The joy of someone telling you that your writing, your story, moved them or lifted them up during a rough time in their life is something that can’t be matched. The joy of crafting the perfect scene or getting excited over a new plot idea or a hundred other creative sparks that fire in the writer’s mind is an experience that’s hard to quantify.
However, as with any creative endeavor, the roadblocks are many. You can pour yourself into a story and leave a trail of blood, sweat, and tears along the way, only to produce low sales numbers and tepid responses. Art is subjective and you’ll encounter your share of detractors along the way. These people, some with well-intentioned advice, can steal the joy right out of your writing journey. It’s best to prepare yourself for the common offenders beforehand, and ready your tools of recovery.
The Bottom Liner
You’ve met this person, typically it’s an extended family member or a friend of a friend. Right after they ask what you do and in a foolhardy mood you respond, “I’m a writer,” they ask, “You making any money with that?” I don’t fault them for their curiosity. It’s an honest question. After all, everyone has to make a living.The problem is, until you’ve tried to make it as a writer, you don’t realize it’s about the long game. Becoming a full-time writer takes a lot of, well, time. Stories of new writers who hit it big with their first novel are the rare exception to the rule. It takes years of reading, falling in love with storytelling, followed by years of writing and learning the craft, followed by years of publishing and slowly building an audience, etc… Like I said, it’s the long game. So, when someone wants to know the “bottom line” on how much money you’re making, as if that’s the only metric to measure the value of a pursuit, it’s a difficult question to answer in a comprehensive way that makes sense in relation to most careers. So, once you fumble through an answer of your paltry earnings, the typical person dismisses your efforts with a response like, “Oh, well, I guess it’s a fun little hobby then, right?” The bottom line often buries artistic dreams.
How do you recover your joy after such an encounter? Know why you write. What are your motivations and expectations? What’s your purpose in writing? If it’s just to make money, The Bottom Liner will be your biggest nightmare. As a Christian writer, grappling through the reasons why you write is the only place to find peace. If you come to the point where after seeking God’s will and much prayer you discover writing is your calling (and this could be a part time calling) then your expectations and motivations don’t have a price tag. It’s about being faithful with your gift, finding joy in pursuing excellence in your art, and leaving the results to God.
Once you let it slip in a conversation that you’re a writer, some people might actually seem impressed for half a second. Until they ask, “What kind of books do you write?” If you’re a speculative fiction author, this is usually where things fall apart. Once you start talking about magic, dragons and spaceships, prepare for the Peter Pan Syndrome diagnosis.
Many will see this pursuit as childish or frivolous. At this point, Captain Maturity will often (sometimes even with good intentions to redeem your lost cause) turn into The Bottom Liner and ask, “You making any money with that?” At this point, the conversation has flat lined.
How do you recover your joy after such an encounter? Similar to the previous method, if the Lord has laid on your heart the desire to write these type of stories, His is the only approval you need. Look at the impact of “childish tales” such as The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m sure CS Lewis suffered many a turned up academic nose when he first released them.
The Righteous Writer
Inside the publishing/writing world, The Righteous Writer has a preconceived list of what constitutes “worthy writing.” If the genre or style of your writing falls outside of their list, your books could be dismissed as a waste of time. Speculative fiction is often a target of attack, even within the Christian publishing world where authors like Lewis and Tolkien were pioneers of the category.
A book about riding dragons or discovering the universe in your spaceship might be labeled “fluff” by those who consider books on theology or guides to Christian living to be the only redemptive use of your reading time. Occasionally, the Righteous Writer will allow a brief trek into a fantastic world as long as it abides by their strict guidelines. These usually include overt messages, allegories, or close parallels to Biblical stories.
How do you recover your joy after such an encounter? Hopefully you have a close group of Christian friends and writers that offer constructive spiritual guidance on your writing. When you have the support of Christian friends, it’s easier to laugh off the judgmental types. Our God is a big God. Most genres and styles have their time and place. Just as God has created a wide variety of talents and abilities in the body of Christ, there’s room for a wide variety of books and writing styles to reach a wide variety of readers.
Many of these people types listed above are well meaning people trying to understand why you spend hours in front of your computer writing about dragons and laser guns. Honestly, if I didn’t have the writing bug and I wasn’t such a nerd, I’d probably ask all the same questions.
Finding our joy in writing comes with the understanding of where we find our peace, motivation, and purpose. It’s asking the hard questions of why do we write? Who are we writing for? What expectations do we have for our writing?
When you realize that your desire to write is a God given desire that should be pursued with gusto regardless of the results, it’s a freeing experience. And knowing that your particular style of writing, while frivolous to some and a financially questionable pursuit to others, is valued by God, just as you are valued by God. He created each of us with unique talents and abilities to bless others and communicate His truth.
If I could sum up my thoughts on this matter, it would be this: No matter what people think or say about your writing, it makes no difference to what God has called you to accomplish in this life. If you have a calling to write from God, as cliché as it might sound, you are writing for an audience of One. Revel in that calling, use it to recapture the joy in your writing, and leave all the rest behind.
Paul Regnier is a speculative fiction author perpetually lost in daydreams of spaceships, magic, and the supernatural. He is the writer of Paranormia, an urban fantasy/supernatural comedy (read an excerpt here), and the Space Drifters series, a sci-fi/space opera comedy (read an excerpt of the first book here).
Paul is a technology junkie, drone pilot, photographer, web designer, drummer, Star Wars nerd, and a wannabe Narnian with a fascination for all things futuristic. Paul lives in Treasure Valley, Idaho, with his wife and two children.
Paranormia is presently available at Amazon in various platforms, including audio book.
Featured Image by Bruce Mars from Pexels