I wrote my first story while in
first grade and decided I was a writer. By third or fourth grade,
publishing a novel was on my list of things to do with my life. I’ve
basically never not been writing.
In December 2003, I graduated
from college. In January 2004, no longer obligated to all the papers
required by an English degree, I started drafting the incarnation of my
first full-length novel. I revised it, rewrote it, scrapped it, and
started over; only to revise it and rewrite it. I gobbled craft books
and worked to apply what I learned. For eight years, I worked on the
same book. Along the way, of course, I’ve always had a day job. And I
never once wondered about doing this writer thing. (Really, I never
have. Dedication to People That Don’t Exist, thy name is Amanda.)
My agent signed me in 2012, and
David C Cook offered a contract in 2013 for my four-book series, Haven
Seekers. My debut novel, Seek and Hide, has been
out for a little over a month now, and, as you might have guessed, my
daily routine hasn’t changed. I still work full time as a clerk for a
local municipality. My coworkers make frequent comments like, “We knew
her when,” and “Don’t forget us when,” and “If I keep this signed book
for a year or two, I bet I can auction it on eBay and retire.”
I love them for it, but, of
course, that’s not reality. For most of us authors, the day job
continues. We work during the day, and then we work during the night.
Every author answers that
question his or her own way. I can offer only my answer: I love my
Everything I do—drafting (kill
me now), revising and editing (squee), marketing (yeah, okay, I’ll
try)—all of it is to give my characters a chance to be seen, a chance
to be loved. Since before I could read, story has been my deepest
love—universal magic, the people I create weaving threads of connection
to people I’ve never met. Along the way, I want to be honest about the
darkness of the world we live in and about the only true light, Jesus
Christ. And I want to create the most excellent art I can for His
But there are pitfalls to this
I can’t say these pits are any
deeper for us authors by night than they are for full-time novelists. I
do know that when you’re working forty hours a week (or more for some
of us) then coming home to dredge up creative energy (and this is
ignoring other life necessities like family and friends and church and
grocery shopping), time never feels enough. How to wring more minutes
from the day and the night?
If the Martha/Mary struggle has
become an overused Christian comparison, it’s only because it resonates
so well with us. Authors can become Marthas, too. We’re creating for
God’s glory. Surely He wants us to prioritize this work for Him.
Stephen King wrote in On
Writing, “If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the
time (or the tools) to write.” It’s obvious, isn’t it? Knowledge of our
craft comes from masters of our craft. I can’t write an excellent book
if I never read and soak up excellence.
Just the same, though, I can’t
write a God-honoring book if I never read God’s Word, if I never come
into His presence to praise Him, to confess to Him, to make my requests
known to Him. I can’t write a spiritual journey for my character that
ends in green pastures if I am wandering in a wasteland because I don’t
have time to soak up truth.
Before I write a word, I have to
spend time reading the Word. Before I tackle the spiritual struggles of
my characters, I have to face my own. Before I write toward a
character’s redemption, I have to ask myself, You’re
redeemed; are you acting like it?
Do I always put these priorities
in the correct order? Absolutely not.
Does it mean instant writer’s
block when I don’t? No. God isn’t my word-count genie, demanding I rub
the lamp just so. That said, I definitely observe long-term patterns
that coincide with my priorities. I write best when I’m closest to the
One I’m writing for.
What about you, fellow authors
by night? Why do you put yourself through this craziness? What are some
things that help you maintain priorities?