Sunday Devotion- More than Publication

Janet Rubin

One of my new year’s resolutions was to actually crack open and read some of the many how-to-write books I have stacked in piles about my house (as opposed to simply being content thinking how scholarly having such books scattered around makes me look.)Last year I read two terrific books on writing: Stephen King On Writing, and Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott.

The first one I’m tackling this year is a book my sister Susan (possibly my biggest fan) gave me for Christmas, called On Becoming a Novelist, by John Gardner. I think it will be a good one because, even though I’m still just in the preface, I’ve found a great quote:

“It is far more satisfying to write well than simply to write well enough to get published.”

It’s no secret to anyone who knows me that getting a novel published is a dream of mine. Right along with seeing my picture on the book’s dust jacket, having my own spot on a shelf at Borders, and maybe even doing book signings. Perhaps I’ll see those dreams realized, and then again, maybe not. But getting published shouldn’t be my big goal.

My big goal should be using my gift for God’s glory, and letting Him use me in any way He wishes. If I’m writing for God’s glory, I must strive for excellence, not publication. I hope that once I am published (Lord willing), I won’t decide my writing is “good enough,” and stop growing. I hope that all my life I’ll continue improving and learning.

As the above quote suggests, it is possible to write well enough to be published, yet not be writing your best. But God has designed us in such a way that we find true satisfaction when we know in our hearts that we are doing our very best.

Colossians 3:23-25 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Lord, As I continue on my writing journey, please help me to keep my eyes on You. Help me not to be lazy or to lower the standards of what I’m striving for. I want to work at this writing thing with all my heart, working for You, and looking forward to the inheritance I’ll receive from You as a reward. That inheritance will be far more precious than any contract or raving book review could ever be. Amen.

Sunday Devotion- Being Real

Janet Rubin

I shuffle down the driveway in my husband’s too-large slippers, the ones I put on because I was too lazy to locate my own footwear. I move as fast as I can, both because it’s very cold this winter day, and because I’m hoping to slip out to the roadside mailbox and back to my cozy couch and laptop without the neighbors catching sight of me, still in my jammies at two in the afternoon. But it’s hard not to be noticed with two jumping, barking Labradors escorting you all the way.

I retrieve my mail and flip through the contents on my way back up the drive. Bill, bill, credit card offer… oooh, what’s this? Writer’s Digest! I’d forgotten about the subscription I ordered when my Girl Scout daughters were selling magazines. I scan the article highlights on the cover. Yeah baby, I get Writer’s Digest magazine. How writerly is that?

I love all of the things that make me feel like a writer: the stack of how-to-write books that sit on my desk (well-dusted if not well-read), my membership to the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the cool writer-type people I hob knob with online and even got to meet at the conference in Dallas, actual business cards with my picture and blog addie on them, and now…Writer’s Digest.

But these things don’t make me a writer. It’s writing that makes me a writer. Cracking open those how-to books and learning from them. Getting something edited to the point that it can be enjoyed by a reader. If I never write anything, it doesn’t matter how many writer’s groups I belong to or magazines I get—I’m not being a writer. Writer’s write.

It’s easy for me to have all the appearances of a godly woman, but be far from God in my heart. There are plenty of “Christian” things in my life—fish emblems on my mini-van, Christian books and Bibles all over my house, a Daily Bread beside the commode in my bathroom. I belong to a great church, surround myself with Christian friends, play Christian music all day long. I get Dr. Dobson’s newsletter and Franklin Graham’s too. It all looks very Christian-y, I’m sure. But only God and I know the truth. Sometimes, it’s all a disguise, a good-looking get-up worn by a prodigal daughter who hasn’t given God so much as a moment in days. Man, I hate that.

God doesn’t care how good we look on the outside. He cares what’s in our hearts. When God sent Samuel to David’s family to anoint a new king, Samuel was checking out David’s tall, strong, and handsome brothers, “But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)

When He looks at my heart, I want Him to see a real desire to please Him, a true love for my Savior and my fellow man. Writers write. Christians love.

I want to be real. A genuine Christ-follower. A daughter who has an intimate relationship with her heavenly Father and real love for others. Not just someone who looks good. Don’t let me be content with simply letting the world think I’m doing okay. Help me walk the walk, living my life before You, in truth.

Sunday Devotion: Dry Spell

Janet Rubin

The dreaded words. Writer’s block. No inspiration, no ideas, no motivation. Just a curser, perpetually blinking on a blank computer screen, mocking me, daring me to type another crumby paragraph. I stare out the window, grumble at my family, and begin to consider that, perhaps, fly-fishing would be a better hobby for me than writing.

I close the document (No, I do NOT want to save the changes!), and find other things to do. I avoid my story for a week. Two weeks.

No ideas come. I talk to writers I know and read articles and interviews with those I don’t. Every one of them has the same annoying advice: “Just sit down and write.”

It becomes clear that no lightening bolt of inspiration is going to come down from the sky and zap me. I force myself to return to my story. I read it again, take a deep breath, and begin typing. What I’m writing is horrible. Boring. Drivel. But I keep on. In a while, a funny thing happens. I write a sentence that doesn’t exactly stink. An idea is conceived. I sit up straighter, type faster. The annoying people were right. The only cure to my problem was sitting and writing.

Sometimes I get the spiritual equivalent of writer’s block. For no evident reason, I begin to feel spiritually dry—distant from God, in a rut. My prayers feel as if they don’t make it past the ceiling. My Bible-reading is mechanical. No verses jump out and speak to my heart; no spiritual warm fuzzies accompany my praise.

During these times, I don’t feel like spending time with God. It seems pointless. But if I don’t, the problem only worsens. I’ve come to believe that God allows these dry spells to test my faithfulness. To see if I will seek Him even when He seems far away, or if I will just give up. These are the times when I need to hold on to God’s promises and persevere, believing that He will keep them.

Time after time, God tells us in His Word, that if we seek Him, we will find him. He promised never to leave us or forsake us. The cure for a spiritual dry season is similar to the cure for writer’s block: Just sit and pray. And pray and pray and pray. It’s that step of faith- sitting at your keyboard when you feel you have nothing to give, or kneeling before your God with nothing but a mustard seed-sized bit of faith- that makes the difference. Your faithfulness and persistent seeking will please God. And yes, your inspiration will return.

Hebrews 11:6And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Sunday Devotion: It’s Okay to Play

Janet Rubin

Since Christmas day, my daughters have spent countless hours perched on stools at the kitchen island- molding, shaping, giggling, and concentrating. Captivated by the one-dollar packs of modeling clay they found in their stockings, they’ve forsaken all else: the ninety-dollar American Girl dolls, the DVD’s, and toys. I’ve watched the clay morph from neatly packaged blocks of color into flowers, animals, sea creatures—and my favorite—the dinosaurs.

Why are the girls working so hard on these creations? Certainly not to impress people. Were it not for my sudden inspiration to put a picture on Novel Journey, no one would see them at all. It isn’t to build something that will last. At the end of the day, all the creations get squished into a Zip-lock baggie and put away. The young artists’ clay-shaping isn’t some kind of “ministry” through which they hope to bless others. And obviously, it isn’t for money. They don’t get paid for their labor.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out. The girls are just having fun. Finding joy in creativity because they are made in the image of their Creator. Enjoying life as only children can. Only an adult could suck all of the fun out of art.

If you are like me, with the new year’s dawn, you have writing goals and deadlines looming over you. Finish that novel, edit that rough draft, do some publicity… With all that pressure, we sometimes forget to have fun, but I believe God does want us to have fun. Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)

Sometimes our writing is an act of obedience or sacrifice. Through the ups and downs of the writing life, God teaches us to have patience, to persevere, to take criticism. And hopefully our work will bless, encourage, and entertain others. But writing is also a gift God has given us to enjoy. Words are the clay we can play with—shaping and reshaping until we have something in front of us that makes us smile. In 2007, work on those goals, but make one of your goals be to find joy in the gift God has given you.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.