In October of 2012, I won a writing contest that landed me an agent, a book contract, and an advance of $15,000. To say that my life has been radically changed since then would be a gross understatement. I still pinch myself on a regular basis just to make sure it hasn’t all been a dream.
Let me briefly share with you a few lessons I’ve learned along the way:
1. Don’t write to be validated; write for the benefit of others. It’s not just about you (or me). More than once, I’ve been tempted to write out of some foolish need to be approved by others. I’ve lived too much of my life with a performance orientation. Here’s an important question we all need to wrestle with: Why are you doing what you are doing? Why do you write (if you’re a writer) or sing (if you’re a singer)? If it’s truly an act of love for the benefit of others, I believe you will blessed beyond your wildest imagination.
2. Have a humble heart and a hefty hide. I wrote this note in my personal journal early in the editing process of my book: What’s black and blue and red all over? A rookie author and his manuscript in the hands of a professional editor! It was a bit painful at first. When you’ve created a manuscript and you’ve poured your blood, sweat, and tears into it, it’s like having a baby, and nobody wants to be told their baby isn’t perfect. However, one day it hit me: My editor is making me a better writer. I learned to humbly listen, and I’ve grown because of it.
3. Stay the course and keep writing. You are not as bad or as good as you might think. Dealing with the emotional aspects of writing is critical. I’ve finished a couple of marathons in my life, and I know from experience that you have to put in a lot of time and miles to prepare for 26.2 miles of running. Frankly, I’m a better writer today than I was a year ago, and I will continue to grow.
4. If you don’t ask—the answer is always no. No one likes to be rejected. Asking professional people and successful authors for an endorsement can be emotionally risky. You had better learn how to deal with rejection. But if you don’t ask for the support, you’ll probably never get it. No one called me and offered to write an endorsement; I called them. You’d be surprised to know who I asked. Admittedly, I got a little too bold and crazy with some of my requests. Yet my book ended up with twenty-four amazing endorsements. The list includes several bestselling and award-winning authors. Here’s what you need to know: I asked more than fifty people. Do the math; that means I had more than a 50 percent rejection rate. It’s okay. Deal with it, and just keep asking. It’s good for your character.
5. If you don’t manage your time well, you won’t manage to survive. We’re all busy. On average, I work about fifty-five hours a week. I have a large family. I already have a very full and fulfilling life. At first, I had no idea how I was going to meet all the demands of getting my book published and keep all the plates spinning. It was a serious concern. It’s like the line in John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I did not want that to be true of me. My goal has always been to live with intentionality and purpose. So I’ve learned how to manage my time better. (I also learned how to live with less sleep!)
6. There’s a right and wrong way to use social media to promote your book. People hate advertising unless there’s something in it for them. As cool as your book might be, most people won’t be interested in getting bombarded by your pleas of desperation: “Please buy my book.” That being said, if you can show them why they should read your book and what they will gain from it, they’ll be lining up to make the purchase. It’s also extremely important to engage people in conversation. Ask them questions in every post and be sure to respond to them with your thoughts or insights.
7. How we define success has everything to do with how successful we’ll be. Our culture tends to define success in some very obvious ways. You are a success if your book becomes a bestseller or wins an award. However, perhaps a better definition of success is simply doing what you were made to do and using your gift with diligence to make a difference in the world through your writing.
I’m still amazed by all that’s happened in my life. I wouldn’t trade this past year for anything. It truly has been epic! But without a doubt, I’m still growing and learning more, and perhaps that’s the point.
There’s an old Chinese proverb that goes something like this: “Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.” May you continue to grow as a writer and be bold enough to embrace the journey.
Keep moving. Keep growing. Keep writing!
Kurt W. Bubna published his first book, Epic Grace ~ Chronicles of a Recovering Idiot, with Tyndale in 2013. He is an active blogger, itinerate speaker, regular radio and television personality, and the Sr. Pastor of a church in Spokane Valley, Washington.