Ambition, Aspirations, and Obsession: Part Two

Last time I posted to the Water Cooler, I discussed some of the ways that having dreams and aspirations can affect you in a positive way.

CliffWSThis post I’d like to look at some possible dangers of having ambition.

Dangers of Aspirations:

1. Assuming it’s God’s will.

I’ve had authors so single focused, so full of energy and passion, that they interpret this to mean “It’s God’s will that I write for publication.” I’m not the end-all expert on God’s will, but I don’t believe it is simply feeling passionate about something. Yes, feeling passionate about a cause or a new adventure makes you feel alive, but so does war. The men from Band of Brothers who have written books say, “Never have I felt so alive as when I was in battle.” An activity may get your heart moving and leave you with an adrenaline high, but that doesn’t mean it is necessarily God’s will.

2. Overly ambitious writers won’t always listen to counsel.

So many authors have come my way and said, “God told me to write this.” Or, “This will sell millions of copies because these are God’s words.” Too many to count. The danger in this approach is that writers begin to feel their manuscript is so divinely inspired that it would be almost a sin for an agent or editor to suggest changes to it.

Having aspirations without seeking and listening to wise counsel will often lead to a big waste of weeks, months, even years. So if you’re a writer, you must temper your aspirations with the reality of counsel. If everyone who isn’t a family member says your baby is ugly, it likely is.

The best writers are the ones who seek out critique groups, writing partners, and then when they strike gold (they finally get a professional writer or agent to look at their work) they listen. And when they hit the mother lode by finding a publisher, they should realize how much God can use these professional partners to make their work even better.

3. Overwhelm those not sharing the train you are on, going in your direction.

People with writing aspirations can be overwhelming in their single-mindedness. They feel they somehow need this to accomplish something of value. If you’re one who says, “I have to write. I cannot NOT write,” be careful of those around you. They don’t understand. (Unless they are writers, too!)

Aspirations that lead to the neglect of people you love most (for more than a few weeks when you’re on a deadline) are probably not from God. They are more likely from your own need to find significance in having published something with your name on it.

I became an agent because I was faced with a choice. I had written 15 books, had a big platform in youth ministry, and came to a crossroads: Do I write and speak and try to be more famous? Or do I stay involved in the process of books (which I loved) and be able to hang out with my own two young sons instead of other people’s kids? I made the right choice and never looked back.

If aspirations aren’t in balance with your family goals, then I’d question if they are God’s will for you.

To keep ambitions and aspirations from turning into obsessions, they need to be:

• Tempered with counsel, prayer, balance.
• Put up against the harvest of fruit.

If something you’re pursuing doesn’t seem to be yielding the desired results, then there is a good chance that this aspiration may be a stepping stone to a bigger aspiration God has in mind for you. I’ve discovered that most of our lives have a building block-like history to them that makes sense as you reach the middle or near the end of your story.

My biggest revelation on aspirations is that they must be tied to a soul, especially the souls of those you love.

Aspire to feed your family. Writing for money isn’t a bad thing. If publishers hadn’t paid C.S. Lewis to write Chronicles of Narnia, who knows if he would have written it.

Aspire to make a dent for God’s Kingdom. Great. We all want to live our lives for something that will outlast us.

But make sure your ambitions and aspirations are always tied closely to the souls of those whom God has put into your life. In other words, how is your calling to write also blessing those nearest to you?

What about you? What have you done to keep your aspirations from becoming an obsession?

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12 thoughts on “Ambition, Aspirations, and Obsession: Part Two

  1. What an awesome post!
    Loved this: If aspirations aren’t in balance with your family goals, then I’d question if they are God’s will for you.
    But make sure your ambitions and aspirations are always tied closely to the souls of those whom God has put into your life. In other words, how is your calling to write also blessing those nearest to you?

  2. Definitely hits close to home (says the author editing at 12:40 in the morning). Balance isn’t my strong suit…I tend to push it over 110% until my goal is reached. Hoping after I self-pub my novel, I can take a breather…but self-marketing also absorbs a lot of time. Thankfully, my kids and hubby know how much this means to me, and I’m pretty sure they also know I’d give up writing in a heartbeat if they were suffering. But being a writer also requires a lot of tenacity and dogged determination. Hard to draw the line many times.

  3. Greg, this is so very wise, I echo everything you’ve said here. As a writing professor and mentor, I’ve seen all the same things you describe. If our calling to write eclipses our calling to love God and our neighbor, then something is wrong. We do write from our soul—and our best work comes from a soul rightly placed. Thank you for your words of wisdom!

  4. Good words, Greg. It’s obvious they come from your heart (and experience). Your commitment to your sons and grandkids is building that treasure in heaven “where neither moths nor dust corrupt, nor thieves come in and steal.”

  5. Thank you for this. So true! If I had held on to my story, my book wouldn’t have become what it is. And I am sure I speak for others when I say I am very grateful you made the turn to become an agent. This not only allowed you to touch your kids’ lives, but countless authors’ lives. Mine is one of them!

  6. Greg, so wise. So needed. Thank you for these two posts. Early in my career, I faced a choice, too…spend time, energy and money away from my family to further my platform, or stay home and raise the kids God gave me. I’ve never regretted that choice. Motherhood and family is God’s high calling for me right now, and writing has to be kept in balance. Someday, when my kids are grown, I may do more. For now, I feel content. (mostly)–grin. 🙂

    • I agree, Dena. I made choices in nursing to not work very much to be home more when my girls were babies and didn’t really increase my hours until they were in school all day. Putting family first is always a good thing.

  7. Thanks for sharing your heart on this subject, Greg. Sometimes it’s hard to get an objective view of this publication process from the trenches. It’s interesting how my perspective and direction has changed over the years on my writing journey. And I’ve learned so much from other writers who I’ve met along the way.

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