You might have gathered from my previous post that writing has felt a little frustrating recently. And it wasn't just about my writing--the careers of some novelists we know are threatening to come to a screeching halt (since I have yet to publish anything, my writing career has remained safely in the ditch :). They write compelling stories and devote a dizzying amount of time to publicity. Still, their sales numbers are lagging and some of them have been told that their publishers will not enter into another book contract.
Thankfully, Rick has a contract with Abingdon Press on his current work in progress, When the Devil Whistles, but we're very conscious of the need to use publicity as wisely as possible from the very beginning. We're studying what seems to work and what seems to be just busywork. Not that we're anywhere near discovering the magic bullet.
But this morning God spoke to me through novelist Susan Meissner. I don't know her, but she has a rare ability to hook me with her concepts and keep me turning pages. I'm not naturally a fiction reader, so that takes some doing. I noticed that she has a new novel coming out and that her Amazon sales rankings are very good.
A few months ago, Susan wrote a blog post that really stuck with me. She talked about being frustrated with writing, even though she had books out in the marketplace that were doing well. So she did what she had done years ago while struggling to get published: she surrendered her writing career to God, leaving it completely on his altar to do with as he pleased. She would focus on honing her craft, while leaving that which is out of her control in God's hands. God blessed her writing career afterwards, but she didn't necessarily draw a connection--mostly she focused on the effect it had on her.
I'm sure Susan does publicity, but she doesn't dominate social networking sites. She's not the kind of person I look at and say, "Whoa, I could never keep that pace! Why bother trying?" Mostly she seems anchored in God, epitomizing Psalm 46:10: "Cease striving and know that I am God."
And it occurred to me that surrender is the way of the cross: laying down my life (meaning everything) to pick it up. As long as we hold tightly to something, we're not trusting God with it. Control is fueled by subtle fear: "If I don't hold everything together, it will fall apart!"
I see through personal experience how closely surrender is tied to faith. If something is too important to me, I find it hard to pray with faith. But if I regard myself as a stewart of God's business, then a deep certainty of his faithfulness grows within me. I have an easier time yielding some areas of my life than others. But I'm very slowly learning to surrender everything--my family, my money, my writing, and my life--to God.
In writing surrender becomes particularly important because of the revolution of rising expectation. How did Paul Young feel when The Shack was no longer in the top five on Amazon? How about the bestselling novelist whose latest book was panned by critics? If I feel jealous, frustrated, fearful, or proud now, more success will not solve the problem because I will expect more. But if I give my writing to Christ, he will safeguard my heart.
And a final point on surrender: If I keep tight control over my life, God can't use me. But if I surrender it to him, he will fit me into his eternal plan. That doesn't necessarily mean success by worldly standards, but from an eternal vantage point it's the only life worth living.