Most people don’t start their journey to becoming a published author the way I did. I actually started my book (Epic Grace: Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, Tyndale) as a journal for my children and grandchildren. My goal was to pass along some of the lessons I’d learned the hard way. I had no aspirations of getting anything published. My journaling was simply an act of love for the generations who would follow in my wake.
After reading my ramblings, my wife said, “This is really good. I think you should consider getting it published.” I literally laughed and said, “Who would want to read about my life?” But just for the fun of it, I passed a very rough draft along to some friends. Imagine my surprise when they agreed with my wife! A few months later, I won a writing contest and ended up with a book contract. The rest, as they say, is history.
My life has radically changed over the past year, and I have learned a lot in my publishing journey. Let me share with you a few important lessons I’ve learned along the way.
1. Don't write to be validated; write for the benefit of others and God’s kingdom. It's not just about you (or me). More than once, I’ve been tempted to write out of some foolish need to be approved by others. I’ve lived too much of my life with a performance orientation. Here’s an important question we all need to wrestle with: Why are you doing what you are doing? Why do you write if you’re a writer or sing if you’re a performer? If it’s truly an act of selfless love for the benefit of others, I believe God will bless you beyond your wildest imagination.
2. Have a humble heart and a hefty hide. I wrote this note in my personal journal early in the editing process of my book: What’s black and blue and red all over? A rookie author and his manuscript in the hands of a professional editor! It was a bit painful at first. When you’ve created something and you’ve poured your blood, sweat and tears into a manuscript, it’s like having a baby, and nobody wants to be told their baby isn’t perfect. However, one day it hit me, my editor is making me a better me. I learned to humbly listen, and I’ve grown because of it.
3. Stay the course and keep writing. You are not as bad or as good as you might think. Dealing with the emotional aspects of writing is critical. I’ve finished a couple of marathons in my life, and I know from experience, you have to put in a lot of time and miles to prepare for 26.2 miles of running. Frankly, I’m a better writer today than I was a year ago, and I will continue to grow. I have no idea how “Epic Grace” will do in the market, but I’m excited about my next book (already in progress; working title: Epic Life), and I believe it will be better.
4. If you don't ask—the answer is always “no.” No one likes to be rejected. Asking professional people and successful authors for an endorsement can be emotionally risky. You better learn how to deal with rejection. But if you don’t ask for the support, you’ll probably never get it. No one called me and offered to write an endorsement; I called them. You’d be surprised to know who I asked. Admittedly, I got a little too bold and crazy. (What? Obama! You’re too busy?) Yet “Epic Grace” ended up with 24 amazing endorsements. The list includes several best-selling and award-winning authors and a number of mega-church pastors. Here’s what you need to know: I asked over 50 people. Do the math; that means I had an over 50 percent rejection rate. It’s okay. Deal with it, and just keep asking. It’s good for your character.
5. If you don't manage your time well, you won't manage to survive. We’re all busy. I pastor a large church. I have a large family. I actually already have a very full and fulfilling life. At first, I had no idea how I was going to meet all the demands and keep all the plates spinning. It was a serious concern. Sadly, somebody once said, “Your life gets lived while you are doing other things.” I so did not want that to be true of me. My goal has always been to live with intentionality and purpose. So I prayed hard, “God, give me the wisdom to know what to do and not to do and when to do it.” He answered my prayer. (I also learned how to live with less sleep!)
I’m still growing, still learning, and still amazed at the goodness of God. And I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything. It truly has been epic!
- When the Lights Go Out - November 23, 2015
- Do you have a big but? - September 10, 2015
- The Church is Messed Up! - March 23, 2015
- Growing old, but keeping a childlike faith - September 12, 2014
- Relational lessons learned the hard way - September 6, 2014
- Why God messes with our mess - August 25, 2014
- Words matter - July 21, 2014
- What makes God smile? - July 13, 2014
- Cupid might be stupid! - February 14, 2014
- 7 practices for dealing with church conflict - January 28, 2014