I can clearly remember how excited I was as I typed the final words of my thesis manuscript, “Light of Grace.” I’d experienced that feeling once before when, after ten years, I finally finished my very first attempt at writing a novel. But this time it felt special – as if only by the grace of God, I’d finished something He’d put before me to do. In all honesty, there were tears in my eyes as I brought my character’s story to its fitting end – an end that came through a new beginning. To say that I was filled with mixed emotions would be an understatement. I was thrilled to have accomplished my goal. I was relieved that my days as a graduate student were drawing to a close after earning both my MA and my MFA. I was excited about the what God had in store for me next.
Based on all the positive feedback I’d received from my professor over the course of my three thesis classes, I ended my novel feeling ready to take the next step towards publication – securing a literary agent. I also decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to start by querying one of the bigger agents in my genre who represented one of my favorite Christian authors, Catherine West. My thought was, “What do I have to lose?” I had all the pieces in place to complete the agency’s submission requirements so I carefully put each where it needed to go. With my heart in my throat, I hesitated, with my finger poised over the “submit” button for what seemed like forever – but finally, I gathered up the courage to hit it. In an instant, my first query was gone – and the waiting game began. I knew it could take up to 60 days to receive a reply, so I did my best to just “forget” about it.
It took less than a week for a reply to come…
IT’S ALL IN HOW YOU LOOK AT IT
Ms. Gardner began her reply by telling me that she liked my idea and really thought it had potential. My breath caught in my chest. Could this be my first real chance at becoming a published author – something I’d dreamed about since the age of fifteen? She went on to say, however, that while she wished she could offer me representation, the major publishers she works with required a solid author platform (social media following, ect) before accepting a manuscript. My heart fell. This was the one thing I didn’t have. While I was exposed to the process in my MFA program, I had (have) no real understanding of how to get this following if I haven’t published yet. She suggested that I take a year to work on developing my author platform and that then, I might have a good chance with a major publisher.
I was disappointed. I’m not going to lie. Having to try to do something that I have no real idea how to do was overwhelming in that moment. But the more I thought about it – an re-read her email – the more I could see the positive side of things. I’d just had an agent tell me she wished she could offer to represent me. She told me that I might have a chance with a major publisher in my genre (Christian fiction). She took time to offer advice on what steps to take. I went from being disappointed to being grateful for her email. Without it, I would have no idea where to go next.
LIFE AFTER GRADUATE SCHOOL
Here’s the funny part – okay, it’s not really funny, but more ironic in my opinion. Since graduating in April, it’s almost as if my creative muse has gone on vacation. I’ve pretty much been dead in the water. I haven’t been able to write, or even to edit really. This goes for both my fiction and my devotional project, which was placed on the back-burner while I was in those final 3 classes. It’s almost as if God gave me the determination to finish “Light of Grace” and then took a step back in giving direction and inspiration. In short, I’ve kind of been floundering around feeling as if I have no purpose.
I explained this to a trusted friend. I related it to how my passion for hiking of the AT seems to have hit a wall (it’s not that I don’t want to go, but more that it just hasn’t worked out to do so) – and I wondered if my dream of becoming a published author was hitting its own roadblocks. I’ve prayed that’s not the case because I don’t know where I’d turn my creative focus onto if I couldn’t write anymore. It’s not that I care about success. I’ve always said that if I touch one person and help them in some way through sharing my faith in my writing, then I consider myself successful. It’s about feeling like I’ve lost my purpose – and it’s caused me to wonder if maybe I was wrong when I felt as if God was giving me the opportunity to use the gifts He’s given me – the gifts of the written word.
This trusted friend reminded me of something the prophet, Jeremiah, probably felt when he was called out of his young life to carry God’s message to His people. Whatever “plan” he’d had for his life was completely derailed. But in doing so, God had something bigger for him. Do I feel God “called” me to be a Christian fiction writer because He had a specific message He wanted me to give to the readers? No, not really. I believe He called me to use my gifts to share His message of love, grace, and mercy through the lives of the characters I bring to life in my writing. And now that I can’t seem to do that, I’ve been restless and out-of-sorts.
THE MESSAGE IN IT ALL
After having some time to think about the guidance my friend gave me, this is what resonates with the most: God isn’t saying to me, “Get up and do something!” Instead, He’s saying, “Don’t do anything – just stand there – be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
I don’t know what’s next in this story of mine that God is writing – but I know the One who does – and I will remind myself of that every time I feel like I should be doing something. In His perfect timing, He will tell me what’s next.