Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Keeping Your Integrity in the Crazy World of Publication

When you close your eyes you see that perfect cover model, flaxen tresses, wearing an accurate and beautiful dress from your favorite era. Your fingers run over the puffed letters with the perfect title (of course the publishers loved the one you chose and thought it would market the book well). Beneath that in even larger letters (OK, its a dream, right?) your name.

I'm not sure what else that dream might entail for you. Perhaps a fat advance check (a reality check would bring quick doubt to this notion). Maybe you dream of your first book signing (as an introvert, I don't relate to this one, I would probably stand in the corner hyperventilating...that is if anyone beside my mother actually showed).

But have you thought about the possible pitfalls of publication? It doesn't hurt to prepare yourself for temptations before they occur. In the case of your writing journey, these are thoughts to consider all along the way. Because temptations occur all along the way.

So let's be real, is there any kind of freedom you can't handle on your writing journey? Whether regards to power, compromising your beliefs, or staying quiet about them Satan WANTS you to lose your integrity along the way. Because guess what? Then your witness is ineffective.

There will be temptations along the way in your writing journey. Temptations to write the easy story, keeping your raw real life far away from the page. Temptations to take an opportunity that offers more money for your family just when its needed, but may involve watering down the faith aspect of your story. Temptation may be different for every one of you. My writing temptation isn't yours, but if God has called you to write, you can be certain that Satan will try to keep you ineffective in this area.

I was steered toward writing a post on integrity after reading two items of publishing news this week. Two nonfiction books have rocketed to a prominent place on the New York Times bestseller list. It is unusual for a CBA book to find its way onto the list that is viewed by many in the industry as the penultimate accomplishment. However, the reason these books have made it to "THE LIST" points a giant question mark at the authors and the churches involved.

I won't comment any more on this situation. These pastors aren't the point; you and I are. What do I mean? What will we do to maintain our own integrity in a challenging industry? Do you want anything in your writing life that will point a question mark at your own integrity and might even stain the rest of the body?

The unbelieving world is watching us in our writing life. Let's show them how a Christian writer differs from a worldly writer!

You are faced with decisions every day in your writing life.

Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

The largest temptation I have faced in my writing life thusfar has come from reviewing. Upon becoming a reviewer for Library Journal I was approached within days from an old friend who begged me to get her book into the hands of an editor at this publication. This was a new game and I wasn't prepared for it. A year and a half later I receive weekly review requests, but once I had my plan in place and know what my boundaries are I can make these decisions.

I needed to create my own rule book, with prayer and the Word as my guide.

For starters, I started as a Christian book reviewer but moved into fiction with religious themes. This is my way of escape.

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

Since I know so many authors either through the web or conferences I did not want to be reviewing those books for publication.

Instead, I want to be able to spread the word about authors I truly love on my own. This is my favorite part of reviewing, so I wanted to make sure I could continue on with it but still maintain my integrity as a reviewer. I want people to trust my name as a reviewer.

I ask what is my motive?

Why do I want to make whatever move I'm considering? Am I sure its God speaking to me or am I following the temptation to please mankind?

Am I being true to myself and the role God has given me as a writer? Or will I let the market drive me?

There are certain genres I know I am not called to write for personal reasons. There may be certain topics you should not write about , certain theological issues you shouldn't touch. Or maybe you are called to go there even though it is challenging? Are you willing to forsake readership numbers to write your story?

When we see stories about lack of integrity in publishing or other media instead of judging, let's apply to our own lives. Where do I need to build a wall to keep my integrity in place as a writer? Decide ahead of time what you will and won't do now and keep asking yourself as new situations occur.

God, what is it you want from me in this specific situation? How can I best serve you? Which crossroads do I take?

What can you do now to grow your integrity as a writer and to protect yourself from temptation both now and later on?

 Julia writes contemporary fiction to mirror truth. A former assistant librarian, she now channels her card cataloguing skills into homeschooling her elementary aged littles and writing for Library Journal. She has reviewed for a variety of websites for several years.


Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

Great topic, Julia. I heard about the recent situation with the NYT bestseller list, and it does raise a lot of questions about integrity. The world judges Christians more harshly, and it does reflect poorly on the faith when we come up short. Thanks for making us think today!

Pepper said...

Nice post, Julia -and quite thought provoking. Even though it's hard, I think one of the best things we can do is what you've suggested here -keep asking 'God what do you want with my writing?" EVERY DAY! I certainly think God gives us BIG answers to that question, but there are also little everyday answers to specific questions too.
It reminds me of the verse in Matthew 6 - Seek first His kingdom and righteousness and 'all these other things' will be added.

Thanks for the refocus, Jules.

Angie Dicken said...

This is a great post, Julia. Something I have thought about a lot over the past months. This is so true:
"if God has called you to write, you can be certain that Satan will try to keep you ineffective in this area." I feel like attack is strong in my writing life often. And only in the Grace of God can I rest, truly know it is not my pursuit, but His.
I have come to realize that I can call myself "a writer of faith" and that doesn't mean that all words that come from my fingertips will follow God's will...it's certainly a test of integrity to stay true to my calling and not let temptation pull me under.
I need to stay grounded in Scripture...to remember Whose I am and that I am to represent Him in all honesty and integrity.
Thank you for this post!

Mary Vee Writer said...

Excellent message, Julia.

I hope there are readers who see that there is nothing wrong with writing for the general market. Many articles and books are needed for those readers. The main point is to be true to yourself, your calling, your faith.

On the other hand, if you write for Christian Fiction, then proclaim it hard and strong throughout the story. Watered down work does not attract curious readers.

Thank you so much for this post, Julia.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Great post, Julia. Integrity is key in all we do, in our decisions and in our words. Thank you for this reminder. You're right in that it's good to decide NOW how I will handle certain situations if/when I one day find myself published. Having boundaries in place ahead of time makes it easier to make the right decision in the moment.

Thanks for making me think today!

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Karen, yes, I definitely agree that the world sometimes judges us more harshly and I think we need to be ready for that kind of scrutiny.

@ Pepper, I love what you say about the simple everyday ways he wants to use our writing and how we don't have to wait for publication for God to be using our writing. He's doing it right now.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Angie, There is a strong calling for your life, I don't doubt it one bit. So true that its not in us at all and I find your thought comforting that we don't need to be perfect for God to use us.

@ Mary, thank you for saying that. I hope I didn't give the impression to anyone that its not OK to write for secular publications. As a matter of fact, some of us are called to do just that. Thank you for pointing that out.

Julia M. Reffner said...

@ Jeanne, I do think boundaries have helped me not only for if/when I get published but for right now.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Wonderful and insightful! Great stuff to think on today, Jules. :)

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow, Julia, you are so wise. Seriously, girl, you have so much wisdom to share. I love your heart and I love the way you give of yourself.

Thanks for this post...I love it!