Guest Blog by Karen Ferguson: 3 LESSONS LEARNED ON MY WRITING JOURNEY
It’s been more than 10 years since I first felt called to write; and honestly, I thought I’d be a lot further along by now. Distractions, detours, and discouragement have all played a role in this long journey.
Having said that, I assure you this post is not meant to discourage. If you’re just getting started as a writer, I actually want to encourage you by sharing 3 important things I’ve learned in this powerful refining process, that I don’t believe I would have learned otherwise.
1. It’s all about faith. Unlike many other ventures, writing a book requires that nearly all the work be done up front without any guarantee of outcomes. Unless you’re already a best selling author, you have to do the work first then hope (and pray) that you’ll find an agent or publisher willing to offer a contract. This can be disheartening and was a big culprit in my own procrastination. Because there were no guarantees and I wasn’t getting paid to do the work, I let other things take priority over my writing far too often. It was that mindset that I believe added years to my journey. But more recently I’ve embraced the fact that pleasing God is more important than outcomes. It’s not about weighing possibilities and then deciding to write, it’s about being obedient to the call of God. If you feel called to write, then all those hours spent researching, reading, writing, and editing are valuable. They mean something. Let your consistency in writing and your commitment to the call be your gauge of success.
Then there is the act of writing itself. It’s also a step of faith, isn’t it? Faith that the small seed of inspiration will blossom into something beautiful worth reading. Faith that the story is interesting enough to carry to the end. The blank page can be daunting for sure.
When I first got serious about writing a book in 2016, my daughter bought me a beautiful pen set for Christmas engraved with Hebrews 11:6, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” What a timely reminder! I knew it was going to require a whole lot of faith to get me started and keep me going. I took it as a confirmation, too, believing that it was my faith in God and His call on my life that pleased Him.
I’ve heard it said that bold prayers are what brings God glory, because those types of prayers require His intervention. If we can easily make it happen on our own then it isn’t faith.
If you’re struggling in your writing journey, get alone with God. Ask Him what next steps He wants you to take, and don’t ever feel foolish if those steps seem out of reach. Don’t doubt your big dreams. When we trust Him for things we can’t make happen, then that bold faith is an opportunity for Him to do great and mighty things that no one else could. It’s an opportunity for His Glory! So keep the faith.
2. Embrace (self) promotion (but with a caveat). I dislike self-promotion. Always have. I’d much rather be in the background supporting and promoting other people then out in the forefront, where the focus is all on me. But as I moved further along in my writing journey, I heard and read from experts in the field just how essential a ‘platform’ was to an author’s success. This required having a presence and promoting my work across multiple social media channels. It quickly became overwhelming. I mean, I just wanted to write, I never signed up for the marketing and promotion part… ;-).
But the reality is the ole’ adage “Build it and they will come” doesn’t even make sense if no one hears about it. To hear, we must tell. While I accepted that in my mind, my heart resisted it. Particularly because of what the Bible says about humility and self promotion. It says God opposes the proud, and to let someone else praise you (Proverbs 16:5, Proverbs 27:2). How could I reconcile making my platform all about me, my writing and products, and not offend God? And how were other Christian authors making it work? I knew I needed a major overhaul on my mindset if I wanted to move forward. It took a season of baby steps, but over time God helped me see that building my platform didn’t have to feel salesy and slimy, rather it could be fun and authentic by building positive relationships and providing value to my readers and followers. He helped me see that if I’m creating content that encourages, inspires, and ultimately points people to Him, then that’s ‘spreading the Good News’ and why wouldn’t I want to get the word out?
I heard this idea presented at a writer’s conference, and the way the author delivered it really resonated and brought even more freedom and excitement to my platform building efforts. She said when it comes to marketing and promotion, *“I’m not selling a book, I’m meeting a need, and my words are just tools.” I love that! She went on to remind us that it’s not only about sharing information (or products) but making genuine connections with others. When I view self promotion in that light, everything changes. When my highest goal is to point people to Jesus, the only One who can truly meet their needs, then I can be satisfied no matter how many books I sell, followers I have, or social media likes I get. When I work my platform with the goal to help others and make meaningful connections, then the rewards of that will carry far beyond this life. So keep connecting.
3. Don’t despise small beginnings. When I self published my first book in 2017, I was on fire! It was an exciting time, full of expectation. But boy, was I quickly intimidated by ‘all the things’ the experts said needed to be done to achieve success. So what did I do? Not much. I did very little to promote the book online, or even to my close circle of friends and family. I mean, I didn’t want to be that type of person… ;-) Yet, I was naive enough to believe that it could hit the best-seller list.
There’s no doubt, God did some wonderful things through that book. He touched several readers on a deep level, and I received amazing feedback, for which I’m grateful. But no, it did not make the best-seller list. It was honestly a bit of a let down. I was hoping God would do more with that first book, and I quickly got burnt out on the whole author building platform deal.
But God gave me a special verse in that season. Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.“
It’s hard to not compare our writing journey with others, and too often we compare our beginning with someone else’s middle, or even end. That’s never a good thing!
For many of you, this writing journey is going to be your whole life journey, and it will take many steps to fulfill the call He has on your life. Sometimes it’ll be baby steps, other times it’ll be leaps. But each one will be useful through important lessons learned.
Now that I’m signed on with a publisher for the first book in the Guess How Much God Loves You picture book series, I look back and realize I would not have been ready for this in 2017. I had some lessons to learn and skills to develop. And it wasn’t just about me either. Things had to change in my circumstances for where I am now to even make sense. But God sees the beginning from the end. He knows what we need, He redeems what seems lost, and He’s never late.
If you feel God is calling you to write, but are discouraged that it’s taking too long, just know that your small beginnings mean something. Those small steps of faith matter in your personal refining process, and to the heart of God. So keep going and keep trusting Him.
A prayer: Lord, give us ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to respond to Your call for our lives. We ask for wisdom as we seek You with our daily writing plans, agendas, and to-do lists. We pray bold prayers of faith on this writing journey, for we want to see You glorified. Do for us what we cannot do on our own. May we not despise small beginnings, but know You will turn them into something significant for Your Kingdom at the appropriate time. I pray for encouragement, favor, and inspiration for every writer reading this. Keep each one close to you, Lord, and fill them with Your peace and joy. In Jesus’ mighty name, Amen!
Karen Ferguson is a freelance writer and small business owner with a background in K-8 education. A grateful wife, mom, and grandmom, she loves words and the Word of God and is passionate about writing stories that grab and hold young readers’ attention, while teaching them all about God’s unchangeable truths, and His unchanging love for them. She wants every child to know their life matters.
The first book in the Guess How Much God Loves You picture book series is scheduled for release July 19.