Being a writer is exciting and fun—and overflowing with the unexpected. There are things coming on your writing journey that no one told you about! But it’s okay. We’re here to share what some of those things are, and, more important, to help you develop tools to endure and be refined in the unexpected.
But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
I love writers conferences, and I believe they’re a good thing. But they can also be hard because it’s often at writers’ conferences where writers learn for the first time something no one ever told them about the writing journey.
Want to know what that is? Stay tuned. Because we’re not only going to tell you that, but several other things no one may have yet told you.
Here’s what I read in a Facebook post by Shannon Brink, a writers’ conference attendee. She gave me permission to share this.
“To be honest, I feel 30% encouraged by the content so far and 70% discouraged. With each bold step I take forward in writing, it feels like I learn the journey is ten steps farther than I thought! All of these lovely faculty are at such a further place in the journey and their journeys are all so inspiring, yet the whole ‘growing a platform’ piece feels so impossibly hard. Do any other authors struggle with this? I felt like I had achieved so much, getting my manuscript finished, branding my blog, gaining some steps in social media, finishing my proposal but then, woah…”
So let’s clear this up for everyone. For new writers, and for those who’ve been at this even for several years now:
The journey is much harder and longer and more convoluted and overwhelming than you know.
As difficult as it may be to hear that the journey is longer, harder, and more convoluted that you ever thought, think about if you knew everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—that’s involved in all this upfront. Might you be tempted to run screaming away? It’d be too overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing God can do for you is leave you in the dark about all the challenges that lay ahead in your life. He knows what they are, and that’s enough.
God not only knows what they are, he’s been there, seen that. A.W. Tozer puts it this way in a quote from his book The Knowledge of the Holy:
“God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as he has lived all our yesterdays.”
Psalm 139 tells us:
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 139:13;16 (NIV)
What we want you to know is that there ARE challenges to this writing journey. And there will be MORE challenges. Much more than you’re picturing right now. So don’t let it surprise you when it happens. There isn’t some magical place you’re going to arrive at where there aren’t any more problems (except heaven!).There isn’t some magical place you’re going to arrive at where there aren’t any more problems (except heaven!). #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet
What we encourage you to do is take each challenge in stride. Look back at how far God has brought you and how faithful he’s been. He’s not playing some trick on you by leading you along on your journey only to abandon you at the edge of some precipice. He’s building your faith and your skills, and he’s teaching you to rely on him.
If you’re prepared for that, for the long haul, for surprises, for difficulties, for everything to take much longer and be much harder than you thought, then you won’t be caught quite so off guard. Oh, you’ll probably still FEEL overwhelmed. Frustrated. Annoyed. But hopefully for a much shorter time, because you’ll be trained to know that God is still with you. That he never promised you an easy path. That he wants to see you grow and that, most of all, he’s going to get the glory for enabling you to do what you couldn’t possibly do on your own.
You Need a cohort of writers At YOUR LEVEL, moving with you
The next thing no one may have told you is that you need a cohort, a group of writers, at the same level as you are, who are moving with you. You need peers. We’re not saying you don’t need mentors and teachers ahead of you to help you learn. And yes, there will be people behind you to whom you should be lending a hand.
But many authors neglect or fail to understand the necessity of having a group they’re traveling with. These are the writers who all might be having their very first book release at the same time. You can help each other because you’re all in the same place, having the same experiences.
Or maybe they’re all now finding out just what it takes to grow a platform from small to large, and you can help each other and encourage each other. You can share blessings and woes and new ideas.
These are the people who, like you, will be the writers of the future, the established veterans one day. But today’s veterans, those people ahead of you, are dealing with different problems that you haven’t come upon yet. It’s too early for you to be worrying about them. And the people behind you don’t understand your new conflicts and problems that you’re finding at your level. They can’t walk with you through them, because they’re not there yet.
So how do you find these people? Go to conferences, in person or online, and see who’s in the same classes as you. Join a writing group or start one. Or even consider a paid mastermind or a group that can help you connect with others.
Again, it’s great that writers of all levels can gather together and help each other. You need that. But you also need people at your level who you can grow up in the industry with.
So don’t feel shut out when you can’t get into what feels like an advanced writers’ clique or what seems to be a closed group. They’re simply focused on issues they’re dealing with at their level. Instead, focus on finding other folks like you looking for connections at your level. These are where you have the best chance of forming lasting relationships as you take on the learning curve together.
Make this a frequent topic of prayer: that God would lead you to friendships of his making. Divine appointments he sets up for you. Proverbs 12:26 says:
“The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (NIV)
Proverbs 27:9 tells us:
“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (NIV)
Keep your eyes open, because you never know where and when and how God will bring new relationships about.
Even Veteran writers produce flawed writing needing revision
The next thing no one may have told you is that even veteran writers get really hard edits filled with red ink and flaws. They get long revision letters pointing out plot problems, character problems, POV issues, and you name it. Now, to be fair, we can’t say for sure no one told you this because if you listen to our podcast, our last episode was an interview with Robin Jones Gunn, and she talked about turning in manuscripts that got rejected as unacceptable by her editors. And this was when she was a bestselling author.
What we want to focus on here is the difference between how veteran writers and new writers handle this. The veteran writers understand that writing is a process, and they roll up their sleeves and get to work. But first, they probably react just like you: with anger, frustration, annoyance, rebellion, you name it. But then they take a step back and look at their experience, and that experience gives them confidence that they can make the changes.
But what we often see happen to newer writers is that a hard critique or edit confirms, in their mind, their worst fear: they have no talent and they shouldn’t be writing. It’s a mindset difference. The veteran writer says, “I have work to do.” The inexperienced writer says, “I can’t do the work.” But really, you just haven’t learned how to do the work yet. Trust God to equip you for whatever tasks he’s given you. He’s not going to abandon you.
Ephesians 2:10 says:
“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV)
Hear this again: even the best of writers, gets harsh critiques and difficult edits. Don’t ever let that derail you. Be ready for it. It will happen. Ask God to help you process it. Bounce back, get better, and build your confidence in the writing—or should we say rewriting—process.
Productive writers enlist help
Have you seen writers who seem to be doing an impossible amount of work? You know the kind: they have books coming out regularly, they put perfect pictures on Instagram, thoughtful posts on FB, pithy tweets on Twitter, and probably every other social media outlet. They have a robust newsletter list with 25,000 email addresses, and they probably even have ten children they’re homeschooling, three obedient dogs, and nutritionally balanced dinners every night.
Here’s the deal: if this writer truly exists, and that’s debatable, what you probably haven’t been told is that they have people to help them. They aren’t doing it alone. They delegate. They hire people. They enlist volunteers. They use services. They are a business, and they manage that business. They don’t, and can’t do every aspect of it themselves. And this business did not develop overnight. They grew into an enterprise over time.
So, when you feel overwhelmed about all the things some established writers are able to find time to do, remember that’s a representation of an established business and you’re just one person. It’s like comparing yourself to Coca Cola. You can’t do that and you can’t be that.
But what you can do is figure out what you’re good at and focus on that. You can lay the foundation for a future business if that’s where God is taking you. Learn to write the best books you can. Slowly grow your newsletter. Slowly engage people. Slowly make connections with assistants whose services you might want to use someday. Slowly learn about tools that can help you systematize your processes. Make mistakes. Change your mind. Remember that you’re sowing for a future harvest.
Now, some of you listeners might be more established writers and you’re finding yourself in the middle of chaos. You’ve been trying to do all this on your own and you’re overwhelmed. It’s probably time to invest in help. Get to know yourself and what people like best from you. That’s how you learn what you can do yourself—what needs your personal touch—and what you can delegate. Set aside a portion of your writing income and reinvest it in finding help.
Yes, we just told you that the small income you may be getting from writing is about to get smaller. This is something else nobody ever told you about the writing journey. Whatever you think writers make, it’s way less. So, consider investing in someone to mow your lawn, or answer your email, or write your newsletters. Or invest in someone to make dinner, or run your Amazon ads, or train your dogs, or whatever you need.
If you don’t want to invest, if you feel God isn’t leading you to, then that’s okay, too. It is! But then be satisfied with where that decision puts you. Be satisfied with what type of writing journey that creates for you. Don’t look at those who are hiring and enlisting help and assume you can match that output with only one person doing the work.
You need more healthy habits than you know
The fifth thing no one may have told you is that you need more healthy habits than you realize. You want your writing commitments to fit in with your life, not take over it. Let me repeat that because it’s so important: you want writing to fit in with your life, not drown it out until there’s no room for anything else.You want your writing commitments to fit in with your life, not take it over. #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet
We’re talking about healthy habits like: proper rest, proper sleep (rest and sleep are two different things), eating right, and personal care like exercising, nurturing creativity, and a good long soak in the bathtub when you need one.
We’re talking about healthy habits for dealing with family or household obligations, church obligations, obligations of your day job, and obligations for your writing.
And don’t forget the most important habits: the habits of seeking God, of revering him, praying, and just sitting in awe of him.
The reason why we’re stressing the idea of habit is so that these are, or become, automatic. You automatically turn to God when something goes wrong, or when something goes amazingly right, and everything in between. You’re conditioning yourself to do what’s best for your life.
Habits also become nonnegotiable. For example, you don’t sacrifice your family time or your prayer time in order to write another chapter. You understand what space you have in your life for writing, and you, by habit, keep writing within that boundary.
Don’t hear us saying that your whole life must be regulated and rigid. We’re not talking about that. We’re encouraging habits because you do them without having to decide to do them, and that makes them take up less energy.
As a metaphor, think of your brain’s decision making ability as a battery. Each decision, small or large, uses some of the battery’s charge. From deciding if you really want to go on that walk this morning, to whether you want to floss your teeth, to whether you’re going to have those donuts for breakfast or a healthy protein smoothie. These are all decisions, and they all take energy. Even the tiniest decisions take energy. Every decision you make on social media of whether to click like, click share, click on another post, click to respond, or whatever: they all use up energy.
And guess what? The more your battery runs down, the less capacity you have for self-control to make good decisions. You can read more about this in this article on decision fatigue and also in a book called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman.
If you have healthy habits in place, it’s easier to maintain a life that reflects what you value, even when things get busy, like say, maybe you suddenly get a writing contract. You know whether you can meet the deadline they want to give you because you already know what your writing habits are and how that fits in with your life.
And again, when things go wrong, or become far more difficult than you anticipated, or you’re blindsided by temptations, your habit will be to run to God. To trust in him, to lean on him. You’ve done, and keep doing, what Psalm 1:1-3 encourages:
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” (NIV)
Meditating on God’s word day and night is a healthy habit, and it will serve you well. Of course, no one is perfect, so don’t try to be. But look around for ways you can develop healthy habits to help you live the kind of life you want, and be the kind of person you want to be whether that’s a parent, writer, Christ-follower, friend, or whatever.
We’ve told you five things no one may have told you about this writing journey, but of course, there’s certainly way more. The bottom line is this: No matter what you face, how wonderful, or how difficult it may be, God is with you, and he is for you, and he is working in you to fulfill his good purpose.
We want to hear from you!
What was something you learned about the writing journey that you wish you’d known much earlier?
THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST
We’re excited to have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. He knows what he’s talking about, friends, and we highly recommend his podcast! You can find it at NovelMarketing.com or in your favorite podcast app.
In this sponsorship we’ve been bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. This week we’re talking about Commandment #10: Thou shalt not be false to thine own brand.
What Thomas means by this is: “Be true to who you are as an author. Your brand is not a photo, logo, genre, or collection of fonts. It is the story you tell about yourself. More importantly, it is the story others tell about you.”
Your brand is what readers expect of you. It’s your promise to them. Readers who read your first book and love it want to buy your next book, because they expect it will be like the first book. And they already know they like it. Now they want the same experience from you over and over. Commandment #10 ensures you give it to them.
So, think carefully about the type of book you want to publish before you ever publish anything, and make sure you’re willing to stay true to that brand.
For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com.
Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!
Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!
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