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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

What is required to "succeed" in this business?

Guest Blogger Mary DeMuth! Mary...I want to be more like you!

God calls some to write, but not all respond to the calling. And even when we respond, that doesn’t guarantee publication. (Nor does it mean that if God called us to write that He automatically means publication).

But if we peel away God’s calling and look underneath, there are a few things needed to succeed in this occupation:

Thick skin and a tender heart. Some folks develop a thick skin but they grow bitter with each rejection. The key is relinquishing the pain to Jesus, asking Him to tender us in the process, to bow up under the humiliation, to get to the place in our walk with Him that we enjoy identifying with Him in humility. (Think of writing as one big sanctification journey if you dare.)

Tenacity. I can nearly predict who will succeed in this industry when I first meet a writer. Those who believe they are God’s gifts to the literary world, shun feedback, and prima-donna their way through the process don’t last long because they never accept criticism and keep a thin skin.
You can read an article about divas I wrote for Writer’s Digest. But those who accept advice, weather feedback, and keep at it succeed. Call it dogged perseverance.

Forgiving hearts. No matter how far you’ve ventured in this writing business, you will encounter situations and people where forgiveness is needed and warranted. Folks are messy. I am messy. Two messies together make for mud pies to the nth degree. For some it may mean forgiving a judge or an editor or an unkind (or kind!) critique partner. For others it may mean acknowledging that the little green monster is alive and well, recognizing that envy has eaten at your heart. Those folks look at others (and we’ve all done this) and think things like, “I can write circles around him. Why is he published and I’m not?” or “She just started and has an agent already. I’ve been at this ten years with no agent in sight.”

Humility (which relates to my first point). Everything in this life, including the writing life, is a great gift. Accept the accolades and the acrimony in stride. It’s not about you. I remember author Liz Babbs telling me something that changed my life. She said, “If I am ever famous, it’s to make God famous.” He gives us the sun and the rain both. He should get the glory for that. And if we succeed, we run into a pesky, touchy situation.

These two quotes have helped tremendously:

“Never cease praying that you will not become a star or a celebrity. Donald Davidson has said, 'Our culture places an absolute premium upon various kinds of stardom. This degrades and impoverishes ordinary life, ordinary work, ordinary experience.”

From Scribbling in the Sand, Michael Card “It is by affliction chiefly that the heart of man is purified, and that the thoughts are fixed on a better state. Prosperity, unalloyed and imperfect as it is, has power to intoxicate the imagination, to fix the mind on the present scene, to produce confidence and elation and to make him who enjoys affluence and honors forget the hand by which they were bestowed.” Samuel Johnson

A dedication to craft that grows each year. You cannot succeed if you don’t study, practice, and spend time reading and listening to writing greats. There are no shortcuts. Nor is there a point in time you can sit back and rest on your laurels. Every article and book you write must be better than the one before because of your commitment to growth.

A strong belief in God’s sovereignty. You could do everything “right” and not get published. You could do everything “wrong” and be published. But either way, God is sovereign. He orders our journeys in the way He designs, to bring Him maximum glory and the greatest growth in our hearts. Rest, rest, rest in that today. And don’t think that once you’re published, you can slough off that belief. I don’t know if I’ll publish again after my contract runs out (soon). But I do know that God is ordering my journey. It’s up to me whether I follow Him joyfully or begrudginging. (And isn’t it true that He loves a cheerful giver?)

I need to get back to my 2000 words now. But I felt compelled to write these words. Writing is hard, folks. Anyone who tells you different is selling something.

Warmly,
Mary
author, speaker, book mentor
M a r y D e M u t h
Daisy Chain releases 3/1
Compared to Peace Like a River and To Kill a Mockingbird
Like an Oprah book, but with hope
marydemuth.com . . . thewritingspa.com

3 comments:

Filoiann Wiedenhoff said...

Amen! Thanks for those honest words. I don't want to be a prima-donna in either scenario pastor's wife nor writer, so I'm pressing forward. Being a pw has surely thickened my skin. Hey maybe it's helping prepare me as a writer?

lynnrush said...

GREAT post.

I think a teachable spirit is so very important as well. I've learned so much from blogs such as this one and Mary Demuth's...we've got to take our education from many avenues to grow as writers.

Thanks for sharing this! Have a great day.

Elizabeth Bussey said...

Beautifully said Mary, thanks for sharing your wisdom.