Don’t Waste Your Time

Some days…those rare, out-of-the-blue, once-in-awhile days…God speaks an amen that reminds me all this is worth it.

This past Saturday was a day like that. I spoke at a writer’s conference and had a delightful time. At the closing sessions I spoke on passion and why we Christian writers do what we do. How the goal can’t be publication, but obedience to the task God has given us. How writing for God is about doing the task with excellence, not achieving some worldly measure of success. How nothing that we do out of obedience to God is ever wasted. How what God asks us to do is write, and what He does with our writing is His call. One gentleman sitting there soaking in every word, nodding, smiling, offering an occasional “amen!” and “It’s all about obedience. That’s right.”

After the sessions were over, I did a few one-on-one meetings. Amen Man came in and sat down, then proceeded to tell me how he’d been trying to get published. He’d written one kind of book and had no luck. So now was wondering what gems of wisdom I had for him to help him get his book published. Otherwise he didn’t want to waste his time.

I leaned forward, elbows on the table, and rested my chin in my hand. “Waste your time…?”

He nodded. “Writing. If it’s not going to be published.”

I frowned a bit and leaned back in my chair. “But…” Maybe this was actually Amen Man’s twin brother? Or some doppleganger who wasn’t there during the session we’d just been in? “Didn’t we just talk about how nothing we do out of obedience to God is wasted.”

He stared at me. Blinked. Then shook his head. “Well, yeah, sure. But why would I write if my book isn’t going to be published?”

I shrugged. “You’ll have to ask God. If He’s given you the task to write, only He can tell tell you why.”

Now he was frowning at me. “Then what’s the point?”

I angled a look at him. “Let me ask you something. Why are you writing?”

“To be published.”

“Not because God asked you to write.”

“Yeah. Sure. That. But so I can be published.”

Oh dear. This wasn’t going at all well. I leaned forward again. “But don’t you see? God has asked you…to write.” I said the rest as gentle as I could:  “That doesn’t mean you’ll be published.”

Silence again. “But then I’m not a success.”

“In whose eyes?”

This time his eyes widened a bit, but I didn’t stop. I couldn’t. Not because I had to be right, but because I so wanted him to understand.

“In whose eyes? God’s?”

He went still. I thought for a heartbeat he was going to push back, stand, and walk out. Instead, with a deep exhale, he relaxed for the first time since he sat down. He studied the table for a moment, then lifted his eyes back to me. “In my eyes. I wouldn’t be a success in my eyes.”

I held my breath. Waited.

“Wow.” He stared at the table again. Shook his head. And let out another sigh. “Wow, that’s…wrong. Isn’t it?”

I relaxed now. “Wrongheaded, maybe.”

“You know, when you talked about obedience and writing because that’s what He asked us to do…I agreed. Or I thought I did. But I think maybe…”


Me met my eyes. “I think I need to adjust my view on what success is.”

He said it quiet-like. Thoughtful. And I could tell he meant it. Really meant it.

He stood and held out his hand. “Thanks.”

I stood and took his hand, then gave him a hug. “Keep writing, okay?”

He gave me a grin that was like the sun bursting through a thundercloud. “Until He tells me to stop.”

Yup. Some days, some rare, out-of-the-blue days, God speaks an amen. And the sound of it…

Is glorious.

93 Responses to Don’t Waste Your Time

  1. Avatar
    Michael February 3, 2016 at 3:56 am #

    If Amen Man had a doppleganger, it would have been me. Despite the “don’t write for money”, “don’t write to be published”, and “we do what we do for God”, I often found myself along the thought of being a success as a writer when I finally get published or make large sales.
    This year, and February in particular has been different. I listened to an audio by a NYT bestseller yesterday and it was the first time I’d really accept the truth that publication, contracts, bestselling lists, audience et al are ‘sand castles’. The life we live now is truly ephemeral, the eternal is perfect, complete.
    I’d trust in God to make this truth stay with me everyday, for as long as I write (which would be when He tells me to stop). And I wish every Christian writer to understand this truth.
    Thank you Ms. Ball for this insight.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:22 pm #

      Michael, thank you. Love the image of sand castles…so appealing, and yet so easily erased. Great reminder.

  2. Avatar
    Jackie Layton February 3, 2016 at 5:18 am #

    You made me laugh and cry this morning, Karen. And you nailed me. Yes, I’m writing for God, but sometimes I wrestle with if I”m not going to be published, could my time be spent in better ways. So far 2016 has been an emotionally tough year for different reasons, but I’ve begun to question why I’m writing. I think your post will help me turn the corner. Thanks so much!

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:24 pm #

      Jackie, I’m so glad it has helped. Praying God leads you with His peace and presence.

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    Rebecca Burtram February 3, 2016 at 5:36 am #

    Thank you!

    I constantly battle to balance my own standards of success and worth with embracing who called has called me to be.
    I completely identify with Amen man.

    This was a beautiful reminder of where my value comes from.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

      Rebecca, I so appreciate your words. Thanks.

  4. Avatar
    April Cassidy February 3, 2016 at 5:53 am #

    LOVE this! Yes! This is everything in the Christian life – we do it for God because He asks us to – even if He is the only audience we will ever have. He is worthy of our obedience. And obedience to Him is never time wasted. These are lessons God has taught me in my own life and things I often share on my blog. Thank you for sharing these precious treasures of Christ with us!

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

      You’re welcome! Thanks for your enthusiasm!

  5. Avatar
    JKW February 3, 2016 at 5:56 am #

    OMGosh, what a great article. Thank you Karen. It (publishing) won’t matter, I’ll continue with the trilogy. I did send in 20 pages to the Mystery Writers, they love the characters and the story line is original, but my writing needs editing and. . . I guess I have the right ideas but not the skills. I’ll keep going. Blessings, Janet (I’m a subscriber from way back.)

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:26 pm #

      Janet, do keep going. Don’t stop until He tells you to do so.

  6. Avatar
    Melodie February 3, 2016 at 6:03 am #

    This affirms a decision I made last week after prayer, contemplation, and other readings that made me step back and figure out why I’m spinning my wheels at this publication thing. It’s so much more than I ever imagined. I newfound respect for published authors, editors, publishers, etc. I don’t have to do this to put food on the table. Those that do, you are blessed with talent, but I know it is hard work. It’s not as glamorous as my unpublished mind thought.

    When I began this journey, I’d told myself I would write even if no one ever read my fiction beyond my relatives after I was long gone. Then I decided it was good enough to put it out there for feedback. Whoa! Critiques were kind, but shocking. An em-dash? What the heck is that? Head hopping. I like omniscient point of view. What? That’s out of date. Pantser, pantster. Whichever one it is, that’s me.

    My story made no sense to the reader. Rude awakening. I had to study the craft! I did that. Some. Not enough. Need more of that. But I have a day job. But oh, if I want it bad enough, I’d make the time, right? So I read time management books, got a detailed planner. Yes, but. The yes buts kept coming. I’m not committed like I should be. I’m bummed. Then I distracted myself with craft books and didn’t write as much as I wanted to. Bought Scrivener. Spent time learning it, but now, I’m not even in it to write. What’s up with that? Bought more craft books, made a list of what to read and when. Color-coded a list of them by type. Tried to set my own mini-MFA program to get them read and studied. Am not doing it. Tired. Too tired. Excuses. Every bit of it. Not committed. Not really.

    My pipe dream is just that, a pipe dream. But I am content to leave it as that. Someday my great nieces and great nephews will read my ramblings to me when they visit me in the nursing home and we will laugh. I’m content with that. I’d love to read my dead relatives’ stuff. Wish there was more of their writing around. But I enjoy putting thoughts to paper. Playing with the made up characters running around in my head. Maybe some day, the Lord will really say, “Make something of this,” but for now, it’s my hobby. And that’s okay.

    • Avatar
      Jackie Layton February 3, 2016 at 2:12 pm #

      Hi Melodie,

      It sounds like you’re at peace with your decision. Good for you!

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:29 pm #

      Melodie, you ARE making something of it now. You’re writing your heart.

  7. Avatar
    Connie Almony February 3, 2016 at 6:24 am #

    I always love reading your posts. It’s like asking the Holy Spirit to wash over me. Love that feeling! Reminds me of the core I need to feed.
    I’ve been that man at times. I understand his fear of wasting his time. Partly for the same reasons as his, but also because when I love to do something as much as I do writing, I question if this is God’s leading or just me doing what I want. I have a history with the latter, so I need to question it. However, for now, I am clear that this is where God wants me to be. I’ve never been so clear on anything in my life. But I also realize it could change.
    Had that man been published, he’d have a new question, “How many books sold does it take to become a success?” When thinking in worldly terms, the treadmill never gets to its destination.
    My daughter once asked me, “How would you feel if you only sold one book?” I paused because I had to go through all my hopes for money, fame, sales records, etc., in my head before I could answer what I knew would eventually bring me the most satisfaction … “If that one book impacted someone’s eternity for the better, then it would be worth any amount of time and effort I put into it. Because any number multiplied by infinity is still infinity. You can’t get bigger than that.”

    • Avatar
      Cynthia Herron February 3, 2016 at 9:34 am #

      Connie, tremendous! Your comment blessed me.

    • Avatar
      Jackie Layton February 3, 2016 at 2:13 pm #

      Wow Connie, that’s great!

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

      Wow, Connie, thanks so much for your kind words.

      I love the section of Ezekiel where God tells the prophet, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself.” And with that in mind, I ask myself and others, “If no one but you reads what you’ve written, is that enough?” Because sometimes the message God has given us is for us, and we need to be open to that, too.

  8. Avatar
    Martha Rogers February 3, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    This is beautiful, Karen. I believe that’s why God had me wait so long to fulfill His purpose for my writing. For so long my main goal was getting published and seeing my books on a bookstore shelf. Not until I decided I was too old to be published (in my 60’s) did I say okay, God, this is the way it’ll be be, but I have to write the stories in my head. God kept giving me stories and on my 73rd birthday, He decided I was ready.

    It’s all in being patient and letting God guide and work out His will in our lives. His plans for us are far better than anything we can plan on our own.

    You were such an inspiration to me back in days when Norma Jean had the PIW conferences in Tulsa and I heard you speak there and again at Mount Hermann when we’d have the early morning devotional times.

    Thank you for your faithfulness to the task God gave you.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

      Aw, Martha, thanks. You’ve been a blessing to me for a long time.

  9. Avatar
    Ane Mulligan February 3, 2016 at 6:31 am #

    Writing is one of the hardest callings God can give. You open your heart and bleed on the pages. You have a burning passion to share what the story shows so people might be helped. To be told to wait or no to publishing “seems” to say your work isn’t good enough.

    The whole key is what you said in our measure of success and that’s something those of us in this industry need to work on.

    The best teacher at a conference might be the one who has been writing for years but God hasn’t opened the publishing door yet for him or her.

    It’s something to think about.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:34 pm #

      Amen. Or God may never open the door to publication. And, if we’re focused on Him, that will be okay.

  10. Avatar
    Judith Robl February 3, 2016 at 6:34 am #

    Did I ever mention that I love your perspectives? Your take on life, your advice, your openness, your reality. They are all God’s gift to your writers and students. Thanking God for your transparency.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:35 pm #

      And I’m thanking God for your encouragement!

  11. Avatar
    Dee Kincade February 3, 2016 at 6:40 am #

    Thank you, Karen.

    I was at that conference on Saturday. Your encouragement and the depth of your love for God and writers touched me. I went home and began writing again after many months of sitting at my laptop with my hands idle over the keyboard.

    Now, I write for HIM! I made a sign that’s hanging over my laptop reminding me.

    Thanks, again, Karen.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:36 pm #

      Dancing because you’re writing again! Yay! Bask in the wonder of His invitation to create with Him.

  12. Avatar
    Jan Cline February 3, 2016 at 6:54 am #

    Karen, you rocked my world that Saturday, and I’m sure most everyone in the room was touched by your Spirit-felt message to us. I have talked to so many writers who struggle with this, and I believe God is moving to restore to us the success we desire – not necessarily in publication. I think this is the year He will reach many Christian writers and authors with the revelation that success is obedience and that the words He has written with us will not be without life and merit and relevance. We are a success if we have honestly and openly worked at the task He has given us. Thank you again for your willingness to share the truth with us. It’s liberating.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:37 pm #

      Jan, thank you so much. It was a delight to spend some time with you.

  13. Avatar
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser February 3, 2016 at 6:55 am #

    I honestly can’t say whether God is telling me to write, putting it on my heart, or what;

    I do know that in a life that’s become a slow motion action replay of Isandlwana, I have found that one need not have temporal hope to have purpose, and even purpose bereft of meaning is still duty.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

      Ah, but no God-breathed purpose is bereft of meaning. We may not be able to see or understand it, but the meaning is still there. When He’s ready–or when you are–God will make it clear.

      That’s my vote, anyway.

  14. Avatar
    Rebecca Stuhlmiller February 3, 2016 at 7:35 am #

    What a blessing that writers can sit face-to-face with a (Spirit-filled) professional at a conference and verbally process their dreams, calling, and struggles.

    My problem is, I don’t have a burning need to write. I’m not even sure I care about publishing a book. What I love is the craft of writing, equipping conferences, and the publishing world. Mostly, I love the life-changing power of the written word. For that reason, I want to get my stories and messages out. A book has always seemed like the best way to go, but I’ve been rethinking that because 30,000 words aren’t enough for a traditionally published nonfiction book.

    Publication or not, in the end, it’s always about a long obedience in the same direction. Thanks for this.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:40 pm #

      Amen! I love being in a community of writers. And your lack of a burning need to write isn’t a problem, it’s a blessing! You can just relax and enjoy the creative process. Wonderful!

  15. Avatar
    Richard Mabry February 3, 2016 at 7:56 am #

    Karen, you’ve hit the nail on the head. So many times I have to stop and ask myself why I’m writing. If it’s for the money, for the publicity, for getting my work published, then I have to step back and readjust my sites.
    I have hanging above my computer lines written by our mutual friend, author, B J Hoff: “It matters not if the world has heard, or approves or understands. The only applause we’re meant to seek is that of nail-scarred hands.”

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:42 pm #

      Doc, love seeing you here and reading your comments. Yes, I always find such wisdom in what BJ says. Thanks for sharing!

  16. Avatar
    Jane Heitman Healy February 3, 2016 at 8:26 am #

    “nothing that we do out of obedience to God is ever wasted.” So true, so true! Thank you, Karen, for this important reminder. This post is a keeper for those days when I don’t feel “successful.” God’s purpose is greater than we can know, and my purpose is to follow God.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:43 pm #

      “God’s purpose is greater than we can know, and my purpose is to follow God.” Amen, Jane.

  17. Avatar
    Diane T. Ashley February 3, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    I have tears in my eyes after reading this. Thanks for sharing…and Amen.

  18. Avatar
    Robin Bayne February 3, 2016 at 8:41 am #

    Great and timely article 🙂

  19. Avatar
    Ann Shorey February 3, 2016 at 8:51 am #

    Thank you for this, Karen. My thinking is undergoing a huge shift. Hugs!

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 7:45 pm #

      Ann, I think God is shifting a lot of us and our thinking. Nice to know we’re not going through it alone.

  20. Avatar
    Carrie Stuart Parks February 3, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    What an awesome story, Karen!

  21. Avatar
    Carol Ashby February 3, 2016 at 8:54 am #

    Another thought-provoking post, Karen, like we all expect on Wednesday. God called many of us reading here to write, and knowing the reason is key to fulfilling His purpose. Success for success’s sake is human striving, not a God-serving goal. I do have a different perspective than the man in your story.

    I had enough success in my science career, but the award plaques are on a shelf in the garage, the copies of the patents are on a shelf in the library, and the documentation trail of my research is in the professional journals and the book my colleague and I published on GaAs device fabrication. While I did it all as a servant of God, I didn’t do it specifically to serve Him. Succeeding there was gift but not a calling.

    Writing fiction is a calling for me. It came several months before I retired, and I’m pouring everything I’ve got into it, just like I did in my “day job” career. That’s the way God made me –always drive to do the best I can with what He’s given me. I don’t need to get published for my own satisfaction, but I do need it for what God has called me to share to impact other people, both in the message I believe He has given me to put on paper (or electronic screens) and in what can be done to serve Him with the money the books generate. If no one else reads it but me, it would be better for me to spend my time serving at the homeless shelter. If the manuscripts make a difference to my beta readers, that alone would be worth me writing, but I know in my bones it’s meant to do more than that. My novels are probably not supposed to become best sellers (although who knows what God plans for anything we do?), but they have to get out where people I don’t know and probably never will can read them for them to serve God instead of just making me feel good because I enjoyed writing them.

    I’d be willing to bet there are many people reading here today who feel exactly as I do. Publishing isn’t mainly for our own satisfaction; only publishing can achieve maximum impact in serving Him. Whether our writing reaches 100 people or 100,000 doesn’t matter as much as having it out where it can reach the ones God intends.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

      Carol, I hear what you’re saying, and on the surface it sounds good. But here’s the thing: there is no one way for God to achieve His purposes with us. As people. As writers.

      If publishing is the only thing to achieve maximum impact in serving Him, then what about all those people who write out of obedience, those who know He’s asking them to write…and who never get published? Does it mean they heard Him wrong? That their work wasn’t good enough to be used by Him? That they’ve failed Him?

      I don’t think so.

      I think God will achieve what He considers to be maximum impact and more through whatever path HE chooses. Sure, that could be publication. But He’s absolutely not limited to any one path to accomplish His purposes. What if God’s intent is that you are the only one who will read what you wrote, that the message is for you and no other? Is that reason enough to obey?

      Believe me, your writing will reach who God intends it to reach. Perhaps through publication. Perhaps not. But I encourage you, and those many people reading here today who feel exactly as you do, to take another look at why you’re doing what you’re doing. And how you’re determining if it’s worth your time and effort.

      • Avatar
        Carol Ashby February 3, 2016 at 9:50 pm #

        Karen, I truly appreciate the time you took to comment on what I wrote. I can tell I did a very poor job of expressing what I was trying to say. I’m in total agreement with you that God calls and equips each person to serve in exactly the way He intends, and how He does that is unique for each one. For many, part of that equipping might be writing when He calls even if He only intends their writing to nurture and equip the writer and not be published for the public to read at the present time.

        God has given me a passion for sharing what Jesus has done for me with people who may not yet know how much God loves them and what He did to open the door for intimate relationship with Him. I’ll talk with anyone, anytime, anywhere about how Jesus transforms lives, including my own, and I know His call to me to write is one part of that. Just as I feel compelled to speak of Jesus’s love to the people in my life, I feel compelled to try to get what God has inspired me to write out to do whatever God intends for it to do. That calling to share beyond my close circle is what He is inspiring me to do at this point in my life. For me, that makes publication very important, not for personal satisfaction, but because I can’t see how I’d be answering the call He is giving specifically to me without it. The ones who feel exactly as I do have the same call and sense of urgency to share what they know of God with others through their writing that I have. I’m sorry if what I wrote conveyed a different impression.

    • Avatar
      rochellino February 3, 2016 at 8:35 pm #

      From gallium arsenide applications to mass market fiction, now that’s a range!

      I have found over the course of my life that it is the seemingly “impossible” placed before us that is the stuff that greatness can be made of. Yes, it could be personal greatness if one claims it for themselves. I don’t believe in doing that. For me, great personal achievements add to my testimony to the greatness of Our Father. I know from the depths of my existence that everything I am is a result of my love and all that flows from it for the great I AM and His love and grace for me, an “impossible” wretch and sinner.

      For many, their publishing journey looks “impossible”. In reality, it is anything but. It may be difficult but not “impossible”. You may have to “make your bones” (establish one’s bona fides) in the self publishing world before gaining an invitation into the traditional publishing world, much will be learned along the way. I know a number of authors who have been published both self and traditional, they are a wealth of insight.

      Some of the most “impossible” achievements I (and my Father) have accomplished began with great adversity. Everything from great gifts of knowledge to true miracles are at the disposal of Our Father, I am a grateful recipient of much. Hey, if publishing was easy everybody would be doing it, sometimes it looks like everyone is.

      • Avatar
        rochellino February 3, 2016 at 9:29 pm #

        In case I haven’t made it clear enough a complete substitute for a “platform” would be an “audience”.

        In other words, it is my opinion that a provable readership of your titles with consistently respectable sales (even though self published) is a compelling reason for an agent or traditional publisher to take interest in your work if it is your desire to be traditionally published.

        You would have PROVEN your work will sell and will likely continue to be solidly profitable with future titles in the same genre. Much risk would be removed from a book “deal”. This is one of the things that makes deals happen and a very important item you would be bringing to the table in addition to your book. You would not have ever had to engage in “social media” which I personally feel is a rather dubious indicator of future book sales for the beginning (unknown) writer.

        I would opt to pursue actually making sales of my book through various channels and techniques learning my way to success than the convoluted route of trying to convert social media contacts into buying something. At least I’ll be “out there” rather than silently going dark as I try to build a social media presence that will likely never satisfy. Has Rube Goldberg been pushing consulting services again!

  22. Avatar
    Jean Brunson February 3, 2016 at 9:03 am #

    Thank you for sharing that bit of wisdom. It’s just what a man I am mentoring needs to hear. He writes great stories, but never sends then anywhere. He fears rejection. BUT God keeps telling him to write, so he keeps writing.

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:07 pm #

      It takes courage to write in the face of fear. Tell him to keep at it.

  23. Avatar
    Priscilla Sharrow February 3, 2016 at 9:16 am #

    Thank you, Karen, for aiming a twinkling light on my writing pathway. I will continue to write because God has called me to write his words, not mine. Blessings.

  24. Avatar
    Cynthia Herron February 3, 2016 at 9:53 am #

    Karen, thank you for the mid-week recharge! Getting past our idea of the “perfect plan” gives God room to work. We trade our earthly trappings for something bigger and so much more than we can envision. (And I love those come-to-Jesus meetings where He blows us out of the water with His faithfulness!)

  25. Avatar
    Christine Lind February 3, 2016 at 9:59 am #

    Here is my perspective on all this. I don’t believe I have been “called” by God to do either – to write or to be published. I also believe, for me, that writing and being published is a legitimate goal to attain and pray about, as a package.

    For me, I have been called to be obedient to God to do his will. What he wants for me, or to do, is for his purpose, not mine. Writing for me is a tool, and his gift for me to use for this, and to use it well. I use writing and other gifts or talents to attain his calling for me in my life. But for me, they are not my calling.

    Writing and being published are the same tool, and for me they don’t contradict each other – they are a package deal to run the race, to attain the calling – to complete the journey. What a way to go!

  26. Avatar
    Janet Ann Collins February 3, 2016 at 10:19 am #

    I’d love to become a best selling author, but that’s not likely to happen. However I’ve learned of a couple of times when things I wrote made a big difference in someone’s life. That’s why I can’t stop writing. Well, that and the community of other writers in critique groups, conferences, and online places like here.

    • Avatar
      Robin Bayne February 3, 2016 at 10:56 am #

      Same for me, Janet. Touching just one person with something I wrote showed me why I have to keep at it.

      • Avatar
        Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:09 pm #

        Janet and Robin, amen and amen!

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      Carol Ashby February 3, 2016 at 11:02 am #

      Making a big difference in someone’s life – that is exactly what I long for my work to do, Janet. Andrew has seen that, too. All the hours at the keyboard will be worth it the day I hear that what I wrote helped someone grow closer to God.

    • Avatar
      Janet Ann Collins February 3, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

      And often we won’t know this side of Heaven when our writing has made a difference for someone who read it.

      • Avatar
        Carol Ashby February 3, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

        Amen, sister! With both written and spoken word, just keep planting, just keep watering, and someday enjoy the harvest celebration!

  27. Avatar
    Terri February 3, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    Wow! This is one of the most powerful posts I’ve ever read. It looks as if I may need to adjust my way of thinking.

  28. Avatar
    Jeanne Takenaka February 3, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    Loved this post, Karen. You are quite the story-teller. I’ve been on both side of Amen Man’s dilemma. When I see friends moving forward and I’m not, I have to remember that I don’t need to compare myself to others. I need to write what God’s given me to write, and trust Him to show me what success means for me, according to Him. If that makes sense. 😉

    • Avatar
      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:11 pm #

      Makes perfect sense. Comparison is deadly. Don’t ever let it creep in.

  29. Avatar
    Julie Yuccas February 3, 2016 at 10:27 am #

    Wow! Very good insight!

  30. Avatar
    Judy Gordon Morrow February 3, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    How I wish I could have been there Saturday, Karen, to add an occasional “amen” of my own to all that you spoke. Your wise words so resonated with what God has shown me over the years of my writing journey. I pray God will give you a mountaintop to proclaim these vital truths to writers everywhere. Bless you!

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    Jenn Buell February 3, 2016 at 10:37 am #

    Wow, that is an amazing encouragement to this writer with four unpublished manuscripts. Seriously. God asked me to write. So I wrote. Even if those never see a bookshelf in a store, I did what he asked me to do. Thank you for this today! What an encouragement!!! This will change, I think, the conversation I have in my mind as I seek God’s direction for “what next.”

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      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

      Praying for guidance and clarity in that “what’s next” conversation.

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    Barb Raveling February 3, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    When I first started writing I wanted to know if God wanted me to write. I had no love for writing but I had a desire to share some of the things God had been teaching me outside of my valley and I knew I would have to write to do that.

    God never gave me the assurance that He wanted me to write and I think the reason He didn’t is because He knew that what I really wanted to know is whether or not people would want to read what I wrote. I felt like I didn’t want to go through all that sacrifice (since I didn’t like to write) and not have anyone want to read it. I was too chicken to try to get it published so that wasn’t an issue.

    I finally wrote the book out of gratefulness to God for what He’d done in my life and a desire to help others. I figured that after all God had done for me, this is the least I could do for Him.

    I’ve written and published three other books since that first one and have felt like God wants me to write for a long time now. It’s interesting that He didn’t give me the assurance until after I started writing!

    I love what you said about success, Karen. That’s what God is teaching me too – that success is doing what He asks me to do. The results are up to Him. Thanks for a great blog post and for being a faithful writer!

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    Holly February 3, 2016 at 1:28 pm #


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    Meagan Briggs February 3, 2016 at 2:22 pm #

    So true. Thanks for this reminder.

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    Peter DeHaan February 3, 2016 at 5:26 pm #

    Bravo that you stuck with it until he finally understood!

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      Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:13 pm #

      Holly, Meagan, and Peter, thanks for the encouragement.

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    Lillian February 3, 2016 at 7:01 pm #

    My heartbeat quickened when I read your excellent article . It ran parallel to a devotional that I wrote and was published today on several websites. The title was “When My Heart Says, ‘Amen.'” God’s “amen” is sweet, but even more glorious to Him is when we as writers learn to say “amen” to His will and purpose – to write whether or not we get published.

    Thanks again for reminding us that: ” How what God asks us to do is write, and what He does with our writing is His call.” We’re all the more “successful” when we learn to say , “amen” to that call.

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    Karen Ball February 3, 2016 at 8:14 pm #

    Good reminder, Lillian.

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    Jennifer Deibel February 3, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

    Yes. This is a “I believe, Lord, help my unbelief!” thing for me.

    I write because I can’t NOT write. Because He has asked it of me, as much as I don’t understand what He sees in me some days.

    And then some days I write because He has asked…but also because I want others to read it and be blessed and encouraged…and validate my “talent.”

    So thankful for His graciousness and patience with me. And so thankful for your encouragement and speaking truth over us Saturday.

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    CliffAnn Perry February 3, 2016 at 10:11 pm #

    Thanks! I needed that reminder!

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    dorothy February 4, 2016 at 4:45 am #

    I am convinced that what we do now prepares us for eternity. And I like to think that heaven needs writers. So if we work towards eternal purposes, we will do it unto Him, and not unto the publishing gods. Recognition in this life is awesome, but the joy of knowing you have a job waiting for you in eternity (because you are in training for it now) cannot be measured.

    I write because I’m in training for the good stuff that is still coming.

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    Amy Boucher Pye February 4, 2016 at 10:21 am #

    Love this, Karen! Love that you were able to be the vessel of truth in his life – and in a lot of our lives as well! The first book I wrote will never get published, and I thank God for that now. At the time, not so much… 🙂

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    Mary February 4, 2016 at 12:26 pm #

    I became a Christian the summer I was 12. That same summer, God told me I would write a book for Him. I had never really written anything before then, but that’s when I started writing.

    Bad poetry at first, and bad stories, and then better poetry, and better stories. Always seeking the ‘holy grail’ of publication, primarily as a way of affirming my value as a human being and a writer.

    I hung out on AOL, back in the day, when social media was brand new, and was internet friends with lots of folks who are now well-known names in Christian writing/publishing (including Karen Ball). I had published authors offering to introduce me to their agents/editors, because they liked my work, but it wasn’t time yet.

    Then came the dry spell. Ten years with almost no writing being done at all, other than journal-ling my emotional healing journey.

    In 2011, I looked at God and said: “I heard you wrong. You said *write,* but I don’t remember ever hearing you say *publish.* That was my word.” And I gave him back the dream he’d given me, of writing a book for him, I gathered my short stories that I’d written in the 90s, and started compiling them to make a Christmas gift for my friends.

    And God gave me back the dream I’d given back to him, gifting me with more story ideas, and ideas on how the stories should be compiled, and the assurance that He did intend for me to publish. He even reminded me of Steve & Karen, names I’d not thought of in at least a decade. My submission made it past Karen’s assistant and to Karen’s actual desk, which was all the affirmation I needed (it didn’t fit their needs, which I knew it wouldn’t. But it made it to her desk, and that was sufficient for me).

    I chose to self-publish, because there’s not a large market for short stories by unknowns. I’m not writing to make a living, or to have a hobby. I write because I’m a writer. I write because God told me to write, and He hasn’t told me to stop yet. I write because He gives me story ideas and words that touch hearts and open people’s understanding of how deep is the love He has for us.

    I write because I can’t not write. And each successive story is better than the one that preceded it, and each book has elements in it that are far beyond my poor skills as a wordsmith, proving to me once again that the books are His, not mine.

    I may never be traditionally published. I’m OK with that. The rest of the world may never know my name. I’m OK with that. But I’m being faithful, and I’m touching hearts, and God is pleased. That’s what matters. In the long run, that’s all that matters.

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      Carol Ashby February 4, 2016 at 3:49 pm #

      Mary, thank you so much for sharing this. I see my own desire to serve God in your words, “He gives me story ideas and words that touch hearts and open people’s understanding of how deep is the love He has for us.” Self-published is published, and the words He’s given you are out there doing His work already. You are indeed being faithful and touching hearts. I’m certain God is pleased.

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    Carla Laureano February 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    Very thought-provoking post, Karen! What I’ve come to realize since my first book was published in 2013 is that I was not called to write to reach other people for God, but so He could reach ME. He speaks to me most clearly through my own stories–often I come back and realize that I’ve written the message I most need to hear, even if I didn’t realize it at at the time. How’s that for humbling?

    Having my work touch other people is a wonderful blessing and it’s the reason I continue to publish, but it’s not the reason I WRITE.

    Trust me, that realization came as a bit of a shock…

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    Jeanne Doyon February 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm #

    Sometimes God speaks with a hammer 🙂 Thanks. I needed to hear this today.

    I know God has called me. But I think I am afraid I will prove that I am not really a writer to my world if I can’t write a book. Not true. I know.

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    Dr Carol February 5, 2016 at 11:52 am #

    Thank you for this, Karen. The need to let God be the judge of your success doesn’t stop when you get the publishing contract. My first book was released this week. The night before the big day my husband was admitted to the hospital, so I couldn’t be nearly as engaged in the release of my book as I had planned. And the “stress” over how many books will sell is there as well. That’s something I can only do my part for, and whatever is out of my control is up to God.
    I have to believe everything I have done is out of obedience, and leave the rest to Him.

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    Tracie February 5, 2016 at 9:10 pm #

    Thanks for the great reminder! Each day I try to stay focused on what He has set before me but I do get easily caught up in the notion of “success.”

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    Bonnie Leon February 8, 2016 at 11:00 pm #

    What a beautiful moment. I wish I had been there.

    Thank you for sharing this, Karen. Good message.

    Love you!

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    Samantha Means February 10, 2016 at 11:58 am #

    I love this. I’ve never read or seen someone else make this point – being published is always the main goal. For as long as I can remember I’ve been writing because I’ve had to. It was as simple as breathing in and out. It’s not a hobby, not a job, but a part of life that has to be explored, nurtured and developed. What began as an escape from my reality to my created world turned into a passion that refuses to be extinguished. I write poetry, screenplays, short stories, children’s stories, write for my company’s website, and in the last few years started writing novels. I was even blessed to have one get published – and I never intended for it to be published in the first place! God decided to use the story to make an impact on the lives of a few. My novel didn’t end up on any best-seller’s lists, and it didn’t make me a million dollars, but it gave me something so much greater: strangers approached me after reading the book just to give me a hug and say “thank you” for giving them a voice. People who feared addressing difficult areas of their lives read the book, and later said it gave them a whole new perspective on who God is – a loving father and friend, and not just a big man upstairs holding a stick. I’ll write the rest of my life if it means I’ll get more moments like those. Writing for HIS glory, not mine, makes every $6.00 paycheck totally worth it. Because it means one more person might have a softer heart, or a more open mind, or a closer relationship with God, because of what I wrote. Thanks for the reminder Kathy, and God bless you for continuing to speak the truth in love to others!

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      Samantha Means February 10, 2016 at 12:00 pm #

      That was meant to read Karen – I just finished speaking to my friend Kathy! It’s clearly far too late. 😉

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    Karen Foster February 16, 2016 at 9:10 am #

    God’s Perfect timing!
    So I guess I keep on writing. I was tempted to give it up and learn how to become a concert pianist. Not that I play the piano. LOL

  50. Avatar
    κατασκευη ιστοσελιδων February 28, 2016 at 4:18 pm #

    I quitee like looking through a post that
    will make men annd women think. Also, thank you for permitting me
    to comment!

  51. Avatar
    Judy Wallace March 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Thank you for reminding us it’s about God’s purpose for our life. If he’s called us to write, we should do it for his glory first and foremost. If we desire to be published and we give it our best, God will make a way for that to happen.

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