Authors share their motivation to keep writing.
Writing is difficult—and lonely—enough without the dreary forecast of declining fiction sales. In this iffy market, how can an author stay motivated to keep putting pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard)?
Writers gonna write.
“I really do write because I enjoy it. Because of that, I’ve never lacked motivation to actually sit at the computer and make something up,” says Shelley Shepard Gray, author of 60 books between the inspirational and general markets.
Karen Barnett, also a multi-published author, adds, “even as we ask ourselves if it’s all worth it, we also can’t comprehend the idea of not writing.”
Author and literary agent Cynthia Ruchti takes this idea just a bit further: “We keep writing because we’re compelled to keep speaking the truth wherever and whenever and through whatever means we can.”
Barnett agrees. “Writing isn’t just a job—it’s a creative outlet, a passion, and for many of us, a calling. That calling is our motivation.”
The power of change
As Christian authors, motivation can also be found in acknowledging the power of God, through story, to change lives. But we should also keep in mind the power of industry and market change. “Inventive people are always at work looking for answers to questions about conquering obstacles and hurtling over hurdles. For those of us in Christian publishing, we take courage from our confidence that God’s imagination is not limited by our limitations,” says Ruchti about the cyclical nature of publishing.
Sometimes that change may even come in diversifying our options and writing for more than one publishing house, a strategy that has proved successful for Gray and other authors.
Write in community
Writers (and readers) tend to be loners, but community is key in continued motivation. Shepard Gray has had the same four critique partners for almost 20 years. “We’ve been close and supportive of each other even when it felt like no one wanted to read our manuscripts.”
Barnett’s husband keeps an eye on the stats so she’s freed up to keep her eye on the task God has given her—to write.
Barnett, Gray, and Ruchti have all won multiple awards for their books. But what about the author who is still struggling to get even one book published? Why keep working at it when success is so limited?
Ruchti points us back to the story of Philip and the Ethiopian from Acts 8:26-40. God called Philip away from a successful ministry and sent him to the desert to speak to one person. What Philip couldn’t see at the time was the effect that one Ethiopian had on the spread of Christianity. “Methods of measuring ‘Was that a successful book launch?’ or ‘Was this novel more successful than the last?’ don’t always take into account God’s timetable or His behind-the-scenes influences,” Ruchti says.
Barnett agrees. “When I find myself getting overwhelmed, I remember back to something my friend, Pastor Bill Giovannetti told me: ‘Our job is faith; God’s job is outcomes.’ That idea has stuck with me ever since. If God called me to write, it’s my job to be faithful to that. Whether or not the book is published or whether readers buy it is not my part of the equation. God’s in charge of the outcomes.”
“I still believe that all things considered, being a writer is an amazing blessing,” concludes Gray.
With every blessing come waves of opposition. Ride the waves. The tide may be turning sooner than we think.