Monday, August 30, 2010

What Keeps You Going?

Nick Harrison, senior editor for Harvest House Publishers, wrote a 5-part series of posts entitled How to Succeed as a Christian Writer, which he posted on his blog over the past few weeks. He makes a number of good points, but the thing that resonated with me is how to tell whether or not you're a writer at heart. Nick says, "Know your calling as a writer ... Are you serious about your writing or are you a dabbler? Will you be briefly disappointed if you don't succeed, and then move on to the next thing in your life? Or are you aware that this endeavor of writing, editing, and publishing is right where God wants you in spite of repeated rejections from publishers?"
As I've shared here before, my journey to publication took 20 long, frustrating years. Twenty years of persevering through rejection after rejection until, at my first major Christian writers' conference, I found an editor who believed in my work. During that long drought I wept many tears and wrestled with God, begging him to open the door to publication or take away the desire to write. He did neither for a very long time. I was Moses on the back side of the desert. And during those years I discovered I most definitely wasn't a dabbler. My disappointment was not brief, nor did I get on to the next thing. I persevered, writing novel after novel, because I believed at the deepest level that writing is what I was supposed to do. My wrestling match with God ended with me accepting the reality that God had called me to write ... but the results were his. That was the deal. And nothing I did would ever circumvent that reality.
Are those novels I wrote in my "wilderness experience" worthy of publication? Not all. But the latest ones are, the ones that are evidence of the growth that's taken place in me as a writer, that show I've worked hard at the craft, read book after book on the craft.
The joy in holding my first published book was -- and still is -- incredibly validating. I finally had something to show for all my hard work, as well as a contract for another novel. I truly believed I was on my way. But there's been a detour in the road and I'm currently between contracts. It's not the place I want to be, but I'm not just biding my time, waiting for answers back from editors who are reading my manuscripts. I continue to write, and gain encouragement from my family and from my truly awesome writing mates here at Novel Matters. They are my critique partners, my prayer partners, my friends -- each a true gift from God.
Nick writes, "Rejection is the way of the writing life. Get used to it. If you're called to write just keep at it and let God find the right publisher." That's great advice. Get used to it. Let God ... It's not like we really have a choice, and yet we do. We have the choice whether or not to submit to God's plan and method in our life -- which is perfect. Not easy, maybe, but perfect.
How has discouragement worked for or against you in your writing life? How do you get past the discouragement? Or do you? Have any of you discovered you're a dabbler after all? What new thing have you gone on to in order to fulfill the artistic part of you?


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

The thing that has kept me going through many rejections and excruciating near-misses is an absolute assurance that this is what I'm meant to do with my life.

God made that clear to me in a dramatic way that still makes my skin thrill with goosebumps when I think of it. (What a story that is!) Having all doubt removed makes the journey so much easier. I don't have to worry and wonder - simply be patient and trust in his timing.

Even so, it can be hard to be patient, and I haven't waited 20 years - how I admire you for that, Sharon. But God is good, isn't he? I've found that for every rejection I've received he's given me some small affirmation, some quiet whisper of encouragement to keep my heart buoyant with hope. He deals so gently with our fragile dreams.

I've learned too that the journey is just as important as the destination. It's the Israelites wandering the wilderness to reach the Promised land; it's Joseph in jail when he'd been given a dream that he would rule. That testing time is what strengthens our character and purifies our motives so we're ready for what God wants us to receive.

Wendy Paine Miller said...

You are a gift from God, Sharon.

No, not a dabbler (although that is a fun word to say).

When I get discouraged I go back to the Source of all encouragement and find myself in Him again until I gather the courage and the fight to dig in again.

I love knowing your journey--knowing all you endured and where you are now on the writing path. Truly an inspiration.

~ Wendy

Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

...and I have to add, in case I sound like a real goody two-shoes with all the above: that doesn't mean I'm not scared. I often feel like the spies who returned from Canaan in terror of the giants in the land.

My giants: marketing. Speaking. (I'm an introvert.) Producing to deadlines with small children to care for. Caring too much what people think.

I've waited so long, pleading "When, God? When will I be published?" But now that it feels like I'm on the brink of that fulfillment, I find myself drawing back and asking, "Are you sure? Why me?" as all the old insecurities well up.

Praying for Caleb's courage to take that land...

Meg Moseley said...

Sharon, I'm another one whose journey to publication was a long one. Mine took around fourteen years, I think. I'm not exactly sure when I started. Those years were a mixture of discouragement, encouragement, rejection, and near misses. And friends! The friends I've found on the journey are treasures.

If I'd sold a book five or ten years ago, it would have been fluff. Poorly written fluff. But while I was learning the craft, writing and rewriting, I was learning about God and life, too. While I was working on GMCs and sentence structure, God was working on me.

He woke my heart to issues I'd hardly noticed before, and He gave me a story I couldn't have written before. When it sold, I could see the value of the long walk through the desert of discouragement. God didn't leave me alone in the desert, either.

He's with us every step of the way, even when we enter the land of the giants. (Gulp!) Karen, you and I have the same giants except my kids are grown. But we WILL conquer!

Anonymous said...

What inspiring comments that allow us to see deep into your hearts. Our journeys are not the same in detail, but there is so much in common. We all want to arrive, and that is certainly the goal, but the journey is "what strengthens our character and purifies our motives so we're ready for what God wants us to receive", as Karen said. We go back "to the Source of all encouragement," as Wendy said, and he nudges us along with his love and grace. "I could see the value of the long walk through the desert of discouragement. God didn't leave me alone in the desert, either." Meg's testimony is ours too. There are many examples in the Bible of God's preparation for those he calls. When we know in our hearts we're on the path he's called us to, we can rest in that. As we continue to persevere, we will, like Caleb, have the courage to take the land. And trust me, God will give you the courage to go way beyond your comfort zone. He's certainly done that for me, helped me do things I never thought I could do.

Cherry Odelberg said...

Sometimes the circumstance of having to drop (or nearly srop) the writing in order to work the job that supports, leaves me feeling guilty-that I must just be a dabbler. But, I keep returning to writing because I cannot help myself-cannot keep away. So, no, I have not the absolute assurance Karen speaks of (although I heartily agree with her in being an introvert). I have to agree with Meg-had I published 15 years ago, or even five, it would have been fluff. God's influence and wisdom and truth in my life has been changing dramatically. Is there any harm is publishing at 60?

Anonymous said...

No harm at all, Cherry. So glad you continue to persevere.

Susy said...

What a powerful post, Sharon! The thing that kept me going through those early years is encouragement from friends and acquaintances. Somehow, just when I needed it the most, I would get an unexpected validation. When someone says, "Of course you can do it!" ... and when they mean it, God can use it in your life and a simple statement can resonate and strengthen your resolve and your persistence. In turn, we need to remember to do this for others, when appropriate. Who knows how God will use a simple encouraging statement?

Terri Tiffany said...

I know I'm not a dabbler. I've invested too many years in this craft. But I know I have so much more to learn and that helps with the rejections. They come but also now and then I get some acceptances in my non-fiction that keeps me going as I try to learn this fiction animal:)

Nicole said...

I'm not a dabbler. What I've learned is it isn't all about me. What I've accepted and truly know is apart from Him, I can do nothing. What I realize is He's calling the shots and the stories He's given me to tell belong to Him. What I hope is, and can honestly count on, He will use them for His glory.

I don't need a royalty publisher to tell me I've "made it". I don't need a royalty publisher to tell me I can or can't write. I need the Lord to do with me what He's designed, and I need to do what He has for me to do. Period.