Surrendering to Communion

“Asking is, at its core, a collaboration.”

                        Amanda Palmer, The Art of Asking

It only took nine unsubscribes to undo me.

I use some software to manage the subscribers to my blog, and if there’s activity—people signing up (yay!) people un-signing up (sigh!), I get an email.

Lately, I have been sighing more than normal. Even so, the day I had nine unsubscribes caught me off-guard. I was so proud of the posts I’d been running, and they weren’t particularly offensive (like that time I posted about abortion).

I wanted to shake the people who left. Then I felt lame for judging them. I unsubscribe from email lists all the time. There’s a lot of content out there; I get overwhelmed too.

But much as I tried to argue myself out of discontent, I was in a funk.

When I get into these writing funks, I know I need to think about the vision I have for my work, how I’m serving and encouraging my readers, and how I can clarify and hone all those things to make them easy to communicate.

But this clarification feels more fraught lately because I am working on a book proposal. A proposal is basically a business document about why your book is needful, and how you’ll sell it to your thousands and bazillions of subscribers.

On a day where some subscribers exit unceremoniously, the whole dream of publishing feels ridiculous.

What I’ve realized about seriously putting my work out there is that it involves a whole lot of asking.

Asking for readers’ attention.

Asking for their support for my projects.

Asking other writers to read my rough drafts, contribute to my blog, blurb my book.

Asking an agent, and then an editor, to believe in my book.

Asking to guest post to spread the word about my blog.

Asking readers to shell out real money for my books, self- or conventionally published.

Asking for ideas for marketing for friends and (gulp) listening to their critique.

Asking, asking, asking.

Asking makes me want to hurl. Asking makes me feel like a beggar peddling pitiful wares. Asking makes me shiver and curl up into a little ball.

I used to hate calling to order pizza. It made me feel too vulnerable.

How in the hell did I think it was a good idea to market my story?

Right in the middle of my funk this week, a book I’d requested came into the library: The Art of Asking, by Amanda Palmer.

She’s a musician and artist. She asks at the end of a concert on tour if anyone in the audience will put her up for the night. She asks family and friends to front thousands of dollars for her latest creative project. She asks strangers in a bathroom for a tampon.

Basically, she’s my inverse doppelganger.

The book sounded like an interesting concept back when I requested it. When it arrived in the middle of my funk it made me incredibly itchy. I wanted to run away screaming.

But I was curious enough to open it and start.

About fifty pages in, I liked it, in a this is helpful sort of way. Then I got to the quote I put at the beginning of this piece.

Asking is, at its core, a collaboration.

I burst into tears.

It was that word: collaboration.

Reaching out a hand and expecting, hoping, wishing someone would take it and help you—

That is the fear that undoes me. The fear that I will reach out my trembling hand, and learn that no one is interested in collaborating.

Suddenly, my funk about those nine unsubscribes opened up like a little instruction book.

I was terrified of readers unsubscribing because I don’t trust anyone will be interested in what I have to say.

I don’t trust my own voice to be worth the effort it takes my readers to read, buy, or participate.

I don’t trust that I know how to collaborate with or encourage the incredible people who read my stuff.

I’m afraid of pestering other writers. I’m afraid of seeming needy, desperate, or like I’m using people.

I am afraid of being honest about how bewildered I get sometimes, deciding what to write. I am afraid of writing posts like this one (they terrify me about as much as writing about sexual abuse, ironically enough) where I pull back the curtains on my uncertainty and fear.

Here’s the truth: I need to collaborate with other people. I need feedback, attention, help with marketing and editing, help to understand my own brand, and, that squiggliest of squiggles, money.

I wish I did not.

I wish I could do what I do best: scurry into a room, figure it out on my own, and emerge, confident and collected, my project collated and color-coded, using only my very own hard work.

I want to be Teflon-coated.

Asking for help throws my life into disarray. I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know whom I can count on. I don’t know if I’ll be left hanging.

I do not know how to surrender to other people helping me. I do not know how to surrender to the overwhelming reality of my need.

I know I’m not alone in this. I know every other writer and artist and creative person and parent and Jesus-follower and spiritual person struggles with this too.

But that doesn’t make surrendering to collaboration any easier.

After I stopped crying about the Amanda Palmer quote, I realized that this kind of surrender is my next big experiment.  A few years ago, it was saying yes to things that scared me. Recently, it’s been accepting an easy-yoke faith that is all about dependence on Jesus and not about my faith looking like I expect it to look. But I think surrendering to help—surrendering to my need—surrendering to communion—

That is where God is leading me. It’s where I need to unfold and practice.

I have this sneaking suspicion, despite my fear, that being faithful in this area will bring joy. Will bring connection. Will bring togetherness.

Will bring my dreams into reality in a way that makes my soul sing.

Heather Caliri
Latest posts by Heather Caliri (see all)

25 thoughts on “Surrendering to Communion

  1. Love and so relate to this. I get panicky when I hit “publish” on something I think might offend or when someone unsubscribes. I hate self-promotion and talk of platform. I think it will take me a very long time to get up the courage to write a book because the thought of so much asking makes me tremble. But watching others (ahem) do it with bravery helps me grow into it a bit more. Just a note – you can ASK away anytime. There are more people here that are dying to help than you know;)

  2. I resonate with so much of this! It sounds exciting to say, “Writing is brave” but what that really means is, “writing is scary and uncomfortable and awkward and did I mention scary?” I’ve had so many of the same thoughts in the past month. Thanks for sharing!

    • Yes!!!! Other people doing vulnerability looks so cool and authentic, and then when you try, it’s like, “Whaaaaaa? I did not sign up for this!!!”

  3. I so identify with that feeling that it’s an audacious thing for me to expect people to read what I write. (Like, who do I think I am, anyway?) Asking for any kind of help always makes me squirm. I love how you have expressed the way that you are growing into a vulnerability and communion that is new to you. I’m working on this as well . . .trusting for grace.

    • So audacious. Yet I’ve felt God grow me in spirit and power as I stop forward and do it anyway. I see you doing the same thing 🙂

  4. Heather, the situation in which I really learned to ask for help was the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd time my tibia/fibula broke. First time, I was so casual about the walker and crutches. When the rods broke, I cried and cried. THEN I asked for help, in a general way, then in specific sticky situations. I expanded from there to personal help. Everyone knows “I ask for help.” Sometimes I get the help I need. Other times, I have to keep looking. Of course, many people ask me for help (I also teach), so I have to have a certain polish in my responses. We are all here together – not apart, so why not? If someone is MEAN, then they do not remain in my special circle of people to be trusted with my information. This may sound easy, but it took decades to learn! @LatelaMary

    • This sounds super-painful, Mary, and I think the pain sounds like what taught you these hard lessons. I feel like this is mentoring me in what help looks like. Thank you so much for your hard-won wisdom.

      • I used the broken bones example, because, at first bone pain is awful! Once you have the surgery and the hardware, you have wait for your body to heal itself and this takes SO much patience. I didn’t want this to sound gruesome, but it taught me that – once again – life happens when we are making other plans. Also, this is supposed to be funny, but the residents at the hospital where I was treated and had the surgery were very excited about my case. You see, Joe Montana, famous football player, had had the very same injury the weekend before. I think they all wanted to watch the surgery, if not be involved in the scalpel work. I see Joe is still around, retired, and no longer does commercial for IcyHot or whatever. He’s giving banking advice. I guess he did rather well. The picture below is Joe on his big day, clutching his right leg.
        Warmest wishes, Heather. I loved your post. Mary Ellen

  5. Thank you for your honesty. I’ve been a writer all my life, but only recently have begun writing in my own voice. I spent many years in corporate communications, where the message belonged to someone else. I recently started writing a blog which is thrilling and terrifying at the same time. It is comforting to know that I am not alone in feeling uneasy about the vulnerability necessary to ask — for feedback, for someone to read what I have written, for help of any kind. I think this is an important step in my spiritual life, though like most important steps, it is hard. @inordinarytime

    • Laura, all blessings to you as you start blogging–I would imagine the shift would be hard from corporate work to self-directed stuff (though I would bet that I would be just as freaked out to switch to a corporate gig where i had to write on cue–it’s hard to try ANYTHING new 🙂 Thanks for your kind words 🙂

  6. I appreciate your vulnerability and honesty Heather. I had never thought of asking as collaboration. That is really helpful to me. Dipping my toes in the waters of writing and all things creative involves putting it out there and asking others to join my efforts. This is the part that scares me to death. I like how you mention that you have to “practice”….practice surrender, practice asking for help, practice communion. Your perspective has given me some food for thought. Your honesty makes me feel as if I’m not the only one. Thank you for that.

    • Gosh, I am so grateful to Amanda Palmer for that insight. It’s amazing what a little re-framing can do. I pray you are able to face the fear–because I know EXACTLY what you mean. It’s terrifying to put yourself out there.
      The idea of practice has been huge to me too–my friend Melissa Camara Wilkins has helped drill that into my head–that we are growing, not fixed in place. It’s awesome to know we can just try a LITTLE and actually bit things happen. xoxox

  7. So glad I popped into the Mudroom today and caught this post. I have recently had several amazing conversations with people about the vulnerability of writing, and asking, and publishing and this comes as another ray of light. So thank you for letting your words enter my life that way! I’m grateful you’re writing.

    • Thank you, Amelia! I love the synchronicity of that–Johanna, above, wrote a really good piece on her blog that’s about the same thing, too. I’m glad we can mull this over together.

  8. Loved your piece, Heather. And I just subscribed. 🙂 Your piece reminds me why I love being a Redbud. Every time I take something to a critique group I come away with different perspectives that make my writing stronger, and I remember that I’m not alone in this writing life. Love this: Asking is, at its core, a collaboration.

    • Yes! I see that kind of mutual help as the very core of the Redbud community. It’s has taken me a bit to relax and know I can ask for help there–but GOSH is it transformative.

  9. Perfect timing as usual, Heather. This past month I’ve been trying to practice asking…asking people to read my writing, asking people to try out some sessions with me as I consider becoming a life coach, asking people to join me in a writing group… and it is absolutely terrifying. But everything I want to do, everything that matters to me, has connecting with others at its root. I know that collaboration doesn’t spring from nothing. Someone has to be willing to ask. I’m just at the very beginning of starting to believe that someone can be me. Your words have given me a lot to think about. Thank you.

    • Thanks, Johanna. Yes: I think creative work _feels_ like it should be a solo gig, but the reality is that it forces us to reach out. I still am fighting that 🙂
      You’re such an encouragement to me, do you know that? Thanks for that.

  10. I know that the point of this post was to talk about something bigger than keeping or losing subscribers, but I just want to tell you something about subscribing that I’ve been wanting to say.

    I subscribe to your emails, and I love the way you do them. I really appreciate that you put multiple posts into one email rather than sending them each in their own emails (I know of a blogger who does this and I’ll probably unsubscribe from her soon because it’s just too many emails). It keeps the number of emails to a minimum, which helps me because I have a hard time keeping up with email. I also like that you give a little preview of each one so I can see which I want to read (often all of them). I also like that you occasionally send a whole post in one email. I think varying it like that keeps me just a little more interested. Basically, what I’m saying the way you do emails is good, and I’m happy to stay a subscriber.

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