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).