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Defining Success Part Four


Sometimes I’d like to quit. Really. Just close up the piano and bolt the lid, and snuggle down with a nice cup of coffee and listen to good, encouraging music. This is true when I feel like I’ve made an egregious error or said something that came out the wrong way when I didn’t mean for it to—but the “enter” key has already been punched before I could delete; and the words have escaped my lips. And especially true when I may not have gotten as much sleep as I wanted, or have had a full calendar. It’s then life becomes one big mess of words, you know?

Do you ever struggle with saying the right words at the wrong time or the wrong words at the right time? Perhaps I’m not the only one who feels this way from time to time. . . Nevertheless, it’s a part of fallen humanity, and I imagine we’ve all had those moments of “Oh man, I can’t believe I said it that way. . . Well, guess it’s too late to retract my words—they’re already out there.” And then we find ourselves praying, “God, please forgive me. Strip away any words that would sound arrogant or unhelpful or unkind” or “God, please use this experience to help me grow,” and “Please help me to choose my words more wisely next time so that they reflect you.” However the case may be for you, dear reader, when our words—spoken or written—come out sounding all wrong like a piano with a bad cold, it’s always a good idea to take a moment to reflect.

Such is a moment for reflection, and midyear is a good time for it, right? And in reflection, we can indeed grow from that little experience and thus know how to respond better the next time. Sometimes it always feels as if it’s the next time most of the time.

Perhaps a personal anecdote may illustrate this. Usually I like to read agency blog posts and comment on nearly every blog post. The particular blog post spoke of the tension in promotion (of an author’s books), and was it faithful promotion or self-ful promotion? Was there indeed a tension? the agent wanted to know. And so I responded, essentially saying that there necessarily wasn’t “tension in the marketing,” and the rest of my reply, the way it sounded—after, of course, I posted the reply—was like fingernails across the blackboard, and what sounded like a prideful statement. In reality, however, that’s not how I meant to say it at all.

Ah, broken humanity, such as we are. It is only by God’s grace that we aren’t in worse shape, for God’s grace keeps us and encourages us and, yes, admonishes us when we need it. From there, we can learn and grow so that the next time becomes less and less.

So the next time I’m—we’re—tempted to say something, let’s give our answers a third glance-over or engage our brains a little deeper and make sure that’s how we truly want to word it, and what we really mean to say. And as a writer, it’s such a huge responsibility to type each word, and it sends humbling chills down my spine to think that the words God’s given me will someday be read by others, if he so chooses.

Words. They’re tricky little things, aren’t they?

As Ignatius Loyola said, “Work as if everything depends on you. Pray as if everything depends on God.”

I guess maybe quitting isn’t the best course of action, because I truly love what I do. And maybe I really don’t want to quit. Perhaps the best course of action is to make sure we’ve had enough sleep, or enough coffee in our system, or re-read a passage for better clarity, so that we can have that certain measure of confidence before sending our words out into the world. And by that—and especially by keeping the focus where it needs to be, on God—we can rest in the success, knowing that it truly is from him because he created words.


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ACFW 2016: Defining Success Pt. 3



It’s been quite a few weeks since I’ve posted. Sorry for the delay, but life decided to take off at rocket speed, and it was quite the ride! Still is quite a ride, but learning to fly with the rocket instead of trying to catch the rocket. 😉

Remember my posts earlier about literary agent Steve Laube challenging the ACFW members to define success? The link’s here and here if you need to brush up. I know I would!

After my slapdash, haphazard (to borrow from agent Steve Laube) attempt to define success, I’ve cemented my definition of success. I think.

Success is not merely flying by the seat of your pants or barreling down the stairs at full speed. In either case, you’re bound to get hurt. Success is careful planning, putting one foot in front of the other with precise reasons in mind.

I have many things that I’d like to be successful at; but at the risk of going crazy, I have to stop and take into account what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.

No one is ever successful overnight or even in five years. Like a steamy bowl of soup that needs time for the flavors to marry, it takes time learning about and growing in those talents that you have or those desires that you have. Then, when you have learned and grown, you are well on your way to becoming proficient and turning those talents and desires into the success that you can be proud enough to shout to the world from the top of that rocket.

Photo Cred:

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ACFW 2016: What is Success? Part 2

zinsser hard writing is easy writing

In an ACFW conference session about writers developing a thick skin, Steve Laube had asked us to define success.

In my quest for defining success, I learned the real value of writing and strategy.

The process for writing one or a hundred books will be different for every writer from every different level. Some may crank out four novels a year, and others one novel every two years, or even four years. Steve’s blog post Praise Slow Writing really made me think. However, in my reply to his post, I did not think well enough. Well, I did not choose well enough.

Steve’s gracious reply:


I must be very clear that this post is in no way a criticism or critique of those who write and publish much faster.

I represent Susan May Warren and know that she has a gift. She is very deliberate and careful in her writing but she can do it at a speed that makes it appear easy. Her manuscripts go into her publishers very clean and her readers love her writing.

Sure, Susie’s output is prodigious. But it is not slap-dash or haphazard. We just had a meal together last week and talked about her work strategy. She has spent a long time working long hours to get to this point. It just seems like she “cranks ’em out” when in actuality that is part of the strategy!

But remember it is a gift honed through years and years of discipline and learning.

I have clients who write one novel every three to four years.
I have other clients who write one novel every three to four months, or even faster.
Both are right in their methods.

I also know how hard Ted Dekker works on his books and how he wrestles with the text and the plots to make them impact his readers.

So, let’s be careful that we don’t fall into a comparison of volume in output as being somehow less literary than what I wrote here and called Slow Writing.

My intent is to challenge each of us to consider our words and make sure they are the right ones to put on the page. If they come at lightning speed it still may be Slow Writing because it too[k] years to get to the point where you can create quickly but with quality.

Other writers are gifted with the ability to write slowly. Neither is wrong in their approach. Merely different.

Uh-oh. I’d committed the cardinal sin for writers! Totally botched my word choice!

One word! Did you find it?
My  c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y  thought-out reply:

Thank you for the clarification, Steve, and for teaching me this deeper value of writing/strategy.

My word choice “haphazard” is incorrect, as I did not intend to or even want to slam writers who write quickly and label them as uber pansters who don’t care for their readers and the written word. I do apologize, for the word choice gave the impression that this post was criticizing fast writers. And I didn’t even take it that way! Ugh, words. Guess I should have rolled that one around in my tongue a little longer. 😉

I attended Susie’s and Rachel’s post-conference session this past weekend at the ACFW conference, and greatly admired their knowledge and writing ability.

I guess I’m just one of those Slow Writers. 🙂

Again, thank you.

It’s all about choosing the right word or definition. In a sea of a million. And even then, the above reply has some issues. (Maybe I’m in the wrong profession?) Haha. Just give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it!

Granted, this barely touches the definition of success (still working to define it as it pertains to my writing). 😀
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ACFW 2016: What is Success? Part 1

the trouble with writing


Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency taught one of the ACFW sessions. This session was the last Saturday sessions and it was really quite eye-opening. If any fledgling writer could be persuaded not to be an author, then Steve’s class would have done the job. He left the twenty or thirty of us with this challenge:

“If you can define success for yourself very quickly, then you’re on your way to being successful.” — Steve Laube

This week, in one of the Agency’s post, Steve offered a piece of advice that seems to counteract the thrust of the writing today. In the post “Praise Slow Writing,” Steve presents the idea of writing slower, choosing each word carefully, making sure that each sentence is precise in describing a scene or character description, or even plot idea.

Below is my reply:

For ten years, as I kept researching, writing, and editing my novel, I wondered: Why is it taking me so long to write just one book? Surely, while other authors are publishing a book a year, I will never accomplish very much in my lifetime.

Success is in the small things–sometimes–because it is the deliberate delay of writing and the careful study of the craft that will resonate deeply with readers after they’ve read a well-written sentence-by-sentence, scene-by-scene novel, causing them sink back into their couch and sigh and reflect and grow. So I must continue to stop and evaluate what I’m writing, why I’m writing, and how I’m writing.

Do I want to simply be that author who churns out book after book in haphazard fashion, or do I want to be the author who prays over each written word, until God has helped me to write a masterpiece to share with the world?

I may never be a Susan May Warren or Janette Oke or Ted Dekker, but perhaps I might be a Harper Lee or Margaret Mitchell or Elizabeth Gaskell, encouraging the world one word–book–at a time. Slowly.

I made a glaring mistake in my above reply to the post! What do you think it is? Stay tuned for Part 2 of this post, and what I learned from replying to a blog post.