It’s the first week of a new year. Several times on social media in the past week, I’ve seen the question posed: What is your word for this year? In other words, what one word describes your goals, hopes, or mindset as you look forward to 2020?
The first thing I thought of when I saw this question was a short phrase – two words instead of one – Dive in! Once I realized that 2020 is a leap year, I changed it to one word: Leap! I’m changing my Facebook cover photo to reflect my new word and posting my word on Instagram today, too.
Why choose leap for my word of the year? It expresses how I feel right now and what I may be doing the rest of the year. I have reached a high-point in my writing career, which is good, but there are no easy paths to get where I need to go next. There’s a chasm at my feet. If I’m going to move on, I’m going to have to leap and hope I make it to the other side.
Writing as a career is not for the faint-of-heart. There’s a lot of rejection involved. There’s a lot of hard work involved. There’s a lot of disheartening news involved – like, if you want to get an agent or editor to accept your work, you need to be reaching at least 5,000 people with your platform (names on your e-mail list, social media contacts, and people who attend your speaking events). I have fewer than 300.
But God has his own way of doing things, and sometimes miracles do happen.
After self-publishing three books, I have found a traditional publisher willing to take a risk on my new fourth book. I first got the news in mid-November and signed a contract by the end of December. I also had a friend recommend one of my self-published books to a company that publishes and creates electronic tools and resources for Bible study. That book will be soon be offered for prepublication orders through their online bookstore.
This is amazing news, but it’s also terrifying. Having books available in bookstores and with online retailers doesn’t mean anything if no one has heard of the books or the author. Publishers do very little marketing for new authors. The authors are expected to find their own readers through social media, book reviews, speaking engagements, and word of mouth. I don’t have those readers yet. I have a chasm at my feet, and it’s going to take a lot to get to the other side – like a huge leap of faith.
Not all leaps are frightening, though. There’s another kind of leap I intend to take this year, as often as I remember to do it. I’m going to leap for joy remembering that I am not alone in this journey. I’ve been called and given a purpose, and God will see me though.
“The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.” Psalm 28:7
Have you chosen a word for 2020? Share it in the Comments section!
Before writing this post today, I looked at my website to see when I had posted last. The date was August 24, 2016, more than nine months ago. The first post on my website was from September 20, 2015. After one year of writing and posting to the blog, I was getting a steady (but very small) stream of visitors, with a comment here or there, and 13 people asked to be added my email list. I started an author page on Facebook about the same time and had 36 people following me by the end of 2016.
When I recently showed a proposal for a new book to an agent, he told me I should show the number of people who followed me on social media and by email list. My response was, “But what if the numbers are really embarrassing?”
My numbers were really embarrassing. They were embarrassing and disheartening nine months ago when I stopped blogging to concentrate on other demands in my life. They were embarrassing and concerning three months ago when I started working again on a non-fiction book I originally hoped to have finished last year. They were embarrassing and terrifying two weeks ago when I left a writers’ conference with the names of agents and publishers interested in my book idea—every one of whom had reminded me how important those numbers were.
Books don’t sell themselves, and publishing houses can’t afford to invest a lot of money marketing new authors. If you want to sell a book to a traditional publisher, you have to show you have people who already know about you and want to hear what you have to say. The numbers matter.
I’m so grateful that numbers don’t really matter to God.
Five loaves of bread and two small fish—how embarrassing. Half a year’s wages required to fill the need—how impossible! Placed in Jesus’ hands—how miraculous.
“Father, I am placing my small numbers into your hands today. Please bless it so that many may be fed with the good news of your faithfulness. Amen.”
Just last week I wrote about my commitment to write this year. I’ve made it a personal goal to keep this blog going with 2 or 3 posts each week and to work steadily on my current book project. But here it is on Friday, and I haven’t written anything all week. On Monday, my laptop crashed. I spent most of the day on Tuesday trying to get an older laptop updated and ready to use. On Wednesday, I started feeling unwell myself, as I tried to take care of other responsibilities that kept me busy most of that day and the next.
Now it’s Friday afternoon, and I’ve been trying to talk myself into writing all day. I still don’t feel well, but I decided I needed to write at least a short blog post. I’ve been thinking a lot about grace this week, so maybe I could say a few words about that.
Staring at the empty page on my computer screen, I decided to find out just how sick I am. A good fever would surely give me an excuse to put off writing for another day. I went in search of a thermometer, but it took me a while to find where I put all my medical stuff when we moved last year. I finally found one and took my temperature. It’s a little bit higher than normal, but not in the “fever” range. So here I am back at the computer.
Have you ever wished you had a thermometer to take the temperature of our nation, or your home church, or your family? Would you like to know exactly how sick – or how healthy – is your government, or your church leadership, or your marriage? Election years are great for hearing about everything that’s wrong with our economy, the national defense, and the state of schools, health care, and more. The problem is that everyone has a different opinion about what’s wrong and what needs to be done to fix it. Many churches are struggling, too, but solutions are hard to come by and usually impossible to implement without upsetting someone.
We look at opinion polls, and charts, and percentages, and compare this year to last year or ten years ago. We forget that opinion polls are just opinions, and charts and percentages can be made to say anything you want them to say. It’s not like a good thermometer. When it reads 98.8 degrees, it’s saying, “You’re not sick – get back to work. When it gets to 101, then you can have some chicken soup and go to bed.”
Well, here is my unasked for opinion on the state of our nation. It’s not perfect. It’s not as healthy as it could be, but it’s not time to give up and go to bed and wait for someone else to fix things. Instead of obsessing about what’s wrong with our country, let’s do what we can – each of us individually – to make things better in our own little corner of the world. Not just for ourselves and our family, but for our communities. Let’s focus on what’s good and make it better. Let’s make ourselves better before we stand up in judgment against someone else.
Finally, before I sign off to go and make some chicken noodle soup, let me leave you with these words of grace: “The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
I’m a little late getting my New Year’s Resolutions written. 2016 is almost two weeks old, and I am still struggling to find words to express my goals and hopes for this year. It doesn’t help that I haven’t blogged at all in a month, or that I have been thinking about giving up writing (again) and wondering if anyone would even notice if I did.
I wanted to be a writer way back in my college days. I wanted to be an attorney first and then get married, have a couple of kids, and take some time off to be a mom and write a few novels. I did become an attorney, get married, and have two kids, but when I took time off from the practice of law I never went back. Being a wife and mom was more demanding than I expected, and more rewarding in many ways, and I couldn’t imagine being any good at it if I was working 50-60 hours a week as a trial attorney.
I tried writing my first novel when my children were still in preschool. It wasn’t very good. I wrote a second novel, went to some writers’ conferences to learn how to make it better, got some good feedback on it but no publishing contracts, and eventually self-published it. Promoting it was a lot harder than I expected, and I wasn’t very good at it. Or maybe it just wasn’t a good book. Either way, I sold few copies of it.
Several years later I decided to give non-fiction a try. I felt that God had given me something to say about a difficult issue – the intersection of religion and politics – and I thought it would make a good book. The publishing agents and editors disagreed, and I ended up self-publishing a second book. A third self-published book followed, but by then I was growing discouraged. Self-publishing can be expensive, and self-promotion can be overwhelming, especially when few results are seen. I prayed for help, for guidance, for encouragement, for anything to keep me going, but nothing could overcome the feelings of failure and despair I was experiencing. So I quit.
Until last year.
About half-way through 2015, I felt a great urge to try again. I believe it was a call from God. I had a very specific desire to spend a year and a half doing all I could to get into the business of writing again. I decided to rewrite and republish my two Christian non-fiction books and then write a third book. I decided to update my website, start a blog, go to a writers’ conference, get all the mentoring I could, write and submit articles to Christian magazines, and find ways to promote my writing. I taught a women’s Bible study class using one of my books as I updated it and prepared it to be published anew. Standing Firm: Are You Ready for the Battle? became available for purchase at Amazon.com in October. I also started rewriting One Nation Under God, updated my website, posted 2 or 3 blogs a week from September through November, and registered for the Mt Hermon Christian Writers Conference coming up in March.
December came with a family situation demanding much of my time and attention. The book rewrite was shelved. The blog stopped. I had been getting fewer and fewer comments, likes, and views of my posts, and I wasn’t sure anyone was finding any value in them, so it was easy to let it go for a while. I wondered if people didn’t care about what I had to say or if I just wasn’t very good at saying it. As 2015 closed, I had to make a decision whether to quit again or to persevere for the full 18 months I had given myself to try again. It’s 2016 now, and 12 months is a long time to work, and write, and raise my voice if only a few (or none) are going to listen. But I still believe God told me to do it, and so I will.
Today I launched a new Facebook page to promote my writing. I’m posting this blog, and I will post another in a day or two. My calendar is freer now than it’s been in a long time, so I can finally get back to my book. So I invite you to come back, read the blog, comment if you care to, buy a book, write a review, send a note of encouragement, and recommend me to your friends. I’m praying for God to give me words to write in 2016 and to increase my readership. I have 12 more months to go on this journey, and I hope many of you will go with me. Then I’ll see where God leads from there.
Happy New Year!
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
What is my mission as an author? The goal dearest to my heart is to help Christians think about what they really believe and then to act as if they believe it. It all begins with understanding what it means to be a Christian. Then we have to learn to live like a Christian.