I gave a keynote address on “Pen to Purpose” at the 10th Annual Vine & Vessels Christian Writers Conference this past weekend and one of the topics I addressed was surrounding yourself with “winners” or the right people who can best help you run your “race” to fulfill your purpose in life. Here are some of the tips I gave that I believe can help everyone along this journey we call life:
- Don’t go it alone.
We writers (all of us from time to time) want to whole up in our cubby holes, man caves, she shacks, writing rooms…I’ve heard many writers say why can’t people just leave us be so we can write our next masterpiece? But God didn’t create us to live in isolation…He created us for fellowship. I know first-hand that alcoholism is a disease of isolation…and the enemy often tells us we’re better than others, we can do things ourselves, who needs other people anyway? We do. Be reciprocal in giving to others of your time and talents (ie., like other’s social media posts, give others reviews, etc. – remember the Golden Rule of what comes around goes around.) You reap what you sow.
- Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Still we can’t trust everyone. I’ve been burned before by “Christians”…editors, publishers, marketing agents, publicists and others who have claimed they had my best interests at heart but really didn’t when it came to money and the bottom line. Now I tend to be extremely gullible when it comes to believing in the good of people, giving them the benefit of the doubt and trusting others. My husband often warns me of this and he is a much better judge of people than I am. So be discerning when looking to find good people to be on your “team” and in whom you confide your dreams and goals. Still, we can’t live in fear and have to trust people once in a while. I’d rather be gullible than overly cynical I guess. And when you are burned, try to forgive and forget, let it go and move on or you’ll stay stuck in regret.
- Age isn’t a factor.
When you’re looking to build your team don’t forget about our youth…they are tech savvy of course (I love that TV commercial where the grandparents are waiting on the front porch for their teenage grandson to arrive – with their laptop in hand to give him to fix!) They are often brilliant (I taught home schooled children ages 10-15 how to write their first book in a local college credit course and I’m really looking forward to seeing their books get published one day!) They can inspire us and hopefully we can guide them with our wisdom and experience. And remember, you’re never too young or old to begin to write, publish and market your book, or follow whatever dream God places on your heart.
- Stay in your lane.
I grew up in a big family and as a first-born my parents always encouraged me to be an over-achiever and as such, I was always very competitive. But I also have always had a tendency to compare myself to others, a tendency which can often stand in your way of achieving God’s individual purpose in your life. One particular author I compared myself to was William Paul Young, author of “The Shack,” which was recently made into a movie. It’s no secret he went from selling books out of the trunk of his car to millions of copies – and getting a movie deal to boot. I once had the pleasure of meeting him and asking how he got where he was. His answer was basically “one step at a time, just keep doing the next best thing.” Feeling frustrated that my sales weren’t like his, I often cried the blues, including to my literary agent, who informed me that Mr. Young won a quarter million dollars on the game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” which I’m sure helped his cause. Yet Mr. Young also faced his share of hardship, including a lawsuit with his friend who published his book. So never judge others’ outsides by your insides. Trust in God’s timing and purpose for YOUR life.
- Expect the unexpected.
We writers also come out of the gate all excited about the great book we just wrote and, with wide-eyed optimism, expect all of our family and friends to embrace us and our new book. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. Even Jesus wasn’t a big hit in his hometown of Nazareth. When he preached in the synagogue, people who knew him basically asked, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” (meaning ‘who does he think he is?’) “Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown.” (Luke 4:24) But once in a while people – even strangers – will pleasantly amaze us. Fellow author and pastor Chris Whaley who was also the 2015 Best Picture Winner at the International Christian Film Festival for his book and adapted screenplay, “The Masked Saint,” not only spent an hour on the phone with me when I called to ask about his success in making his book into a movie, but bought me a ticket to this year’s film festival, where I pitched my books to TV and movie producers (fingers crossed!). Wow. Sometimes all you need to do is be open and ask! Jesus said, “Ask and you shall receive, seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be opened for you.” (Matt 7:7)
A good friend of mine often says, “God will put just the right person in just the right place at just the right time with just the right message.” I believe that to be true. So go out of your comfort zone and connect with others and be open to what they have to say. God tells us, “And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jeremiah 3:15)
Lord, thank you for the good people you have put in my life so far, and for those who are about to cross my path in days to come. Help me be open to the shepherds you send my way.