Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spiritual Growth through Writing-by Diana's client Katherine B. Hyde

I suppose it's a truism to say that each person finds, within the life appointed for him or her, his or her own particular path to growing in Christ. But lately it's been brought home to me how many opportunities the writing life offers me for growth in virtue.

First along the path comes humility. Each of us has that moment when we come out of the closet with the writing we've slaved so hard over and which, despite many misgivings, we really believe at some level is brilliant. Then someone reads it—someone, that is, who cares more for integrity in the work than for our feelings—and we find out how very far from brilliant it actually is. There may be some spark there, but it's been all but buried in adverbs, clichés, and purple prose. (I never dreamed how many clichés existed in the English language until I began trying to write without them.)

As we work to improve, the humbling comes at higher levels—instead of critique partners, we get agents and editors telling us our stuff stinks. Those who have attained the holy grail of publication have the privilege of being humiliated by critics and Amazon reviewers and bookstore customers who shun their signing table as if it were an IRS auditor's desk. But it's still the same thing: You're never as brilliant as you think you are.

After the early lessons in humility comes the really big lesson: patience. It takes months, often years, to finish a novel. Then you have to wait for people to make time in their own full lives to read it and give you feedback; then you go back and work on it some more. Lather, rinse, repeat until your hair falls out.

Finally, you think the book is ready to see the light, and you start sending it to agents. These days, a month seems to be the minimum response time; two to three months is not uncommon, and many agents never respond at all. Even with a book that is absolutely ready for the big-time, finding an agent can easily take a year or more. Then the agent has to find you a publisher—and if agents are tortoises (no offense intended!), publishers are giant sloths. If and when the book is finally sold, you may have to wait up to two years before it is published. And let's not even talk about how long you wait to get paid.

Somewhere along this journey, you may easily stumble over that big rock in the road called "the market." Maybe your book is the best thing since prepared mustard, but nobody is buying your genre right now. Or your vision seems a little ahead of its time and no one wants to take a risk on it. Sooner or later, someone—probably an agent or editor—is bound to suggest that you write something more salable. This seemingly innocent suggestion can be the Demon of Man-Pleasing in disguise. This is where you have to renew the commitment I hope you started out with: You are going to write to please God, not man. If you're not writing to please God, you may as well chuck it all in right now.

And that leads to the last and biggest lesson I'm going to talk about today: letting go. Humility, patience, and pleasing God are all part of it: Ultimately, you have to let go of the reins of your own writing career and abandon yourself to the will of God. Where you may have started out praying, "Lord, please let this agent like my book," or "Lord, please send me some good news today," or "Lord, please let me meet someone at this conference who will help me get published" (I've been through all of those), eventually you have to come down to something much more humble: some version of "Lord, Your will be done." My personal version at this point is, "Lord, prosper my writing according to Your will." And it wasn't until I began praying that way that He did begin to prosper it.

Lest anyone think I'm speaking from outside the battle, let me hasten to point out that all these lessons are continually being drilled into me, and I don't expect the learning to stop this side of the grave.

What spiritual lessons have you learned through writing?

Stop by and visit Katherine at her blog where she talks about writing, 'God Haunted Fiction'.


Susan Falck said...

Very good blog, Katherine. And so true.

What have I been learning? That I need to be everything that God wants me to be. The story also needs to be what God wants it. I can depend on Him for everything.

Jeanette Levellie said...

Nodding and applauding your wisdom here in Paris, IL today. Thank you for confirming what the Lord has been speaking to me lately: it's more in the journey than the destination. He has also opened my heart to pray for ALL the attendees of the writers conference I'm going to in August. Now, that's a novel idea!

Blessings on your ministry of words to broken souls,

Linda Glaz said...

Great topic, Katherine. So hard to stay grounded when friends and family are oohing and aahing and then down the road we come to realize their oohs and aahs were more aimed at the fact we finished a novel in the first place. Thanks for reminding us what is important in the overall scheme of things.

Millie Samuelson said...

WOW -- what a great way to start my author-day: reading and meditating on your insightful words here, Katherine. . . and then praying. . . THANKS-for-sharing blessings! :-) PS -- Now to check out your blog site!

Rita Garcia said...

Fantastic post! "Lord, prosper my writing according to Your will." Amen!

Katherine Hyde said...

Thanks for reading and sharing, ladies! Another big lesson that didn't make it into this post: community. Without the support of other writers like you, I would have quit long ago!