During the summer of 1978 the #1 hit on Christian radio was the classic “He’s Alive” by Don Francisco (click to listen). That same summer I attended a Christian music festival in Estes Park, Colorado, and decided to take a class on songwriting taught by Jimmy and Carol Owens. I settled into my chair near the back of the room with notepad ready.
Just as the class was about to start, a bearded man slid into the chair next to mine, notepad at the ready. To my astonishment, it was Don Francisco. (I recognized him from his album cover.)
Here was a singer/songwriter who had the number one hit in the nation, taking a class on songwriting! What did he think he needed to learn?
I have never forgotten the lesson from that afternoon. Even the best need to keep learning.
Always Time to Learn
Over the years I’ve seen numerous bestselling authors attend writers conferences as students. For example, at a number of Mt. Hermon conferences, Francine Rivers sat among the rest, taking notes. More than once I’ve seen Liz Curtis Higgs attend a fiction-writing conference as a student, not as the main speaker. Despite the considerable success of both these ladies as writers, each had the desire to continue to learn and improve their craft.
The application is obvious. Never rest on your laurels. Always seek to improve. And always remember to give God the glory in all that you do.
If you sit in first place and think the competition will never catch you, remember the 1969 Chicago Cubs. (I was a huge fan as a kid, collecting their baseball cards and scouring the daily newspaper for their results. I can still name most of their starting lineup.) On September 2 they were in first place, far ahead of the upstart NY Mets. But the rest of the month saw them lose 18 of 26 games and squander what seemed to be an insurmountable lead. History remembers the “Amazing Mets” but only brokenhearted Cub fans remember the collapse of ’69.
Anyone Can Learn
When I became an editor after being a bookseller for more than a decade, I knew very little about the publishing side of the business. I had no formal training as an editor. So I read books on fiction and nonfiction writing and books on how to be an editor. I went to writers conferences as faculty but sat in the back of other teachers’ classes, taking notes.
When I became a literary agent, I read books and attended other agents’ classes at conferences.
My point is that if I can learn this business, so can you. The fact that you are reading these words is to your credit. Thank you for being intentional about this calling we have.
Strive for Excellence
We are in the “business” of changing the world with our words. Therefore, anything less than excellence should not be acceptable. We can always learn more, improve our work, and broaden our horizons.
“I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10b, ESV).
During the last year of her life, when my grandmother knew she was dying of pancreatic cancer, she took creative classes in various crafts. Her motto was “you’ll never learn any younger.” If you didn’t already know it, there was always something more to learn.
Great post and marvelous reminder.
Kathy L Bruins
I truly believe in always being in the learning more. No one knows it all and we help each other grow.
Thank you Steve. I’m trying to everything I can also. Giving God all the glory! I attended Allan Arnold’s class and felt the same way you did when I saw Frank Peretti sitting on the front row.
Lancia E. Smith
Thank you, Steve. I appreciate these good words today and your faithful “prodding” to us to keep growing.
Beautiful reminder, Steve. I think most people would find the examples you gave (Francine Rivers and Liz Curtis HIggs) surprising. I did. Humility never goes out of style. Thank you.
Damon J. Gray
LOVE the Don Francisco story. I’d forgotten about that track and enjoyed listening to it again.
Steve, I don’t believe I will ever get beyond the “Impostor Syndrome” sensations.
We have to be diligent at giving the best of what we know while endlessly striving to improve our craft to the glory of the Master.
Steve, this is one of the most important lessons you taught me as your employee at Berean Christian Stores! Always be teachable, and always be reading to learn and for pleasure. To be growing as a leader, successful in my career, and be the best I could be, I would need to be learning every day. That was 34 years ago! I’m still reading and learning every day and love it! Thank you for your leadership and being a great mentor Steve!
You earned the right to later be called “Supreme Ruler” by your staff!
Keep those “books to be read” suggestions coming!
They say there’s something left to learn
that this is the pathway to success,
but what’s this to me as I burn
in the fire of death’s precincts?
“No more!” is what I want to cry,
“Enough’s enough, now let me be!”
To what end should I even try
in the face of cancer’s victory?
The answer comes both sure and sweet:
“Each moment lived is heaven saved,
and though the bugle blows retreat,
you’ll still be seen as you’ve behaved.
If you’re going to go, die going toward
love and learning for the Lord.”
Amen, Andrew. Your words always inspire. And many prayers that continue each day, even though I may not comment, I am in prayer for you!
Claire, thank you so much. Things are really running downhill, and the prayers are appreciated.
Andrew, thanks for your encouragement and inspiration.
Scribelady, thank YOU. Your affirmation means more than you may know, and more than I cn say.
You’ve brightened my day, and I am so very grateful.
Well said Mr. Laube. While learning never ends, I did want to point out a special blessing you and your team bring us. That’s passing the knowledge and wisdom you have amassed to those coming behind you. Thank your for your always encouraging posts Steve Laube agency. God’s blessings.
Thank you for this, Steve! I just came back from a writers conference this past weekend. It was so refreshing to be around such successful but humble authors and speakers. I love asking them questions about their journeys.
Kessinger, Beckert, Williams, Banks, Santo, Hickman, Young, Hundley, Jenkins.
I still remember going to a Cubs game in 1969 as a young boy (we had traveled to Chicago from our home in Anchorage, Alaska).
They were playing the San Francisco Giants. I was thrilled to see Willie Mays warming up on the sideline right in front of our first-base-line seats.
During the game Ferguson Jenkins struck out Willie McCovey four times and Ernie Banks hit his 498th career home run.
I’m a novice and much to learn, thanks, Steve, for your encouragement!
I learn something new every time I read this blog. 🙂 Thank you for the wisdom and encouragement.
Thank you for the powerful reminder.
I’m thinking of taking a writers class at the college. If you can would you blog information about how to find a conference to go to.
A complete list of Christian Writers conferences can be found in the annual CHRISTIAN WRITERS MARKET GUIDE. It is organized by location to help find one near you. There are many that draw from beyond their region so look at each conference web site to see their current or past faculty and course offerings.
You can either get the paperback or ebook edition, or choose the online version which updated regularly throughout the year (www.christianwritersmarketguide.com)
In the meantime, if you cannot attend a conference, consider taking the inexpensive classes found on http://www.christianwritersinstitute.com.
Thank you so much. I have that book and didn’t that information was in it.
This business changes continually. Thanks for the reminder to change with it by learning. We must learn or become irrelevant.
I recently read a quote by Albert Einstein: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.”
I can relate to that, especially as an author. What a privilege to have so many resources at our fingertips (including this blog). And what inspiration to hear about the humility of people like Francine Rivers and Liz Curtis Higgs. They are role models for the rest of us.
well spoken, well spoken.
always receiving wisdom from all of you.
I remember Don Francisco– think I heard this song first as we sang it at a Calvary Chapel Easter Service. Talk about weeping! Falling to one’s knees. Thank you for reminding of his works.
And our learning ‘everything’ is indeed a learning process, and a huge learning curve each day. So thankful for those gazillion rejections I’ve received over the years to reach into the works around me, the experts, and those who know so much more.
In each season of my life I have had to stop, drop and roll… so to speak to learn everything I could in each area God calls me to, even when I am trembling with fear. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!’
Expect me at a conference. And expect me to pick up more online classes!
Reading the SLA blog posts daily is a big part of my learning process. Thanks. As a writer of devotions I learn from my editors, always comparing what I submitted with what they published.
Thank you, Steve. You’ll never know this side of Heaven how many people you have helped. Writers have gotten published because of you and others have had their lives changed because of reading those things.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Thanks, Steve. AS a teacher, I agree that we always need to learn something new.
Thanks for this post, and the encouragement to always be learning. Years ago, an influential family member said I wanted to be a “professional student”–not said as a compliment. What a boost to discover I’m in good company when it comes to being a professional student!
To add to my comment above, I’ve taken some of the classes on the Christian Writers Institute, and recommend them. They are more easily affordable than attending a conference, and the content/presentation is interesting and usable right away. I like the ability to retake courses as many times as I want.
A sincere article and a beautiful tribute to our Lord! Nancy MacDonald
This post reminds me of my first editor/mentor. She said, “There are two kinds of writers, ones who keep learning and bad ones.” She enrolled in an MFA program to study fiction (probably in her 50s) after writing for publications like The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Newsweek, and Readers Digest. She set an example for what she preached. Thanks for the reminder to keep searching out opportunities to get better.
Wise words. Thanks. Steve!
What great examples to emphasize how much we all need to keep on learning! Thank you.