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Building an Author’s Career is Like Building a Passage

During worship, our church sang, BE THOU MY VISION by the 8th Century lyricist, Dallan Forgail. The subject of the message was worshipping God in our daily work.

The words hit me like they never had before. Goading me from the perspective of a fairly unknown author and editor in today’s market, struggling to find the needed footholds, the lyrics of this ancient hymn reminded me of my priorities and of the substantial rewards offered by the Lord.

To show you how almost every phrase or thought in the song became animated for my soul, I’ll highlight the phrases for you.

Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my Wisdom, and Thou my true Word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my battle Shield, Sword for the fight;
Be Thou my Dignity, Thou my Delight;
Thou my soul’s Shelter, Thou my high Tower:
Raise Thou me heavenward, O Pow’r of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, my victory won,
May I reach Heaven’s joys, O bright Heaven’s Sun!
Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my Vision, O Ruler of all.

So, I’ll ask you, writer, or new author without a “platform,” how do you see your writing?

Is writing your passion, like a spiritual enigma?

Is writing a hobby?

Or, is writing your life’s work, your career?

Frank Viola advises that a writer who is not willing to invest in marketing and publicity to boost their products to the intended audience is only a hobbiest. But, even a hobbiest seeks out models and YouTube how-to videos for patterns and best practices.

People do invest in hobbies. They buy tools, a table, the supplies, and sometimes we invest to see where the market lies for their products. But, a hobbiest doesn’t really expect to see a profit from doing something that passes the time in interesting and enjoyable ways.  A hobbiest, though, can also leave a legacy of the things made for others.

Some people also invest in a career if they are entrepreneurs or just good and loyal servants of a company.  College diplomas are earned so that a person can prepare for the prerequisites of work and learn the elements of a career.

But, sometimes a passion is a thing we give ourselves to without any expectation of reward. We call this attitude altruistic or philanthropic.

Insert Foot In the Comedy Door

I have a friend who needs to pay for her property and way of life, suddenly, after divorce.  She doesn’t have office skills or a college degree.  She has some acting and comedy skills, and she had been writing and practicing her schtick.

She invited me to listen to a staged comedy routine she was required to perform as a final assignment for her comedy class and provide feedback.  She was preceded by six people whose routines were so vulgar that I wondered whether I could continue to watch and wait for her turn. The atmosphere caused me to pray for her strength and buoyancy.

When it was her turn, she spoke from her own life and perspective without bitterness. She displayed a flowy hand movement and there was an elegance about her. She did not cuss or use sex, genitalia, or potty jokes like the others had. She was dignified in her storytelling. Her jokes were original. I called her on her way home to congratulate her and give her my perspective. Her courage. Her persona offered something unique to build on.

She was crying behind the wheel.  “I don’t know why I’m crying,” she said. “I had fun, I felt like I was funny and people laughed, but when it was over, I was alone.  The rest of the performers were eating and drinking together, and I was alone, so I came home.  But, you know what?  I want to be righteous. And, I think the Lord was honored.”

My heart lept for her. I am confident that God will make a way in or outside of this wilderness called comedy clubs.

Drinking from an Empty Well?

I want my writing and my business of publishing to be a big part of my legacy.  Sometimes, I’m willing to sacrifice income by putting my books down to .99 cents while investing in a promotion. But I don’t like to devalue my books by leaving them at that price or by giving them away for free.  Others are willing to hand out their books or booklets for free. They post their writings freely on social media hoping to minister to someone that day.

Sometimes I struggle with the idea of regular writing for business or even part-time income when the present costs and sacrifices are more than I want to give. Oftentimes, the costs are far more than I have to give. If I try to drink from an empty well, the hope is futile. In that case, there is no decision to be made.

Sometimes I struggle with the idea of writing for spirituality because my own spiritual practices are non-quantifiable. They may be very different than others’ ideas and practices.

Then, when my work is ignored or rejected or marginalized, I wonder if I have the spine to withstand these disappointments. They return my goodwill and investment like a bucket of dust from an empty well.

From Whom Do We Seek a Reward?

There are earthly rewards promised in Scripture to those who do certain things.

We can read about the rewards of faithfulness, and the rewards of self-denial, and the rewards of integrity.

Some rewards are miraculous like when God comes through for a King who is faithful and obeys the Lord beyond reason or by denying other’s ungodly counsel.

I read about Ezra’s situation today in the book named for him.  Ezra was leading back the remnant of God’s people to Jerusalem to build the city and the temple. King Darius had ordered that he be given everything he needed to finish the work. In the course of their correspondence, Ezra proclaimed, “The hand of the Lord will protect us.”

George Zeller from www.middletownbiblechurch.org puts the story this way:

The journey for Ezra and his people was monumental. They had to travel about 900 miles, a trip that would last three or four months. The journey was extremely perilous. Travelers in Bible times would often meet with robbers, and Ezra’s group carried with them large amounts of gold, silver, and valuable vessels (Ezra 8:25-30). Ezra realized how helpful it would be to have a royal escort of soldiers and horsemen to protect his vulnerable people on their arduous journey. No doubt, the kind King would have granted such a request, even as Nehemiah later enjoyed the benefits of a royal escort from this very same monarch (Neh. 2:9). And yet, Ezra was too ashamed and embarrassed to make such a request (Ezra 8:22). Why the hesitancy? It was because God’s Name was at stake. Ezra had already told the King that the hand of God was upon them and that God would take care of them (Ezra 8:22). To ask for help at this point might send a message to the King that they did not really believe that God could protect them. So instead of asking the King, Ezra proclaimed a fast and asked the King of kings to protect them (Ezra 8:21,23). God wonderfully answered: “The hand of our God was upon us, and He delivered us from the hand of the enemy and of such as lay in wait by the way(Ezra 8:31). They safely arrived in Jerusalem (Ezra 8:32).

The Blessing of Keeping a Holy Vision

Christian authors and writers write to present themselves and their material in such a way that the name of the Lord is not dishonored. Sometimes, they are unsure of how to go about this and make mistakes, but as God did for Ezra, who ran to Him with a petition for provision and protection, the Lord will continue to be faithful to His children today.

  • He will provide.
  • He will see us through.
  • Though the journey may be perilous, God’s hand covers us.

Whether we appeal to a king or appeal to an audience, when we appeal to the Lord, He is faithful.

Honoring our Maker and our Redemer is always the priority and over-arching goal. Even when we write about perilous times and situations.

Moses authored Psalm 90.  His prayer is “May Your work be shown to Your servants and Your splendor to their children.” It is when our intentions make it into our handiwork and products produced that things begin to happen. When writers are writing to display God’s handiwork, Moses’ continues:

  • New International Version
    “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.
  • New Living Translation
    “And may the Lord our God show us his approval and make our efforts successful. Yes, make our efforts successful!

The Lord does see you thinking, processing, writing, editing, publishing, and He sees you closing that circle by pursuing the need of others to see, read, or hear what you have written. He is actively ordering your steps and delighting in your journey. Psalm 37:23 says, “The steps of a man are ordered by the LORD Who takes delight in his journey.

May the blessing of Moses give you a great heart for the journey.

May the prayer of Ezra remind you to dedicate your embarrassments to the Lord for His redemption and honor.

May the lyric of Dallan Forgail, create a deep stream from which you will dip your refreshment. No matter what, may the Lord be your inheritance, now and always.  May He be your dignity and your delight. May He be your shelter, your high tower, and your undergirding power. May He be your wisdom and your true word.

BEING CREATIVE (Bartnick) is available on Amazon, The Nook, Faithful Reads, and Capture Books
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Breaking Bud – A Roguish Spring

KATHY JOY, AUTHOR, EDITOR, MESSIAH COLLEGE ALUMNI

You’re likely familiar with “Breaking Bad”, the TV series about a chemistry teacher desperate to secure his family’s financial future, after his devastating cancer diagnosis. Facing the reality of death does funny things to people.

Find a Singing Spring Gift Book here. A Breath of Joy

Even if you’ve never watched Breaking Bad, apparently most of America has. The series quickly became a national sensation and rendered a new buzzword, “breaking bad” for when someone good suddenly changed character.

If “breaking bad” is slang for “defying expectations” then “breaking bud” is a crisp turnofphrase for “just kidding, the weather has a mind of its own”. Out of the brown and crinkled tan shades of left-over winter, buds are due. The milk of flowers is already rising through pale green rose stems.

Fine, with this springtime tease, we’ll don a warm jacket today, a light sweater tomorrow, carry a pair of boots in the car for just–in–case.

Spring waltzes in sideways, full of bluster and drizzle, followed by little sunny intervals of calm. Throw in a late snow squall for good measure, and you have springtime in Northwest Pennsylvania: Unpredictable, moody, playful, and perplexing. But we always tolerate the irregularities of spring because it holds promises: Birds returning, leaves unfurling, windows are thrown open to let in the breeze.

We’re starting to hear the spring peepers, those tiny chorus frogs that give us loud concerts every night for a fortnight. The early flowers are already pushing through soil, declaring forgiveness for winter’s icy grip. Something shifts in the air. There’s a mix of earthy smells, a giddy kick of anticipation.In spite of all the challenges we’ve endured, there is this one thing: Spring is “breaking bud”.

I had the honor of proofreading the book, BEING CREATIVE, by Laura Bartnick this spring. Her thoughts on creativity simply jibe with my feelings about springtime’s empowerment. I’m declaring new explorations this year. Did you know. . .

God calls all of His creation His servants, because He has a purpose for our existence. He is the Re-namer, and Redeemer, and Re-purposer. When we walk with the LORD, the possibilities are endless. We can search for Him—though He is not far from any of us. Coming closer to our Creator, we can accept His call to be cunning and skillful. We can even become His friend.

“Anything can become the next exploration. Even those creatives who want nothing to do with being a child of God often find their best material in Scripture and in the church. God can use the imagination of anyone to teach us.

“Your own skill is a learned thing. Wisdom takes time. You may not yet understand this when you begin to write about a tragedy causing a family to become displaced, all their treasures to be lost. What you are really going to discover and write about is the greater gift of creativity from loss, the value of new relationships, and community—finding other treasures in hidden places. This story may require much prayer, wrestling with God for the blessing, and many edits to test and strengthen the wings.”

Spring is going forward and gathering steam, hurtling headlong into backyard picnics, flip-flops, beach time and road trips.

There are ten little rules of creativity listed at the end of each chapter in BEING CREATIVE. There is also the suggestion to keep a journal nearby.  I have practiced this invitation of capturing the wonder of my days, of God’s creative invitations to life in my own way. This is where the gift book series, BREATH OF JOY, was budded and flounced. SINGING SPRING announces this season of life burgeoning from death. It celebrates wonder with yellow daffodils, with purple lilacs, and with perfuming pink hyacinths.

Crops are going in this spring, and before we know it there will be rows and rows of sweet corn. That’s what I love about seasons. They simply show up. Regular as a heartbeat, as welcome as the friend you haven’t seen in quite a long time. Springtime is roguish, breaking bud and being mischievous in all the best ways.

I found one of my favorite quotes in chapter four of BEING CREATIVE:

Experience allows us to follow the dots into the unknown. We learn from intersecting paths along the way. We learn to improvise.”

I just love this! I want to lift it out, highlight it, then repeat it for emphasis!

Unconcerned about vaccines, politics or March Madness, the season is a joyful riot of mud puddles and sudden bursts of color, chasing away the landscape’s last edges of grays and browns.

Happy Spring, ya’ll !