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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Partnering with God in Writing

Here's the thing. I hear different opinions on this topic, but I've come up with my own intuitive and convicted understanding of how the gift and anointing of God works, at least as it pertains to writing. Perhaps the basic principles apply to other giftings as well.

An editing client of mine wrote me last week expressing concern over what she should do to try to sell her book. She felt guilty even querying an agent, for that seemed to her as if she was not trusting God to open the door for a book sale. It equated as lack of faith. She was confused, didn't know where to apply faith and how that should look.

I felt confused too when I started writing for God instead of for me. Just how much was my responsibility and how much was God's to get my books sold? If I self-published, was I copping out and exhibiting a lack of faith that God would open a bigger door that might allow my book to reach a wider audience? Or was the opposite true--was my holding out for a "real" publisher just arrogance on my part? (A good question for me, since I'd been trying for 23 years to get picked up by a royalty-paying publishing house.)

We who feel called to write and know we must, have little trouble deciphering the truthfulness of that call. We have to write. We can't NOT write. We also feel God leading us to write about certain things, in specific genres, or to a particular audience. Those nudges are often fairly clear. As I become more in tune with God's leading and rely on him more, those signals come across loud and clear. If you get to the point where you are looking to God to help you with every stage of the writing process, praying for his leading and inspiration, you will find he does show you just what you should be writing about.

But it gets a little fuzzy around the edges when we start trying to figure out the nuts and bolts of our efforts to sell and market our work. So many of my friends and clients tell me they only query one agent. Why? Because they feel guilty about querying more. Why? Because they feel maybe they are showing a lack of faith or are afraid they won't discern God's will. Here's what God showed me.

In Ecclesiastes, Solomon tells us to sow our seed day and night. For how can we know which one will sprout and grow, which one might produce fruit? The verse says "Don't let your hand rest." This does not conjure up a picture of a farmer heading out into his field and dropping one lone seed on the ground and then going inside to watch TV, trusting God will do a miraculous work and produce a hundredfold crop overnight, something like Jack's magic beans that grew into a beanstalk. No, the picture I get here is tireless, persistent, consistent effort, day in, day out, night and day (OK we're not talking workaholic here, but in planting season, you have a window of time in which to get all your seed planted and so you have to press hard until you've done all you can).

So, God showed me this Scripture early on when I wondered just what kind of effort I was to expend in trying to pitch, sell, and market my books. Instead of querying just one agent, I queried every single one I thought might like my books. I widened my range and threw my seeds wide, not knowing which ones God would make grow. I ended up unexpectedly with two terrific commercial agents (when no one in the Christian market would even read any of my work). I wouldn't have gotten these agents had I kept a narrow aim. I started attending writers' conferences, reading books and surfing the Web to find out what I could about publishers and editors who might like the kind of books I wrote.

God partners with us, and this is just one way. We put out the effort, he makes the seeds grow. He does expect us to do some of the work, not just write. How can he bless our efforts if we make no effort? We are not supposed to bury the talent in the ground but put it somewhere it will multiply and double. Granted, some of the seeds won't grow. But, as Solomon said, we don't know which ones will, so we have to do our diligence and let God do the rest. And there's always the caveat of balance. You still have to eat, do the laundry, take care of family responsibilities, help those in need. That's a given.

Partnering in this way is the same with actual writing, which I'll get into in the next post--how we hone our craft and bring to bear all our writer's tools, then watch the Holy Spirit step in as we write and work with us. Partnering with God is an amazing process. The more we let go, trust him, let him lead, and most importantly let go of our ambitions and pictures of what we think our writing career should look like, we get to see God maneuver events and people for his will to be done. I don't know about you, but it blows my mind to see God at work and I'm humbled to know he partners with me and uses me to accomplish amazing things. He rarely lets me in one his plan or time schedule but that's okay. When the surprises come down the pipe, it's a great praise to him. He knows from the beginning where we will go and our expected end. And I find that quite comforting.

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