Thursday, July 30, 2015

Reframing Your Writing Perspective

I spent the day today picking out a variety of frames at TJ Maxx, then filling them with adorable pictures of my newborn son. It's a work in progress, as I can never get everything quite where I want it... do you have that problem too? I find myself shifting pictures around and putting the frames in all different places in the house. This got me thinking--sometimes we need to take a time out to reframe our writing lives as well.
Photo from by adamr

We've all read the blogs and heard the chatter about the CBA market changing. Maybe your publishing house has recently stopped printing fiction, or you're feeling the pressure of harder-than-ever competition for unpublished writers (can I get an amen?).

Let's get real. It seems that lately all the conversation about the publishing industry--unless you happen to write category romance-- is really quite negative. The number of hopeful writers targeting any given publishing house is on the rise, while the number of available slots for books seems to be ever decreasing. We all know about Family Christian Bookstores and have read the effect the closure of brick and mortar stores is having on the industry. Many of us have had our hopes raised by conferences, only to be later dashed by the realities of how hard it really is for a new writer to break in.

After a while, this process gets discouraging. And if we're not careful, we forget our joy. We forget why we create and imagine in the first place. We forget why we're hopeful, and we forget the magic of writing.

That, friends, is a dangerous place to inhabit.

I want to encourage you--as writers and writers of fiction-- to stop believing that your story doesn't matter. Stop listening to those discouraging voices in your mind that no editor would buy a story that starts in such a unique way, or that the success of your book is all about sales numbers of awards.

Our calling is so. much. more.

Reframe your perspective. 

As Hebrews 12:1 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

If you stop running your race, who else will run it? If you stop writing your story, who else will write it? If you don't fight for your readers, how will they ever hear the message God has given you to share?

I get it. I get how hard it is. But creativity makes a hard ministry. We all knew that going in. We as inspirational writers have got to shrug off the victim mentality and realize that if we are called, we are equipped. We do not have to buy into the lie that our stories don't matter.

Maybe it will take you three months to get your first book published. Maybe it will take five years. Maybe it will take fifteen. I am not immune to the struggle of this process. I really thought my favorite story would be published by now. I started writing novels five years ago, and have invested prayers, tears, laughter, hopes, and fears into this ministry. There are days when the dream feels very, very far away.

But the thing is, maybe our stories were never about ourselves to begin with. What if we're called to be stewards rather than owners? What if we reframe the way we look at writing so that we see a ministry that's a gift rather than a failure?

Today, I want to challenge us as writers of Christian fiction to stop bemoaning all the things that aren't going our way, and to stand up for the beauty of our art. If God called you, it matters. Let me say it again. If God called you, it matters. The pieces will come together, even if it's not in the way you expected--and when they do, you'll see an even more beautiful landscape than the one you'd envisioned and grieved. Let's let go of our expectations, friends, and our perceived "rights," and instead, let's learn to write freely.

Let's hear from you! Have you been feeling discouraged lately with all the negative talk about CBA? How do you respond to it and protect your heart for your stories?


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.


Kara Isaac said...

As one of those writers who, by God's grace, received one of those very coveted debut author spots this year, I feel more humbled, privileged (and occasionally downright terrified!) that my publisher chose me when there are so many incredibly talented unpublished writers out there (including my own critique partners). I also remember how, this time last year, I had just received a very difficult rejection because this one had really looked like it was going to be it.

Over the nine years between starting writing and receiving my contract there were MANY many times when I lost my joy and wanted to give up. Especially as I moved into having a young family and there were so many competing pulls on my time and our finances. There were even times when I found writing so hard that I put it to the side for a few months. But every single time I really thought it was time for me just to let of of the crazy impossible dream of publication God came along with something that said it wasn't time to quit yet. Sometimes it was something small like someone providing positive feedback about my WIP, sometimes it was a contest final, sometimes it was something big like agent or editor interest. But there was always something that told me I needed to find the joy again because it wasn't my time to quit :)

Unknown said...

Please allow me to share a perspective to help those panicking as the market changes. 25-30 years ago towns had many small hardware and retail stores that did very well for decades meeting the needs of the people, but then WalMart entered the competitive picture and many of the personable, colorful brick and mortar stores folded - today they are filled with antiques and hopeful church upstarts. WalMart over the last twenty five years has consumed the market until the internet fought back and another giant of enterprise rose to represent their threat - Amazon.

Questions: Is there still a demand for hardware, hosiery, housewares and other staples? Yes, of course. In fact, an increased demand which has made prices more affordable in some cases.

The take away point: Books are still read and purchased. In fact, the market is larger than ever. But beware. Just as WalMart used price to dominate the market, quality suffered. Quality took a hit because much of the market (us, the consumers) are driven to buy by price rather than quality. However, what has remained steadfast through the growth of the cheaper products to satisfy the growing hunger of the people, is the desire for quality. We grumble when we purchase by price only to learn it doesn't hold up as well or breaks soon after we bought it. Everyone said Apple was too expensive and thought their quality was unquestioned the public would never buy enough to make them a competitor against Microsoft, IBM, HP, etc. What company today is the largest in the world?

Books are still in great demand, more than ever, but you must choose how you will compete. Really good books, written well with intriguing, informative and entertaining content sells better than ever. What has not changed in thirty years - quality rises to the top and survives and thrives. There are thousands, even millions of voices today desiring to be a writer and to sell their stories and ideas, but don't fret when you hear them whine and cry because they cannot penetrate the marketplace and be as successful as they believe is their fair share. When they cry because they cannot even sell their books for $.99 or in some cases give them away to claim readership.

Write well. Suffer through the stages of writing a good book. Pay the price it takes, but know there are no shortcuts. There is not a shortage of thirsty minds for the books out there. That has not changed but increased. However, the means they can get the books they desire is ever changing... You will accomplish what you deserve if you do not quit and strive hard and long to write better than the rest who are making the most noise on this subject.

God bless and don't forget he blesses each of us with our talents and gifts. When we feel cheated, we are screaming at him - blaming God for our failures.

Mike 'Coach' Brown

Julia M. Reffner said...

"But the thing is, maybe our stories were never about ourselves to begin with. What if we're called to be stewards rather than owners? What if we reframe the way we look at writing so that we see a ministry that's a gift rather than a failure?"

Love all these words! Keeper post, especially these questions I need to re-ask myself.

Ashley Clark said...

Kara, I love what you have to say here, and it's so true! God always sustains us to do His work when He's called us, even if we can't see the end result at the time-- He knows just what we need! Huge congratulations on your contract!

Ashley Clark said...

Thanks, Jules. <3

Ashley Clark said...

Mike, great analogy! And one thing you mention that I think is a particular concern to some is the concept of medium-- the brick and mortar stores are inevitably changing, so how do we as writers adjust to that process appropriately? It can be a tricky thing to find the right readership, especially when the market is in such flux. But it's also exciting to think of all the new opportunities the changing market brings!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Ashley, what a great post. And encouraging. I haven't gotten too discouraged yet. Hopefully I will maintain a positive attitude when more of my work is "out there." I keep coming back to the truth that God gave me the stories to write. Their inspiration came from Him. He has plans for them. My job is to write them to the best of my ability, collaborating with Him in the process. His job is to get them out there, if he so desires. I know I won't always succeed in holding to this mindset, but it's still true. :) I keep reading and learning about the market and things I can do to increase my chances of one day getting published. And I do what I can with the time I have. It really is a side-by-side journey with the Lord, walked out one step at a time.

Unknown said...

Ashley, we should look at the market potential with a broader view. Printed books is not shrinking, just the physical retail shelves. However, eBooks is becoming a larger portion of book sales for certain, but is not removing printed books in most sectors of the publishing industry. Unlike, photograph film industry which has been devastated by the digital era (Eastman and Polaroid can attest). The consolidation of the publishing industry does not reflect a smaller market but a more lucrative, profitable market.

How can we respond you asked? I suggest first of all deciding what your goals are - traditional (mass market) publishing or self-publishing (niche marketing). When I used to teach and coach football, student athletes came to me about their dreams to play in Pros and for a big name college. They would ask, "What must I do to get to the next level and to the pros?" I would first look at what God endowed that young person with as far as physical attributes and gifts. Sadly, but very true, there very few exceptions to the physical demands of the sport, and size, speed and innate ability is a must. Did that deter the young man from working extra hard to see how far he could climb the echelon of football teams? No, determination, dedication and discipline allowed the less endowed to be good enough to be good players, but sooner or later they recognized their potential had limits. I would applaud those players who gave it their all. The name is true is all competitive markets and disciplines in life.

I personally except my limitations as a writer and that only makes me appreciate a good team effort all the more. My co-writer/writing coach/editor has the strengths I lack and am too old and set in my archaic ways to change. Writing is not an enterprise to be tackled alone to be successful and keep a form grip on your potential. Listen carefully to the publishers and agents and pray they "draft" you into the "pro ranks."

That's my best advice...

Ashley Clark said...

Jeanne, I think something in particular you said was especially profound-- even if we don't succeed in having the right mindset all the time, that doesn't affect its truth. Isn't that liberating! And I'm so glad you haven't felt the drag of discouragement... I think keeping focused on our calling is so key! Thanks for coming by today!

Ashley Clark said...

Mike, your points about defining goals and rooting ourselves in community are so important, in my opinion. We certainly limit ourselves greatly when we limit our growth as writers.