We all want to be successful. In some way, somehow, we want to make a difference in this world. We want one (or all) of our ventures to turn out right.
But what do we mean by success? What does it mean to be a successful writer to you?
Take a look at both of these stories, and decide which view of success you’d prefer…
Jamie clamped her hands over her mouth to muffle her squeal. I can’t believe it! I just can’t believe it! She launched out of her office chair, trying to be as quiet as she could as she jumped around the room. Her computer screen glowed into the dark room, casting an eerie light. Definitely contrary to what she was feeling.
Jamie plunked back down in her chair. She felt like she could go running, even though she’d just come back from one. She was sweaty, smelly, but beaming.
She was a best-selling author.
She’d made it. After years of writing, editing, pitching, and more editing, she’d finally got published. And that book just reached best-seller status. She’d dreamed of it since she was little. It was hard road, but she’d hoped, no, knew, that this would all come true.
And all before she turned 20. She was a teen best-selling author. Impressive.
Jamie couldn’t contain herself. She flopped on her bed and screamed into her pillow, hoping it muffled it enough for her still-sleeping family.
She sat back up and realized she’d just left her running sweat on the bed. Oh. That was a mistake. But who cares? She could use her book-selling money to get a whole new set of bedding, right?
She rushed to her closet to pick out her outfit for the day. Something nice; she had a book signing at the library today. Her friends and family were planning on coming. Not that it was her first signing, they were just being supportive, bless ’em.
Jamie grabbed her favorite pair of black jeans, ankle boots, a nice white blouse, and headed toward the bathroom. She shut the door behind her and hung the clothes on the hook on the door.
She planted her hands on the sink and stared at her reflection in the mirror. She couldn’t stop the smile. It threatened to split her face in two. Wait until Mom and Dad find out. They’re gonna flip!
She began yanking off her socks. This feels like a dream. It’s a dream come true, really! People actually love my book and it’s a best-seller now. People are paying their hard-earned money to buy my book.
She let out one last squeal, this time unmuffled. A groan sounded from her parents’ bedroom on the other side of the wall. She felt like doing back flips. I’ve done it! I’ve really done it!
Later that morning, her mom drove her and her books to their library and helped her set up her table. Jamie couldn’t stop smiling the whole time. People came to buy her book and get it signed. Some came with copies they’d already bought to get her autograph on them. All of them singing praises about how much they’d enjoyed her book.
Jamie signed a lot of books, shook a lot of hands (gave a few hugs too), and gave lots of smiles. A dream come true.
The second story…
Amy’s hand shook as she tried for the third time to tame her curly hair into a ponytail. With a groan, she dropped her arms and let her hair flop to her shoulders. “Nothing’s going right today.”
Her mom knocked on the doorframe. “Everything okay?”
Amy shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe this isn’t such a great idea.”
Her mom came over and rubbed her back. “Oh, don’t say that, sweetie. You’ll do fine. You’re just nervous, that’s all. Here, let me help you.” She swept up Amy’s hair into a neat ponytail with one try.
She planted a kiss on her daughter’s forehead. “You better hurry. You don’t want to be late for your first book signing.”
Amy’s stomach clenched in a nervous knot again. A book signing at a local bookstore didn’t sound like a daunting task. But if you were Amy, and it was your first time, it would be. She wished she wasn’t so socially awkward. She wished she could just be herself and relax.
She looked over at the cardboard boxes squishing down her bed. Boxes full of copies of her book, which she’d self-published only a few months ago. It wasn’t exactly flying off the shelves, but she’d had some sales. I’ll just be grateful for anything I can get.
At 22, she’d been dreaming of publishing since she was little. She’d heard all these stories about successful teens who had landed a book deal with great publishing houses. She thought it’d be cool to be a teen author. That impressed people, made them buy more books.
Well, she didn’t make it as a teen. After pitching to agents for years and not getting anything, Amy decided to self-publish. Because there was a message she wanted to give with her book, and it didn’t matter which publishing route she took.
Amy stared at her reflection in the mirror above her dresser. Turns out, she’d forgotten to put eye shadow on her right eye. She closed her eyes with a sigh. Nothing’s going right. Who would forget to put eye shadow on one eye? Me, that’s who. The forgetful klutz who can’t concentrate on any–…
She stopped herself. No sense in beating herself up over little things. She was just nervous, like her mom said, and that made everybody do things they wouldn’t normally do. She pulled out her eye shadows again. It’s okay. Just get through today. Smile, Amy.
And she did. She felt silly smiling at herself in the mirror all alone, but it made her feel better. Just think, I’m a published author. I’ve spent years on this book and it’s actually out there. People are reading it. And enjoying it too, I hope.
Soon Amy had her boxes of books loaded into the family car. Her dad drove her to her book signing location and dropped her off after unloading the boxes, with a promise to return soon with the rest of the family.
Amy set up her signing station at a table in the bookstore. She set up her book display, hid the other boxes under the tablecloth, set out her favorite pen, and a clipboard with a form for email sign-ups for her website. Once it was all done, she surveyed with a satisfied grin. All set! Now all I have to do is wait.
Amy sat at her table and waited. And waited. Her family came by, with her siblings pretending to be strangers who just loved her book and just had to meet the author in person. A few of Amy’s friends came by too, who brought their copies with them to get them signed. Amy appreciated all of their effort to support her, but wouldn’t somebody come that she didn’t already know?
Her parents left to run a quick errand, leaving Amy to keep an eye on her younger siblings as they flipped through children’s books nearby. She sighed. Maybe nobody was going to–
“Excuse me.” A girl a couple years younger stood in front of Amy’s table. She clutched a copy of Amy’s book.
Amy put on her best smile. “Hi.”
The girl smiled back. “Hi, my name is Hannah. And I just…” Tears began to well up in the girl’s eyes. Amy frowned. Did I do something wrong? Hannah swallowed and continued. She held out her book. “I just wanted to get this signed. By you. It means a lot.”
Amy smiled again, eyeing the girl. “Sure thing. I’ll address it to you then?”
Amy signed the book, being extra careful about her neatness. “There.” She stood and handed the book back. “Thanks so much for coming!”
Hannah bit her lip, her eyes moistening again. Amy reached across the table to touch her arm. “Are you okay? Is something wrong?”
Hannah shook her head. “No. No, everything’s right. Thanks to you. Thanks to this.” She held up Amy’s book. Amy just blinked. Hannah went on. “Your book changed my life. The message, it’s…it’s beautiful. I needed it, more than I knew. Thank you.” She slipped around the table and threw her arms around Amy, squeezing hard.
Amy squeezed back, her own eyes stinging with hot tears. To think that my book could change someone like this…
Hannah pulled away, offered one last smile and a “thank you,” and left.
The rest of the day, Amy got no more people at her table. But she was happy, she’d accomplished what she’d wanted to accomplish, even if it was just in one person.
Sorry the second one turned out a bit long. 😉
So, which story is your dream story? Which goals would you like to meet? Become a best-seller? Change someone’s life for the better? Get published while you’re a teenager?
We need to look at the why. Why are you writing that story? What’s it’s message? Why are you passionate about it? If someone bought your book and began reading it, what would you want them to come away with? How would you want them to be changed?
Sometimes it sounds nice to be a super famous author, with people wanting your autograph or picture, with your books flying off the shelves. It sounds glamorous. Fun, maybe.
But what’s the point?
What if you’d sold millions of copies of your book, but didn’t know how it was effecting people, effecting them on a deep level? You knew so many people were reading it, but didn’t know how they’d changed because of it?
What if after selling a million of those copies, one person told you, “You’re book changed my life.” Would it be worth it? Would it be satisfying?
God is going to care more about how your story is effecting the hearts of people, not how famous we are or wealthy. How are you going to change the world for Him? Does your picture of success look like something God would be proud of? Something that would glorify Him instead of ourselves?
And that’s the point. To point everything we do to God. To use that message you want to give to bring people closer to Him, to reveal more about Him, change people’s lives for Him. Not us. Never us. Him.
Our picture of success as Christian writers, should just be to accomplish His will in whatever way He guides us. That’s a hard thing to do; to just let go of our own dreams and keep our eyes on Him. Because we’re unsure of where He’s taking us, and we like to know what we’re doing. But that’s the thing: If we knew exactly what God was doing, we wouldn’t really have to trust Him, would we? We would already know what was going on.
But we don’t know. Maybe God will make you a famous author. Maybe he won’t. Your story might end up being like Jamie’s, or maybe like Amy’s.
It’s hard to completely entrust something we love as much as writing to God. But the amazing thing is, God can take you places that you would never have dreamed possible. He goes beyond our dreams. We just have to wait on Him…
Write down your idea of a successful writer. Keep that somewhere where you can see it all the time. Remind yourself that being a success as a Christian writer, is accomplishing God’s will in this world. Impacting, changing, reaching out to people for Him.
But be prepared: He might just be preparing to take you on the ride of your life. 😉
What does being a successful writer look like to you? Chat with me about your writing dreams in the comments. 🙂