Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Funnel of Inspiration

You who have followed us for a while have undoubtedly noticed that, with the exception of Latayne's The Hinge of Your History: the Phases of Faith, none of us has had a new book published in the past number of months. That can be, and quite candidly is, a discouraging situation for all of us. The publishing world has been hit by the downturn in our economy as many industries have, but even apart from that there are many changes taking place in the publishing world, and we've all been affected.
It's discouraging to find yourself without a contract once you've been published, particularly if you're multi-published, as all of us here are. That said, none of us is back to square one, because we all have agents who believe in us and are doing their best to find publishing homes for our novels.
So how do I deal with discouragement? One way is to encourage myself with comments from readers. I love the quote Marybeth used in Monday's post, how as Christian writers "...We should also wish to make [our readers] better" George F. Handel. It's quite gratifying to read a note from a reader who not only enjoyed your book, but who took something away from it, something that helped them grow a little in their Christian walk. Like the comment Megan Sayer wrote on our blog regarding Lying on Sunday a couple of weeks ago. It really boosted my spirits. I think helping the reader grow, no matter where they are in their relationship to God, is the goal of most Christian writers. Not just to entertain, though entertainment is certainly part of what we strive to offer, but to help advance the kingdom of God in our own small way.
How else do I get the upper hand over discouragement? Well, as they say, misery loves company. So I share my writing woes with my closest writing friends -- Bonnie, Debbie, Katy, Latayne and Patti. They understand me like no one outside my immediate family understands me. Truly, it takes a writer to know one (or maybe the spouse and children of one). They've been exactly where I am, and if nothing else they can wipe my tears or share them, and they can and do pray for me. I can't stress enough the importance of having a close writing friend or two. We here at Novel Matters are excited because we see relationships developing between our readers, who, like us, may not live in the same state or even the same country -- perhaps not even on the same continent. But you're developing friendships, and we hope those friendships go beyond greeting one another on our Comments page. We hope you'll find critique pals and kindred souls who know just where you are and can encourage you as you write.
Then there are those days when I close the door to my office, ignore the wooing of my characters, and find other things to do -- things not even remotely related to writing. Cleaning the pantry comes to mind. Mostly I don't do that. Mostly I keep to my work, plodding away on plots and word counts, but there are days ... And when I have days like that, when cleaning the pantry or the junk drawer or whatever else calls to me, I decide, "Why fight it?" I turn on the oldies and roll up my sleeves. But trust me, it's not wasted time. Because for as long as I can remember, when I have a problem to work through or a defeat to deal with, I clean. These days you could eat off my floor. (We won't talk about the windows.) I talk out loud to God while I'm doing it, too. Out. Loud. I lay my issues before him like Hezekiah spreading out the letter from Sennacherib, king of Assyria, who was determined to conquer Judah, and boasted that not even the God of Hezekiah could prevent it. Oh yeah? Overnight, God wiped out much of his army, and Sennacherib fled back to Nineveh "and stayed there." I love it. (For the whole account, read 2 Kings, chapters 18 & 19.)
And beyond that, I determine on a daily -- sometimes hourly -- basis to be true to my call. Philippians 2:13 is one of my favorite scriptures: "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do His good pleasure." (Sorry, my quote is a blend of KJV and NIV.) God gave me a writer's heart, and short of a transplant, a writer I will stay. And as someone who believes very much in the sovereignty of God, I acknowledged long ago that it's my job to write, and His job to take my offering and do what He wants with it, when He's good and ready. Does that stop me from saying to Him on occasion, "Come. Let us reason together ..."? Not on your life. I'm not above twisting the arm of God. In fact, I'm dangling from it as we speak. I just happen to know it doesn't get me very far.
So my encouragement funnels down from the praises of those I don't know, or don't know well, to family and friends who walk with me on this journey, to that still small voice inside that encourages me that when I've done all I know to do, to stand. And so I stand. Or more accurately I sit, BIC, and pour onto the page the story that churns in my heart. That's how it has to be for all of us, because when all is said and done, it's the inner conviction that keeps us going.
We have some fun and some helpful resources planned for this year at Novel Matters, such as our Novel Tips on Rice recipe book that we offered in December. If you haven't yet downloaded it, you can find it here. It's a fun and a free resource we put together under the ultra-talented leadership of Katy Popa. Need a website? She's the person to talk to. Visit her at Cottonbond. We'll have contests and opportunities for the writers and readers among us, and we'll do our best to help you on your journey. We look forward to your interaction with us and with each other. 2011, here we come!


Jan Cline said...

I think most of us draw strength from our writer/blogger friends. Honestly, if it were not for reading posts like you all put out, it would be tough to get through the discouraging times - especially for those of us who are not yet published. The term networking can be a cold, sterile word, but I too see relationships being built and foundations being laid for future resources. We live in a great age - even though it might be harder to get published.

Wendy Paine Miller said...


You have such a beautiful soul!

I loved this post. I've been at a real point of decision making these past few days and between prayer and close friends, I find myself bolstered and encouraged.

I can say from experience that you have made me a better writer. You are that needed combination of honest, probing and lovingly firm.

I can't wait to see what's ahead.

And I will pray for each of you and the publishing industry.

~ Wendy

Anonymous said...

Jan, it is a great age in many ways. Networking really is about relationship. We're thrilled to be encouragers.

Wendy, you're very kind. I'm so glad to be of service to you and other fellow writers.

Nicole said...

Well, you could never eat off my floors (although the 5 second rule applies). And when I'm . . . not writing, I'm reading, definitely not cleaning. And sometimes hiding from the obvious: prayer. Shame on me.

Thanks for being honest, Sharon. That's where it's at, Girl.

Unknown said...

It's difficult to know what to say about this post. I get so emotional -

The career of a writer is measured over many years, and with the release of many books. It's nearly impossible for most writers to know where they are in the process.

And with an entire new industry that has sprung up around writer how to books, we have begun to think that getting published is some sort of golden goose. It isn't. It's simply another step on a long, long journey. There is no "arrival" point. There is only moving toward a goal of being an ever improved writer.


Lynn Dean said...

Thanks for a very honest post.

If writing is a ministry (and for most of us, it is), then the words on the page are the overflow of life. Rather like Lying on Sunday, what we profess when we're keeping up pretenses isn't as important as the honest living we do with God. I suspect that's what the "dry times" are often about--God teaching us so that the words that flow next are rich and genuine.

Megan Sayer said...

Sharon I'm so glad my comment the other day blessed you so much. I'm still talking about your book to everyone around here!

And I so hear you on the discouragement front, it's hard going. My husband is in the music industry, a recording engineer and producer. Right now he's in a similar place; the big projects he's been working on are finished, there's nothing much we can see on the horizon, the phone's not ringing a whole lot and he's got too much time on his hands. The scripture God keeps putting on my heart is Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.

Last night after reading your post (they come somewhere between 8:30 and 10:30pm local time) I got determined to do something. I strapped on my prayer boots (metaphorically) and stomped around the kitchen (literally) for an hour or so praying for Tony and for you. I'm continuing to do so this morning, because you're very much on my heart right now.

Anonymous said...

Megan, you have no idea how much that means to me. It's a very difficult time right now for my family and me, on a number of counts. I will pray for you and Tony as well. I pray the phone rings, and God is on the other end with a blessing you cannot contain.

Anonymous said...

Nicole and Lynn, I really appreciate your comments. And Bonnie, you're wise beyond your years. I'm so glad for your friendship.

Susie Finkbeiner said...

Oh, I have to say that I love this blog! I really do! Everyday I feel refreshed by the insights in the posts as well as the comments!

I'm playing the "waiting for all the agent yes please/no thank you letters" game. Every time I get a message in my email inbox I flinch a little. I know that right now it's going to be tough to find an agent that will take a flying leap chance as a new novelist. But I believe that God has a plan for my book.

Sharon, thank you for sharing your struggles. It actually makes me feel like I'm in good company.

Ellen Staley said...

Praying for you and your family, Sharon.
As I thought over your post, I was struck with your choice of the word 'funnel' in the title. As in a whirlpool, swept away, drained out.
But then I thought, no. Instead of the negative, a positive, as the prayers of your heart spread up and out, increasing in volume as they approach the throne of God. That same wide open funnel that sits ready to catch not only His answering words, but also the blessings He sends your way, funneled down to your heart.

Well, here's proof I tend to ramble, but I hope my meaning somehow seeped through.

Anonymous said...

Ellen, you got it exactly right. Thanks for contributing.

Miz Liz said...

"Funnel down...." Oh my, Sharon, how did I get to be so old without finding such a sister (in Christ and in writing) ??? Came via She Writes and LOVE novelmatters and now I claim you as my new best friend. Any author who writes about a woman past 35 is my kind of gal! Can't wait to get a couple of your books. Maybe, between my caregiving roles and a huge blended family, I might get back to my novel. You give me hope.