5 Ways to Drive an Editor Crazy

13761150586648bAs an aspiring writer, I thought editors had horns on their head and pitchforks perched beside their desks. After all, they sent me form “no thanks” letters after I’d slaved over an obviously brilliant manuscript. They ignored my letters and phone calls, and seemed to take joy in waiting months before replying to my oh-so-urgent emails.

Now, as both a seasoned writer and an editor for a large faith-based website, I’ve learned that editors are people, too. We love finding new voices to publish, and we try to be gentle when doling out rejections. Sure, we have our quirks, and we make mistakes. But mostly, we’re word-loving, gentle souls who find joy in a well-placed modifier.

When provoked, however, we can lose our literary minds. Several habits don’t just rub us the wrong way—they make us want to run down the street while still in our bathrobes, shouting Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy” until we puke.

Here’s how you can speed that process along:

1) Treat Guidelines as Optional.

      Don’t bother reading writing guidelines; don’t even visit websites or read back issues of magazines. Send a totally inappropriate submission. In your cover letter, tell the editor that while you’ve never taken the time to familiarize yourself with their publication, you’re sure that your work is perfect for them. file3781288474089

       2) Respond viciously to rejection letters.

      When you receive a letter stating that “your submission doesn’t meet our current needs,” fire off a hateful email, chastising the editor for his lack of taste. Even better: use bad language and post your vitriolic thoughts all over social media. (This habit works well if you never want to see your work in print. Those bridges are so pretty when they burn!)

      3) Never turn in an assignment by the deadline.

Deadlines aren’t set in stone; therefore, ask for repeated extensions, paying no attention to the panicked tone of your editor’s responses. Don’t worry that you are one of several dozen moving parts in the publishing of a website, magazine or compilation book. Take all the time you want—the world does, in fact, revolve around you.

       4) Take up all your editor’s time.

Ask repeated questions about the contract or terms of your publishing agreement. Don’t get an agent or other professionals to weigh in on your questions. Don’t network with other writers so that you can learn from their experiences. Pester the editor with texts (preferably to her personal cell phone, if you can dig up the number) about when your piece will be printed, how many readers you’ll get, etc.

And finally:

5) Refuse to accept changes in your manuscript.

Since you have received your talent from God, treat every word as His direct quote. Don’t let an editor make changes to your beautiful masterpiece. Fight over each letter and punctuation mark. Don’t choose your battles. Take offense at questions. Die on every single hill.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a nasty email to delete…and I need to look up the lyrics to a certain parody song.

Facing Trouble with Courage

Photo/TaraRoss“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NIV).

Have you faced trouble in your journey as a writer? Have you been tempted to give up on your writing dreams or career because of failure, rejection, humiliation, shame, or judgment?

Fear of judgment, criticism, or shame? When I struggled with some critical comments and judgment years ago, I expressed my frustration to my husband, Dan. I winced at his abrupt and honest response, “Karen, not everyone is going to like you.”

Photo/TaraRossDan’s statement shocked me, as he reminded me that not everyone likes me or agrees with my opinions. And I’ve revisited that story many times, when I try to encourage other writers.

I still grieve over rejection or criticism, and I prefer to walk away from all confrontations. But I’ve learned a lot from my failures—in relationships and writing.

Photo/TaraRossFear of writing process? In his book On Writing, author Stephen King says, “The scariest moment is always just before you start.”

Even well-known writers must face rejections and criticism. The writing process demands prewriting, drafting, revising, and proofreading before any publication. You may become offended or embarrassed when someone offers constructive criticism. Some writers even give up rather than face more editing, critical remarks, or rejection letters.

Fear of rejection and failure? Do you see rejection as failure? Failure often points us toward changes in our direction and priorities. C. S. Lewis explained, “Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.”

Author J. K. Rowling agrees with the advantages of failure.

Why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me.

Thomas A. Edison advised, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

Tempted to give up? I’ve been tempted to give up more times than I’d like to admit. Have you given up on something because of a failure?

Matthew 26 describes a time when the disciples faced failure. They fell asleep while Jesus prayed, after He asked them to stay on the lookout for danger or trouble in the Garden of Gethsemane. They must have grieved over their lost opportunity and broken promise. But Jesus responded, “Get up! Let’s get going!” (Matt. 26:46 MSG)

There will be experiences like this in each of our lives … times of despair caused by real events in our lives, and we will be unable to lift ourselves out of them. The disciples … had done a downright unthinkable thing … gone to sleep instead of watching with Jesus. But our Lord came to them taking the spiritual initiative against their despair and said, in effect, “Get up, and do the next thing.” If we are inspired by God, what is the next thing? It is to trust Him absolutely and to pray on the basis of His redemption.

Never let the sense of past failure defeat your next step. (Oswald Chambers)

Embracing vulnerability. Finding the courage to risk failure requires us to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken ….”

Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston, “spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.” She suggests, “Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Brown concludes, “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.”

Choosing to become vulnerable could be one of the most courageous things we can do as a writer. Writing about our opinions, our faith, and our relationships takes courage.

What lessons have you learned about vulnerability?

Video/TED (Brené Brown: “The Power of Vulnerability”)
Photos/TaraRoss

Coming Out of the Wilderness

Denabutterfly1The last half-decade has been full of changes for our little family. Stressors included the death of several friends, unwanted job changes for both my husband and I, health challenges, and a total of four moves in five years. We’ve bought and sold three houses (well, we bought three houses…one is yet to sell, so we’re renting it out). Finally, both my dad and my father-in-law underwent major heart surgery within a few months.

Whew. It makes me tired just reading that . . . let alone living it.

To add to the chaos, my writing career stalled. Ideas I felt were timely were turned down again and again, although my previous editors loved several of them and went to bat for me. I prayed, cried, doubted, and wondered what God was up to. He provided income through work for hire projects, magazine and editing work, and I was thankful. However, I longed to write books again.

I didn’t want to turn my back on God because I felt like I didn’t deserve my circumstances. I longed to be obedient, even in the difficulties. I prayed continually for strength, and I kept seeking Him . . . even when He seemed very, very quiet on the subject of when (or if) we might be done with the “desert” we were in.

Wanna know something? Every time I cried out to Him, He answered. Sometimes He reminded me of a Scripture passage that ministered profoundly to me. Songs came on the radio which seemed to have been written just for my situation. Friends and family members called, texted and emailed me at perfect moments, when I couldn’t seem to take another step or cry another tear. He was faithful. So, so faithful.

Two years ago, my friend Tina called me with a book idea, and I knew in an instant that we were meant to collaborate on that project together. Greg Johnson agreed to represent us, and (in a first for me), we actually had two offers on the project.

WoundedWomenIt came out this month, and my heart is full. Though the process of putting the book together was emotionally draining, it was a pleasure to write with such a kindred spirit. I couldn’t be more excited about the finished product (thanks, Kregel!).  Everything I’ve lived through, in publishing and life, has prepared me for Wounded Women of the Bible: Finding Hope When Life Hurts.

Six  months ago, God led my husband into full-time ministry and moved us back to a place we love. It feels as if we are finally coming out of the wilderness and into an oasis. We are grateful beyond words. And we can see in hindsight that He’d been honing and refining us all along to minister more effectively to hurting people.

Friend, are you suffering today? Do you wonder if God has something against you? And do you fear that you’ll ever feel joy again?In-Gods-economy-our

Oh, I’ve been there. My heart aches for you. But this I know: the path He has you on may seem lonely, and you might not feel His presence. But He hasn’t left.

He is up to something, even when we can’t see it. Until then, trust Him with your wounded places, for one day, they will become ministry spaces.

He promises.

Risking Rejection

Why are we afraid to fail? Often because we believe rejection exposes a gap in us. It points to something we don’t want others to see. It confirms what our suspicions tell us.

We aren’t acceptable.

As writers, we risk rejection from many different sources. Projects and people alike can make us feel unacceptable, and throw us into a pit of paralyzing despair. Any one of a myriad of things have the power to make us give up on our writing dreams. If we let it.Definition of Rejection

  • Literary agents can reject us.
  • Booking agents can reject us.
  • Publishers can reject us.
  • Editors can reject us.
  • Endorsers can reject us.
  • Influencers can reject us.
  • Reviewers can reject us.
  • Media can reject us.
  • Readers can reject us.
  • And through Self-deprecation, we can reject ourselves.

So how can you empower yourself to feel acceptable when rejection says you’re not?

Author Jim Stovall

Jim Stovall’s Blindness Didn’t Hold Him Back

Challenge your own viewpoint. Take a 180 approach and look at this specific moment as your personal catalyst for change, improvement, and a call to do better work. Jim Stovall, a blind author and movie maker, knows rejection well.

You’ve GOT to watch the video on his link to see what he says about giving up. Here’s a quote to give you a hint of the amazing story you’ll want to hear. “That big dream would not have been put inside of you if you didn’t have the capacity to achieve it.”

Author John Grisham

John Grisham’s Tenacity Made the Difference

Another powerful example of tenacity in the face of rejection comes from an author most of us recognize. Internationally acclaimed novelist John Grisham. He understands what it feels like to fail in front of professionals, but he chose to learn from his mistakes, and keep on keeping on.

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you of the greatest victory that came from the greatest rejection of all. A book that was denounced, fought against, and even after publication, faced efforts to utterly destroy it. But yet, the words inscribed inside changed the world, and made it a better place. The book I refer to is The Bible. Aren’t you glad God didn’t give up.

So the next time you get a rejection letter, phone call, email, or text, remember these three things.

Anita Brooks Walking Bridge Photo

Is Success Waiting Around Your Corner?

1. The capacity to make your big dream reality is already inside of you.

2. Rejection prepares us for great things in the future, and reminds us to stay humble when we arrive there.

3.  Just because a few people fight against your efforts doesn’t mean you won’t come out victorious.

Maintain a teachable attitude, then act with integrity, humility, and tenacity. This is your big dream. Take courage, and don’t let anyone convince you it’s unacceptable. Risking rejection can turn that big dream of yours into something real. But only if you don’t give up too soon.

The Best Advice I Could Have Given Myself

SignatureCountry artist Brad Paisley released a song in 2007 titled “Letter to Me,” in which he gives his teenaged self advice for the future. It makes me think about what I would have advised myself thirty years ago when I began my freelance writing career. So, with a tip of my own cowboy hat to Brad, here’s my letter to my younger self!

Dear Jan,

I am you thirty years from now, and I want to give you some advice about writing.

  1. Get a day job. You are never going to be on Oprah talking about your bestseller. (Oprah is a person with a very influential talk show in the future. She has a book club, and Tom Cruise jumps on her sofa. Enough said.) Accept the fact that your writing habit will never financially support you. Fortunately, your husband will, so be sure to say “Yes” when a guy named Tom proposes to you. You’re going to think he’s just trying to cheer you up because your car’s water pump broke down, but he’s serious. DO NOT LAUGH IN HIS FACE, because he will never let you forget it. (Although it will make a great blog post. A blog is …never mind. You’ll find out later.)
  2. No matter what you think, your first and second book manuscripts are trash. Really, they are. It would be nice to just skip writing them altogether to save time and effort, but if you don’t write them, you won’t write your third book, which will find a publisher. Just thought I’d let you know.
  3. You’re going to meet a woman named Belinda. Don’t ever tell her you’ve written a book, because even though she’s going to be one of your best friends, she’s going to drive you crazy with her constant stream of ideas for books SHE wants to write. If she ever brings up that she’s thinking about writing a book, immediately change the subject. (You can thank me later.)
  4. Write a YA romance series about a vampire and a high school girl. Believe it or not, it will sell and launch a publishing trend. I’m serious.
  5. Speaking of serious – stop taking yourself so seriously. There are many, many writers out there. The bad news is that you have to compete with them for contracts. The good news is that the writers you meet will absolutely enrich your life, if not your pocketbook. (Reread #1 above.)
  6. Don’t give up writing. You will get published. You will also get rejections, but that’s part of the package, so get over it and get it out of the way. It will give you more time to write and more confidence in your writing. Writing is your gift, so enjoy it, develop it, invest time and effort in it, and it will reward you in ways you can’t even begin to imagine.
  7. Finally, if you ever have a chance to buy stock in a company named Apple, you might want to do that.

Love you!

Jan

What advice would you give your younger self?

Unpacking a Rebuke

????????????????????????????????????????We’ve all met at least one—the writer who simply cannot take any criticism of his work. Such folk gleefully hand you their writing for review. But when you offer a tiny suggestion about a passage they’ve written, small funnel clouds begin to form over their heads. They’ll have none of it. Their eyes pinch. They are certain you are thick, even dim-witted, and probably don’t floss or exercise. Such writers typically don’t last long in the world of words, because as Justice Brandeis once said,

“There is no great writing, only great rewriting.”

Then however, there are those of us at the other end of the spectrum. We are so certain that the opinions of others must be more credible than our own, that we buy into anything anyone says about our work. This can have us constantly scurrying off in the direction of the most recent advice.

So when evaluating a rebuke or criticism, where is the balance? What questions should we be asking?

Was the rebuke from the wrong person? In my critique group we have a few poets. But I don’t get poetry. There. I said it. Thus, any constructive comments from me must be taken with a grain of salt. In fact, I typically find myself saying the same thing over and over again:  I don’t get poetry, but I love your imagery. Not very helpful. Our poets would be perfectly sane to pause before taking my poetry advice.

But what if the rebuke came from someone a bit higher up? What if a book proposal to an agent was rejected?

Was it a good idea with a bad pitch? I had a great talk in my roster of workshops but no one ever selected it. Finally someone said, “Yes, we want this talk! But you’ve GOT to change the name.” When they explained why, a light bulb went on. My title had completely misled would-be attendees as to what would be presented. Most hadn’t even read the description because the title sent them packing. The same thing can happen in a query or cover letter. You may well have a great idea, and your writing might actually be ready. But if the agent or editor didn’t catch the fever in your pitch, or if it left them confused, they most likely never went on to your writing.

Agents and acquisition editors aren’t magical. They don’t have a clairvoyant wisdom that lets them know exactly what’s going to take off and what’s going to fizzle.  Even with decades of experience and loads of algorithmic analysis, it’s still a highly unpredictable business. Which means they sometimes get it right and they sometimes don’t. (Well, all except for Word Serve Agents. They really do always get it right. Whew. Dodged a bullet there.)

Say what you want about the Harry Potter series; I still cannot imagine anyone reading through some of J.K. Rowlings writing and saying, “Ehhhh. I just don’t see it. This won’t interest a soul.” And yet. . . twelve publishing houses said just that.

Learn to Unpack a Rebuke

Most of the time, we really could improve what we’ve written. Most of the time, our writing needs some work. But don’t chase after every single comment as though it is Gospel. Measure it. Weigh it. Give it reasonable consideration. Develop a mature view of your own work. Most of the time, there is value in the criticism. But in the end, if you think your reviewer got it wrong, stick with the plan a bit longer. Look for the gatekeeper who gets you.

The obvious conclusion of this line of reasoning is that even advice from this writer must be evaluated carefully and perhaps dismissed. I’ll admit, sometimes I get it right. And sometimes I get it wrong. For example, if I had been on the committee to evaluate and select new TV programming, we’d never have heard of World Wide Wrestling or Honey Boo Boo.

When Your Book Doesn’t Sell: Separating the Writer From the Wannabe

“I’m so glad it is our first year here so that the pressure’s off to win an award. I heard you have to be returning to be in the running,” my friend Kim leaned over and whispered as we sat in the back of Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference’s auditorium last April.

“Seriously, right?” I said, slouching down in the pew and sighing. We were settled in for the final night of programming; awards, music, and a message from the great Liz Curtis Higgs, who, if I am being honest, seemed so inviting and encouraging that it took all I could muster not to walk over and crawl up in her lap.

The week in California had been a dream for this mother of four, prone to piles of laundry, homework with kids, housework, and therapy and doctor appointments for my two daughters with Down syndrome. One week by myself, ensconced with like-minded people, authors, agents, publishers, and writers with dreams of their own, in one of the prettiest parts of God’s creation.

So you can imagine my surprise when my bio was read and my name was called. I won the Ethel Herr 2012 Most Promising New Writer Award for submitting 25 pages of my memoir about giving birth to my daughter Polly, and her diagnosis of Down syndrome, while serving as a missionary in Ukraine. My friend and I jumped up and down, and I ambled to the stage. The bright lights made me dizzy. Liz Curtis Higgs gave me a huge smile. “Wonderful!” Ethel Herr (Ethel Herr!) gave me a hug. The award thrilled me, and embarrassed me. After all, I was just a mom, trying my hand at this writing thing.

I naively left the conference sure that I would secure an agent and a publisher for my book within minutes of walking in the door back home.

Yeah. That didn’t happen. I secured an agent, but months later, through a different writing venue. The manuscript garnered interest from publishing houses that even resulted in two frightening, sweat-producing face to face meetings.

But so far, my book hasn’t sold.

Here are three things I’ve learned from this experience so far:

1. Keep writing

Someone offered me sage advice once I completed my manuscript. “Start another one.” Diving right back into another book length project has been one of the best things I’ve done as a writer. I’m a writer, not a wannabe, because I want, no, I need to write, not just to be published. I am growing in my craft, and I am still having fun doing it.

2. Grow your platform

I’ll admit it, there have been days that I’ve wanted to curl up in a ball over my memoir not finding a publishing home. OK, there have been days I have curled up in a ball because my memoir has not found a publishing home. But I’m a writer, not a wannabe, because I get back up and keep trying. I am building my platform and brand through articles, speaking, social media, and blogging.

3. Trust God’s timing

As a person of faith, although my carnality wants what I want in my timing, this experience has been a great exercise in trusting God and his timing. I am called to write. And by God’s grace, he uses my words in other people’s lives, and in my personal pursuit to become more like Jesus. So I practice trusting him. If it is God’s will for my memoir to be in print, it will happen. In the meantime, I’ll keep writing.

I may not be a published author, but I am a writer, not a wannabe.

And today, that’s enough to get back to this crazy, exciting, challenging work of putting pen to paper.

Facing a Fickle Crowd?

When Jesus finished telling these stories, he left there, returned to his hometown, and gave a lecture in the meetinghouse. He made a real hit, impressing everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise, get such ability?” But in the next breath they were cutting him down: “We’ve known him since he was a kid; he’s the carpenter’s son. We know his mother, Mary. We know his brothers James and Joseph, Simon and Judas. All his sisters live here. Who does he think he is?” They got their noses all out of joint.

But Jesus said, “A prophet is taken for granted in his hometown and his family.” He didn’t do many miracles there because of their hostile indifference. (Matt. 5:53-58 MSG)

Do you ever want to run and hide from criticism or rejection? If you’ve ever spoken to a crowd, taught a small group, written for publication, or communicated your faith in any way, you may have faced a fickle crowd. And you might identify with this story from Matthew 5.

I noticed a few helpful truths in this passage.

  • Jesus used stories to communicate.
  • People praised Him at times.
  • People also criticized Him.
  • Jesus stayed in tune with His audience.
  • Jesus moved on, when criticized.

Facing criticism and rejection. Reading the account of how Jesus handled this crowd reminds me of an event from my past.  

When my close friend, Sara, invited me to her Sunday School class, I hesitated, uncertain if I would fit in. But since her friend, Glenda, taught the class, I agreed to visit.

Hoping I found the right place, I slipped in the door and scanned the room for a familiar face. No one seemed to notice that I had entered. I found a seat close to the door, in case I needed to make a quick exit. I fiddled with my purse, hoping my insecurity would not be obvious.

I got up the nerve to survey the room again, and my eyes met Glenda’s cold stare. I looked back down at my purse, pretending to search for something, as I questioned myself. Am I in the right place? Is this a closed group? Have I done something to offend her? Maybe I’m reading her wrong.

As I fought the urge to escape, I gripped the edge of the cold, metal seat and leaned forward just as Sara walked in the door. Her warm smile calmed my nerves. And as she sat down in the empty chair next to me, I found the courage to stay.

Pleasing people? After several painful interactions with Glenda over the next few months, I listened to some sound advice from my husband Dan: “Some people just aren’t going to like you.”

What seemed to be common sense to Dan, took me by surprise. Up to that time, I believed that I could always find some way to make people like me. I had been successful at pleasing people most of my life—until I met Glenda. She decided that she wasn’t going to like me. Why? Who knows? I could do nothing, but forgive her and move on.

Facing a new year. I realize that I will always face fickle crowds. And I am still tempted to try to make them like me. But the Bible assures me of God’s unconditional love.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 8:38-39)

I also hope to remember the example that Jesus gives us in Matthew 5 the next time I face a fickle crowd. So, as I prepare to meet the challenges of a new year, I plan to …

  • Continue to tell the stories that matter most.
  • Offer thanks for the praise I receive.
  • Ask for God’s help to deal with criticism.
  • Stay in tune with my audiences.
  • Move on, when criticized.

 What helps you, when you face a fickle audience? 

She Never Had a Rejection?

hI once met a woman at a writers conference and, as writers often do, we began sharing what we’d written, what we hoped to improve on, perhaps publications we’d like to write for some day, editors we wanted to meet. The usual stuff. But when I talked about the last rejection note I’d received, this woman got a curious little smile on her face and sweetly said, “You know, I don’t typically say this out loud, but I’ve never ever gotten a rejection. . .not even once.”

That conference was a while ago, so I no longer remember where I hid the body.

But at the time, my snark-o-meter went on full alert, and I found myself thinking dozens of less-than-charitable thoughts.

Maybe she’s never submitted anything. That would sure hold down the rejection letters.

Maybe she’s writing for a very tight niche–like Amish women scuba divers–and she just happens to be one of three writers on the planet with the right contacts.

Maybe (and here’s where I sank to my lowest level of cynicism), maybe she’s sleeping with the editor. That’s because she’s married to him, and together they started a third-rate magazine and she provides 90% of the content with snappy pieces like “You, Ginseng Tea, and a Happier Colon.”

See, I told you I’d reached a new low.

Big sigh. God probably just sent her my way to improve my humility and compassion skills. Apparently I have a ways to go.

Here’s the thing—I think she was being sincere, and was possibly even surprised at her own good fortune. And she may well have written lovely and informative pieces for top-notch magazines. But the problem with her comment is that it’s the writer’s equivalent of winning the lottery. The real truth is, in the world of writing, if you’re not getting rejections, you’re just not in the game.

The publishing industry has a very steep learning curve. For much of it you’ve just got to get in there and start. I’m not saying you should skip the process of researching the publication ahead of time, spelling the editor’s name correctly, and fashioning your piece with their readers in mind. In other words, don’t ignore the process of learning craft and industry. But much of that learning will come from doing, failing, rethinking, and doing again. Almost every published author I know has at least one massive fail to their credit.

A rejection letter can mean many things, but the only sure thing it means is that you sent something in. So instead of seeing it as proof positive that you can’t write, consider other very likely scenarios such as:

  • The magazine had something like it recently.
  • The magazine has something like it already in the hopper and it’s working its way up.
  • The magazine has worked with a particular writer who’s been talking about doing something like this, and they’d rather take a chance on someone who has some history with the magazine.
  • Or maybe the piece was just too ______ [insert word of choice—edgy, tame, academic, casual, ecumenical, evangelical, rural, urban, prissy, intense] for their magazine’s style or their audience.

Learn to embrace rejections. Unless you plan to win the writers’ lottery, there’s simply no way to avoid them. In fact, they’re like a merit badge, proving you’re in the game. I’m not saying you’ll ever come to love them. But you can see them as useful. I, for one, open them, learn from them, and then use them to wallpaper my bathroom.

What about you? Do rejections bring you down, sometimes to the point that they impact your next submission?

The Blessing in a NO

Ever feel like you just can’t catch a break? Nothing seems to be going your way? Have you ever heard no so many times it starts to lose its meaning? Welcome to the world of writing.

In the last three years, I have heard no so many times that I have learned to laugh and look for the next open door. When I first started hearing no it was a foreign concept to me. All my life I worked hard for what I had – job, grades, academic standing – and then I put one foot into the real world, and for some reason none of my achievements carried much weight. Crazy how that works, isn’t it? But it took a series of closed doors to teach me the blessing in no.

  • Applied to grad school at Texas Tech – No
  • Applied to 11 other grad schools (About the eighth letter, I started laughing instead of crying.) – 11 No’s
  • Moved back home and applied for A LOT of jobs – A LOT of No’s
  • Wanted to move out of state – No
  • Applied for more jobs and internships – More No’s
  • Submitted my book for publication – A lot of silence (which equals a “no” in the publishing world)

Starting to get the picture? No started to lose its meaning. But the more I heard that dreaded word, the more I began to find my way. Know what happened when I stopped trying to make things happen and allowed the Lord to direct my steps? A lot of those no’s became yesses in directions I never would have explored.

  • Got an acceptance letter to Focus on the Family Institute in the same month I was rejected from Tech. The Lord changed my life. – Yes
  • Found a freelance writing position two days after my most recent job rejection. – Yes
  • Attended a writers conference and was accepted into a writing course with a mentor doing the exact same thing a graduate degree in writing would have given me for an eighth of the cost. Found Christian authors to encourage me. – Yes
  • Attended another conference and found agents and editors who are interested in my book. At least I’m on the right track. – Yes

The Lord began to open doors to all the things I had been pursuing, except He determined the direction and the timing! It turns out that I’m in pretty good company. In the Bible:

The Lord told Abraham to leave everything He knew and travel to a land He would show him.

Abraham prayed for a child, and the Lord said no until Abraham was so old it seemed impossible, and then the Lord blessed Abraham with Isaac, the promised child.

Jonah didn’t want to go to Nineveh to preach. He ran away but the Lord said no to Jonah’s direction. He sent a whale to swallow him and then spit him up on the beach near Nineveh. It changed that city.

Mary probably expected to go into her marriage a pristine virgin. The Lord said no to that plan. She was still a virgin, but she was shamed by her people with a child, who turned out to be the Christ child – the One who changed the world.

My no’s seem pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The Lord used redirection in the Bible for His glory and the good of His people. There is blessing in this dreaded word.

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps. (Proverbs 16:9).

I follow my own way so much. But the Lord wants to tell me YES. He just wants to do it in His own time and in His own way. Just as He has been faithful in all His covenants and promises in the Bible until now, I know that He will be faithful to answer my no’s with yesses in far better ways than I could. They never look like what I thought or planned. They are always, always better.

Trust Him with your no’s. Embrace closed doors. They are blessings in disguise! He is so FAITHFUL!