Friday, August 21, 2009

When the Lord Shuts a Writer Down... or Up

Remember if you comment on any of the posts this month, you qualify yourself for an autographed copy of The Mormon Mirage (Zondervan, 2009.) In fact, this is the book mentioned later in this column. So, speak up!

I often hear published writers often talking about how the Lord has advanced their careers, or put them in advantageous positions in landing a good agent or happening on just the right editor at a conference. And surely He does work that way.

But for some of us, there are two sides to the story.

I believe there was a certain point – in fact, a day and hour -- in my life at which the Lord told me that He wanted me not to write for money nor recognition, until He released me from that stricture. He shut me down completely. I had been a published writer since I was in grade school. Suddenly I found myself in an open-ended situation in which it felt that my very breath was restricted. Not for days, or months, but for years.

For about eight years in fact, I continued to write but did it anonymously and/or without publication. When He began to release me it was to write business articles about utilities – gas, electric, sewer, water, and nuclear --and about military, financial, and technological subjects. All my religious writing I kept to myself or posted anonymously on a web site. My books all went out of print except one. The most popular one I offered free for download to anyone who wanted it.

I prayed for a very long time before I felt He would allow me to approach an agent. Year after year, prayer after begging prayer, His answer was “no.”

When He released me to write for the Christian marketplace, I knew it. I can tell you the day and place when I knew He was going to let me contact Janet Grant (and only Janet Grant). And in other cases, publishers approached me for books I’d been working on during that dry, dry time.

He’s a tough Master, but He knew what was best for me. It surely didn’t feel “glorious” at the time, though. There was no sense of being honored. I was under discipline, and I knew it. I’m not proud of that.

When he underwent great trial, Job asked the question, “When God sends us something good, we welcome it. How can we complain when he sends us trouble?”

I believe I must be a better writer than I would have been if I’d kept trying to market my work during those arid years. I have concluded that there is no such thing as "lost time" in God's economy of obedience.

In fact, I wonder just how different the quality of Christian writing as a whole would be if God put those kinds of restrictions on everyone.

Or maybe He is doing that, but we’re not listening?

Have you ever felt that the Lord hemmed you in or restricted you? What was the result?


Nicole said...

When I was directed to write that first novel, I couldn't have been more naive as to the publishing realm. And even from the beginning I felt the book would be self-published, and I knew nothing about that either. That whole long journey is amusing to this day, and, yes, self-publish it I did, for obvious reasons if you knew the book.

Skip ahead to seven novels completed. More significant education in the publishing world and almost made it with the second novel to a very well-respected Christian lit agency. At the last minute, it was a no.

The Lord has spoken to my heart through the entire process, although not about his specific timing. I have learned many things, but most importantly I must trust in His decisions for whatever I write, whatever I do. After all: it's His call.

Samantha Bennett said...

"He’s a tough Master, but He knew what was best for me." Thanks for sharing, Latayne! Your ability to trust in God regardless of the outcome is crazy encouraging. This is exactly what I needed to read this morning... so thanks!

Bonnie Grove said...

Our stories are different, Latayne, but there are threads woven through my life that look much like the ones I see in your post today.

My husband and I learned how to walk step by wobbly step inside the will of God. It is a difficult place to find your bearings because - and it isn't until later you realize this, you don't see it at first - this place of God's will has nothing to do with you. It is about Him.

I've been stripped of everything in my life - twice (see how thick headed I can be? Twice for pity's sake. Twice!), but through it came clarity. This life, these books I write, these children who are my heart, this husband I love, and everything else in my life isn't about me.

And that has set me free in ways I would have never dreamed of while I was still holding two fisted to the life I wanted.

Connie Brzowski said...

Yes sweetie, this happened to me too. (Heavy sigh~) Truth is, I knew why at the time. And as there's no way to give a sweetened condensed version, let's just let it lay~

But when He released me, I was too busy having fun with other stuff to hear. My poor husband sat me down (repeatedly) and told me to get moving.

But the joy now! Pure bliss :)

Latayne C Scott said...

Thanks, Nicole, Samantha, and Bonnie.

I hope this helps and encourages writers who feel stymied in their path to publication. If we commit our way to the Lord, then He may lead us in paths we wouldn't have chosen

In fact, looking at all the Biblical exemplars I can think of -- nobody got up in the morning and said, "I'd like to carry the Lord's message, and a really effective way to do that would be, say, a fiery furnace or a shipwreck."

God's ways, I have discovered, are rarely safe ways.

Latayne C Scott said...

And Connie -- those of us who have been through this don't put it on our resumes, do we? But we do talk about it in hopes that it helps others in the midst of it all....

Edna said...

I am not a writter but love to read what others write, so a free book would be great.

May God bless


Connie Brzowski said...

No we do not. Makes for a mighty skimpy resume sometimes~

And I'm thinking Edna should get the free book just for being cool. If my name is drawn, send it to her :)

Bonnie Grove said...

Oh Connie, I can't count how many times my hubby said to me, "Get back to that book" (the one that became Talking to the Dead), and I answered, "What? That old pipe dream?"

Lord help me hear your wisdom through my husband!

NikoleHahn said...

I have been writing since age sixteen and trying for publication since this age. I got lucky with a few small presses, but it wasn't until I became saved that He really began using my stories to edify others and change them to a different thought process regarding ministry. I am not famous and I may never be famous. However, my writing is my lifes work and if that means not making any money, then by all means. I will follow God in whatever course He leads me. I just keep praying it means a book contract. lol.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing this. I love writing, and have "goals" but I know God many times is saying to me it will come, but not now. It happens so much in different parts of life.

Would enjoy your book too, as one of my best friends for over 40 years is Mormon, and I continue sharing with her.

Anonymous said...

Latayne, boy does this resonate with me. My path to publication took 20 long years -- and I'm not out of the wilderness yet. All that time I felt I was up against a brick wall with no door, window, fissure, no way through in sight. Then God ... Need I say more?

I love your words: "God's ways are rarely safe ways." That's the absolute truth. But it's all part of the Great Adventure of following Him.

Katie Ganshert said...

This is a very odd questions, but I'll ask it anyway - how did you know that's what God wanted? I have a hard time hearing the Holy Spirit, I think. I have a hard time differentiating between my own personal feelings and God's will. Or maybe I just need to stop talking AT God and learn to listen TO Him. Just curious.

Thanks for sharing!

Steve G said...

Great post, Latayne.

Katie, some people have to let it go before they can pick it up again. That happened to Keith Green in regards to music. It happened to me in regards to pastoring. When we do that - let go and leave it and wait for God to say, "NOW you can do it" we learn to hold things much more loosely because it is God's, as Bonnie said.

Remember Paul went down to Arabia for 3 years after he got saved. I think part of that was learning to let go of his "mission", his "religion" so he could learn the "realationship" of following Jesus.

And I think you hit the nail on the head, too - learn to listen. Find the quiet places and seek Him - He has promised to be found!

LeAnne Hardy said...

I think I have appreciated these comments as much as the original post. Thank you to all who have shared.

Latayne C Scott said...

To tell you the truth, I am surprised that so many people have responded with similar stories. I really suspected when I first posted this that people would keep their distance, fearing that the condition of being "waved away from" publication might be contagious in some way.

To respond to Katie about how I knew that was what God wanted: This is not the first time such a thing had happened in my life. Without going into detail, the experience came with such force of conviction that I had no doubt at the time nor have I ever doubted that it was from Him.

In addition (and, as a former member of a cult, I freely acknowledge that none of these points is alone determinative), this was not something I would have wanted. Now, this may sound contrary to much of the teaching from pulpits today, but in Scripture God usually communicated to His servants to ask them to do something they weren't otherwise inclined to do (and didn't give them any warm fuzzies in the process). Think Moses at the burning bush, Isaiah chapter 6, the call of Jeremiah, Zacharias in the temple.

These are not the only valid criteria for settling such a question. And, I am not comparing myself to such great people of the past. I am saying that the way this happened seemed to me to be consistent with the way He does things.

So I obeyed.

Annie said...

I absolutely love this concept:
"that there is no such thing as "lost time" in God's economy of obedience."
This gives me peace in the "waiting" in the times when it seems like nothing is happening, when God is trimmimg the flesh so I can walk in perfect rhythm with His Spirit.
Thank you for reminding me that "obedience is better than sacrifice".
His ways and thoughts are higher than ours.

Joan Hall said...

I've wanted to be a writer since I was a child, but until recently never did anything about it. Two years ago, I began taking online writing courses and finally got up the nerve to submit something to my church blog site.

I dreamed of writing Christian fiction, and began writing three different manuscripts - only to become frustrated and stop writing. I used every excuse in the world - not enough time, can't concentrate, etc.

Early this year, I began seeking God's will for my writing. I began to keep a journal just for writing. I kept sensing that fiction was not the way He wanted me to go. Still, I would get those longings and the ideas would start popping in my head.

After returning from the Proverbs 31 She Speaks Conference earlier this month - I got His clear direction. No fiction (at least not at this time). He has led me to write short inspirational articles and devotions and I started a blog for that purpose.

Perhaps someday, He will lead me to write fiction, but now I feel I'm where He wants me to be.

Bonnie Grove said...

I love the open and communitive spirit between this Novel Matters family. Each one of you contributes so much to my life, gives me so much to think about - thank you all for your comments. You've each spoken into my life some wonderful things - deep things.

Thank you for your transparent sharing of your stories. I'm richer for them.

Steve G said...

Sometimes God speaks very directly. Do you think that usually happens at a turning point, a lead in to a transition? For Moses the bush was the next chapter in his life. Perhaps that argument could be made for most of the "direct" speakings God does. I don't hear His voice like that often, but when I do it is usually because it is time for a new direction (ie, when it was time to move to Saskatchewan, it was very clear).

The majority of the time God doesn't speak that way. It is more like the "gentle blowing" where He speaks to Elijah (one of my favourite stories). In that sense, I think God expects us to use the faculties He has graced us with. As we walk in Him in integrity, we are able to make good decisions as we go forth, always trusting and praying that He will lead us. God is able to change things for us, but we need to use the brain He gave us. The problem is when we allow agendas and pride and other things in our life that take our eyes off Him. Surrender to Jesus, and go forth in power. It is actually pretty simple.

Stace said...

Sometimes I wonder if we are too quick to decide something is "discipline" from the Father. Of course, only you would know between the two of you. But a gag order from Father might not be about discipline, as if you had done something objectionable and needed punished or restrained. Perhaps it was not time for the message yet, and to move ahead would ruin the impact. Perhaps you needed the time to process and grow as a person and a Disciple before writing what you had to say.

When I look at the Word, so many of God's major prophets were sent out into the wilderness for a time, sometimes literal and sometimes metaphorical, but there were long stretches where God seemed to hold them back, even from friends and family, until they were ready and the timing was perfect.

I have been told no before, to shut up and let it go. Later, most of the time, I saw the wisdom and even mercy that God showed in His limitation. Yes, sometimes we need an attitude adjustment, but sometimes, it just isn't the PERFECT time, Father's perfect time, and excellent and praiseworthy as the project might be, if we launch in before God has prepared the recipients, we lose some of the power He wants to show.