When I started my latest novel, I knew the tone, types of characters, and the thematic elements I wanted. Five months and two drafts later, I have a book, but it’s nothing like the one I planned. I have wondered more than once if I should abandon the manuscript and write something else.
I had dinner with a dear friend recently. Our friendship was formed years ago when both of us were facing challenges. Throughout the years, new problems keep arising, including serious health issues. Neither one of us will ever live in the fairy tales we wanted our lives to be. There’s no “happily ever after” in sight.
When I became a mom, my cherished expectations of what parenting would be like and who my child would be were laughably unrealistic. The toddler tantrums, the trips to the emergency room, and the awkward parent-teacher conferences told me a different story. Years later, my son is unrecognizable from the young man I’d “planned” for him to be.
This mismatch of expectations to reality is a universal problem. You only have to read the first three chapters of Genesis to understand how vastly different our world is from God’s original intention for it. If any being has a right to feel “disappointed” with the way things have turned out, it’s God. But instead of hitting the universal delete button, He accepted us as we were and put into action a plan that would restore the world to the state He intended, but get this—He had to die to make it happen.
I understand at least a fraction of this dedication when I think of my son. I don’t have the power to change him, but I would absolutely die for him. In my own imperfect state, I accept him as imperfect as well. He’s a great guy who continually surprises me in lovely ways. I am often delighted by how funny, intelligent, caring and interesting he is. His future is bright because it's the future he creates for himself, not the one I impose on him.
Similarly, as my friend shared her struggles with me, I was awed by her faith, courage, honesty, acceptance, and generosity. She reminded me that we can’t choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react. Her choices tell a more inspiring story than any fairy tale. As long as sin and death exist, nobody gets a happy ending. But we can choose to make each moment a happy one.
These important life lessons are true in creative ventures, too. That’s why I’m not giving up on my manuscript. No, it’s not the novel I intended to write, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Once it’s free of my expectations, it might even be my best one yet.