Tossed by the Ocean of Emotion

It is hard to be a writer or to work in the publishing industry. Everyone defines success differently and we strive to meet those expectations at every turn.

Often we let “success” define us, especially when a writer is told “You are only as good as the sales of your last book.” Or an agent is told, “You are only worth the value of your last contract.”

Henri Nouwen, in his book The Return of the Prodigal Son, said it best:

“Many of my daily preoccupations suggest that I belong more to the world than to God. A little criticism makes me angry, and a little rejection makes me depressed. A little praise raises my spirits, and a little success excites me. It takes very little to raise me up or thrust me down. Often I am like a small boat on the ocean, completely at the mercy of its waves. All the time and energy I spend in keeping some kind of balance and preventing myself from being tipped over and drowning shows that my life is mostly a struggle for survival: not a holy struggle, but an anxious struggle resulting from the mistaken idea that it is the world that defines me.”

To practice a better way is so hard. We are in that boat being tossed by the waves of emotion. It doesn’t help when publishing experts say “Work harder.” Or “Write faster.” Or “This is the right way.” And another says, “That is the right way.” What are we to do?

Examine Your Beginnings

Think about why you became a writer in the first place. Go back to those roots. What was it that inspired you? The answer is rarely fame or fortune.

Examine Your Motives

What is it that inspires you now? This cuts to the core of why you are doing what you are doing.

Locate Your Anchor

The boat metaphor is appropriate here. If you are being pushed toward the rocks, find that anchor and secure your place in the water. When the anchor holds it doesn’t matter what the world says, or what an editor say, or what an agent says. “We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever.” (Hebrews 6:19-20)

Therefore, the next time you get the dreaded editing letter;

The one-star Amazon review;

A critical Facebook comment;

A rejection letter from a surly agent…

The next time, drop anchor and ride the emotion. It doesn’t mean you can’t cry a little or can’t get angry for a while, that would be inhuman. But once the storm has passed you will find yourself still on your journey following your original calling to write to the best of your abilities, come what may.


23 Responses to Tossed by the Ocean of Emotion

  1. Linda Samaritoni January 25, 2016 at 5:58 am #

    In a vague manner, I’ve been asking myself the same two questions lately: why did I start writing and why do I write now? Your post helped me focus and guided me to a decision.
    I started writing just to see if I could, but teaching was my passion. After a seismic shift in my personal life, writing has become the passion, and teaching, while enjoyable, only supplements our income.
    Will I keep writing? YES!

  2. Ron Andrea January 25, 2016 at 6:29 am #

    Nice “cover” art. Who did it?

  3. Beverly Brooks January 25, 2016 at 6:52 am #

    I know this blog is for a wide audience but this one felt like it was just for me. I am in the process of examining … “do I keep doing this?” These excellent places to look for light came at just the right time.

    Love the boat, waves and especially the anchor. Well done.


  4. Rick Barry January 25, 2016 at 7:16 am #

    Excellent words of wisdom, my friend. No doubt you just inflated a life raft for more than a few sinking writers. Blessings to you.

  5. Michael January 25, 2016 at 7:17 am #

    ‘Think about why you became a writer in the first place. Go back to those roots.’ I’ve done that several times even without being published yet. Sure I’d be doing a lot more after publication.
    God help us all.
    Thank you Mr Laube.

  6. Christina Lorenzen January 25, 2016 at 7:18 am #

    I was sitting with my phone in hand, trying to decide, quite frankly, whether to keep on writing or move on to something else. Because anything else would be less soul wrenching than this work that I do. I’m going to print that quote to keep. I’m looking for my anchor.

  7. Barb Raveling January 25, 2016 at 7:43 am #

    I love this, Steve. I started writing out of love for God and thankfulness for what He’d done in my life and a desire to help others. The waters didn’t get rough until I started a new blog a few years ago and also learned about platform building. To me writing in the public eye is a bit scary–actually a lot scary. 🙂 I love your two questions: Why did you start writing and why do you write now. Those will be really helpful. Thanks!

  8. Julie Sunne January 25, 2016 at 7:44 am #

    Three super suggestions, Steve! Tucking them away for when I receive my next emotional “upheaval.”

  9. Christine Henderson January 25, 2016 at 9:30 am #

    I admit that my emotions are tossed about from the “little” things as Henri Nouwen mentions. And I have to remind myself that this too shall pass.

  10. Jeanne Takenaka January 25, 2016 at 9:35 am #

    Steve, what a powerful post. I’ve gone through seasons of being that small boat tossed on a wave of emotions. I always end crashed and falling apart when I let those waves guide me.

    I love your suggestion to locate my anchor. I’m definitely pondering that today.

  11. Linda January 25, 2016 at 10:25 am #

    In the end only Christ and what he did for us on the cross will still hold. He is the anchor. It must be a season of questioning for many of us in our writing paths. In a world so full of the written word, I have decided I want to write what God has designed me to write. Only then will it last and have the impact it is supposed to have. I admit I grow impatient with the waiting. But I know if I am too eager to rush ahead of Him, it will not be the best He designed.
    Thank you once again for an insightful post.

  12. Tammy Fish January 25, 2016 at 11:08 am #

    Love that you keep our focus above all on Christ, our anchor. As I face this ocean of publishing, I do find myself in the surge of the waves. I feel like I am in a rip current wondering which way to swim to reach the shore. Should I send out more queries, should I walk away, should I approach readers and beg for a review? Where does marketing end and belligerence begin? Over and over, I feel the need to let go, rest in Him, and let the Spirit guide me. I feel like I am being asked to not look to the ‘ways of man’ but to the ‘ways of God’. Thank you, Steve. I needed this reassurance that God alone is my anchor and the compass of my soul.

  13. Tracey Bateman January 25, 2016 at 1:20 pm #

    Awesome, Steve!

  14. Linda Riggs Mayfield January 25, 2016 at 1:49 pm #

    Powerful post, Steve! Thank you. I won a short story prize in junior high, and have been writing ever since; but from then until now, I realize I haven’t asked myself WHY I was doing it very often. In my years as an educator, I wrote curriculum for myself and others that was taught and sometimes published. The “why” seemed obvious. My years as a missionary in Chile provided content I felt compelled to share, so my non-fiction writing took a different direction, and was published. In returning to the US, while finishing my doctorate in education and publishing educational research, the “why” still always seemed obvious. But now? I left the classroom five years ago, consult, write for a newspaper, and have written two Christian historical novels that have attracted interest, but not publication. Actively seeking publication and building the required platform is extremely time-consuming. Is that the best use of my time–God’s plan for my time? Your post was a call to action: I need to examine WHY I’ve felt compelled to go in that new direction before I continue to pursue that path. The caveat, “Opportunity does not equal mandate” comes to mind. Wow. I’m stunned. Thanks again for the post–very challenging!

  15. Joseph Bentz January 25, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    Thank you for this very helpful post. What a spiritually healthy perspective! I am grateful to have read this today.

  16. Sarah Marr January 25, 2016 at 1:59 pm #

    This was so encouraging. Thank you!

  17. Patti January 25, 2016 at 3:39 pm #

    This was real and deep and a needed reminder. Thank you, Steve.

  18. Jane Kirkpatrick January 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm #

    Perfect timing, Steve. I’m teaching a class for writers on What’s Next and the first two questions I posed were
    “What got you into writing?” and “Why are you writing now?” I’ve got a few exercises for them to help answer those questions. Love the Nouwen quote. And you always did ask great questions like the one that helped make All Together in One Place a bestseller. Thanks for that and for this post.

    • Steve Laube January 25, 2016 at 7:05 pm #


      You bring back memories! Tell the story for all to hear.


  19. Steve Laube January 25, 2016 at 6:47 pm #

    I appreciate all your comments. May your dinghy become a yacht so you can weather the larger storms!

  20. Carla Jo January 31, 2016 at 10:12 pm #

    After pondering your good question,… My anchor is that the making of a polished presentation in the “writing” of what worked for me in dark and hard troubles and trauma, with sorrow and grief gives me a sense of being useful to others; giving a costly gift. I like giving gifts. I like being useful. I like getting an “A”. I like making lemonade out of lemons. There has to be other ordinary average people like me who could use this information. So I keep in the process to excellence of presentation no matter what.

  21. Linda Suda August 20, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    I am not a writer but one who likes to read the experiences and spiritual illustrations. I loved your shared ups and downs. My favorite is God is my anchor and the compass of my soul!

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