Thomas Smith

Thomas Smith is an award winning writer, newspaper reporter, TV producer, playwright, and essayist. His work has appeared in a variety of places, from Haunts magazine to Zondervan's New Men's Devotional Bible. A three time winner of the American Christian Writers Association Writer of the Year award, he is also a speaker, musician, worship leader, ordained United Methodist minister, and a pretty fair banjo picker.

thomas Smith

Thou Shalt Publish

My friend and mentor, the late Charles L. Grant, gave me the writing pep talk of my life. Charlie had written and published over 100 books and more short stories than I could count. He wrote horror, romance, YA fiction, nonfiction, science fiction, and a few things that defy genres, all under different names. He was also an award-winning editor and anthologist.

You’d think someone like that would also be a wealth of pithy rah-rah speeches. Well . . . you might think that.

One night about fifteen years ago, after hitting one too many brick walls, I called Charlie and told him I hadn’t written a word in almost six months. His response?

“I don’t care.”

“No, Charlie, you don’t understand, I haven’t written a word in almost six months.”

“Oh, yeah, I do understand. And I still don’t care.”

Some pep talk.

“But Charlie . . .”

“But my butt. I understood every syllable, and I still don’t care.”

He was starting to get on my already frazzled nerves. Then he said something that changed my writing life almost immediately.

“Look. We’ve been friends awhile now, and we’ll be friends whether or not you ever write another word. Just make up your mind. If you are going to write, then write. If not, then quit whining about it.

“There are two kinds of folks in this world. Readers and writers. Both are fine folks and both need each other. If you’re not going to write, then be the best reader you can be. And remember, I have three books coming out in the next six months. The fact is I don’t need the competition, so the fewer writers the better. You’ve got the tools, you’ve got the ideas. You’ve also got the right to use them or not. So write or don’t write. It doesn’t matter to me.

“But does it matter to you? That’s the question.”

It mattered.

It still does.

He called back the next night and asked how many pages I wrote after we got off the phone. I told him seven. And that advice still holds.

I have never done a reading of my own work or a book signing where I didn’t hear this at lease once: I’m going to write something one of these days.

Those people are called readers. And they’re fine people.

But a writer writes. And a serious writer—a published writer— writes on a regular basis, studies the markets, writes dozens of queries, and keeps at it.

Write or don’t write. It doesn’t matter to me. I don’t need the competition.

Are you a writer or a reader?

Both are fine folks.