Real Hope for Writers in 2013

Mary Keeley

Blogger: Mary Keeley

I woke up New Year’s Day to a plethora of tweets expressing excitement about the brand new year: fresh start, clean slate, and all that. But precious few of those tweets mentioned hope as a factor. Today, let’s have a practical discussion about true hope and prepare to stay grounded in it all year.

Most writers feel enthusiastic at the beginning of a new year. But how long does it usually last for you? Until you get the first or second discouraging feedback on your manuscript or a rejection letter? In that case, you have to ask yourself on what do you base your current enthusiasm.  How much derives from the fact you are refreshed and eager to work hard on your manuscript in hopes of getting an agent or a contract? How much is founded on confidence in the One who is HOPE?

If you know God has called you to write, you know about the hard work and learning involved. And that the learning will never end. Why do we humans tend to focus primarily on our end of the partnership, which can lead to quick discouragement when you don’t get the response we desire? Perhaps it’s our sense of responsibility. Or maybe there is a pride factor: We like to think our accomplishments are our own doing.

Obviously, you need to work hard at your craft, build your platform, learn about the industry—all the components you hear us talk about on this blog. But make this year special by focusing on discovering how God is growing you to prepare you for a theme he wants you to convey in your writing. Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the Left Behind Series among many other books and owner of Christian Writers Guild, has this to say:  “If you plan to make a life of writing, you must stand for something, have a carefully considered and lived-out worldview.”

Your preparation may come in the form of struggles or hardship. But God is the giver of your talent and the giver of HOPE. It’s one thing to know this in your head and another for true hope to saturate your heart and steady your spirit during times of stress or when discouragement knocks at your door.

Regardless of how you may feel about Donald Trump, he recently tweeted this useful advice: “To be successful, you must become very good at finding creative solutions to what appear to be impossible problems. – Think BIG.” It was his statement that prompted this blog as I thought about how to apply it to a writer’s life. By aligning your creative ability to God’s role of leadership in your career each day, you have access to the biggest creative thinker in the universe. And you will increase the potential to accomplish all he intends for your writing. Go deep with him this year, anchor yourself to real hope and his timing, and work hard at your craft. That’s a big thought for real success at his purpose for you.

When do you get discouraged in your career? What helps you “ride the waves” and maintain a positive outlook?

59 Responses

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  1. Navdeep Kaur says:

    I get discouraged when I see that the road I have to travel is a long one. I don’t have enough discipline yet to travel the long road faster–I know I will have to wait. But what keeps me going is the fact that I do have a purpose as a writer. I want to be the voice of a minority people and hopefully share at least a few stories to help them be understood. I’m not Christian, but the universal God is my guide. My religion is my motivation and its history is the fuel.

    Sikh means a lifelong student. The definition itself calms me down and allows me to make mistakes, take my time, learn at my pace, and accept rejections and setbacks as part of the learning process.

    Thank you for this post; it helped put into words some of the internal-going-ons I have been experiencing since accepting the writing life.

  2. Sarah Thomas says:

    Romans 5 – “And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame.”

    When I get discouraged I try to remember that while the path begins with suffering, it moves on from there!

  3. Tari Faris says:

    Thank you for this. As a swirl of New Year blogs have gone by, I have sat down a number of times itching to write out some resolutions. But every time I did, it never would come together. Finally I switiched “I will…” to “Thy will…”
    All of the sudden, the pen wouldn’t stop. I am not suggesting that I don’t need to set goals. But my goals need to be focused on making good habit that make time for God to work in my personal life, my family, and my writing. But I need to persue God and leave the outcome to Him.
    I do feel called to write and I have felt God confirmation over and over. But like any gift He gives, I need pour out my best and leave the results to Him. He is never slow in taking us where He wants us to go.
    I am excited about 2013 and I have struggled to put my finger on it. But I think you said it best. Hope. I have hope God is going to do something big in my life this year. Big by the world standards? Who knows? I think the fact that the God of the Universe wants to know me and be active in my life is pretty big. May I never need more than that.

    • Tari, thanks for sharing your “Thy will” experience with us. That’s an excellent approach when praying and thinking about goals and dreams.

    • Jeanne T says:

      Beautiful thoughts, Tari. Like Johniie said, I love how you switched from “I will…” to “Thy will…” Thanks for sharing this. 🙂

    • Jan Thompson says:

      What an encouragement. I’m the same way. When I try to write my own way, the pen sputters, and runs out of ink. When I say, OK, Lord, have it Your way, then windows and doors and worlds open, and I can’t write fast enough!

      I like that reminder, Tari. Thanks! “Thy will” as in “Thy will be done, Lord, not mine.” Jesus is our example of perfect hope. In Christ, I know my hope is sure.

      It reminds me of these words by Stuart Townend and Keith Getty (“hope” caps emphasis mine):

      “In Christ alone my HOPE is found,
      He is my light, my strength, my song;
      this Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
      firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
      What heights of love, what depths of peace,
      when fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
      My Comforter, my All in All,
      here in the love of Christ I stand.”

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Well said, Tari. Thanks. “He is never slow in taking us where He wants us to go.” There’s a reminder to stick on our computer monitors. With God in the lead we have every reason to hope BIG. And our hope honors and pleases Him.

  4. Thank you for this post, Mary. I am in one of those discouraging times now. Issues with my new release have weighed heavily on my mind, and though I know it’s in His hands, I can’t help but wonder how my excitement turned to disappointment so quickly.

    That said, I spent time reading the first three chapters of Jeremiah this morning. During this tumultuous time in Old Testatment history, God compares Israel and Judah to prostitutes seeking lovers who turned away from him. And though His anger is clear, He begs them to return to Him because they belong to Him.

    This reminds me that no matter what disappointments I suffer, I am still victorious because I belong to Him. Knowing this, and being aware that He has a plan for me, helps keep me from staying upset too long.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Cheryl, I’m sorry you’re experiencing a discouraging time. The writing life can feel like a roller coaster ride, but isn’t is wonderful that when you went to God’s Word for encouragement, he spoke victory to your heart! I hope you have a great year.

  5. “By aligning your creative ability to God’s role of leadership in your career each day, you have access to the biggest creative thinker in the universe.” This is the quote that’s going on my desk this year. Thank you for it, Mary.

  6. Ah, hope. It can be a tricky thing, because I think I DO tend to slip into relying on myself to achieve things…I become hopeful in doing, instead of hopeful in being (in God’s presence, soaking in His glory, that is).

    I experienced my first writing rejections last year, but I also experienced forward motion. No, I don’t yet have an agent or a contract, but I see clear evidence that my writing is improving and that my efforts have been worthwhile. I feel a deep abiding peace that everything will happen in God’s time. Who knows…that might mean I’m never published, that He brought me here to remind me that it’s NOT all up to me. But I have a peace–which certainly didn’t come from my Type A, often-stressed-out personality–and I know that I know that I know that HE WILL DO THIS. He is faithful, and I can trust Him to lead me. Question is…will I remember to follow?

    Here’s to great things and learning to simply “be” in God–to hope in Him–in 2013.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      “…I become hopeful in doing, instead of hopeful in being in God’s presence….” There’s the complete explanation for discouragement in less than a full sentence. Thanks, Lindsay.

      And yes, let’s pray and hope for great things–through Him–in 2013.

  7. I have been most discouraged when a slew of writers, including some I didn’t think were ready yet, have received contracts within a short space of time, and left me treading water, bobbing in their wake.

    Yet I have always known that if I do my part, God will reward me. I attribute every advancement in my writing career to His hand. The only thing stopping me is… me. And the discipline required to become a published author. I can’t take that success away from anyone else, no matter how much I cry out, “Why not me?”

    Thanks to Tricia Goyer, I finally have my word for this year… DISCIPLINE.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Ah, great word for 2013, Anita. Discipline is such a good word. Discipline to commit our work and the results to God daily. Discipline to make the most productive use of each day. Discipline to set boundaries around our time with God, family, writing, and service, and time to nurture each.

  8. Mary, bless you for writing this post!

    Contest feedback can be so discouraging. Someone gives you a great score, raves about your story, your talent, tells you to keep at it, gives you nothing to work on :/; and then the other judge–or two–questions your first line, thinks you need to take your plot back to the drawing board, thinks you’re too far out there for CBA, doesn’t get you at all.

    And boom, you’re down. You worry you’re writing for too much of a niche market, that your book is too out there to ever sell. And then you question yourself and your talent and everything.

    It’s hard not to yo-yo like that. It’s hard to say I’m writing the story God wants me to write and I’ll keep at it. It’s a lot of time to invest, only to have it not go anywhere. And it’s hard not to think about that.

    But like Wendy said the other day, we do our part and God steps in to do His part.

    I should go crosstitch that on a pillow while I’m thinking about it!

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Amen, Sally. I can’t remember how many times “Be anxious for nothing” and “Fear not” appear in the Bible, but it’s A LOT. When we have learned and worked our hardest, we can rest. Results are God’s responsibility. Keep that pillow near your computer.

  9. Jeanne T says:

    Mary, what a timely post! I’m learning to keep my hope in God rather than in people or things coming to pass. It’s hard to keep my eyes on Him sometimes, but when I do, I weather life’s disappointments a little more graciously.

    I find myself disappointed at times when I feel like I’m not learning craft and how to implement it fast enough. And when I get back harsh contest scores.

    The thing that keeps me grounded is knowing that God gave me the story I’m writing, and He has His perfect plans for it, whether or not it includes publication. Of course, I “hope” it does, but ultimately my story, and I am in His hands.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Jeanne, from the perspective that writing is a life-long learning process, you are probably growing faster than you think. You are grounded in a peace-filled place where creativity can thrive. I hope you have a great year.

  10. The funny thing about waves is, they never stop. I grew up seeing the ocean every day. Even at night,when the moon was high and the waves slowed to a ripple, the waves still came.
    And they can’t ever be stopped. Moses parted the sea, but he didn’t stop it. Surfers, fisherman and sailors know how to read a wave and behave accordingly. Only the best of the best dare go out in a storm, and it’s because they know what they’re doing.

    My writer friends help me stay grounded and focused when I get negative feedback. They know how to peel me off the ceiling and help me snap out of it and look at what the criticism can do FOR me, not TO me. They help me get back on my surfboard and send me back out. And I happily do the same for them.
    Kathryn Stockett, who wrote ‘The Help’, had almost 60 rejections. I plan to have less than her. WAY less. Unless God decides I need to own some kind of record for rejections. 🙂

    One of the characters in my book starts to get really angry about a terrible injustice and when he starts to let it take over, God whispers in his ear, “My son, did I give you a spirit of fear?”. Once the man sees that his eyes are too focused on the possible, then he lets go and lets God handle the IMpossible.

    Someone I respect greatly, hugely and even ALOT told me something recently that knocked my socks off. The person said “you’re a wonderful writer”. This wasn’t my mom or dad, or a crit partner, a civilian/non-writer or even someone I know well at all. This was someone with their name on a book or two,or more. So, I guess, I’ll quote that phrase when the going gets rough. Oh yes, I will be writing that persons’s name in the front of my very first “thank you” section.

    God gives us what words we need, when we need them. And His words don’t always come with trumpets blaring and angels singing. Sometimes they come in emails.

    So, bring on the surf. 2013 is gonna be a half pipe on a beautiful day.

    • You know I love those surfing allusions, Jennifer–half-pipe away!

      And I’ve found that the more I write and don’t look AROUND me at other writers, the better I feel about things. I appreciate feedback and good crits as much as the next gal, but I have to focus on my own goals and not try to fill someone else’s footsteps with my career trajectory.

      Great point about worldview, Mary. I totally agree. Every author has a worldview and we want to be sure the one we’re promoting through our characters’ actions/learning experiences is Biblically sound. Yet another reason to pray about every book we start.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Great thought, Jennifer. God sends the best encouragements in the moments he knows they’re needed. Are you going to frame that email and hang it by your computer?

  11. Mary, at times of discouragement, I think about past storms that God has brought me through, and I’m usually brought to my knees as I remember that His plans have always been better than mine.

    I do tend to be a glass-half-full kinda gal because I know my Father can change circumstances in a heavenly heartbeat. (The mere thought sends chills down my spine!)

    In Sunday School, our class is about to begin A.W. Tozer’s Pursuit of God. I’m amazed at this man’s life and the legacy of courage he left.

    Loved your post!

  12. Michelle Lim says:

    Discouragement sometimes creeps up on me when I am overtired, or find myself failing in one area of my life. That is why this year I am adopting the word Balance. Keeping my life in balance helps prevent discouragement before it sets in.

    A verse that has really encouraged me lately is:

    Proverbs 16:3 “Commit to the Lord whatever you do and your plans will succeed.” (I think I’m posting that on my computer this year.)

  13. Shauna says:

    Perhaps the best New Years/writing advice I’ve read : ) Thanks.

  14. Lisa says:

    This post steadies my heart and all your comments encourage me. You are all such wise ladies!

    If I am honest, I feel discouragement in the writing life every day. But, each day God gives me something inside that says to stand back up and keep going. I write for something so much greater than myself, that hope keeps me going 🙂

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Thanks for your kind words, Lisa. God’s daily nudge to “Stand back up and keep going” is his personal victory and provision for you. He is a powerful partner, isn’t he.

  15. Soooo true!!! My two favorite verses of the Bible are: 1)I remembered you, O God, and I groaned–because I too often forget; And 2)Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all the rest will follow–because it’s the answer to the problem in the first verse.
    The great thing about having gotten serious about my writing over the last few years is that now, when I read the Bible, the “characters” pop out to me in ways they didn’t before. I often choose books of the Bible to read that relate to a theme or a Biblical figure and now I find myself immersed in their lives. I’ve already found purpose in my writing–drawing me closer to God. I hope it will spill over to others, one day, and draw them closer as well.
    Great reminder!!!!!

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Interesting, Connie. I see what you mean. I learn much about human nature–shortcomings, strengths, character and lack of it–when I read about the lives of people in the Bible. I, too, hope readers will be drawn closer to God as they read your books.

  16. I never set out to be a writer. When I started my blog a little more than a year ago, I simply wanted to inspire Christian parents to build Christ-centered homes and not rely on church attendance for building faith. But as I wrote over the last year, I changed in significant ways. I found that writing my insights changed me and grew me spiritually in ways I had never before experienced. At the same time, I felt a yearning to write more deeply on this topic, in a way that only a book would allow.

    I started learning about publishing, with newbie eyes of excitement. Then, over time, I realized I was feeling discouraged by reading how discouraged so many would-be authors are! I am just now working on my first proposal, but I’m finding it difficult to feel hopeful seeing how many wonderful writers are struggling to be published. In other words, I’m discouraged via others’ discouragement! All this before I even encounter a rejection of my own work.

    Your post is so timely, as it reminds me that my hope must remain that God will use me in whatever way He sees fit. I always think of Matthew 3:9: “Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones.” Though the context is different, it is still a reminder to me that God can use anyone He wants for anything He wants; we can’t take ourselves too seriously. I hope that He will use me through writing, and I am being faithful to what I feel is that calling, but I remain open to where He leads. Perhaps I should call this goal “humble hope.” 🙂

    • Mary Keeley says:

      I appreciate your perspective, Natasha. “Humble hope.” I think that’s the most pleasing kind in God’s eyes. Isn’t it freeing to know he can use anyone he wants for his purposes. Our part is to be willing and do our best with great courage.

  17. As I contemplated the one word, above the others, that I would focus on this year, it’s been hope. The Lord has continually reminded me of Jeremiah 29:11 – “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you HOPE and a future.” Whenever I get discouraged, I remember that my dreams were first and foremost His plans. As I seek His will, I need to stay focused on His word and His promises, because when I do, I will have hope fill my heart. And hope is the thing that energizes me and helps me pursue my dreams. I have hope that no matter what plans God has for me, He will prosper me and not harm me – He has a good future for me.

    • Mary Keeley says:

      Beautifully stated, Gabrielle. I’ve been wondering when someone would mention Jeremiah 29:11. It’s an often quoted verse, but you described practical application of its deep promise. Thank you.

  18. I repeat to myself the greatest truth in the universe.

    “Jesus loves me – this I know – for the bible tells me so.”

  19. Jennifer valent says:

    I absolutely love this, Mary! Thank you for taking the time to remind us why we write and that nothing is better than knowing we’re doing what He specifically planned for us to do.

  20. Leanne says:

    Isaiah 41:10. “Fear not; For I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” Kjv

    Be encouraged everyday you don’t find a rejection letter in the mail box. Keep believing in yourself and your talent. Believe good things will happen and they will. Simply put, keep the faith and keep on keeping on. While challenges arise, they will only make you stronger.

  21. “But God is the giver of your talent and the giver of HOPE.”

    I loved those words! Thanks for sharing this post. I needed it. I confess I’m sorely lacking in hope right now, perhaps because I’ve been looking for it in the wrong place.

    I’m also mulling over the quote from Jerry Jenkins you shared. I loved your comment that God is growing me to prepare me for a theme he wants me to convey in my writing. This is something I’ve been thinking about lately. In my writing I tend to let my themes and messages grow organically, so it feels strange to think in such specific terms about what the mission of my writing might be. But I’ve discovered that the concept of grace is never far from any of my writing. Grace is what captures my imagination and steals my concentration during sermons. 😉 I think that may be a clue as to my personal mission statement. How perfect that God would give me–a scatter-brained panster–the theme of grace!

  22. Peter DeHaan says:

    When it comes to my writing and my career, I prefer the word “faith” instead of “hope.” While I can hope things will work out, I have faith they will. The only unknown is if my idea of things working out is the same as God’s or different.

  23. Mindy says:

    Over a year ago I sat at my laptop thinking, “I have to get published. I don’t know what else to do with my life. Writing is the only talent/passion I’ve got that I would want to make a career of.” And I panicked, because that’s a tad overwhelming to have sitting on you shoulders. I wasn’t feeling much hope.

    Then that still small voice came. He revealed to me that if I do get published, it’s just a stepping stone on my journey to Him. That every big moment in life (marriage, career) and small moment (brushing teeth, grocery shopping) are all just stepping stones on our journey to Him.

    And that gives me hope no matter what I’m facing.

  24. Thank you for this. Jeremiah 29:11 came to mind as I read your words, but I see Gabrielle has already mentioned how the hope it instills can be all we need to reinforce our trust in his plans for us.

    The ‘One Word’ I chose for 2013 is Determination. I am determined to continue seeking God’s will for my life and my writing, and to put more effort into the publication areas over which I have control, such as quality of writing and the querying process. All of that will be undergirded by hope. He has prodded me along this path so I have every hope that he has a destination in mind for me.