Thursday, April 23, 2015

Protecting Your Dreams


I first wrote this post a year ago, but I felt it was really relevant to the changing and often-challenging face of CBA lately. Left and right, we're hearing discouraging reports about bookstores folding, filing bankruptcy, etc., and publishing houses having to bear the brunt of those changes. As a result, agents, authors, and those of us dreaming of book publication are all being affected. I hope this post encourages you today to hold fast to the dreams God has given you, and to remember that God is bigger than any industry variables that may catch us off-guard.

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"He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it." -- 1 Thessalonians 5:24 


Hi, writer friends! Today I want to talk about something that-- after five years of being a part of this writing journey-- is close to my heart. And that is... disappointment. I see so many friends go through the ups and downs of hope and disappointment, and believe me, I've been there myself. Maybe that's how you're feeling today. Perhaps you didn't get the feedback you were hoping to receive from a contest, or an editor you really respect recently rejected your manuscript.

Image by  Evgeni Dinev from FreeDigitalPhotos.com
I'd venture to say that every. single. writer. experiences disappointment in this journey. For some, the disappointment cuts so deeply, they feel like giving up. Others actually do give up-- they walk away when their hearts just can't seem to take anymore rejection. The mountains just seem so high.

Let's get real for a minute. Writing is not for the weak of heart. It requires diligent adherence to deep vision, and dismissal of all those outside voices vying for your attention. You know the ones. Over time, they just seem to get louder, don't they? Have you ever caught yourself letting these sentiments echo in your heart?

  • An editor isn't going to like that.
  • Your hook isn't strong enough.
  • Why are you doing this, anyway? It's not like you have any actual readers.
  • Your characterization falls flat.
  • Your dialogue is stilted.
  • A scene describing a pencil would be less boring.
  • Wait a second-- did you just rehash the exact plot from While You Were Sleeping?
As writers, we have this crazy hard job of simultaneously putting 100% of our hearts into our stories-- weaving the fabric of our being into the fabric of our characters' struggles-- and protecting our hearts from criticism and rejection. Have you ever noticed that some people are better at one than the other? When I first graduated with my M.A., I was excellent at receiving criticism. Believe me, I was well used to professors criticizing my rough-draft essays-- it was just part of the process for everyone. But you know what? As I've gotten farther along on this writing journey, criticism has actually gotten harder-- in a way-- to receive, because I find myself investing more and more emotion into each story. And that's okay.

Some people think, "If I could only get published, everything would be easier." And while, yes, I personally think having real-life readers (as opposed to merely imaginary ones) does make things easier, at the same time, publication brings its own set of rejection and disappointment. Maybe your sales numbers aren't what you want, or you're having agent troubles, or you got a round of really harsh reviews on your story.

The writing world goes a little something like this: rejection. rejection. rejection. rejection. rejection. rejection. rejection. hope. rejection. rejection. a sale!!! rejection. rejection. rejection. rejection. a sale!!!

And repeat. 

Image by vorakorn,from FreeDigitalPhotos.com
But here's the thing. If we aren't careful, we can allow ourselves to become crushed in this process. It's like we've been in an emotional battle of sorts, and we come out wounded and scarred along the way from overly-harsh criticism and dreams that seem to have crashed and burned. 

That's where 1 Thessalonians 5:24 comes in. "He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it."

And with that in mind, I want to issue a challenge to you today.

God. is. faithful.

Do you believe it? 

Do you really believe God is faithful? And if so, that leads to my second question. Do you believe God has called you?

Because if you do, then you have a responsibility to protect and to chase your dreams. Through all the pain, and all the disappointment, and all the rejection, the One who has called you is stronger. He has a much bigger plan through it all, and He has not led you down this pathway only to desert you. If you feel like giving up, hold on-- cling to Him as you never have before, and you may find unexpected growth and opportunity when you least expect it.

God has a purpose for your stories. That purpose is greater and bigger than anything you can imagine. He's promised that. So don't give up on Him. There is a reward for those who are faithful to the calling. Imagine if your favorite novelist had thrown in the towel just before publication. How would your own life be different? Your writing journey? What if God wants you to be that author for someone else? Maybe even for the next generation?

And don't forget that God's promises are sometimes different from our own. Maybe God never intended for you to be a NYT bestseller, but He does want your story to forever change the life of the elderly widow down your street. Be open to where His plan leads, because the ultimate fulfillment is in following Him, and learning to see writing as a form of worship.

So, what do you think? Do you ever find yourself discouraged by the ups and downs of writing? What promises do you hold on to to keep you going?

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Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.

8 comments:

kaybee said...

Ashley, it does get hard, and sometimes all we HAVE is our call. It's like any other Christian ministry. It is a wild ride and you never know who you are going to touch. I've had a taste of that with my nonfiction career, when my work has touched people under the least likely circumstances, and I know it's going to be even greater with the fiction. Interesting post.
Kathy Bailey

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Beautiful post, Ashley.

This journey is HARD. No doubt about it. I love the thought of holding onto the dream that God planted in my (our) heart. He planted it when He gave me my first story to write. He knows how He wants to use me as I walk it out. I need to trust Him both in the process and definitely in the outcome. Hard! But, when I can rest in this truth, then I'm more at peace with it all.

Robin Mason said...

thank you. you've no idea the timing or the depth of your message, nay, reminder. and not in my writing only. was feeling quite discouraged [largely due to lack of sleep] this morning - then I read your words, "God is faithful." of course He is, I know this - thank you for the nudge, the gentle reminder.

Ashley Clark said...

Kathy, it's interesting to hear from someone who's experienced this first-hand with non-fiction. Thanks for sharing!

Ashley Clark said...

So true, Jeanne! The irony is, trusting is SO HARD to do at the time, but SO much easier in the long run because we're sustained by God's peace.

Ashley Clark said...

Robin, thank YOU for sharing! I am so glad it encouraged your heart today!

Digging for Pearls said...

Thank you for the words of encouragement, which I needed to be reminded of. Last weekend I was ready to give up... and now I'm working my way out of the slump. Not the easiest thing to do when I soon will be having hand surgery.

Sarah Bennett said...

I do find myself discouraged and I'm a "noob" in the cycle. There are, by far, more negative answers than positives when you decide to enter the realm of attempting to be published. "No, we don't accept unsolicited manuscripts." "No, we won't tell you if we are interested; you just won't hear back." "Yes, we will look at your first three chapters if they are italicized, 12.3 font and you include a lock of alpaca hair from Peru."

That being (sarcastically) said, it is refreshing to know that the agents, editors and publishers that are still in the CBA game know what they are doing and do it well. They set those perimeters to sort the chaff from the wheat. And that makes me strive to be better. I want to be the wheat! (Those who are celiac can be rice)

I don't hold to any promises from God, as it relates to my writing. I feel like that'd be holding God to my standards and that tends to end poorly. But, I do believe that God leads each of us on a path and that we need to trust Him on the journey, no matter if it ends up never gracing the search option on Amazon. And while I personally would love to actually make the NYT list, I have to get past the first (how many were listed in the article?) seven rejections. :)