In the days before I go on a trip, I make a list of everything I need to take, so I won’t forget something in the actual process of packing. I mark items off the list as I pack them. When I close the last suitcase, I tuck the list into my purse, so when I return, I can use the list again to be sure I don’t leave anything behind.
The fault with my method of preparation is obvious, though – while I can control what I bring on the journey, I can’t control what actually happens on the journey. Sometimes the weather is much hotter than I expected, and I end up wearing the one sleeveless shirt I brought for the whole trip. Or the opposite occurs, and I wear the same sweater nonstop because everything else I packed was perfect for the 75-degrees that had been expected, but got pushed aside by an unseasonably cold weather front.
Again and again, I think of the Yiddish proverb: Man plans, and God laughs. And while I appreciate a good laugh – I’m something of a humorist, you see – it can get very tiresome when I’m trying to apply my planning penchant to my writing career.
Here was the plan: Choose a niche, write a great book, get an agent, get a publisher, write more great books in the series.
This is what happened: Wrote a book tailored to the niche (cozy mystery), wrote second book, got turned down by every agent for three years, not a word from any publisher, began writing third book in series, began writing another series in a different genre (supernatural thriller/romance) to see if I could do it and since the first series was getting nowhere, why not?, and finally found a small regional press for the mystery series four years after finishing the first novel.
Encouraged by that success, I pitched the thriller/romance to an agent, who snapped it up. That was five years ago, and that series now has two books in it, but no bites from any publisher. In the meantime, I’ve had five books in the cozy series published by the regional press, and my agent for the thrillers has now sold a humorous spiritual memoir I wrote six months ago (which grew out of several blog posts) to an international publisher.
From mystery writer to memoirist. I never could have planned that, not to mention the wonderful community I’ve found here to share the journey with at my agent’s company. It’s funny to see where my ‘plans’ have taken me, even though they haven’t taken me where I had planned.
They have, however, taken me exactly where God wanted – I just didn’t know it at the time. So every time I feel God laughing at my plans, I know the laughter is with me, not at me, and I know I’m not alone in this very human experience, for as the prophet Isaiah declared:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9
So go ahead and plan all you want for your writing career. Then let God show you the higher way.