As I sit here in a hotel room and type this post, there’s a realization tugging at me: I need to be clear on how I define “success”. To apply this to the writer’s conference that I’m currently attending (the American Christian Fiction Writers conference), I’m praying that I stay focused on how blessed I am to be here.
I do have several concrete goals I’d love to achieve while here, but sometimes writers can be “all or nothing” people. We come to conference with a list of goals/dreams, and the temptation is to walk away feeling discouraged because we weren’t able to check them all of our list. The tragedy in that mentality is that we’ve set ourselves up for failure since achieving all of our goals with crisp perfection is impossible. So when (not “if”) the first disappointment comes, the rest of the conference is endured and not enjoyed.
The other mistake is to have a prioritized list of goals, where the goals lower down the list are dependent on the ones at the top of the list. When this happens, we are unable or unwilling to fully embrace the lower goals with a mindset of gratitude. We don’t thank God for them because they’re not “the real” big goals–the ones that really count.
I think Christian writers have the ability–because of the Spirit that’s within us–to be able to see the whole picture. It’s simply a matter of whether or not we use that ability. Such an attitude of gratitude won’t happen accidentally. It must be intentionally nurtured every day.
The fact is: just being here at the conference is an achievement for which to be thankful. Here are some other signs that the conference is a success:
- You’re able to reconnect with old friends
- New friends become a part of your life
- You realize that we have great food and plenty of it (much of the world would love to trade places with us).
- You were used by God to encourage another person
- You listened when God said “no”, even though it wasn’t on your list
- You learned something that will make you a better person, and a better writer
- You met writers you admire
These are just a few. Notice that “getting a contract” or “getting an agent” isn’t in the above list. Do I want those things? ABSOLUTELY! But even if they don’t happen while I’m here, this conference has already been a success.
How do you define success as a writer? As a person?
Intimidation: Writers face it all the time. Whether it’s a blinking cursor on a blank computer screen, a snarky remark in a critique, red ink from an editor, rejections…lions, and tigers, and bears…oh my!
We can be shaken by these types of things. But I’m learning that it’s not the presence of the intimidation that is key, it’s the way I choose to respond to it that matters. For the most part, I can’t do anything about the presence of intimidation. But I can control how it impacts my psyche. Criticism or critiques can be a sharpening stone that turns a dull knife blade into a sharp tool, or–if used improperly–it can nick and ruin the blade. Red ink can scream, “What makes you think you’re a writer? You can’t do this!” or it can say, “Try harder…you CAN do better. I believe in you!”
I’m in the process of getting sample chapters and a pitch ready for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. And at meetings with agents and editors, I’ll be trying to keep from letting intimidation choke me while I tell them about my book. That’s if I even make it to the hotel at DFW. (I’ve heard that traffic and road construction are a snarled mess. I may spend the entire week circling Dallas trying to find my way into the airport complex where the hotel is located….opps, there goes intimidation again).
As a writer, what things intimidate you? How do you handle them?
“What’s your story about?”
It’s a question that I’ll have to answer when I get to the American Christian Fiction Writers convention in Dallas next week. Shouldn’t be that hard…right?
The problem, it seems to me, is that I have a tendency to go from one extreme to the other in attempting to answer the question. It reminds me of the preacher who preached a thirteen point sermon one week. Afterwards he realized he’d overdone it, so the next Sunday he began his sermon by saying, “In light of last weeks thirteen point sermon, this morning’s message will be pointless.”
I’m really trying to get my answer to fall in between the multi-pointed and the pointless response. I want to say enough, but not too much. I want an agent/editor’s eyes to open wide, not gloss over. So what am I going to do?
Simply this: I’m going to practice, practice, practice. Not that I’m going to strut around ready to spot my elevator pitch to anyone who even appears to be forming the question, but I do want to be able to be clear and concise.
My testimony as a Christian should be much the same way. When someone asks me a reason for the hope that is in me, I should be able to give a short and focused answer. AND I should be prepared to follow that up with a more detailed explanation if the opportunity presents itself. Both require preparation.
Two sentences or less: Why are you a Christian?
Many of the blessings that have come my way as a writer can be directly credited to other people. In fact the last year and a half have been full of growing experiences because of my association with American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the resources they provide.
- The local chapter (South-Central Kansas chapter meeting in Wichita, KS) has provided monthly fellowship opportunities with other writers. These dear people have become friends, sharing a common bond with me.
- The national ACFW conference which provided friendships that have blessed me over the last year. This year’s conference is only a few weeks away, and if I get any more excited I’ll be bouncing off the walls. Being with other writers who sacrifice time to teach me how to be a better wordsmith is priceless. There truly is a spirit of servanthood among the members of ACFW. They celebrate each other’s successes, and offer a listening ear when someone is struggling. The craft is highly respected, but people are too. It was at last year’s conference that I made friendships that have been so important to me. I can’t wait to see these people again this year!
- THE JOURNAL, ACFW’s new print magazine is another great resource that offers advice and information about the craft and business of writing Christian fiction. I was honored to have written an article for the premier issue.
- THE LOOP of emails that goes out every day of the year provides an opportunity to engage in conversations, ask questions, seek advice, or just “listen in” as others do all of those things.
The above resources mean a great deal to me. However, as wonderful as they are, they take a back seat to the real heroes that provide my most important support system: my wife and kids. They deserve the credit for anything good I write, because they sacrifice so much so I can write. Since I’m a full-time minister (which I love–thanks Gracepoint!), that means I don’t write full-time. I have to carve out time to write in the mornings and evenings. My family sacrifices time with me, allowing me to hunker in my bunker and bang away at the keyboard…or just stare at the screen and mumble whatever yiddish words come to mind (& I’m not even Jewish!). My family takes money from our family budget so I can go to conference & chapter meetings (we live an hour away from Wichita), buy books, get a laptop, etc…, all of which means that they give up something so I can write. They believe in me when I doubt myself. They deserve better than I give them.
Who are the people who have made your writing journey possible? Have you thanked them yet?