Every author seems to have a different idea of what “success” in their field means to him or her. For some, selling at least five thousand (in Canada) or ten thousand (in the States) books, thereby qualifying them to claim the lofty title of “Bestselling Author” is the goal on which they set their sights. For others, maybe it’s a hundred thousand copies, or a million.
For some, it isn’t about the numbers, but about awards. But which award is the one that will make them feel as though they have finally arrived? Is it the Carol? The Christie? The Pulitzer? I’ve noticed several big-name authors who have won awards in the past entering the contests again, so maybe one award isn’t enough. What, then, is the magic number?
Or maybe it’s a certain amount of positive feedback, a sufficient number of glowing reviews on Amazon or Goodreads, recognition at conferences or even on the streets, enough followers on social media.
You see the problem. Success is a wildly ambiguous and deeply personal concept. Chasing that elusive label can be and, I suspect, is in most cases, a discouraging, disheartening, and depressing endeavor. The intended audience for our work can be mind-numbingly uncooperative when it comes to providing us with the accolades, reviews, purchases, and general awestruck-ness in our presence that would finally push us up to that mountain peak we are continually scrambling to reach. So too, for that matter, can agents, publishers, editors, and judges of contests.
A month ago I posted on this site about my love-hate relationship with Christian writing awards. I have to admit I am coming down a little harder on the side of love these days as my books are currently finalists for five awards. Am I encouraged? Definitely. Am I grateful, honored, and excited? Absolutely. Am I able to bring myself to claim that I am now a successful author as a result of these affirmations? Not even close.
So what is the solution? To continue to blindly stumble along, attempting to achieve some random number of readers or books sold or reviews in order to feel that I am now a success? Or is it possible that I, as a Christian author, need to look at the whole success thing from an entirely different perspective? If so, the perspective that is inevitably the best one to try to view things from is that of Jesus. During his time on earth, Jesus said some radical, countercultural things about success. He suggested that “making it to the top” in the eyes of the world was not only a poor measure of success, but could, in fact, be considered spiritually detrimental because it is those who are the least in the eyes of the world who are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.
Not that we should refuse to work hard or strive for excellence. Quite the contrary. Working diligently and doing our best honors God. The difference is in the motivation. The Bible teachers that everything we do should be done as to the Lord, and not unto man. By that standard, our success cannot truly be measured by sales, awards, or accolades bestowed on us by other human beings.
For an author who believes, then, success can only be defined by whether or not our work accomplishes the purpose God has for it. So here, in my humble opinion, are seven steps to follow in order to be guaranteed success in your writing:
1) Listen for and receive the words God has for you to write
2) Study the craft so that you can write those words in a way that honors the one who gave them to you
3) Humbly accept feedback and editing that makes the work better and stronger
4) Pray about the best platform for your work to appear on
5) When the story or teaching God has given you does come out in written form and become available to others, seek His guidance as to the best way to use the resources of time, money, and connections he has gifted you with in order to market and promote that work
6) Pray that God’s will may be done through the words you have written
7) Leave the results to him
If I follow the above steps and don’t find success in the eyes of the world—however I or other people may define that—I can still trust that the plans God has for my work have been or will be fulfilled, whether or not he ever reveals those plans to me. And I can let go of all my strivings, and rest in the sure and certain knowledge that my work is a resounding success.
26 Replies to “Seven Steps to Guaranteed Success as a Writer”
Beautiful post! Thank you for pointing out that the measure of our success is our obedience to God’s plan for our endeavors. I am so grateful that my only responsibility is obedience. When I obey God, He is responsible for the consequences – not I. Right on and write on!
Something I, and probably most of us, need to be reminded of often. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, Judith.
Excellent post. I found much to like about this article—and some helpful wisdom. Thank you for sharing it. And I agree. Although success in writing can be measured in many ways, the best one, at least for me, is when my work accomplishes the purpose God has for it. Sara, I didn’t see the reblog option on my WordPress site. Would I have your permission to do so?
Absolutely. Feel free to share.
Reblogged this on Charles Earl Harrel and commented:
Excellent post. I found much to like about this article—and some helpful wisdom. Although success in writing can be measured in many ways, the best one, at least for me, is when my work accomplishes the purpose God has for it.
Thank you for once again helping me stay grounded in the word.
Thank you for your comment Brandon – much appreciated.
Thank you, Sara, for the continuation of this theme. I cherish my trust in God’s purpose. And whether we know what His objective is or not, His will should be foremost. As Judith stated, obedience is key. And that desire to do for Him is sweet, drawing us closer in communion with the Holy Spirit. Then, I think, burdens of work and commerce are lessened and some eliminated, for our achievement is eternal.
I love that thought, that our achievement is eternal. Thank you for sharing that Jean – it really puts everything we do in perspective and reminds us why we do it.
Great content beautifully put. Ultimately it’s all about giving God the glory by using the talent He’s given us to the best of our ability. Thanks for re-blogging. I’m going to do likewise.
Thanks for taking time to read and re-blog this post Dave – I appreciate it.
Reblogged this on Brandon J. Adams and commented:
A short but God-oriented approach to better writing as a Christian blogger. Thanks for this, Sara.
So well put! Thank you for sharing.
You’re welcome. Thank you for reading and commenting – I appreciate it.
You are most welcome 😃
Sara, thank you for sharing the same things I have learned in twenty-five years of writing, and since publishing seven of our books. I never thought I would even publish, and now only want to publish more of what the Lord has given of His grace, all for His glory. Proceeds from our books are designated for missions and charity, although we have not had time for promotion or awards.
Where can we find your books? Blessings as you continue to share what the Lord gives you.
That’s amazing, Fran. May God bless you and your work as you use it to serve him. Thank you for asking about my books. I write romantic suspense and have four books out, a standalone called The Watcher, and a trilogy set in the near future when things are much more difficult for Christians, The Seven Trilogy. This includes The End Begins, The Dragon Roars, and The Morning Star Rises. My books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble (U.S.) or Chapters (Canada, where I’m from) or pretty much anywhere books are sold.
Thank you for these steps I am going to post them by my computer. Christ is king, His approval is what we should seek after.
I absolutely agree Heather. Thank you for your comments.
Very very well said, great perspective. Thank you for being “countercultural” enough (ie, brave enough) to put your faith in print!
Thanks Dawn – I appreciate your comments.
Reblogged this on Nderi Sarah.
Writing and sharing the words and thoughts God shares is certainly a journey of joy and to know that they will be used however He plans is definitely a blessing. I keep thinking, if God uses the writings He’s placed in my heart to allow even one person to want to know Him better, that’s a cause for celebration! I thank you for this post.
That’s exactly how I feel Doris – if God uses my words to impact the hearts and lives of one or three or a hundred people that he wants to reach through my work, as a believer I have to consider that a resounding success. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you for your points on successful writing. I am always reading what other Christian bloggers have learned about writing for the Lord. It helps me to focus more on what I am doing with my gift of writing. Although I have published over 440+ articles and numerous posts on three blogs, I remain open to suggestions by other successful Christian writers.
That’s excellent Pam. We all have to support, encourage and learn from each other. We’re not in competition – we’re on the same side, all working to build the kingdom. Thank you for commenting.
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