This week, I received a message from a fellow writer that gave me pause. Her question is so common, and it touches on issues I am wrestling with right now in my own writing journey. Praying for Wendy and writing my answer to her helped me re-connect with what this is really about. Maybe you can relate, too.
You may not think of yourself as a writer; perhaps your ministry is more giving hugs and encouragement at church, holding babies in the nursery, and posting verses on Facebook. But whether your ministry of words is blogging or blabbing, you can’t help but run into this problem Wendy and I discuss: how to deal with those scary critics.
So, writer to writer…when you publish a book the opinionated folks come out of the woodwork and say crazy things but God has called us to thick skin and few words in debatable matters. I’m not sure I’m ready for the full throttle attack that I know will come over my book on marriage I’m writing. The very idea scares me a lot. All I can do is continue turn the fear and the battle over to God (Exodus 14:14) and write the words He gives.
Oh, my word, the opinionated folks! I know exactly how you feel. It’s an issue we discuss in my local writer’s group often. I’ve sought counsel from my writing mentor on it numerous times. My husband has endured my moaning and groaning often. And I have lost a few night’s sleep over it. You can’t write a book titled Rocking Ordinary with a big rockin’ hand sign on the front of it without hearing from opinionated folks before it’s even published. And then they read what’s inside . . .
You are writing about marriage, which is all about sex and fighting (seriously!) so I would guarantee someone will find offense. Personally, if I know ahead of time that people won’t be pleased, I feel less pressure to keep everyone happy.
So that’s my first word of advice: Don’t write for everyone. You know who you are writing for from the conception of your book to completion — the woman who needs your message and is receptive to your ministry. She may be an actual flesh-and-blood friend, she may be a composite of several women you know, she may be a typical social media follower, but she is your reader. Know her, pray for her, think about her, love her. She is the one your book is for, not the opinionated folks.
Besides your ideal reader, you are ultimately writing for the Lord. He is the one who burned that message on your heart, who walked you through the journey of understanding, who inspired your spirit and your fingers to communicate those truths. Every day, when you sit down to write another page or edit another chapter, pray that His will be done with that manuscript. Continually offer that book as a living sacrifice of your service (Rom 12:1), and strive not for millions of books sold but for one ultimate reward, God’s own “Well done, thou good and faithful word servant.”
In your teachings on such a personal topic, you can’t help but touch on . . . touchy things. Like sex and fighting. I had to write about abuse, betrayal, hypocrisy, and bullying in Rocking Ordinary. The best advice I got from my writing mentor is “Don’t write scared.” We need the faith to follow the story through the valleys all the way to the glorious end. Find a way to shut out all those real and imagined opinionated criticisms and just write the truth. This is the first step in Stephen King’s proverb to “Write with the door shut; edit with the door open.”
The second step, the open door, is getting wise counsel. I had three people who guided me through my difficult passages in Rocking Ordinary. They were those who knew my heart, who understood why the story needed to be told, and who were committed to protecting me from undue hurt. They read early drafts, suggested edits, and let me cry on their shoulders. Their prayers and support strengthened my resolve and encouraged my progress.
If your goal is to write a million-dollar best-seller, then say a lot of nice things, get a pretty cover, and schmooze a lot of celebrities. And don’t make people mad (unless your brand is all about making people mad). But if you are writing a life-giving message for a select group of readers that God has burned on your heart, if you are kept up at night by the marriages and dreams and souls at stake, if you weep when you pray for the message of this book to change hearts, then push those opinionated folks away. They aren’t your audience, they are just a distraction.
Write for your reader, Wendy. She’s your ministry. She needs your words.
Be that good and faithful word servant.
Do you have a question?
Writing, homeschooling, momming, whatever’s on your mind, feel free to drop me a message. I’ll get right back to you.