The Best Gift for a Writer

by Liz Johnson, @lizjohnsonbooks

At this time of year, the internet is abuzz with suggested shopping lists. Don’t know what to get your favorite gadget lover? There’s a list for that. Not sure how to surprise the decorator on your list? There’s a list for that. Looking for something for the reader in your life? Oh, there are endless lists for them. And pretty good ones, at that.

There are even lists with gift suggestions for writers. They include lots of pretty pens, vivid notebooks, and even new laptops. And I don’t know any writer who doesn’t love those things.

But as I was thinking about what items I’d put on a gift list for writers, I realized that the best gift a writer can get isn’t one that can be purchased. And it can’t be given to them. It’s one they have to give themselves.

Patience.

I wish it was agent agreements and book deals and bestseller lists, but the truth is that none of those come without a whole lot of patience first.

When we first get started, we dream of all of the things that overnight success brings. Fame, fortune, and a recliner life. And we think that our first efforts must be worthy. After all, we know good work, right?

I love how Ira Glass, from This American Life, puts it. “All of us who do creative work get into it because we have good taste. But it’s like there’s a gap. That for the first couple years that you’re making stuff, what you’re making isn’t so good. It’s trying to be good. It has ambition to be good, but it’s not quite that good. But your taste, that thing that got you into the game—your taste is still killer.”

That disparity between what you’re creating and your taste leads to disappointment. We’ve all be there, where what we create isn’t up to the standard of what we want it to be. And some of us quit. We just give up on ever reaching the point where our art matches our taste.

And what a loss that is for the world. We have important stories to tell. So how does giving up help? But how do we get from where we are to where we want to be?

“The most important possible thing you can do is do a lot of work,” Glass says. “Do a huge volume of work. It’s only by doing a huge volume of work that you’re going to catch up and close that gap.”

And do you know what that requires? Patience.

It means writing story after story, manuscript after manuscript knowing that it might not have that special thing just yet. But also knowing that every practice, every word on a page is getting you one step closer to being the writer you want to be.

Marathon runners don’t begin by running 26.2 miles in record time. Why should writers be different? Why should we be able to create a bestselling work on our first try? It’s normal to take time to let your talents grow and strengthen. So take the time. Put in the work. Write the books. Take the classes. Study the craft.

And give yourself the gift of an unhurried, unrushed journey.

Maybe you’re already there. Maybe your book is stellar, and you can’t wait to indie publish. Would waiting until the second and third books are done be better for your marketing strategy?

Maybe you’re dreaming of traditional publishing, but the doors keep closing. Don’t give up. Keep practicing—both your writing and your patience.

Wherever you’re at in the writing journey, give yourself the best gift you can. Give yourself the patience to grow into a writer whose talent matches your taste. Give yourself the gift of a well-planned launch strategy. Give yourself the gift of pitching to that dream publisher one more time.

Patience is the gift that keeps on giving, so be generous with it all year long.

Have you given yourself the gift of patience? What did that mean for you?


On Love’s Gentle Shore

Fifteen years after she left Prince Edward Island, Natalie O’Ryan had no plans to return. But when her fiancé, music producer Russell Jacobs, books their wedding in her hometown and schedules a summer at Rose’s Red Door Inn, she sets out to put the finishing touches on the perfect wedding. But she can’t possibly prepare for a run-in with Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay.

Justin’s never forgotten Natalie or the music career he always dreamed of pursuing. He’d been prepared to follow her off the island until his dad died and he was left to run the family dairy farm. He’s done the best he can with the life that was thrust upon him–but with Natalie back in the picture, he begins to realize just how much joy he’s been missing.

After Natalie’s reception venue falls through, she must scramble to find an alternative, and the only option seems to be a barn on Justin’s property. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them.

By day Liz Johnson is the director of marketing for a Christian radio network. She makes time to write late at night—that’s when she thinks best anyway. Liz is the author of more than a dozen novels, a New York Times bestselling novella, and a handful of short stories. Her book The Red Door Inn was a Christy Award finalist, and she’s also a two-time ACFW Carol Award finalist. She makes her home in Tucson, Arizona, where she enjoys exploring local theater and doting on her nieces and nephews. She writes stories of true love filled with heart, humor, and happily ever afters. You can find her online at lizjohnsonbooks.com or on her Facebook page at Facebook.com/lizjohnsonbooks.