Dec

18

2013

Competitive Spirits and Battling Discouragement

Guest post by Roseanna M. White

Roseanna WhiteRoseanna M. White is a writer with a passion for bringing history to life. Her most recent historical series, The Culpepper Ring series (Harvest House) has received rave reviews from readers and reviewers alike. In addition to being a writer, Roseanna is the senior reviewer at the Christian Review of Books, which she and her husband founded; the senior editor at WhiteFire Publishing; and a member of ACFW, HisWriters, HEWN Marketing, and Colonial Christian Fiction Writers. As a speaker–whether her topic is on what to write, how to research, or overcoming marketing fears–Roseanna invites her audiences to rely on the leading of the Spirit. She lives on the East Coast with her husband and their two brilliant, talented children.

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As a kid, I was used to being the best. Best grades, finished my homework before leaving school, understood everything without needing the teacher to explain it more than once. (Well, fractions gave me grief for a week or two, but let’s just call that a blip on the screen.) Every year, my mom would issue the same warning: “Roseanna, next year the work will be harder. You might have more homework. It might not come so easily.” I took that as a challenge. ;-) And all through school, I proved my wise mama wrong.

Then I hit the real world.

Sometimes, competitiveness gives me the impetus I need to get off my rear and do the work that needs done. But other times? It leads to far less productive places. When you’re competitive, like I am, it can spread to everything. How many comments did my guest post get? How many reviews on my book? How many sales? How many replies to a post on Facebook? Retweets? Likes? Follows? Sales ranking? Awards? And more important–how many did those other people get??

Aaagghh!

Once in a great while, comparing yourself to your peers can make you feel good about where you are and how you’re doing. But it’s a trap. Because even if you win that contest…or sell your very first manuscript on your very first query…or if you win that award…or have great sales…or loyal reviewers…or a huge blog following–eventually, you’ll find that someone’s better. Where someone else sells earlier. Or they’re picked up by your dream house. Someone else hits the bestseller list. Outranks you on Amazon. Sets the media abuzz. Wins the award you’ve always longed to have on your shelf.

And it’ll eat at you.

That’s when the competitiveness turns to jealousy. And jealousy leads straight into the teeth of discouragement. When you have this type of personality and see others doing better, the natural questions that start popping to mind include, Why them? Why not me? What did I do wrong? Why am I not good enough? What am I supposed to do now? Will I ever succeed at this??

I can’t tell you how many times, after others found the success I had prayed I would achieve, that I put my head in my hands and cried out, “Lord, when? When will it be me? What more do I have to do?” And I can’t tell you how many times those questions hurled me straight into the pit of despair. How many times I found myself praying, “Lord, if this is the path You want me on, send me some encouragement.”

And He always did. But eventually, I got tired of hearing myself pray that same desperate cry, time after time. I began to realize that what I was, in effect, praying was that circumstances (encouragement) would defeat circumstances (discouragement). The problem is that circumstances always change. The bad to good, yes, but the good will always give way at some point too. If I wanted to defeat this discouragement that plagued me, I had to change something far more important than circumstances. I had to change my perspective.

For starters, I need to safeguard my heart from this nature of mine. I stopped reading my reviews and checking my ranking. I trained myself to never give utterance to, “Why them instead of me?” I had to give my career, for the umpteenth time, over to God and say, “It doesn’t matter if I sell. It doesn’t matter if I win. It doesn’t matter if I hit any big lists. What matters is that I’m following the path You put me on.”

Any time I walk this path, I have to recognize a vital truth: God does not discourage. When He wants to redirect us, He might use some startling means to get our attention, but when we ask Him if it’s where He wants us, we hear Him in the voice of peace. If we’re instead discouraged, then it’s not God. But then…whose voice is it?

Ah–there we have an interesting question. What voice am I hearing? My own? The enemy’s? Either way, it’s not the voice I should listen to. So why, then, do I let it get to me? Why do I try to fight it off with other words in other voices? Why do I try to overcome it with reminders of my successes? None of which works.

What I need to do instead is stop when I first hear those words in my spirit and say, “No. This isn’t God. I won’t think it. Lord, protect me from these thoughts and fill my mind with Your truth instead.”

Do you know what I discovered His truth to be? That God cares more about me than about my success. God cares more about my heart than my bank account. God cares more about my name being in His book than having it on the cover of a novel with Bestselling/Award-winning author of… written beneath it. God cares that I’m on the path He set out for me. And He never, ever compares my path to someone else’s.

Maybe I’ll always battle this competitive streak–maybe sometimes it’ll catch me unawares and send me back into discouragement. But at least now I know where my focus needs to be: on God, and on my relationship with Him. As long as I keep that in mind, then I can accept with peace whatever comes my way. Because I know nothing takes Him by surprise. I know it’s all part of the road He wants me to walk.

And I know that as long as my feet stay on that path and don’t try to jump onto one that looks more alluring to me, He’ll lead me to places I couldn’t have imagined.

Dec

17

2013

So You Want to Be in Pictures?

by Dan Balow

cinema clapper and film tape

At some point in their careers, just about every novelist will yearn to see their books on the silver screen.

However, the number of authors who are fortunate enough to have movies made and actually like the final film version, are few and far between.  Movies have been found to be a proverbial “good news, bad news” experience for authors.

An illustration of this is Roald Dahl’s children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, written in 1964.  The first movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in 1971 was not what Roald Dahl had in mind at all. In fact, the “darker” remake in 2005 starring Johnny Depp was actually closer to the intent of the author, but not revered nearly as much by viewer as the 1971 version with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.

E.B White hated the “jolly songs” in the 1973 animated version of Charlotte’s Web. The 2005 live action remake was closer to the author intent.

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Dec

16

2013

Diligence Rewarded

by Steve Laube

hardworkahead

The ease of today’s social media communication brings a casual layer to the task of writing. Careful composition is trumped by the need for speed. For most “throw away” emails and posts that is the new normal. But it should never leak into the business of writing, either in craft or in delicate communication.

The other day I received an email query/proposal. There was a very large file attached and the body of the email read, “Here is my book. Please take a look.” No signature line, that was it. At least it rhymed. This was not a friend, a client, or someone I had ever met. But the casual, even flippant, nature of the note all but says, “I’m not serious about the craft or business of writing.”

The best writers are those who take their ideas and their words and run them through a gauntlet of critique and reformation. They pour their words into a garlic press and slice and dice them into bits that can flavor their entire book.

This takes time. This takes hard work. And it is a process that seems endless.

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Dec

14

2013

‘Tis the Season

Best Christmas Card Photo Ever? - Jon Acuff thinks so: Source:  jamiliajean.com via Jon on Pinterest

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Dec

13

2013

Fun Fridays – December 13, 2013

This simply made me smile. Extremely clever.
And these Canadians aren’t afraid to say “Merry Christmas!”

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Dec

12

2013

Staying Sane Over the Holidays

by Tamela Hancock Murray

Christmas Stress

Just because you’re a writer doesn’t mean you get a pass over the holidays. Many writers are contract-bound by December and early January deadlines, while other writers have self-imposed deadlines to keep their careers moving. The late arrival of Thanksgiving has also put a monkey wrench into many of our plans. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t get in the mood — or find the time — for Christmas preparations before Thanksgiving is over.

I’ve been married 29 years. During this time, I have become less insecure and eager to impress everyone by how much I am able to accomplish. As a result, I’ve changed many of my Christmas activities to help me save time and increase my enjoyment of the celebration.

Now, I know the level of enjoyment for each person is different, so if you love any or all of the activities on this list, go for it! Here are my changes:

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Dec

11

2013

Taking the “Dis” out of Discourage

by Nancy Farrier

NancyBattu2

With over 400,000 books in print, Nancy J. Farrier is no stranger to the ups and downs of the writing life. That combined with being a worship leader and Bible study leader has given her all kinds of valuable lessons on discouragement–and its solutions!

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We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair…”    II Cor. 4:8a

During my writing career, I’ve often felt like Paul, hard-pressed on every side or perplexed due to the many areas of discouragement I’ve faced. Unlike Paul, I’ve often felt crushed and in despair. When I prayed about staying strong, God gave me a way to battle discouragement, showing me three areas where I often come under attack. Once recognized, they are easier to combat.

D—The first area is those who are distant to me. These are people I don’t know well, but who have contact with me: readers, critics, sometimes industry professionals. I don’t believe any of these people intended to say or do things to discourage me, but seemingly insignificant comments often cut deep. Even when most of my reader letters are very positive, notes like the following too often have a greater impact:

“I bought one of your books to give my granddaughter, started to read it first, and realized you’ve never opened a Bible in your life!”

I can’t tell you how much that hurt. I love God’s Word and I love sharing Scripture, so that attack was more painful than most. She didn’t say why she came to that conclusion. She didn’t even give her name or contact information. Perhaps from her perspective she was being honest, but her words wounded me and made me doubt my abilities.

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Dec

10

2013

A Writing Life – Pearl S. Buck

by Dan Balow

pearlbuck

Seventy –five years ago today, Pearl Buck became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The king of Sweden gave her the award at a ceremony on December 10, 1938 in the Stockholm Concert Hall.  It read:

“By awarding this year’s Prize to Pearl Buck for the notable works which pave the way to a human sympathy passing over widely separated racial boundaries and for studies of human ideals which are a great and living art of portraiture, the Swedish Academy feels that it acts in harmony and accord with the aim of Alfred Nobel’s dream for the future.”

Pearl’s most famous works, her “House of Earth” series, written in the 1930’s (The Good Earth, Sons, A House Divided) are considered important works, making a significant literary contribution around the world.  The Good Earth was the best selling novel in the U.S. in both 1931 and 1932 and also won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1932.  It still sells consistently today…Oprah Winfrey named it as one of her must-reads in 2004.

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Dec

9

2013

Three Myths About an Agent’s Acceptance

by Steve Laube

Arrow with word  Fact breaks word Myth. Concept 3D illustration.

You’ve worked hard. You wrote a great book. You pitched it just right and the literary agent has called you saying they want to represent you and your project. Hooray! But there are some misunderstandings or myths about what happens next.

1.  Your Book Will Soon Be Published

Just because an agent has said yes doesn’t guarantee success. Nor does it speed up the inexorable process. Remember that while the agent will work hard in getting your work in front of the right publishers and deal with any objections or questions that come, it can happen that an idea is rejected by every publisher.

In addition the acquisitions process at a publisher is very process oriented. When I was an acquisitions editor we tried to have a monthly publications board meeting. I was given time to present about eight titles at that meeting. Thus beforehand we had to decide which titles were going to be pitched. Often I would bump an idea to the next meeting because another one took its place. For the author and the agent this means waiting and waiting some more. Other businesses may make their decisions more quickly, but publishing has always worked in this methodical manner. Of course there are exceptions, but usually at the expense of someone else’s project that has now been bumped to the next pub board meeting.

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Dec

6

2013

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