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.