A salute–and a challenge–to writers

Janet Grant

Blogger: Janet Kobobel Grant

The other day a business colleague phoned me to ask if I would get together with his twentysomething daughter. He described her this way: “She thinks she’s a writer. I don’t think she’s a writer.”

I responded, “Has she written anything?”

He said, “No.”

“I’ll meet with her after she’s written something.”

I wasn’t trying to be aloof; I was asking his daughter to get beyond dreaming about being a writer and try her hand at it. Why? Because writing isn’t for the faint- hearted. But you know that already.

Publishing requires a different type of courage. Some of you haven’t discovered that yet.

This week I received a three-book offer for one of my clients. He decided to spend  the weekend thinking about whether he wanted to accept the offer. That seems like a strange response, doesn’t it? And, yet, no, it’s a smart response. For signing a contract brings responsibility with it. The author is pledging to write the best he or she can; meet deadlines that often are tight; and expend time, money and every ounce of creativity he or she can muster to promote each title–while writing the next manuscript.

One of my clients, Robin Jones Gunn, developed the habit of rising at 4 a.m. to write her novels while her young family slept. And then she went back at the writing late into the night when the rest of the family had tumbled into bed. Hard choices and sacrifice are quietly and willingly made because that’s just what writers do.

But sometimes that  contractual commitment exceeds even the writer’s imagination. This week, two of my clients, archaeologist Steven Collins and his co-writer Latayne Scott, received fresh-off-the-press copies of their book, Discovering the City of Sodom.Product Details Latayne emailed me how surreal it felt to hold a copy. A veteran, published author, Latayne responded that way because of  something the reader would never know–the price Latayne paid to write the book. (Discovering the City of Sodom recounts how Steve located the famous city’s site by following the Bible’s description of where the city was located.)

Just as Latayne and Steve were in the thick of the manuscript’s creation, her husband, Dan, suffered a severe attack of the most malignant form of Guillain Barre Syndrome. The doctors told Latayne to abandon hope that Dan would recover. He was hospitalized for five and a half months (most of that time in a coma). But Latayne, who in essence lived at the hospital for those five and a half months, met the deadline.

Here’s her description of her writing conditions:

I’m still numb about seeing Sodom in print. It doesn’t seem real. When I read it, I see the dash of my car, because after Dan left the ICU he was in such small rooms with so much equipment that I could only write there late at night. Most of the writing took place (due to the graciousness of people who volunteered to sit with Dan for two-hour shifts daily) in the passenger seat of my car on a lap desk with notes stuck in the air conditioning vents, in crevices of the dash, and spread all over the other seat. My Bible sat sideways on the console. My computer had just enough battery life for the two hours each day.

You’ve made the commitment to be a writer; now, are you ready to make the commitment to being a published writer?

If you are published, you’ve already earned your writing badge of courage. But today is a good day to renew your commitment to do what it takes to stay the course.

I salute you all for the hard, creative work you do quietly and courageously. You enrich the world. Thank you.

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110 Responses

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  1. Here I am at midnight, editing my manuscript to send to Mount Hermon. This is just a little taste of what being a published author will be like. Receiving guidance and patience from the professionals who are dependent on you has to be a constant lesson in humility.

    Thank you for your eye-opening insight, and the real life story of perseverance. I hope to meet you at Mount Hermon Janet.

  2. It’s 5:11am,I’m up to take the Little Dude to hockey. I lament that I am wasting writing time. But, I am a mom…don’t worry, I’ll be back soon. And I’m taking a craft book to read…

  3. Making the commitment to be a published writer is definitely a different level of dedication than simply writing. Not only has this been on my heart recently, it is on my calendar.

    Making realistic commitments to deadlines, but knowing that sometimes we must work through the difficult, emotional situations of life, rings true in my head and in my heart.

    Thank you for this post, Janet!

  4. lisa says:

    I love this encouragement. It’s really hard, but you know its your heart, when you wouldn’t be anywhere else than writing. Even if it’s late at night and early in the morning. I’ve been learning to push through some major doubt lately. I always come through the other side. I can’t wait to hold my copy someday 🙂

    I can’t wait to read that book. Especially knowing the dedication it took to write it.

  5. Jeanne T says:

    This post was such a good one to read. I’m trying to find the balance to being the wife and mom I need to be, managing outside responsibilities, getting enough sleep and writing. In the effort to get enough sleep, I’m having to cut out precious writing time. When I get published I will make whatever sacrifices necessary. I’m not afraid to do that.

    This glimpse of what’s necessary is good for me to see. Thanks for sharing this post today, Janet.

  6. Janet, I can’t imagine the dedication it took for Latayne to meet that deadline. I’m completing the third book of a three-book contract, which when published will be my seventh novel. With each one, I worry a little more about finding ideas, meeting deadlines, honoring the contract and earning the advance. Would I have continued on my own road to writing had I known it would come to this? Of course–because God set me on this road. But it’s not an easy one. Thanks so much for this post.

  7. Mira says:

    As a mental health professional, I will take a stand that this post is not encouraging healthy behavior. Encouraging writers to work themselves into exhaustion is an unheathly thing to do, Janet. You are asking writers to be co-dependent – to put their needs last, publishers needs first, and to think of their own need for rest and balance as unimportant.

    And I don’t mean to diminish Latayne’s sacrifice and commitment, but she really needed to be focusing on her husband’s health and not on meeting a deadline. It is cruel not to extend the deadline of someone who has a husband in the hospital.

    While publishers have holidays, weekends, vacations and (in the summer) every Friday off, as well as Family and Medical Emergency Leave, writers are expected to work until 12 a.m. and get up at 4 a.m., and sit typing in their car while their husband is possibly dying.

    I realize that in the past, this type of ‘sacrifice’ was put forth to writers as romantic; the starving artist. But it was a manipulative stance then, and it’s equally manipulative now. Times have changed, and this is outdated. Frankly, Janet, I would think this would be beneath you.

    It is wrong. I believe God does not want artists to exhaust themselves. How can we produce our best work under these conditions? I believe God wants artists to nurture themselves and be well-cared for, so they can express themselves fully.

    • “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all” (Philippians 2:17, NKJV).

      Mira, while I value your premise — wise self-care is essential every field of endeavor — I cannot agree with your conclusion. I find nothing manipulative in this post, and I am surprised to find such labeling attached to it. Janet clearly applauded the author who didn’t leap at the three-book contract, but spent time prayerfully counting the cost. That seems exceedingly healthy to me.

      There is no great victory without great sacrifice, without great endeavor. This is not inherently unhealthy. In fact, I would argue that never finding a cause or mission worth such sacrifice is the ultimate dysfunction.

      Robin Jones Gunn wrote at 4:00 am precisely because she didn’t want to sacrifice her family. LaTayne Scott found strength in writing. Every author bleeds onto the page, and this post stands as a warning to wannabe’s who won’t invest the blood, sweat, and tears to produce the magical thing called a book.

      It’s harder than you think it is, but the rewards are incalculable.

      The community of writers with which I associate is honest, vulnerable, real, and healthy. We love our God, our families, and yes, ourselves. We are constantly checking our emotional status with each other, and feeding back to each other. We view writing as a divine call; as our share in God’s global Gospel Enterprise. We pray for one another. Perhaps we’re all a little crazy, but may God bless many with this good gift.

      Perhaps you might give it another read from a different perspective; you might see Janet’s point differently.

      Blessings.
      Bill

      • Larry says:

        I think you may have missed Miras’ point, Bill, because I found myself agreeing with both of you.

        Even the “writers” like the one Janet described become aware of what they must demand of themselves to be a writer.

        However, when there are demands which come not from what we ask of ourselves to be the best writers we can, demands that ask us to put aside out basic value as people, demands which come from the subjective business practices of an industry, then those who work in the industry can certainly ask the industry to address those business practices.

        Otherwise, by the logic you presented, every single accepted practice of labor in America would not be allowed.

        When Mira said that times have changed, and the ways of how publishers think are outdated, I recall the history of labor in America. Most other industries have left the behavior of publishers behind for literally almost over a century now.

        It’s not a question of whether an author has the fortitude to be a writer.

        It’s about whether or not publishers respect their employees as human beings.

    • Larry says:

      While I certainly would not say that Janet intended to promote unhealthy behavior, I think she is speaking of what are currently the accepted practices of the industry.

      Thus what I took away from what she wrote is, “If you want to be traditionally published in todays’ publishing environment, this is what publishers expect you to put up with.”

      As Janet herself said:

      “I salute you all for the hard, creative work you do quietly and courageously. You enrich the world. Thank you.”

      Now…..to the point where professionals in the industry have the moral responsibility to directly address the faults of the industry, yes, I completely agree Mira, that is another problem within the industry.

      Regarding this, I reflect on Marys’ previous blog post: she directly stated just what authors are expected to do from the publishers’ perspective, and that was refreshing; even though Mary didn’t say that the accepted practices of the industry are wrong, it was still refreshing, and helpful to new writers, to have the seemingly taboo words that authors, not publishers, actually do most of the work stated. I thus view Janets’ blog post today in relation to Marys’ post: two different perspectives which address different aspects of what is expected of writers.

      To further the point, the fact that writers do have to do most of the work, even extending to being the ones to demand change in the industry, can be overwhelming. But I certainly try to do what I can to speak out about it, and I’d say since you can state your reasonings so eloquently, that you should post more, Mira! At the very least, I’m gauging interest if the community here wants to have a social media group on Twitter, Good Reads, Reddit, or Facebook where we can uplift each other, have fun, and discuss the issues of the industry, and as a united group have a greater say than as individual voices.

      Now….

      This is what I don’t get.

      There are those who say we, as writers, just need to deal with what are accepted industry practices. Yet if putting up with the absurdity of the industry is not a bother, and what publishers demand of us is not a bother, is asking for changes in the industry too much of a bother to us writers?

      • Janet Grant says:

        Larry, when I wrote the final sentences of my blog, I wasn’t just thinking about the courage traditionally published writers express, or even the courage self-published writers show. I was also thinking about those writers who work long, hard hours to complete a manuscript IN HOPES that some day it will be read by someone besides a spouse or best friend.
        Regardless of the venue through which that manuscript becomes available to readers, it took a serious commitment of labor and heart. I admire that perseverance.
        Regarding publishing and whether it’s appropriate in what it asks of authors,that’s a complex issue. Publishers believe certain elements have to be in place for the author to be successful: rapid release of titles; involvement in social media; willingness to market one title while writing the next; but then waiting to see how the sales go on one title before even discussing a second one. If the author chooses not to participate in this whirling cycle, smaller publishing houses or self-publishing are options. In other words, no one is forcing writers to publish with a certain publishing house.
        And I believe it’s not accurate to call an author an employee. That suggests a relationship with the publisher that does not exist. If an author expects an employer-employee relationship, that author will be disappointed.
        Should publishers be more aware of the financial strictures they often place on authors through noncompete clauses and option clauses? Oh, yes. An author with a $10,000 advance is treated the same as an author with a $100,000 advance. That is not appropriate, and it puts tremendous financial pressures on the author with the smaller advance.I’ve discussed this with publishers, and they all agree that the size of advance should affect what the contract looks like. But that concept has never been communicated to the contracts department.
        Should a publisher be willing to extend a deadline when the author faces a family emergency? Definitely. Do publishers make room for those life interruptions? Yes. I have clients who have missed deadlines by more than a year, and that caused considerable disruption and loss of money to the publishing houses. Yet they graciously rolled the deadlines back. As Latayne noted, she was the one who choose the due date, and she needed that project as a relief from the emotional, mental and physical challenges of her husband’s long hospitalization. She wasn’t choosing writing over her husband; she was choosing to take a break from the intensity of the situation.
        I can’t bring myself to paint the publisher as the Bad Guy. I’ve seen too many times in which publishers were understanding and supportive of my clients. I’m trying to recall if a publisher has ever been anything less than compassionate with those I represent when life brought hardship, and I’m not thinking of any.

      • Mary Keeley says:

        Larry, I didn’t intend to paint publishers as the Bad Guys either, which is why I explained the factors that combined to result in the bulk of marketing efforts being the author’s responsibility.

        I agree with Janet. In my past experience on the publisher side of the industry as well as working with a publisher recently to adjust a manuscript due date for a client whose husband was dying, the publishers have been considerate and cooperative.

      • Mira says:

        @ Janet – You didn’t address me, but since you addressed Larry, who was defending me, I will simply take a moment to ask that you consider what I said. I am sure you care deeply about the writers you represent.

        Writers deserve to be treated well and to have their needs as humans respected. As the Writer’s Advocate, I would just ask you to consider whether there are old cultural beliefs that need to change, and leadership that you and your agency could take here.

      • Janet Grant says:

        Mira, of course I care about my clients more as people than as writers. In decisions I make on their behalf and in advice I offer them, I ask myself first and foremost what the person needs. Last year I set up appointments with a considerable number of publishers to have face-to-face conversations with them–not to pitch projects but to express concerns I have regarding how publishing in general and that publisher in particular could be fairer and a better partner to the authors he publishes. I don’t claim perfection in my author advocacy role, but I am working to make a difference in the lives of writers. I care deeply and spend many a sleepless night worrying about my clients’ welfare. I don’t talk about that a lot because I view those aspects of how I live as private. It’s just what I do. I’m uncomfortable writing about it here because I don’t want to sound as if I’m tooting my own horn.

      • Larry says:

        Ah, thank you for clarifying that, Janet! I didn’t intend to mis-state your words, if that is what I ended up doing.

        I agree that no one is forcing a writer to sign with traditional publishers, nor should an author expect a traditional employer-employee relationship when they sign with a publisher. However, as I said earlier in response to Bill, some of the practices of traditional publishers is behavior most other industries have left behind for almost over a century now.

        And it perhaps isn’t just those business practices which incites the ire of writers: it’s how we watch the publishing industry crumble, and the one thing that publishers seem unwilling to change is their relationship to writers.

        They are literally willing to merge, meld, take on new identities (as with Christian publishers being bought out by secular publishers), or go out of business: they are literally willing to rather to cease to exist than to change the status quo of how they relate to writers.

        And it wouldn’t feel like such a slap in the face, if Amazon, Smashwords, and other sites weren’t making good financial gains based on attracting authors (and by extension readers) by having an author-focused business model.

        I apologize if it appears I also mis-stated your words also, Mary. I tried to make clear that you didn’t call publishers the Bad Guy, so I wrote:

        “….even though Mary didn’t say that the accepted practices of the industry are wrong…”

        All I meant to say was that you, and Janet, addressed what is the contemporary publishing environment, and while not saying publishers are the Bad Guy, gave balanced, objective perspectives, which just by doing that seemed, to me at least, to say what is seemingly “taboo”, because as a writer, all I seem to hear from the industry is that the publisher does most of the work, and we should be grateful if we even have a book deal, much less care about the actual merits of the deal.

      • Mira says:

        @ Janet. Thank you. I was really moved by your response – your caring came through loud and clear.

        Thank you so much for your advocacy with publishers – and I believe you! I think agents are caught in an extremely difficult place right now.

        I also thank you for letting me air my concern here, and for your heartfelt response.

    • Mira says:

      @ Bill – I thought that was beautifully expressed. But I think that Larry got the essence of my post. I was not protesting sacrifice and hard work for the artist, but extreme and unneccessary sacrifice for the Publisher – when the Publisher makes no like sacrifice in return.

      • Janet Grant says:

        While some publishers have not exhibited much of a sacrificial approach to relating to authors, I have seen publishers quietly agree to a missed deadline because of the author’s health or familial issues. When those delays occur close to the deadline, it means the publisher is taking a serious financial hit as well as having to withdraw a title from retailers who had placed orders, which hurts the publisher’s reputation. Many years ago, a psychologist said to me, “You never know what a certain action cost another person.” In other words, it might not be a big deal for me to buy a gift for my husband on Valentine’s Day, but that might be an excruciating action for my husband. To assume no sacrifice is required of the other party because that person or company didn’t broadcast what it costs, doesn’t mean it wasn’t a precious choice.

    • Kristen says:

      I’m so grateful for this post, Mira. I’ve been a writer for some time, and I only recently figured out that it doesn’t have to be something that tortures me or overtakes my life. Posts like this, as much as I appreciate the very hard work and dedication many people will put into their writing, also says to me, “If you aren’t killing yourself for it, you don’t want it bad enough.”

      I do want it, very bad. And I’m good at what I do. But I don’t want anything bad enough to sacrifice my relationship with my husband or my mental and physical health, and it’s hard not to feel resentful (or even more stressed out) when reading posts like this one that seem to advocate an unrealistic dedication (or perhaps even obsession).

      There are workaholics in every profession and passion, and I believe the same is true for writers. Some operate on a more reasonable schedule, others write during every free moment they have. What works for you works for you.

      • Kristen says:

        (I’m very bad, however, at leaving coherent comments. The “post” I said I was grateful for was actually Mira’s comment. And my apologies for the typo.)

      • Mira says:

        Kristen, I’m so glad what I said resonated with you. It warmed my heart. 🙂

        And I absolutely agree: Self care is so important. But I also agree, that what works for you, works for you. Your way of writing is the best way for you to write! 🙂

    • Mira, I think you made some valid points here regarding our health. If we don’t treat our bodies (and minds) in a healthy manner, it shows in other areas of our life. Our work, family life, and ministries suffer. We need to remain healthy so we may serve God more effectively.

      • Mira says:

        Thanks, Carole. When you think about it, everything we have belongs to God, including…us! And if we belong to God, we owe it to God to take good care of ourselves. 🙂

  8. I can’t wait to read Discovering the City of Sodom, and now that I know more about the inner workings of the book, it will be even sweeter to read. My uncle had Guillain Barre Syndrome and, fifteen years later, he still has minimal complications – but the doctors consider his a miraculous recovery. I encourage everyone who can to donate plasma – it saved my uncle’s life.

    As a mom of four (the youngest being 3 year old twin boys) I can relate to Robin Jones Gunn. Writing in the wee hours of the morning has become my new normal over the past year. People ask me all the time how I do it, and I tell them I can’t imagine not doing it. Writing doesn’t subtract from my family life, it adds to it. I’m a much better mom, wife and friend when I’m writing. One time my husband encouraged me by saying: “Even if no one ever reads your writing, keep doing it, because it’s what you were born to do.” I often think about that at 2 a.m. 🙂 Thank you for this encouraging post, Janet! It’s good to know that hard work and determination pay off for many writers.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Gabrielle, you mentioned something that is at the heart of being a writer–you are a better person when you respond to that calling, not less of a person. And it is a calling. That’s what makes 2 a.m. writing feasible.
      And I do want to say that I’m not advocating sacrifices that are lessening of the person. I’ve had other clients, like Latayne, who met deadlines while a loved one was in dire physical straits. The escape into writing was life-saving; it enabled the writer to momentarily leave the unbearable to enter into a realm that the writer had more control of.

    • Gabrielle, listened to the story of how this book evolved had the same effect on me. Knowing what went into this story made me even more eager to read it.

  9. Rick Barry says:

    For each writer who has dedicated a portion of his time on earth to write, rewrite, revise and polish until a book is ready for publication, there is a roomful of others who will say, “Yeah, someday I’m going to write a book, too.”

    There are doers, and then there are the talkers and dreamers. Latayne is clearly a doer despite roadblocks and challenges.

    “The test of your character is what it takes to stop you.”

  10. Latayne C Scott says:

    Of course, I can’t speak for the other people of whom Janet spoke, but I can respond in my own case.

    Mira has a good point, that some prior responsibilities simply must take priority over writing. But my own “veteran” experience of writing (my first book, of 16, was published in 1979) can bring some light on this matter. God has been my Ebenezer. Only by His help, thus far, I have come.

    To address some of the issues: I set the deadline for this book—70,000 words in four months. I didn’t ask for any extensions because they weren’t necessary. Writing energized me. God helped me—both with His presence and the sense of calling to all my tasks at hand; and also through His people.

    Some might think my husband’s illness (from which he is still recovering: in a power wheelchair and just now beginning to take his first steps) is the story behind the story.

    But there’s a story behind that one.

    It is the Mountainside Church of Christ, where we have attended for 40 years. For the six weeks I lived and slept in the ICU, I didn’t buy a single meal. People brought me so much food that I fed me and the nurses (some of whom, by the way, came to our church just to see what kind of people would do such things.) My two adult children were amazing, but did not neglect their own young families. People came and sat with Dan when he wasn’t contagious (he coded several times, had pneumonia, CDiff, and three kidney procedures while hospitalized) so that I could take walks and climb stairs, which kept me healthy. Church members and family organized themselves with email schedules to come and sit with Dan so that I could write in the car. The book was “our project.” I had a small folding table I set up in the tiny rooms of two subsequent hospitals and used it at night.

    Church members and other believers, encouraged by Dan’s recovery, forced money on us (his hospital bill is well over 3 ½ million dollars now) and other things: a handicap van, a place to live at minimal cost, with an in-ceiling track and mechanized lift system for transporting him.

    Many people, even those with no church affiliation, say that Dan’s progress has restored their faith in God, in a very literal sense.

    Through this I have been greatly encouraged. To see the Body of Christ so active, so loving, with such a sense of purpose and determination—this is the loveliest thing I have ever seen.

    On a personal level, the book was a respite from the constant noise and activity of a hospital room. For several hours a day, I was steps away from a husband that for a while no medical personnel said would live. I was in the ancient world, a place of wonders as I wrote. And I returned to another place of wonders as he recovered. God be praised.

  11. Debbie Thomas says:

    Latayne, you’re my hero (heroine?) 🙂

    When I started writing, I could only carve out about an hour and a half a day from family time to write. If I’d known then that years later I would still have the same amount of time, I might have quit, but I’m glad I didn’t.

  12. Bonnie Grove says:

    Mira, I feel your indignation–I hear what you are saying, that the attitude in publishing that writers are not “industry professionals” and are simply replaceable (if you can’t do it, kid, I know a thousand who can) is wrong on the most human level.

    Knowing Janet, I don’t think it was her intention to legitimize this attitude. It was an attempt to show us the level of sustained dedication it takes in order to produce something worth reading.

    I would think, as an agent, she’s seen too many writers thrust their work into her hands when it is painfully obvious the work wasn’t ready–or even approaching ready. Talked to so many writers who believed their first attempt should be whisked off to the publisher and made into a book. When the truth is, art–any art–is sacrifice.

    But here’s the thing: artists don’t see it as sacrifice.

    Would I get up at 4 in the morning to write like Robin? Not even. It’s not going to happen in my house. But I have young children, so what I do is every bit as make-shift, every bit writing in the nooks and crannies–I do it in my own way. Would I write if my husband were lying in a hospital bed in a coma, as Latayne did? Heck ya. I’d write. Would I ever.

    I know Latayne personally and well. I know writing this book was the only bit of sane reality left to her–and the deadline was the only thing she could look at and hold onto as fixed, real–a goal to walk towards in a time when all of life was nothing but open sea.

    I understand what you’re saying: the publishing industry should be considerate of it’s talent. Without writers there would be no publishing industry. A point Margaret Atwood has made a number of times, to the point where she is actively encouraging young writers to throw off the conventions of traditional publishing and reinvent the industry in a writer-driven model.

    Probably all this “explaining” is annoying you. Rightly so. I’ve missed your point–not because I meant to, but because the comment section in a blog isn’t true communication, and everything written in the comes across as smelling a bit off.

    • I totally agree w/Bonnie. To each his/her own–some of us find release from writing, even in the midst of personal crisis. Some of us can’t focus enough to find our car keys. I think we have to give lee-way and understanding to others. And Latayne beautifully explained her support system at that time. I think the key is that as writers, there will be times when we can’t get BY without our support system–be it writer friends, our spouses, or just God alone. I get what you’re saying up there, Mira–yes, authors work stinking hard and are expected to meet all these deadlines. But agents/pubs work hard in their own ways, too. If we consistently can’t meet the deadlines, we shouldn’t be in the biz.

    • Larry says:

      “But here’s the thing: artists don’t see it as sacrifice.”

      Indeed.

      We see it as utter insanity.

      And an insult.

      And as hubris on the part of publishers.

    • Mira says:

      @Bonnie,

      No, the explaining is definitely not annoying! And I don’t think your post was ‘off’ at all! I thought it was very well-said.

      And I agreed with everything you said, except the intent of the post. But I’m going to bow out of debate – I think it’s enough to come onto a blog and state my perception, I don’t need to try to hammer anything home, especially when it’s critical.

      I appreciate if people read what I wrote, and maybe think about it, if they want to. Whether they end up agreeing or not, that’s a gift. And one that I appreciate.

  13. One thing I’ve been saying to myself in the last few months is this “Do you WANT to be a published author or do you INTEND to be a published author?”. And the other thing I’ve told myself? I have a VERY supportive spouse.

    The intent part has been made MUCH easier because my husband works in research and spends months writing scientific papers (no, I can’t divulge any classified information on how incredibly boring it is to read about the drought tolerance of Eastern black spruce cones. Okay, you talked me into it…zzzzzzzz)

    Back to my point.
    He understands the time I have to put in. He understands the muse. He sees me working and working. Even when I’m staring out the window, he knows I am WORKING.
    I am blessed. He gets it.
    We sit together at the dining room table, each with our iPods on and work across from each other. A smile from him and an out of the blue “I’m proud of you” have taken my ‘want’ to be successful at this, well up into the realm of imagining him standing behind me on the stage and whispering “you did it” in my ear.

    I’ve had my own troubles to deal with, we all have. No one is immune to the rain. It takes strong wings to rise above the fray for a while and try to escape the pull of the undiscovered country, even if it means appearing to be unconcerned.
    If I had to sit at my husband’s bedside for months on end, I can be 100% sure he’d expect me to rest when I could, escape when I had to and work when I needed to.

    I hope I’m not rambling, but there are so many layers to a writer that no one else sees, not even fellow writers. Only the ones closest to them, those who know where the shadows stop and the darkness begins. I’m thankful Latayne and Dan had the understanding and support of so many.

    And mostly, thank the Lord for Dan’s recovery.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Jennifer, as you expressed,having a supportive spouse makes all the difference. They see the sacrifices you’re making, and they’re having to sacrifice as well. But being lovingly supportive does require sacrifice, regardless what endeavor our loved one is pursuing.

    • Larry says:

      “I hope I’m not rambling, but there are so many layers to a writer that no one else sees, not even fellow writers. Only the ones closest to them, those who know where the shadows stop and the darkness begins.”

      Rambling, I like to say, is just when we cannot keep up with the wisdom that the Holy Spirit is telling us.

      And there is much wisdom in your post, Jennifer.

  14. Thank you for this reminder, Janet. I needed it today. We can all find small excuses not to do the work–not big enough blocks of time, the house is too noisy, not feeling the muse, etc. But if we let those little things stop us, what will happen when the big roadblocks drop into our lives? It’s time to get serious.

  15. I enjoyed Richard’s comment. After each success, he worries a little bit more. Yet he understands that we don’t have a choice.

    We lay down our lives because we are called to write, and this requires whatever sacrifice it takes to get the job done. It’s worth it all when His name is glorified and His people are loved.

  16. D. Hardy Asbury says:

    Thanks for the post. I’ve had guilt trips for
    my late hours and constant time at writing. My
    family smiles and puts up with my sleeping in
    church, and other inattentive blunders, but I
    don’t count a lack of sleep as a big sacrifice.
    The love for writing gives great satisfaction;
    It helps me more than anyone. The time in
    research broadens my mind, and writing helps me articulate better in public speaking. Your posts help me organize my work, and understand the publishing business. You are appreciated.

  17. Latayne, I’m so glad you chimed in and I love what you shared. We all are wired differently, aren’t we? I’ve always been an early bird. That’s when the creative juices flow best. Meeting with the Lord in those silent hours of the morning and writing my heart out was the best time for me to write and the only time that didn’t take me away from my family and the normal routine of life, just as Bill mentioned.
    This past weekend my husband and I spoke at the Hawaiian Islands Ministry conference on Oahu. Right before my last workshop a group of teen girls came up and asked me to sign their Christy Miller and Katie Weldon books. One of the girls shyly said, “I gave my life to Jesus after reading your book.” A second girl leaned in and said, “Me,too.” Another girl said, “I decided to not sleep around like my friends. I want to be a virgin when I get married, just like Christy.” I’ve heard these sorts of comments for 25 years and I still tear up every time. Now it’s a whole new generation of 13 year olds who are reading these stories that were written with much love before the sun came up.
    When I look back at this writing journey of the past 30 years is there anything I’d change? I took plenty of personal mental health days and vacationed and honored the sabbath pretty well so I wouldn’t change that. What I would change is my heart. I wish I would have trusted God completely and not given place to fear. Ever.
    Its like a call i got from a friend last week. She said,”I have to tell you something really important. I just figured this out. Don’t listen to satan.ever. He’s a liar. Tell everyone you know!”
    No fear. Trust God. Obey His Word. Only do what only you can do. The rest falls into place and suddenly, like Latayne, you hold in your hands evidence that God is accomplishing His purpose in you and through you. He blesses the fruit of your hands and uses your offering to bless a multitude. It’s pretty amazing and ever so humbling.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Thanks, Robin, for reminding us about the ministry we can have to others’ hearts when we write from the heart. And when we refuse to embrace fear. It sounds so elementary, yet can be so hard.

      • Jan Thompson says:

        Thank you, Robin and Janet. You hit the 3 words I’m thinking of these days — ministry, heart, and fear.

        Ministry ties in with calling. If God has called me to write, then He will enable me to do that which I’m called — He gives me the time, the joy, the strength to write.

        As for heart and fear… I sometimes fear that writing from my heart might mean a very brief writing career LOL. But then I remind myself to stop counting chickens. Get the eggs to market first (without dropping the basket).

        🙂

  18. Latayne, your story brought tears to my eyes. I have my challenges, too–nothing like yours but you conveyed so well WHY we write. His Word is a fire in our bones. God’s blessings on you and your work … and healing for your husband.

  19. Great discussion here!

    In any “community” it is important to understand and respect a person’s choice in how they respond to their circumstances. Sacrifice, in some form, is not romantic, but is, as Janet and Bill both described, necessary for victory.

    Having been a farmer/rancher for over twelve years there were seasons when our hours and laboring was intense and perhaps way outside socially acceptable “working conditions.” Not only that, our children worked alongside us, feeding cows off the back of a flatbed truck in freezing blizzards and checking on or waiting for hours to help deliver calves in the middle of the night. Then the kids got up at 5:00 AM to feed bummer lambs so they’d have time to get ready and board the school bus at 7:00 AM. I am sure this would be totally unacceptable to a lot of people. In our ranching/farming community it was considered normal, not sacrificial.

    Because this was our livelihood we were passionate about our animals and their well-being and about our land. We couldn’t ask those cows for a holiday…they had to be fed, EVERYDAY…no matter the weather, or how exhausted we were or whatever else was going on in our lives! Our neighbors helped us, as we helped them in times of need.

    Our children are all grown, married and have children and only speak with great fondness about their time on the ranch. Not one has ever regretted their experience, even though it was difficult, working conditions were hard and they often made great sacrifices. The “victory” of seeing a new-born calf stand, or the barn filled with bales of hay for winter feed, or watching fat and sassy cows grazing, was well worth the momentary sacrifice.

    I’ve learned that in each “community” I’ve been part of, whether the ranching or writing or church there are sacrifices. And there are those who come alongside us to help us fulfill our obligations….whether to the care of animals, the land, the contracted publisher or those who require a little assistance.

    I don’t see much difference in writing for publication and ranching…except if I decide NOT to write that day I don’t hear bellowing cows!

    • Larry says:

      “In any “community” it is important to understand and respect a person’s choice in how they respond to their circumstances.”

      Indeed! And it is good to be part of a community where we can frankly discuss, uplift, and learn from each other. Even when folks here disagree from each other, we recognize that each of us have our own writing journeys, and respect that.

      What you said about being a farmer, for me, is what I meant about how I agreed with both Mira and Bill.

      As writers, outside of publishers, marketing, trying to understand what readers want, outside of all of that: just the writing itself asks of us. As Jennifer said:

      “He understands the time I have to put in. He understands the muse. He sees me working and working. Even when I’m staring out the window, he knows I am WORKING.”

      “I hope I’m not rambling, but there are so many layers to a writer that no one else sees, not even fellow writers.”

      All of that I feel that we as writers recognize comes with being a writer. That is where I agreed with Bill: like what you said about being a farmer, it’s part of being a writer.

      Where I agreed with Mira, is that when we are asked to put aside our value as people to meet subjective business practices of the writing industry, that we end up submitting ourselves, and our writing, to be placed beneath the altar of the financial gains and interests of a company.

      As a writer of faith, that is simply unacceptable. If I truly believe that I have the spiritual gift of writing, then I am willing to place it at the feet of He who gave it to me. NOT at the foot of Mammon, or Random-Penguin, or any publisher or business model.

      • Jan Thompson says:

        Larry says: “Where I agreed with Mira, is that when we are asked to put aside our value as people to meet subjective business practices of the writing industry, that we end up submitting ourselves, and our writing, to be placed beneath the altar of the financial gains and interests of a company.”

        You still have to meet the deadlines to which you have agreed, as a matter of stewardship and integrity, which, for inspirational authors, will point to Who we believe. Of course, given serious family matters, there should be grace to adjust the deadline in a reasonable manner.

        To which, I remind myself, that before I agree to any deadline, or to any contract, I would need to ask the Lord for wisdom. Which makes sense to me when I read what Janet wrote:

        Janet says: “This week I received a three-book offer for one of my clients. He decided to spend the weekend thinking about whether he wanted to accept the offer. ”

        If I reach that milestone, I would put the offers at the foot of the Cross, and take time to pray over the ramifications, and to thank God for agents who can help me figure out publishing contracts.

        And Larry says this well: “If I truly believe that I have the spiritual gift of writing, then I am willing to place it at the feet of He who gave it to me.”

        Absolutely.

      • Janet Grant says:

        Larry, I think we all work to balance what it means to write for God and what it means to stand by the contractual commitments a writer makes when he/she signs a contract. Must they be mutually exclusive? Publishing with Penguin-Random might well mean more people will read my book than if I produce it myself. Does that mean I’ve bowed down before Mammon? Or am I availing myself of the biggest audience possible with the message God has given me? Does signing a contract with a traditional publisher require me to set aside my sense of writing as a calling or my desire for ministry? Am I sacrificing my personhood when I sign on the dotted line? I think for every writer the answer to those questions varies depending on their motives and perspectives.

      • Larry says:

        I agree, Jan, that when if a writer chooses to either self-pub or go with a traditional publisher, that they should do their best to meet the obligations they have agreed to.

        For example, I think we all know authors who go to a book signing and a handful of people show up, but they told their readers they’d be there, the book store manager they’d be there, etcetera.

        What worries me, Janet, about the new publishing landscape, is that I’d say those questions you brought up are more relevant than ever.

        For example, what if Amazon comes under pressure to limit Christian novels because they offend the sensibilities of various groups?

        Or the parent companies of the publishing houses which buy-out Christian publishers?

        Conversely, with fewer traditional Christian publishers, will it become more prevelant for various books to not reach market because they aren’t “real” Christian books?

        Trying to navigate all that can be overwhelming, which is why even if the role of agents comes to change somewhat, I don’t think that the profession will go away.

  20. Lori says:

    One of my biggest challenges to writing my novel is when I come home from work, I don’t even want to see a computer. Writing at work can be exhausting and it spills over into any time I try to spend on my novel. I don’t know how people do it. I congradulate those who do!

  21. Thank you, Janet, for this post and for the examples that you gave. I’m not going to weigh in on the debate about Latayne as she did an excellent job speaking for herself. What I will say in regards to the debate about how much time, energy, hours and work should go into making one’s dream / desire to become a published author is to mention a non-artist analogy. Someone who decides to start a small business will succeed only if she is willing to commit working like crazy to make it happen. There is the development of the product, market research, drawing up a business plan, time, money and often leg / phone work to promote the business and sometimes a few years of investing both time and labor / hours into running the business with initially no profit. Wow, kind of sounds like the life of a writer. Making a dream a reality in a tough world takes commitment. Thank you, Janet, for the reminder and the real life examples.

    Blessings!

    • Janet Grant says:

      Christine, good point. I remember that, when I decided to start Books & Such, I announced my decision to my brother. He responded, “While you’ll be able to work in your bathrobe; you’ll never work as hard as you’ll have to to make your company succeed.”
      I couldn’t imagine working harder than I already did. Well, let’s just say my imagination has been expanded. Creating, running and growing any business takes the tenacity of a pit bull. If you don’t sacrifice, you’re unlikely to succeed.

  22. Once upon a time, I asked a writer friend of mine (whose children go to public school) how homeschooling moms found time to write. Her reply? “I don’t think they do.”

    I recently turned in my first manuscript (releasing in 2014) and I can tell you that this homeschooling mom of two young boys would never have made her deadline if my family hadn’t seen it as a family affair. My husband gave me all the time his job would allow and even schooled the boys for me when I came to crunch time. My parents kept our boys one full day a week so I could have one 24 hour period to work just on the book (the other days of the week were spent building and maintaining my platform). It was so hard…wonderful, but hard. And I’m so grateful for the way my family and my online friends chipped in to help me do this.

    I feel like even if the book flops (which , of course, I pray it doesn’t!) I’ve been given something of inestimable value: a met goal (earned through prayer, hard work, and determination), and the knowledge that my family is fully invested in my dream. I’m not sure I need much more than that 🙂

  23. I’ve enjoyed all these comments. There were years when I wrote very little with three children in 35 months (resulting in three teen-agers for seven years), and owning and operating an income tax/secretarial service that I eventually sold. I now do freelance editing and proofreading. I helped care for a stepdad with multi-infarct dementia, an elderly uncle with dementia and heart problems, help my 82-year-old widowed sister, and my husband has 14 different diseases and I’ve nearly lost him 12 times, but I just sold my 24th book. It’s amazing how much writing you can do in doctors’ offices and hospital/ICU rooms. No way am I bragging; I just thank God for the strength and the desire He put within me.

  24. Peter DeHaan says:

    Janet, I appreciate your wise response to your business colleague. I hope I can remember that if I ever find myself in the same situation. If not, I fear I will say “Yes” and then regret the waste of time.

  25. Nancy Tubre says:

    I enjoyed reading all of these posts and take courage from them. Writing my first book has felt like running a gauntlet at times. While my husband is encouraging, he simply doesn’t understand how what it takes to write a book, a chapter, even a sentence. He gets impatient if I spend a lot of time on the computer, time that he sees as time away from him. Yes, I know…he’s not a ‘modern’ man. It’s ok, really. He is solid as a rock and treats me like a princess. So I sacrifice, not for writing, for him. When I want to be knee-deep in post-it notes and he needs me to listen to him breath, I do it. I write when I can in bits and pieces but I wish I could devote more time to it. THAT would be awesome! It took me three years to write a small 72K word book but I did it. I self-published it so I know about the difficulties involved. Maybe not all the ropes, but enough. So my book was just released a couple of weeks ago. I don’t know how sales are going (amazon, b&n, etc) or if I even have sales other than friends and family. Because I came to terms early on in the process that this investment may not be one with a return, I am prepared that my precious book might not be everyone’s cup o’ tea. but see that’s the point – I love my story and

  26. This has been such a wonderful discussion. I guess it’s good I made it late to the blog today. I might have missed some great comments, otherwise–proving once again that God’s time isn’t always my own and He knows better.

    As I was reading your post, Janet, I realized I’m not yet at that level of commitment. I write, but often writing is push by the wayside as life gets busier. But I also know I sometimes create my own busyness. This year, I’m doing my best to come closer to the necessary commitment to move forward with my writing: less Internet time, becoming part of groups that help me focus my mind on writing (such as this one), and even looking for a job outside the house instead of working from home, so I can leave work behind at the end of my shift and focus on my writing when instead of working on something else.

    This story has definitely inspired me. Thanks for sharing.

  27. Debbie Erickson says:

    Your passion is when you can’t wait to go to your writing area and dig into your story. It’s the greatest thing when you truly love what you do.
    Thanks, Janet, for you post.

  28. I go to my job as a writer. Although most say the best thing is working in pajamas, I get up and I’m showered and dressed and at my desk working before 9 a.m. (sometimes as early as 6 a.m.) I work till 5 and usually take two breaks during the day. Unless things are rolling along then I just have my family throw food and I stay chained to the desk till the thrill wears off.
    🙂

  29. Diane Stortz says:

    Like Cheryl (hi Cheryl!), I love Janet’s post and have enjoyed the many wonderful comments.

    Ideas never come to me unless I’m looking for them, and the ones that come don’t get developed unless I give them time and attention. I seem to need some space between writing projects … and I’m OK with that. But I’m definitely sensing it’s time to dig in again, and I’m thankful for all the encouragement here today.

  30. Janet,

    Thanks for being a straight-shooter, regardless of the fall-out. I once was encouraged for offering my “labor of love” for free (I’m publishing a serial novel on my website), and it occurred to me that I do it, not because I’m so magnanimous – in fact, I’d FAR prefer to be making BANK on it :-)! – but because my writing is truly something over which I LOVE to labor. I work hard at it, because I’m passionate about it. I DO “sacrifice” – and there are seasons of sacrifice for my family, too – but instead of fighting AGAINST each other, we stand by each other and fight FOR the things of value in our lives, TOGETHER.

    And often the things we value most are the things we’ve fought the hardest for, right?

    So isn’t this really what you’re saying? You’re raising the call to arms?

    Well, I’m Becky, the Braveheart, a Warrior Princess, and my weapon of choice is my pen. It’s all I know. Sacrifice? I don’t call it that. I call it a battle plan and I’m on the front lines, rarin’ to go!

    Blessings,
    Becky

  31. As I prepare my kids’ lunchboxes or pick them up at school or watch them read, I am either thinking about writing or editing…the fact that I have a deadline definitely keeps me on my toes or I would procrastinate and just dream about it all…thanks for the insight!

  32. Yvonne Brown says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this helpful information. It gave me the extra boost that was needed.

    Yvonne

  33. Melissa Risselada says:

    I started a children’s book thinking the words and simplicity of it would just fall out and look on the paper as good as they did in my head, but not so! It took almost a year to get the words just right and now I am going to publish. Even if it’s the last book I publish, I know what it took to get here. So the encouragement for us to follow that carrot is very welcome and since so many let that passion for writing take them to places which feed the need such as late nights, early mornings, etc., it seems alright to me to acknowledge that it happens without thinking it encourages this behavior. I am more whole than I’ve been in a long time. My book is 7 Cats and the Big Gray Fence. I am a writer.

  34. Those of us who write for a living, and that’s how we pay the bills and keep a roof over our heads have to meet the commitments, once we commit. We don’t work 9-5 jobs; while we have some flexibility in our schedules, if we have signed a contract and committed to a deadline, we get up earlier or stay up later and get it done.

    If there is a family emergency, yes, it’s worth asking for an extension, if necessary. If the writer has proven reliability in the past, most publishers will work with the writer and give some wiggle room. But when it becomes a pattern — as it does with many writers — or they use that little laugh with “aha, ha, ha, life got in the way” and they weren’t willing to properly manage their time in order to meet commitments — which is what many aspiring writers do, I experience it all the time in class — that is the writer’s problem, not the publisher’s problem.

    Far too many aspiring writers like the idea of writing, like the idea of having written, but aren’t willing to buckle down and show up to the page every day, even the tough ones. Far too many consider deadlines as suggestion, rather than a commitment.

    There is no such thing as “no time to write.” Writing is ALWAYS a choice. Not writing is ALWAYS a choice. A life-changing crisis can influence that CHOICE not to write, but it is still a choice.

    However, if you keep finding yourself making the choice NOT to write, day after day, you need to rethink if you really want this life.

  35. Elaine Faber says:

    Isn’t it amazing that this blog post could bring about such a lively debate, varying opinions and morph into so many aspects of the writer’s journey. How wonderful that Janet and her crew give us this opportunity to share ideas,compare notes and encourage one another as we start out discussing one thing which leads us into so many other points of discussion. thanks Janet.

  36. Wow, Latayne!
    I used to have a poster that said, “Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true (Cardinal Suens).”

    One test for me as to whether something is a daydream or a life dream lies in the price and my willingness to pay it.

  37. I think your rsponse showed the voice of experience, wisdom and tremendous restraint!!!

  38. Donnie asked me this recently:

    “What makes a book sell to a publisher and sell-through to the readers?

    It’s NOT how fabulous your website or blog is.

    It’s NOT how many facebook or twitter friends you have. (Twits?)

    It’s NOT how many publishing links you forward or put on said website, blog, facebook and twitter.

    It’s NOT how much agents and editors like you as a person.

    What sells a book is: (and you already know this)

    Good entertaining writing coupled with an original and compelling concept.

    That’s all.

  39. Leia Brown says:

    I realize I am a day late commenting here, and most of you have moved on. But I just read this post, and I still would like to say this. When I went overseas as a missionary, it was my passion, my “calling,” the thing I wanted to do more than anything else on this planet. I was a driven woman. I had grand visions of the romance of it all, dreams of the spectacular, but after a few months of living it, those pretty head-pictures crashed into a miserable mound of culture shock. Trying to be a missionary was the hardest stinking thing I had ever done in my life! I called my mother in tears to tell her how much I hated language learning, how much the culture bothered me, how I had no free time. My job consumed my life, and I didn’t like it. My mom was at my uncle’s house, and he said six words to me I have never forgotten: “Anything worth doing is usually hard.” My uncle was not a poetic man, or a highly educated one. But I’ve rarely found an exception to his words. The easy tasks are not usually the most important. Thank you, Janet, for the dose of reality you gave all of us about writing.

    • Janet Grant says:

      Leia, I so appreciate your comment. And, you know, we probably don’t highly value that which is easy. But the hard-to-achieve stuff, well, once we’re through the worst of it, we’re pretty dang proud we did it.

  40. Thanks for that great post, Janet. It’s so full of good things: the truth about writing and the writer’s life, what it means to be a writer, and more. I liked what you said about the three-book deal. Honestly, I can’t think of much that would be more frightening than that. It’s hard to make a commitment to creating on a deadline.