see it every day.
- I'd love to send you a free, beautiful writing affirmations printable created just for Inklings by Lacelit. Send me an email at email@example.com for your copy!