[Originally published on Australasian Christian Writers blog – March 2, 2017]
The world is currently experiencing a great shift in an element of basic humanity. Something that has underpinned hundreds of generations is eroding. As we see more and more people do this less and less, it’s now becoming a media issue that holds the flitting attention of breathless journalists and seriously-browed newsreaders.
As I’ve embraced my emerging identity as a writer, I’ve talked to hundreds of authors and found there is a common thread between us all, regardless of whether we’re writing a thrilling whodunit with a clever twist or the story of a waylaid tourist falling in love with an Amish farmer.
There are so many ways writers cling to trust as a way to stave off the waves of self-doubt that lap at the shoreline of our confidence.
Trust in the idea.
Our story sounds great in our head, doesn’t it? If I could find a way to download the story as it resides in my mind, it would be perfect. But who’s to say that it’s a good idea out there in the rough-and-tumble world? I’m sure you’ve felt the fingers of doubt drumming on your thinking as you spruik your story idea to someone and watch them be less impressed than you thought they’d be. I know I have.
Trust in the process.
Writing is a process as much as it is a creative pursuit. We trust in the way we’ve established our writing regimes – that they deliver the writing in the best way possible. We trust that the twelve months we’ve invested in the story will produce the best story we can.
Trust in the feedback.
Apart from being trusting souls, writers can also be quite fragile. When our writing goes to others for their input (whether that’s a critique group or friends who want to read your work), we trust that what we get back will be useful, representative of wider readers and give us the feedback we need to improve, deepen or fix our stories. This is such a critical step of trust I wrote about the feedback that I value the most in another post on my blog.
Trust that someone will publish it.
To me this was painfully obvious in the waiting room for editor/agent appointments at the ACFW Conference in Nashville. I sat with dozens of writers who all looked like an angry Principal had called them into his office. Talking to them, I heard some great stories, read some amazing turns of phrase and saw the potential in their writing.
But we all sat there as if one knockback after a fifteen-minute speed date with an agent would blow over our writing careers.
This is one of the biggest trust exercises a writer can undertake. There is no guarantee it will be published – even for experienced, contracted authors. Imagine if other vocations started work on a massive project with no guarantees. “Yeah, we built the $3 billion highway but it turns out the road’s not needed.” But that’s what writing can sometimes be.
Trust that someone will buy it.
If you are contracted or do get published, there is a trust that your hunch (and your publisher’s hunch) is correct. Even if you ARE on print, you are trusting that people will buy it.
Trust that someone will like it.
As reviews are the lifeblood of an author’s cashflow, we trust that after buying it the reader will like it. If they don’t, one negative review can be enough to knock your self-esteem flat.
But there is one last area of trust that puts these others into perspective and, in a way, removes them from our thinking. As Christian writers, we need to cling to this trust more than anything else.
Trust in the God who gave you a story to tell.
The Bible is filled with stories of people who overcame enormous odds (and impossible situations) because they trusted God. This is one part of the writing journey that challenges me; around which I need to wrap my rational, logical head. God has given me the idea, the ability, the time, the framework, the network around me and the opportunity to tell a story that will honour Him. Once I deal with this, suddenly the questions that can keep you up at night – “who will publish this?” or “who will buy this?” – are answered. Not directly, but in a “you really don’t need to worry about this” kind of way.
I’ve often heard Christian writing can be more difficult because it’s more niche or less marketable. But I’ve discovered that in one area of writing, being a Christian and a writer is invaluable. I have the ability to trust in God and leave the rest of those trust elements in His hands while I just go about my job of writing.