Last Saturday I was at the gym working out. I was at one of the upper body machines, straining with all my might to make the 16th rep of this particular weight when I noticed the poster on the wall in front of me. This is what it said:

“There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps.”

The wall of the gym is, of course, the perfect place for such a poster. No matter how often I wish to look in the mirror and see Arnold Schwarzenegger, I realize that it’s going to take a LOT of little steps to even look like Arnold’s “before” pictures.

Another good place for this poster is on the door of the refrigerator. The millions of us who are trying to shed a few pounds would love to be able to arrive at the perfect weight with just one giant step, instead of the often agonizing many small steps it takes to fit back into our high school jeans.

Another great place for this poster is on the office wall of every aspiring writer. Those of us pressing towards our writing goals need to look at those words every time we feel discouraged, every time we get a rejection, every time we go over a draft of our writing that reeks of amateurism.

The truth is that the path to success as a writer is usually a lonely, worn, tedious path without a lot of pretty scenery. And it’s a path that we must walk with “a lot of little steps,” not one huge step.

So what are those tedious little steps? And are we indeed taking them? Or are we hoping in vain that some one giant step will bring us writing success? If the latter, then let me remind you that if you harbor that hope very long, you will become even more discouraged, perhaps bitter, and perhaps even begin to blame others (oh those stupid editors!) for your lack of success.

Let me offer you a brief checklist. See how many of these little steps you’re taking. The more you check, the faster you’re moving along the path.

1. Are you writing something every day? Even if you have only five minutes, keep that appointment with Microsoft Word.

2. Are you an active reader? Reading (and enjoying) the works of other writers oils the inner writer’s gears. If you’re not a reader, it will be very hard to develop a voice as a writer.

3. Are you in tune with the sort of books people are buying? You need to keep your antennae up. Always know what’s happening on the bestseller lists.

4. Can you name some steps you’re taking to improve your writing? Do you take a class at the community college? Read the writers’ magazines? Belong to the Christian Writer’s Guild? Every writer should be constantly improving his or her skills.

5. Which writers conference do you go to annually? This is the place where you will meet other writers, connect with agents and editors, and leave motivated to return the following year with a published book.

6. Are you part of a writer’s critique group? If you don’t know of one locally, consider starting one or join an online group.

7. Do you have several proposals or queries being looked at presently? Don’t put all your hopes in one proposal or project. Be able to write on a variety of topics and have something “out” at all times.

8. Are you reading the popular writers’ and agents’ blogs? (Well, of course you are. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be reading this). Make sure your daily blog reading includes at least one agent’s blog, one writer’s blog, and one marketing blog.

9. Are you setting goals for your projects? For instance, have you set a goal of, say, September 1 for that present proposal?

10. Finally, but certainly not least, are you seeking God about your writing career? Have you perhaps received some strong assurance from Him that you’re on the right track? I’d encourage you to make sure your writing future is firmly in God’s hands. It’s only then that you can have the patience to walk the many little steps to writing success with an assurance that God will bless your obedience and bring the measure of success He wills for your writing.

Here’s an assignment: Make that poster with the words “There is no one giant step that does it. It’s a lot of little steps” and hang it on the wall of your office.

And if you’re like me, you might make one for the refrigerator door too.

8 replies
  1. Barb
    Barb says:

    Your blogs are so encouraging, Nick. And motivating. Another one full of good advice. (I need to work on #5-9.) I’m terrible at sending query letters and proposals, but I did just launch an iPhone app.

    I’m not sure if you remember, but I got the idea from you at Mt. Hermon a couple of years ago. I was sitting at the table with you and you were talking about writing a book that appeals to the impulse crowd (which you also talked about in a workshop).

    I said – I have an idea. I could write I Deserve a Donut about the lies that make you eat.

    I started writing it, got 2/3 of the way through, decided I wasn’t a good enough writer to publish it, and turned the questions and Bible verses (which were actually good) into a renewing of the mind/iPhone app instead.

    All of us beginner writers really appreciated the encouragement you gave to us at that conference and also the advice to do what God calls you to do.

  2. Larry Lother
    Larry Lother says:

    Wow…felt like we were in the dining hall at Northwestern and discovering you are more than the book pusher for Hanover…you actually breathe.

  3. Tom Pousche
    Tom Pousche says:


    Thanks for the upbeat blog in pursuing excellence in writing. You are indeed a blessing and encouragement to all of us. There are no straight lines in life. It is a series of twists and turns ‘zig zags’ that God seems to use in getting us from point A to point B. I find this principle true when it comes to writing as well. The process is just important as the product. Thanks again for helping us to hit the target in writing.

  4. Jan Cline
    Jan Cline says:

    Hi Nick,
    God prompted me to go to your blog today. I haven’t visited here for a long time so I was surprised He nudged me to read this post today – until I read it. No surprise, no surprise at all. This is what I needed to hear today.
    I am reminded how much patience and character it takes to continue the journey of little steps. It’s like going for a walk with my three year old granddaughter – I get tired of going at her pace and want to just break into my own stride. But I would leave behind the thing most precious to me. This walk with her is not to be rushed. My writing journey cannot be rushed either. My stride is not always in line with God’s steps.
    I was pleased to see I am in line with most of the steps you listed. I’ll be pondering the others this week. What an awesome post – thank you.
    Jan Cline


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