One of the attractions of the Festival of Faith and Writing (at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan) is the Exhibit Hall. This year, at least forty-six booths, with representatives from editing services, book and magazine publishers, and writing organizations, talked and bargained and figured out who will be the next hot commodity.
Two years ago, I went to the Festival to not only learn a lot about faith and writing, but also to figure out how to navigate the publishing process. It’s more than anyone can grasp in three days, but it was a start.
Since then, I’ve been working on something I believe is unique enough to be interesting and important enough to bear consideration. I’ve thought about how it would be to sign a contract, work with an editor (which would take a bucket-load of humility, from what I hear), and see, at long last, a really truly actual book that I created by myself – with the help, of course, of my private cheering section and an artist extraordinaire.
I wonder what it would be like to see my name on the cover.
I’ve been involved with several book launches. The excitement of being selected to receive an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), the chatter on social media with the author and a thousand of his or her closest friends, the anticipation of seeing the long-awaited book finally appear in print. It’s all exciting, full of shout-outs and breath-holding.
But each time, I put myself in the place of the author … Could I really do that? Oh, I’m sure I could follow all of the rules and guidelines and behave appropriately. I just wonder if I have what it takes to do it all and not lose what I have left of a mind and soul.
Could I find and maintain the balance?
Will I ever be an author?
I ask Jesus about that a lot. I look for guidance – not billboards because, well, I don’t think God works that way. As I said over a year ago:
I believe that God gives us creative minds, passions, desires, and talents. He expects us to study them and spend time in reflection. We are to look at choices through the lenses we were born with. He wants us to use what is already there to find the way.
It’s in my quietest moments of reflection and conversations with Him that I see things the most clearly. I recently wrote something that, once again, just kind of spilled out onto the page:
When I hold my hands open, do Your gifts sometimes just slide off?
I picture it like this: The little boy wants more than anything to play catch. He stands up straight, feet firmly planted, big smile, and holds his little arms out t-h-i-s wide. He watches and waits for the pitch. Here it comes…
And “Boing!” The ball bounces against his chest and falls to the ground, his arms still stretched wide.
He was ready. Arms open and poised for the ball. It was pitched … He just didn’t catch it.
Or how about the story of the man caught in the flood. He refused the help of a rowboat, a motorboat, and a helicopter because “I have faith God is going to save me.” So, the man drowned. At the pearly gates, he confronted God, “Why didn’t you save me?” To which God responded, “I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more did you expect?”
The man was ready. He stood on the roof, poised for rescue. God sent three clear answers. The man just didn’t get it.
That’s where I am right now. I keep thinking I have my hands open to Your will. I really do. I’m ready. Poised for the next thing.
And just like the little boy and the drowning man, sometimes I don’t get it. The ball bounces off my chest. The boats sail away and the helicopter flies on.
Good golly, Miss Molly.
I’ve asked myself over and over: Should I diligently seek publication? …….. or not?
And in just the past few days and weeks, I believe I’ve found my way, looking through the lenses I was born with: relentless pursuit of a publishing contract is not what is best for me or my family. Not right now.
For those of you who have been my encouragers since the very beginning, for those of you who read about gratitude and did some editing or made suggestions, for those of you who have not and will not give up on me, I promise I’m not giving up either.
But, my lovelies, my hands have been open for a long time, asking God to fill them with what He will. And I’m convinced He has done just that. He has provided His answer: it’s you…and the other small band of readers who take time to consider my thoughts and, at times, respond to them.
And a family who needs me here and now, and a small freelance writing business, and time to become more of the writer He designed me to be.
I’m going to stop waiting for something else or something more, while His true blessings and answers and provisions spill out of my well-meaning but unresponsive hands.
Yes, I’ll remain open to what God has in store. But for now, I’m holding on real tight to what has been given. I’m not going to let His answer slide off my hands or bounce off my chest.
So at the festival this year, I didn’t actively seek out those with influence in the publishing business. I had conversations about contributing to literary journals. I shared samples of my creation with a few who seemed interested. I listened.
But I was not anxious. I didn’t hear the clock tick-tocking between sessions when the Exhibit Hall was open. I didn’t start up strategic conversations, failing miserably in an attempt to appear casual while I pitched my latest project.
Sure, I wrestle at times with my human-ly feelings as I see the success of others, but I’m not languishing in envy or despair. Not that I look with disdain on those who single-mindedly fight for a place at the table. Good on them for knowing what’s in their hands.
But, for me, wrapping my fingers – and mind and heart – around what I already have is the truest thing I can do.
Until, of course, I get that call from a publisher.