Tag s | Career

When You Hit the Wall of Discouragement

by Steve Laube


I recently received the following question from a client (an award winning author):
Is it common for an author to hit a wall of discouragement? To feel as though they’re working so hard for so little? To question why they’re doing this?

Unfortunately it is quite common. Doesn’t mean it aches any less. Sort of like getting old…everyone does and it aches, but it is a common malady.

I recently read a blog by a writer in the general market who wrote, “Why am I doing this? I work so hard for so little money only to have critics tell me I have no talent at all.”

It truly comes down to whether your calling is stronger than the frustration and anguish of the writing process. I will never forget reading Charles Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students (in particular chapter two starting on page 19 of the linked PDF). I read it in college while trying to decide whether to pursue becoming a pastor or a teacher with my Bible degree. Spurgeon, in essence, said the only reason you should become a pastor is if you cannot do anything else…the call is that strong. I realized I was making the pastorate one of a number of options, which immediately revealed where I placed it in my passions. So I began changing directions immediately. I set a goal to be a professor of Theology after going to Seminary and Graduate School (my wife would be a professor of Old Testament). But in my last college semester I began working part-time in the Christian bookstore one block off campus….and a rather different journey to my profession began. If I had not consciously made a life-decision regarding my calling I may not be where I am today.

In some ways it is like the life of the writer. If you cannot not write then you know where your passions lay. If you can put it aside and write when the inspiration strikes, then you are a hobbyist and should treat writing as such. I find this separates many in this profession rather quickly.

The author replied a day later with this:

“I had two dark days, for whatever reason. But yesterday afternoon, wouldn’t you know, those dark hours translated into my writing in just the way the manuscript needed. I’m learning that the work of writing and the love of writing are a bit different. I love having written! And I could step away from it for a time, but writing will always woo me. I fought for 17 years to follow what I believed was a call from God, so throwing in the towel now would be silly.”

Your Turn:
What do you do when discouragement strikes in your writing career?


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Age is Just a Number

by Steve Laube

Last Friday in the comments Dr. Richard Mabry wrote, “Tired after doing a few household chores that never used to leave me dragging. Now I’m ready to be up and dancing. Age is just a number, isn’t it?”

Then on Saturday I spoke at the Christian Writes of the West mini-conference where one of the writers asked “Do older writers have a chance? Especially if agents and publishers are looking for a long career investment?”

It is a great question. Does it matter how old you are? No it doesn’t. When your proposal lands on our desk or on an editor’s desk it is the words on the page that speak to us. I rarely even think about the writer’s age, ethnicity, economic status, or any other non-writing ability classification while I’m reading the sample chapters. Of course there are exceptions. A few times I could tell the author was very young by the way they were writing a romance scene…they simply had not yet “fallen in love” and couldn’t quite express it in a full way.

We have a number of clients who are in their 20s we also have a number who are in their 70s. What matters is whether they’ve written a great book and have a platform (for non-fiction) to sell it from.

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Reactions to Your Career

Often, strangers ask me what a literary agent does. Once I tell them, they’ll want to share with me that they are writing a children’s picture book. Or an aunt, cousin, or friend, is writing one. I think a lot of parents write read-aloud books because they are part of the bedtime ritual with their own children and perceive that the volume of books published means the market is vast. Unfortunately, it is not, as I discovered when I wrote three of my own, never-to-be-published children’s picture books. But I digress.

When I said that I present books to editors, an auto mechanic asked, “So you are teaching the editors how to read?”

Most people understand what I mean when I say I’ve written Bible trivia books, but conversations can get more lively when I tell them I’m the author of Christian romance novels. One recent reaction was laughter. And more laughter. I think he may have even pointed at me.

Another response: “Like, in the ads where you see ‘Meet Christian Singles’?”

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The Elephant’s Goin’ Down!

by Karen Ball

You remember the old adage:

Q: How do you eat an elephant?

A: One bite at a time!

As I’ve reviewed my calendar this week, I’ve realized that’s what I’ve got on the screen in front of me. An elephant.

Maybe two.

And they’re reaaaaallly big.

SO many things to get done before I board a plane early Wednesday morning and wing my way to Dallas for the ACFW conference. As if that elephant wasn’t big enough, there’s the one sitting there, reminding me that I won’t be able to work on anything on my list while I’m gone. As I take it all in, one thought fills my mind:


It would be so easy to just shut off the computer and go hide someplace. Like a nice, quiet closet. Where there’s no phone calls.

Or emails.

Or texts.

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By Tamela Hancock Murray

Of late, several popular Christian and secular bloggers have posted about unplugging for a time. I have enjoyed reading their ideas because I realize the importance of rebooting every once in awhile.

Years ago I read an article that said if being laid up with a broken ankle for six weeks sounded good to you, then you are too stressed out. At that moment, I knew I had to change my life. And I did.

Today, my work doesn’t feel like work to me. I greet each day eager to see what each email will bring. Nor do I dread vacations, because I love spending time with my husband and family. But since vacations are brief and rare, I try to unplug a little each day. I don’t say my ideas and routines are perfect, nor will they work for everyone. They are a mix of determination and time management:

Protect your time with the Lord.

I have a place set aside in a room where I cannot see a clock. I read the Bible, and keep on hand a book of my choice that I find challenging and edifying enough that I look forward to reading it. I have just started a book on personal godliness by Puritan writer John Owen, edited by James Houston (acquired by Steve Laube when he was an editor at Bethany House Publishers). When I’m too busy, it’s tempting to make this time quick. To force myself to slow down, I light a candle and say special prayers, including the Jesus Prayer, which is, Jesus, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I also say the Lord’s prayer, The Apostle’s Creed, sometimes other prayers, and my own prayers.

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When the Outlook is Bleak

by Steve Laube

In the constant ebb and flow of this industry we have authors celebrating and authors in tears. Ask any agent and you will hear the same. For every author excited about their new contract there is another experiencing bitter disappointment.

And I wish I could fix it.

To hear the anguish is difficult, but to be the one who delivers the bad news is heart-wrenching. Why is it that they seem to come in bunches? So what do you do when you run into the inevitable disappointments the writing experience throws at you?

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Are We Speaking the Same Language?

by Karen Ball

I love languages. I started studying French in the 7th grade (“Bonjour, Monsieur DuPree. Comment-allez vous?), and by the time I had my double college degree in multiple-languages and journalism, I’d studied French (12 years), Spanish (5 years), and Russian (1 year). But I confess, I never expected to have to learn a new language when I entered the publishing world.


I remember the first time I realized words and terms had very different meanings in publishing. As a PK and PGK (preacher’s kid and preacher’s grandkid), I knew my duty to widow and orphans. It was right there in the Bible. So you imagine my astonishment when I discovered it was now my goal to kill the widows and orphans. Then I learned that bleeding in the gutters had nothing to do with murder, that picas weren’t fuzzy little forest animals, leading wasn’t something done to stained glass, fonts weren’t receptacles for baptismal water, a kill fee wasn’t about hiring a hitman, and a galley wasn’t the kitchen on a ship.

It all reminded me of a line from a poster I had up in my college dorm room: I know you believe you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure that what you heard is what I really meant to say. Or the poster in a friend’s room that said, “I’m not as drunk as some thinkle peep I am.” (Okay, it has absolutely nothing to do with that last one. I just put it in because it makes me laugh…)

It’s taken years of study and practice, but I’m finally fluent in Pub-Speak. Or so I thought until a few days ago when I had a discussion of editing terms with the illustrious Steve Laube. It went something like this:

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Don’t Quit Your Day Job

I’ve been talking with writers who have another job as well as their writing to see how they juggle doing both. I was a social worker before my daughter was born and started writing soon after, but now that my youngest is off to college I’ve thought about getting back into the work force. I just don’t know how I’d balance the two yet.

The first thing I thought of was that I’d have to do some serious time management to get everything done that I do now plus working. Getting my family used to the idea that I wouldn’t be as available would be the biggest undertaking, and having others do some of the tasks that I’ve always done. In having less time for writing I’d be spending less time with my imaginary friends, meaning my characters of course (If I were writing this to anyone other than fellow authors I’d worry they would question my sanity) along with a number of activities and groups I belong to. I suppose it’s all about prioritizing.

I did a little research about authors who didn’t give up their day jobs, or at least not right away after they were published. Some of these might surprise you.

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Coming Full Circle

by Kim Vogel Sawyer

Today’s guest blog is from Kim Vogel Sawyer a best-selling author whose books have topped the sales charts and won awards since 2005, when she left her elementary school teaching job to write full time. Her books have won the Carol Award, the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, and the Inspirational Readers Choice Award. Her stories are designed to offer hope and encouragement to her readers. Kim sees a correlation between the writing of a good story and God’s good plan for every life, and she hopes her stories encourage readers to seek God’s will in their own personal lives. Bestselling author Tracie Peterson says: “Kim Vogel Sawyer is an exceptional storyteller who is sure to please fans of historical fiction. Her attention to detail and love of God shines through.”

In addition to writing, Kim Vogel Sawyer is a popular speaker, freely sharing her testimony of God’s grace and healing-both physical and emotional-in her life. She and her husband Don reside in Hutchinson, Kansas, and have three daughters and four grandchildren. She is active in her church and loves singing, acting, playing handbells, quilting, and chocolate!


In 2002, as my health was crumbling to the point that full-time teaching was no longer a possibility and I didn’t know what I was going to do, my dad–feeling as though I needed a major lift–took it upon himself to make my publishing dream come true. He sent a story I’d written, titled A Seeking Heart, to Steve Laube, who, at the time, owned a self-publishing company called ACW Press. And Steve agreed to help me get it into print.

Thus began a journey beyond the scope of my wildest imaginings.

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