Thursday, June 19, 2014

How Do You Define Success? by Terry Burns

As a writer I’ve published a number of books, but there probably aren’t many of you who have read them. That’s because I’m writing in obedience, and the market God has chosen for me is not large. I’m okay with that.
I became convinced God wanted me to reach out to the male nonbeliever, the person who is reluctant to discuss faith issues, and to try to plant the little seed that will open the door for someone else to go further. There are planters, then there are the farmers who cultivate and nourish the seed as it grows, and finally there are harvesters who get the wonderful pleasure of helping Jesus reap the crop.
In spite of the fact that I attended a high school with a mascot and name of “The Harvesters,” I seldom get to be in such a role. Those who write Christian fiction are in the business of planting seeds, hopefully to as many as possible. Planters who, like Jesus telling parables, use storytelling skills to make subtle or perhaps not so subtle points that lead someone to begin to question and hopefully to seek answers. Then the farmers and the harvesters take over.
If we are writing under a calling, God has an audience in mind for the work we are producing. Hopefully, He wants us to reach a huge number of people. We would all like the maximum number of people to read our writing.
With my book Mysterious Ways, God obviously knew where He wanted it to go and I got confirmation that He had seen to it that it went there. I have no idea how that was accomplished. It wasn’t a large group, but it was where He intended it to go.
If we want to write for the Lord we all have to ask ourselves that question: What if the market God has in mind isn’t a large number, what if it is a smaller group?
What if it is only one?
What if that one is us?
Are we still willing to write in obedience if God has a very small audience in mind? I made the commitment long ago to do that. It’s something each of us needs to decide for ourselves.
We have to go through an exercise where we can really come to terms with what we deem to be success for our writing. Do we need the big sales to feel we have achieved success? Do we have to reach a certain group of people to feel that? For a secular writer, if they don’t sell thousands of copies, they aren’t considered a success. How many does a Christian writer have to reach to feel successful?
If I only sold one book and it led to a person finding salvation, it would be enough although I certainly want to reach out to more.
How do you define success?

Exerpt from “Writing in Obedience” written with Linda W. Yezak available here


Ron Estrada said...

When I started tossing the idea for my first YA novel around to writing friends and professionals, I got some fairly stern warnings. I'm addressing the issue of teen abortion (though subtly). While I will not preach, nor will I come out and condemn those who've choses abortion, I will make a young reader think about the consequences of that decision--for the young lady, for the young man, and for the child. Will it sell? No idea. Will any publisher want to touch it? Maybe not. Will I get it on the market by any means necessary? Yes, I will. Self-publishing allows us to make tragic "mistakes" like that. But this is the story I have to tell. And, yes, if one teenager reads it and reconsiders her abortion or, even better, reconsiders his or her flippant attitude toward premarital sex, then I will consider that a success.

Linda Glaz said...

Most definitely. I'm always amazed at the way God will even inconvenience His believers in huge ways just to reach one person. If He'll do that, we should be open to the fact that we've spent a year or more writing something that will touch only one person.

Diana said...

Great post Terry and good comments Ron and Linda. God is all about the one :-)But then His math kicks in and it multiplies in ways we will not see until we reach Glory!

Elaine Stock said...

I'm a bit late to the comment-party, but wanted to say I appreciate this post. I've been sensing yet another God-lesson these past few months of what it's truly about in wiring Christian fiction and this piece helps to put it in further perspective. Thanks!

Diana--wow--God math. I like that image!

Heather Marsten said...

Your post touched me deeply - if you are under a calling, God has an audience for your book. Yes! I have a priest editing my memoir (he wanted to do it). The other day he came up to me and told me he’s helped three people because of the information he learned from my past. He said when former clients of his told him they were sexually abused, he knew the right things to say and questions to ask. I am hoping to be published, but even if I’m not, it sure is awesome to know that people are being helped. There are other stories about the impact of a few chapters of my memoir - including ministry to some of the people involved in my very pagan past. Who knew. God sure is a multitasker with a sense of humor. Have a blessed day,