Updated: Apr 24, 2020
This is my office. Well, not really. But this is where I spend a lot of my day. Surrounded by toys and crayons, I welcome other people's children into my home and we share the simple things of life. Walks to the park. Blowing bubbles. A million trips to the bathroom. These are the moments that make up my work-life, and I get paid to do them.
But I'm supposed to be a writer. I'm supposed to get paid to write!
Supposed to. Those are nasty words. If left to their own devices, those words will chew up your happiness and spit it out behind the treadmill of “hustling”. When people talk about hustling these days, they're talking about forcing their dreams into reality. It's about pushing yourself all day, every day. My friend, hustling makes you tired. I'm a mom. I'm already tired!
There's nothing wrong with my dreams of success as a writer, but I have to make sure that success doesn't come at the cost of contentment. I can't pursue my dreams for the future at the cost of today.
I've seen how the world measures successful writers. Large paychecks. Book deals. Speaking engagements. Thousands of engaged followers on social media. My life doesn't look like that. Not even close! It's far too easy for me to start the comparison game and allow jealousy or doubt to creep in. If I'm struggling to be heard, am I really called to write?
As a person of faith, what does success look like?
Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were blessed by God with flocks and herds, a sign of wealth. They certainly looked successful.
Some preach that wealth is a sign that God is happy with us. (And then they promise to show me how to unlock God's blessings for myself!) It may have been true of the patriarchs, but that sweeping declaration doesn't sit well with me when I look at the Bible as a whole.
I don't get the impression that the prophets felt all that successful. Elijah became so frustrated with his calling that he wanted to die. Elisha was called “Baldy”—not exactly a term of respect. The other prophets were ignored, mocked, threatened, or had to lead resistant people through great hardships. Not fun!
The apostles also didn't associate success with full wallets. Considering how the early church took it upon themselves to feed the poor, I doubt the church's bank account ever stayed full for long.
The apostle Paul, author of many letters in the Bible, made tents as a source of income. That's right, at at least one point, Paul had a job! Later, he ended up in prison. His life does not scream success in the eyes of the world, but he did not consider himself a failure. While in captivity, he wrote the most joyful letter in the Bible!
Aligning my ideas of success with God's
Sometimes I need to check my heart. Do I believe the mega-churches with full pews and overflowing collection plates are more successful in God's eyes than the small-town churches who rely on volunteers to fix the leaking roof? No.
Are the Christian singers rising to the top of national charts more important in God's eyes than the worship leaders who stir the soul of a mere hundred? Of course not.
Is the big-name author more valued in God's eyes than the writer who touched one heart? Hmm, gotcha.
I'm not going to lie. I still want to be a “real” author in the eyes of the world. I wish I had time to write eight hours a day in a pretty office instead of sacrificing my evenings. I wish I didn't have to hustle to get a handful of book sales. (I'm still paying off the cost of publishing my first book as I'm editing my second at the kitchen table.)
Maybe, someday, my books will be in bookstores across the country and fans of Christian Fiction will know my name. Maybe, someday, a check will arrive in the mail big enough to pay the bills.
Or, maybe I'll never make it. That's a thought I have to sit with a moment. What will it mean if I never hit a best-sellers list? Will it prove that I was chasing the wrong dream?
What if I never reach my idea of success?
Perhaps only my great-grandkids will have a dusty copy of my book on their shelf long after the rest have hit the recycle bin. Maybe I'll be “making tents” for the rest of my working years to help pay the bills. I have to learn to be okay with that. I have to learn that I can chase my dreams but my happiness does not depend on reaching them in the way I expect.
Rarely is any path a straight line, and doesn't that sound boring anyway? There's truth to the saying that we need to find the joy in the journey, because the journey is this thing we call life. Instead of lamenting my obscurity, I can find joy knowing that as I write and publish, I'm pushing myself out of my comfort zone, learning new skills, meeting friends, and most importantly, I'm growing my faith.
Thankfully, God hasn't left me hanging. I have received reviews that have knocked my socks off. I've opened emails from readers who share how Dividing Sword impacted their faith. God has made sure that I receive encouragement at the very moment I feel like giving up. These gentle affirmations show me that God cares about this average mom typing by night and changing diapers by day. My career isn't sky-rocketing like I hoped, but God is pouring into my heart.
I'm not going to give up
I will keep chasing my dream of being a respected author that delights her readers with stories of faith.
This isn't a post about hanging up my hat or spinning inspirational quotes to make me feel better.
I will keep learning more about my craft, marketing, social media, blogging, and all the other facets of a writer's life, because I am a writer. I will keep digging into research and study. I will keep writing stories about God's love for us. As the apostle Paul says, I will run my race like I'm trying to win. I just need to remember, my racetrack is different than theirs, and my success might look different too.
My love of writing is a gift from God, and He gave it to me for a reason. I don't need to worry if I'm good enough. I just need to be faithful and use it!
I have come to believe that the real measure of success is God saying:
“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!” - Matthew 25:23
That's the goal. That's success.