I’ve been away for a few days and am now back in the saddle. I asked my Facebook friends for some ideas for my next blog and got some great responses. I’ll answer the first one now and try to answer the others over the course of the next few days.

Lori Roeleveld says: We read a lot about handling rejection. I’d like to hear something about preparing spiritually for success.

I hope I’m understanding Lori’s question correctly, so here goes.

Preparing spiritually for success isn’t much different than preparing for “failure.” I have to use quote marks there because there really is no such thing as failure for a Christian writer. And that’s why there aren’t many differences in the way we prepare ourselves for the results of what we write.

At some point—hopefully very early on—a Christian writer has to develop a deep sense that God is sovereign in what happens to this magnificent gift we call writing. Is He going to use it to reach many or just a few? In either case, it’s really all up to Him, not us. Sure, we do all the necessary preparation and follow through—the actual research, the writing, the submitting, the praying, and all the rest of it. But unless we know that God orders our steps, we’re going to be in for much greater disappointment than is necessary. In my previous blog I mentioned the disappointment I felt when a project I’d been working on for two years fell apart. But even as I experienced the disappointment, I had to acknowledge “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” I had been praying for that project every step of the way. So when it ended, I had to accept that too was the hand of God. One of the worst things a writer can do is allow disappointment or discouragement to end or derail a writing career. The only thing that should end a writing career for a Christian is a true sense in our spirit that God has called us to something else.

Just as so-called “failure” must not discourage us, neither should success cause us to become puffed up. Although I still go through the down emotions when I receive a rejection, I also experience joy at an acceptance and I’m overjoyed when I receive a letter from a reader whose life has been impacted by something I’ve written. And regarding the latter, I have to honestly say that when I read such a letter, I know more than anybody else how truly any work done in the reader was something God accomplished, not something I can take credit for. Just as in failure, so too in success you can’t let your emotions play too large a part in judging your work. Move on in the face of apparent failure and move on in the face of apparent success.

Lori, I guess that’s a long way of saying that success is something God does with our writing, not something we do. Knowing that will help us handle it wisely.

I want to add, too, that I believe Christian writers should expect to succeed. If I were to offer a “step-by-step” plan for success for Chrisitan writers, it would look something like this:

1. Be sure your writing is totally surrendered to God.
2. Pray for success and believe for success.
3. Learn the ropes.
4. Always do the next thing you know to do. Don’t look too far ahead.
5. Leave the results to God.

Next up I’ll tackle Bob Russell’s question which is related to Lori’s: What is success as a writer and how do you know when you ‘ve achieved it? How do you measure it? Book sales? Satisfaction? Lives changed?

9 replies
  1. Mary Kay
    Mary Kay says:

    Thank you, Nick, for the priority reminder. It is God’s business, and his gift. I’m accountable for doing my part, but the results are up to Him.

    It is getting easier to remember that. But I easily recall tossing my first finished MS into the trash after I experienced a deep hurt and discouragement grew. (And the hurt wasn’t even writing related!) Fortunately my wise husband retrieved it and kept it safe until my sanity and courage returned. When I bemoaned throwing it away (in the days before we owned a computer and I had no back-up) he brought it out. Not just a writing career, but life is easier not letting feelings run unfettered, mischievous rascals that they can be.

    Reply
  2. Kimberly Faye
    Kimberly Faye says:

    I look at writing for publication as a courting process. I may see a publisher as a potential partner – but if the publisher is busy looking at other writers whose style is more to his liking, then I accept “rejection” as part of the process. I tell myself it wasn’t a good fit and get back in the game. Sending proposals and queries to agents and publishers is a little like online dating – you may only be one click away from the love of your life!

    Reply
  3. Lori Stanley Roeleveld
    Lori Stanley Roeleveld says:

    Thanks, Nick. I think as a follow-up, I’d love to hear your experiences as a writer with having your words “travel.” Have they ever gone places or been used in ways you didn’t expect? Have you ever looked back at work you’ve written and thought that you’d say it differently now that you’ve grown in the Lord? I appreciate what you’ve written in this post. Wise words.

    Reply
  4. Nick
    Nick says:

    Lori, the day Zondervan sent me a copy of one of my books in Indonesian, I was floored. I had no idea. That was a huge surprise. And, yes, there are times I look back and wish I could write something in a different way. Particularly my fiction.

    Reply
  5. Lori Stanley Roeleveld
    Lori Stanley Roeleveld says:

    I asked the “success” question for a reason. I’ve learned from Les Stobbe’s example to define writing success in light of God’s economy. Les has been my agent for a little while but he’s been my encourager for years. When he introduces me to others, you would think I’ve sold ten best-sellers. Les sees the ways my words have been used to build the kingdom of God and in his eyes (and mine) this is as successful as it gets for a Christian writer. I’ve yet to publish a book and have weathered my share of rejection in that arena . Recently, I’ve experienced interest and consideration instead of rejection. When this occurred, I was terrified. I realized I’d grown so accostomed to rejection, it had stopped occurring to me that at some point, a publisher may say “yes” to a book project! Since that moment (as I await further word from potential editors), it’s been my prayer that God would prepare my heart for acceptance, just as He has for rejection. The moment of fear caught me off guard but I’m better now. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Jan Cline
    Jan Cline says:

    I appreciate this post. Things have been moving a little fast for me in the last 6 months and I sometimes worry that I will get ahead of God. But I know in my heart that He has ordered these steps so I just need to remember to keep praying, learn the ropes and do the next thing He calls me to. My recent “successes” are not my doing – only in that I have tried to be obedient to take the steps He has ordered.
    Good words, Nick. thank you.

    Reply

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