When you invest in your dream, you invite success to come your way.
This is why I’m spending money to drive 1000 miles and attend the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference. It’s why I’m willing to separated from my family for a short period of time. It’s why I allowed myself and my writing to be vulnerable by entering a couple of contests. It’s why I’m going to risk making a fool out of myself and pitch my work to agents and editors. It’s why I’m going to cram my days with workshops, classes, and face-to-face time with other writers who are skilled in the craft and business of writing.
Are any of these things guarantees that I will find an agent or a publishing contract this week? No. But by investing in my dream of being a published novelist, I am giving myself opportunities to succeed. The fact is, these writers, agents, and editors aren’t going to show up on my doorstep. I have to invest in my work before I can expect them to do the same.
And as I pack my van, load up the cooler with snacks and Dr. Pepper, stuff my luggage with sample chapters and one-sheets, and plug-in the borrowed GPS, I realize how blessed I am to have a wife and children who support my dream. They cheer me on as I chase this calling–this stewardship of story–and whatever success comes my way, I know it is theirs as much as it is mine.
Writer, invest in your dream, and invite success to come your way also.
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?
I love books. I love reading them and writing them. I love to read books about writing. And I really love it when my wife buys me books as gifts, because she’ll write a note in the cover saying something like, “We believe in you”…or…”We’re your biggest fans”…or…”Don’t give up”…or some such note of encouragement.
My dear wife and kids are my strong support system. They each sign the books, and my wife always adds the Bible reference, Mark 9:23
“And Jesus said to him, ‘If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes.'”
Every writer understands that there are those moments where we have to believe that we can do this thing called writing. And that belief keeps us going when many other “voices” challenge our confidence. I think it was agent Terry Burns who said that successful writers are those who simply refuse to quit. I agree.
I’m not suggesting that belief is a substitute for talent or hard work. But belief is needed as you learn and grow, because it’s hard work. And the task of crafting a novel is not for the weak of heart. Belief keeps my eye on the goal of seeing a book get published. Belief allows me to submit my work for criticism or enter contests or look forward to the red ink that shows me how to make a manuscript better.
The fact is that I know I must believe that I CAN DO IT! And I’ve got to be stubborn. I can’t waste time blaming my problems on agents or editors or reviewers. I, and I alone, am responsible for my own self-determination and for my inner drive.
I want to urge you to keep working hard as a writer. If you’re not sold that you’re a writer…who ever will be?