Personal Best

I’m not overly competitive but I am talented at comparison. And I’ve heard comparison is the thief of joy. It’s true.

I look at other writers and wish I could be where they are in their careers. I forget they had to work for it, too. I forget they were once new authors. I forget the Lord hands us all different stories. But I still admire them for their success, creativity, and influence. Who of us doesn’t want to write something that matters?

These authors fall in the category of “hero” to me – people who identified their dream and calling and continue to see it through. I once heard it said that we should look to our heroes for inspiration and then set out to surpass them. Have you identified your hero lately? I’m talking about a person in your life, your profession, or your history that encourages, inspires, or challenges you to be better.

Better yet, I challenge you to look at beating someone a little closer to home.Kariss manuscripts

In high school, my band director told us that we should only purpose to beat one competitor…ourselves. If we continued to improve every time we stepped on the field, we could hold our heads up.

I took that to heart. I trained my fingers to fly over the keys until I could play the music in my sleep. I trained my lungs to handle running while playing in various weather conditions. I trained my muscles to walk backwards, forwards, and sideways without ever turning my torso from the sidelines. I trained my mind to keep pushing when I was tired and encouraged those around me rather than complaining. And every day, I was better than my previous day’s best.

The same is true in writing. I can’t compete with these other writers I admire. The truth is the Lord has given us different platforms and different voices. But I can learn from their journeys, their successes, their failures. Then I make my own mistakes and score my own victories and learn from those.

The first time I handed Shaken off to my editor, I emailed my mentor in a panic. I could almost hear her laughing over her emailed reply. “Oh, Kariss. You are a writer. Your second book will be better than your first book. Your third better than your second. Be proud of what you accomplished on this one, then move on.” She said it so well. The competition is against myself and yesterday’s personal best.

Kariss - band 1

“Give it all ya got but don’t give it more than you have,” my band director would tell us. There was something to his football field logic. Work hard. Push myself to the limit. But don’t overextend. It won’t happen all at once. But that’s the beauty of the journey. I just work to be better than yesterday.

Satisfaction today comes from knowing I met the demands of the day with my best. Contentment tomorrow means embracing the day before and diligently working to improve. I best pursue my dreams when I focus on who the Lord has made me to be and what He has purposed for me to do in my short time on earth. There’s no room for comparison in that kind of life.

“Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3:23

What is one area you can work to improve so that six months from now, you are better than you were yesterday?

There’s Only One King of the Hill

Kids Playing in the DirtIt couldn’t have been more than a few yards of black gumbo dirt, but it was prime real estate in our grade school perspective. The Hill sat on the playground of a now defunct country school once known as Briarfield South. Perched on the side of a drainage ditch that ran alongside a cotton field, The Hill doled out dirty jeans and scraped knees to all comers and transitory crowns to a select few who managed to make it to the summit.

Reaching the top meant one had successfully outmaneuvered the opposition. This was quite a feat and one to be fully celebrated, for the moment of glory was destined to be short-lived. No resting on your laurels. If the recess bell didn’t require you to surrender your throne, there was always another valiant warrior headed your way who was bent on taking you down.

Memories of The Hill have me thinking about Writing World. Sometimes, when I’m surrounded by other authors at a book festival or similar public event, I’m tempted to check out the knees of my fellow wordsmiths who have made it up the rugged publishing hill. We all know that here in Publisher Land, you’re only as successful as your last book. The next contract rests on your latest sales numbers. If getting published is an uphill climb, staying published can be like writing on a tight rope without a net. Let me be clear. If I’m not diligent to keep this thing surrendered to the Lord I can succumb to the anxiety just as often and just as quickly as my peers who make no claims of following Jesus.

The uncertainty of Publisher Land is just one more reason to be grateful for the solid rock beneath my spiritual feet. It’s such a welcome relief to rest on the One who has fully saved and fully accepted me. Hebrews 7:25 reads, “Therefore, because he always lives to intercede for them, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him.”

The blessed news is that I’m not on a continual evaluation with my God. Oh, He’s still working on me and with me, (the high dollar word for that process is sanctification), and He’ll keep working on me until He presents me before His Father and mine, redeemed and glorified. But I don’t have to fight and scratch to hold onto my place in His heart and neither do you! Our work is to keep Him in His rightful place in ours.