Sherri Lewis

Sherri L. Lewis is the Essence Bestselling author of My Soul Cries Out, Dance Into Destiny, and The List. She attended Howard University as an undergraduate, then medical school at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. By day, she “ministers” as the staff physician at a Georgia Department of Corrections’ Women’s prison. Sherri is co-founder of the Atlanta Black Christian Fiction Writers’ Critique Group with Essence Best-Selling author Tia McCollors. She is also a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers and founding president of the organization’s Southeast Atlanta Visions In Print chapter. She lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

Such Is My Life

My best friend knows better than to break up with her boyfriend or have any major crises while I’m writing...

It’s Saturday night, and I’m squinting at my computer screen through eyes blurred by the lack of sleep. Why? I’m an author by night, and quite honestly, I forgot I had promised to write this article . . . in spite of the numerous e-mail reminders sent by my dear friend and editor to jog my memory.

Such is my life right now. I work full time as a physician in a state women’s prison. I have two published novels and often travel on the weekends for book events. I’m preparing for a March 2009 release, so I’m in marketing and advertising mode. And if all that wasn’t enough, in a moment of overwhelming inspiration and surrender, I signed up for my church’s ministry school, which meets at least three times a week. Insane? Absolutely. I have no choice but to admit it.

So how exactly do I manage full-time everything and being an author? I’ve learned to make the most of little chunks of time: While lying in the bed first thing in the morning, I imagine full scenes. Then I type them during my lunch break at work. Before I go to the gym after work, I scribble notes. When I get home from the gym, I type out the scenes or plot points. I write while waiting in line at the DMV. I plot while getting groceries at Wal-Mart. And Atlanta’s ridiculous traffic isn’t the annoyance it used to be. It’s prime scene daydreaming time.

Saturdays are a great joy if I don’t have to travel or do a local book signing. I can think of nothing better than spending the day in my pajamas with my laptop, a never-ending cup of coffee (decaf of course), listening to jazz, and hanging out with the characters in my head.

Unfortunately, when I’m in writing mode, some things get sacrificed in the author-by-night life. My friends and family all know the signs and symptoms of my going “underground” to write: missed calls; unreturned voice mails and text messages; e-mails a few days after the fact. My best friend knows better than to break up with her boyfriend or have any major crises while I’m writing. My family makes sure I come over at least once a week to make sure I have a decent meal other than cereal and frozen food.

None of this could be accomplished without my faithful and honest critique partners. Every few chapters, I send off the latest work with an “am I on the right track?” e-mail. I get feedback as to whether I should carry on or wipe the slate clean and start all over.

And then there’s divine intervention. I wrote my last novel under what had to be the pure anointing of the Holy Spirit, because there was no way what happened was accomplished by human means. I sat down with a critique partner on a Saturday night to plot out a new book. I started the book Sunday after church and typed THE END on a 70,000-word novel two Sundays later. I still don’t know how that happened.

For the first week, every day when I came home, I didn’t allow myself to get up from the computer until I had typed at least 4,000 words. The next week, I took a vacation week off from work and wrote all day, every day. The last day I wrote 13,000 words. (My wrists are still sore!) It took a lot of discipline, but I have to give God most of the credit. I’ve never been filled with such inspiration and creativity. And my dear critique partner read

the entire book pretty much in one sitting. She sent me a 2:00 AM e-mail telling me how awesome it was. Of course, it required editing, but to complete a first draft in two weeks was one of the most amazing things that’s ever happened in my life.

When I get an e-mail from a reader telling me how much my novel changed her life, it makes whatever sacrifices I’ve made all worth it. Some of the best encouragement has come from my patients in prison. One told me that my novel, Dance into Destiny, made her think about her future and her destiny and that she could have an amazing life beyond the prison walls. Another inmate who was illiterate had her roommates read both my novels to her because she wanted to enjoy them like everyone else. We made a deal that by the time my third book comes out in March, she’ll be able to read it herself. She signed up for a reading course that same day. An inmate with a life sentence spent a Sunday curled up in bed with one of my novels. She skipped meals, smoke break, yard calls—everything. She told me that reading it carried her outside the walls of the prison into another world, and that she’d enjoyed one of her best days in seventeen years.

It’s important to realize that when God has called us to something, He makes it possible for us to do it. He gives us overwhelming grace, anointing, and creativity to complete whatever task we’ve committed our hearts to. I stay focused on my goal of putting out at least one book a year and fix my heart on the truth that I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. God always empowers us to fulfill our life’s call.

So until I get that huge book deal with the huge advance, I’ll continue to learn how to use every waking moment (and some sleeping ones—sometimes I dream scenes!). I’ll trust God to continue to help me through my journey as an author by night.

Dance Into Destiny