Blogger: Michelle Ule
Location: Books & Such main office, Santa Rosa, Calif.
I’ve been talking about being a writer my whole life. Even my elementary school-aged daughter, however, was on to my lack of publishing success when she asked ten years ago, “When are you going to write a book I can actually see at the library?”
Sigh. When indeed? Back to the keyboard . . .
In 2003 I attended my first Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. It was a discouraging time on a rainy weekend in March. After several days, I wondered why I had bothered to come. I watched the rain pour down and thought, I should just go home and raise my daughter. It’ll be disappointing if I’m never published, but it will be worse if I don’t do a good job with my child.
The rain stopped, the clouds parted, and a sunbeam shone down.
I laughed. “I’ll take that as a yes, Lord.”
In the years since then, I’ve worked on my craft, written several unpublished novels, attended writers’ conferences, and learned about the publishing industry from my catbird seat at Books & Such. I’ve often thought about abandoning the writing dream, but then I’d remember that sunbeam. When an opportunity arose this summer to submit a romance novella for publication, I seized it.
The day Janet and Rachel received the news that Barbour wanted to publish my novella, The Dogtrot Christmas, as part of their A Log Cabin Christmas Collection, I was at home. They told me they needed some help with a QuickBooks problem and could I come in?
I stopped by with my daughter, and they broke out the cake and champagne. I cried.
The contract arrived the day we drove our daughter to her freshman year at UC Santa Barbara.
We worship a God who puts dreams into our hearts and shows us the way He wants us to go. Sometimes our dreams come true, usually in different ways than we expected. I like to hold my dreams lightly, and let them fly if need be.
How about you? How do you keep a dream alive? And how do you know when God is pointing you in a different direction?
Tomorrow: Actually writing the story
Keeping the dream alive can be difficult and painful. It can be even more difficult trying to figure out when God is pointing you in a different direction. After all, growth often involves patience and pain.
How do I keep dreams alive? First, I ask myself, “Is this dream or desire from God.” If He confirms this, then I know it is just a matter of God’s timing. Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” If I know the dream is from God, and I am following Him everyday and delighting in Him, then it is a reality that the dream will come to pass. That reality may manifest later rather than sooner. Look at Joseph, but nevertheless, it will happen. 🙂
Oh, Michelle…I actually became teary-eyed as I read your post today. So often, we feel as if we are wondering alone in the valley. I’ve been writing for sooo long, and I think that Satan loves throwing up those ol’ roadblocks of discouragement and self-doubt.
I wrote through our child’s chronic illness. I wrote through deaths, family emergencies, and someone telling me, “Oh, that’s just a pipedream.”
Just when I would wonder if I should throw in the towel, God would step in and hand me a victory. Small ones, sometimes, but enough to nudge me forward toward my goal. The small victories that He provided were always “on time” and always just what I needed then.
A new dawn, has finally come..Perhaps, a “first hurdle” for me, a baby step maybe in someone else’s eyes, but confirmation for me that I’m so thankful I hung on to that towel! (My husband and I celebrated with cold, chilled glasses of…iced tea! We didn’t have any champagne!)
Many blessings to you as you venture down a new road!
Melissa K Norris
This is so encouraging, Michelle.
I’ve been writing and pursuing publication for 10 years now. I gave up for a few years, but the desire and dream never left my heart. I finally prayed to God, asking Him to show me whether or not writing was to be a hobby or if I should continue to seek publication. I wanted His plan for my life, not mine.
He made it clear to seek publication, but it will be His timing. Like you, I remember this when I receive a rejection. I continue to learn and have learned so much on my craft this past year.
To the sunbeams in our lives!
What a tender story of perseverance and trust. How precious that your daughter was able to be part of the lovely celebration planned by your co-workers!
At this stage of my life, I am so aware that the Lord knows my heart well. I may have hidden or dismissed dreams, but He does NOT forget. I have been surprised many times when something wonderful happens, and I find myself remembering it was a desire I had tucked away, unsure how it could ever come to pass. And all the while, my current activities were actually preparing me for the realization of my dream.
I used to struggle with the question of whether I would “hear” the Lord if He wanted me to go in a different direction. Now though, I have great confidence in His ability to show me, to get through to me. I am accustomed to His voice….we’ve been together a very long time. I am more in tune with His “whisper” and I don’t require thunder and lightning as often!
Thanks for sharing your adventure in becoming published.
Thanks for sharing, I’m like many of you–whenever I wanted to throw in the towel, something would happen to keep me going.
After a while I just prayed, “Okay, you’ve made it clear I’m to continue. I’m sorry for my unbelief. I’ll try to remember the next time I’m tempted to quit so you won’t have to remind me yourself!”
But some of those reminders were very precious. 🙂
Interesting to me, as I’ve put together my list of project descriptions to take to Mount Hermon this year, I realized I have nine projects in various stages of completion. (I’m like Julie: rewrite, edit, cull, rewrite, edit, quit, reconfigure . . . . it never ends. Though Julie has self-published Over Coffee: We Shared Our Secrets ).
One of those projects was written over a summer, 88,000 words, and when I got to the penultimate chapter, I realized I hated it. “So, what’s the deal here, Lord? Typing practice? I already type 125 words a minute, how fast do you want me to go?”
When I thought about it a little more, I remembered a lot of positive things for the kingdom of God had happened while I sat at my keyboard trying to write a story. Many days I took a hotline–so I was available to help women in crisis. Some days I chatted with friends on IM and helped them through issues–because I was available.
It made me wonder if, perhaps, the writing was just something to keep me occupied so I could be available for what God really needed me to do that summer?
It’s an interesting thought, and it plays into holding those dreams lightly. Maybe God uses a dream for purposes beyond me? 🙂
I loved this: “I should just go home and raise my daughter. It’ll be disappointing if I’m never published, but it will be worse if I don’t do a good job with my child.”
Because isn’t that what we all fear to some degree? That we are just wasting our time? Congratulations that your journey led to publishing your book. We would all do well to follow your example in remembering that sometimes the journey of writing itself is an act of obedience. We write because of what God will teach us in the process.
Thank you for your honesty. CS
The nice thing about being a writer……..
……..is that you can do it.
Think about it: how many other dreams allow you to actually accomplish it? We are writers: if we want to follow our dream, we sit down and WRITE 🙂
Now consider people who want to be President, or an astronaut (there are even a few guys I know who still persist in claiming they will one day be cowboys).
All we need is a pen, not zero-G training or a sturdy saddle (though maybe a comfy chair is a requirement…)
Michelle, what an inspirational story! The thing that helps to keep my dream alive is positive feedback when people read my work. Although I am still honing my skills it keeps me motivated when people tell me I am on the right road and they can’t wait to read more….and no I am not talking about my mom even though she is a big supporter, ha! As writers it is important that we support each other though. As Christians it is a MUST! 🙂
I loved this post. You made me cry. I’m all for holding the dreams lightly and for keeping first things first. Loving and serving have to start in the home or our ministries will be dry and barren and leave us, and those we think we’re ministering to, dissatisfied.
Michael K. Reynolds
You not only told a heartwarming story about your journey, but we also learned your colleagues at Books & Such are tricky folks! It’s a blessing for me to be part of such a wonderful family that understands and cares for writers so deeply.
Love those CLEAR messages from God. I’ve been blessed with a couple of those along the way.
So far I haven’t had to keep my dream alive–it simply won’t die! I don’t know if it’s foolish optimism, the Holy Spirit or something else, but even when I feel discouraged I just can’t fathom quiting.
I decided to learn to play the cello a couple of years ago. After two years of lessons I’d proved that I could do it (though not well). I played a really simple piece in a friend’s wedding and I was done. Whatever urge had driven me was satisfied. The urge that drives me to write has never been satisfied and so I’ll just keep plugging away until something says enough.
This is so very inspiring. Thank you!
jane G Meyer
What a lovely story, Michelle. Wishing you all sorts of good and blessed things as you head out on this new path!!!
Janet Ann Collins
Thanks for sharing your story, Michelle.
I’ve had several times when God has shown me I’m supposed to keep writing in spite of discouragement. But one thing I’ve learned is that it’s not all about getting rich and famous, but rather about having something we write touch even one person when they need to read it.
pat jeanne davis
Your story is so inspiring, Michelle. Like others I wonder if my dream to be published as a novelist is God’s plan for me. My hubby’s support keeps me pointed in that direction. Another encouragement comes from small successes with non-fiction. Thank you for sharing here. Congratulations on the release of your debut with Barbour.
What an amazing story, Michelle. It’s wonderful to hear how a sign from above helped you keep your dream alive.
Part of me was too stubborn to let my dream die, but I also felt called to write a certain book. I followed along the path I thought I was supposed to go, but I struggled with it. I spent some time away from the project, but then God led me to discuss it with my pastor, who said, “So, this is a kid’s book?” I had never intended it to be a kid’s book, but right away my mind started working again and I got excited.
Considering Little Shepherd was published last fall, I feel certain I just took a mini-detour in getting there, and that with His guidance, I wrote the book I was destined to write.
Keep dreaming, Michelle. God must have great things in store for you.
My epiphany came in the context of an entirely different struggle, but the lesson applies to my writing as well. I was distressed, discouraged and often in tears. I turned on the radio in the midst of a sermon; I don’t know who was preaching or the overall point of the message. One sentence jumped out to me, and I’ve never forgotten it: “God doesn’t call us to succeed; He calls us to obey.” God has called me to write. My job is to obey.
Thank you for sharing this encouraging piece of your journey – and, congratulations!
To help overcome discouragement, I try to celebrate the small accomplishments (they inspire so greatly!) and keep my focus on why I’m writing – to spread His love and praise Him. Doubt on my abilities still creeps in, but, like Cheryl again, I remain pretty stubborn!
I’ve loved reading all these encouraging comments from the others here today, too!
Thanks, again, for all your sharing and good wishes.
One of the best things about working with Christians if the encouraging words. Don’t you love how we can rejoice with those who rejoice–as well as grieve with those who grieve? We’re not in this life alone and I love to hear the stories.
Blessings to you all–we serve a great King, who asks us to obey and follow his lamp for our feet. There is joy in serving the King!
I remember having a conversation with you on this topic last year at Writing for the Soul. Congratulations!!
This is how I felt when I edited my first book and realized that this what what I was supposed to be doing… 🙂