Sunday, January 17, 2010

peaks and valleys of the writing life

This is the view from my backyard - the Olympic Mountains of Washington State. I prefer the Appalachians but we'll save that for another post. These mountains really look ice blue and are every bit as breathtaking as they appear, only sometimes I forget to look! They're very snowy as you can see though we don't have any snow here below right now.

Recently an unpublished friend asked me what it's like being published - what I've learned and what's surprised me over the last year and a half or so. I think I'll call this the peaks and valleys of the writing life. Since I could probably write a book about life before and after publication, I'll just give you a short list. Here goes:

~Having an editor love your book so much that she becomes your book's best friend, and is willing to take it to the editorial team/pub board (not an easy task)
~Being paid for what you've done for free 40 years
~Feeling infatuated with your galleys/page proofs
~Holding your first book in your hands (nothing like a first book!)
~Sensing you're in the center of God's plan for your life, perhaps for the first time in your life
~Getting reader mail
~Traveling to book events and meeting readers and other writers
~Being able to say you're an author when people ask what you do

~Realizing your first book took five or more years to write and the rest must be done in a year or less while you're researching another and proofing yet another
~Spending 3 hours a day answering email and trying to get back to writing
~Finding that not everyone out there loves your book and won't be buying copies for everyone they know for Christmas
~Understanding that publishing is a business
~Having to give up things you've previously spent time on (not your family)
~Realizing that God's call to service requires far more of you than you have to give which just makes you lean more heavily on Him (the realization that you're not Wonder Woman occurs in the valley and then becomes a peak when you understand you're not walking it alone).

So, now that I've listed my personal peaks and vales, are you glad you're not a writer, or if you are one, can you relate to my list?

As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of the strength which God supplies: so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11


  1. Wow! Three hours on email??? Well, I suppose the peak to that one is that your book is so well-loved readers just have to tell you!

    Great perspectives though, as an unpublished writer I merely struggle with that stubborn old time eliminate.

    That view from your backyard is spectacular! Talk about soaking up inspiration! I've never lived near mountains...come to think of it I don't think I've ever seen one up close and personal either. What a blessing to look out on that every day!

  2. Great info on the life of a published author :)I know it is exhilarating at some points and terrifying at others that 'what you do' is show people a little bit of your heart and mind. But what a gift, you had to share it with the rest of us!
    I finished the book the other evening, just fantastically done! I'm glad to hear you're well on your way to other books so I can read more ;) I put a little info on your book on my own blog just fits right in with all that's been inspiring me as of late.
    So-- thank you!~

  3. Heather, I'm in love with your blog as you post such inspiring things. I'm still thinking about your little 18thc. matchbox, only I keep thinking of it as a purse! And I love your art - the girl in hunting garb and then the pretty gown is just so well done. Talk about inspiring!!
    I think I already added you to my blog roll but will make sure now. And thanks so very much for posting about inspiration and my book. It's downright inspiring knowing you found me inspiring:)

  4. As someone who's "yet to be published," I really appreciate your honesty regarding being published. It's easy for us to assume that once we're published, that's the pinnacle.

    But I know that every path God leads us on has its peaks & valleys. Typically, we rejoice in the peaks & learn in the valleys. What's important to remember is that we "walk through" the valley. We pass through it. We don't stop there. Which means one of those beautiful mountaintops awaits.

  5. Kav, It is a blessing to live in such a beautiful place but sad that sometimes I forget to look! That's one of my goals for this year - being more appreciative of the joys around me.
    I think we all struggle with the time factor. Never enough hours to read or do the things we love - lots of interruptions. Not all the hours/time I mentioned in answering email is from readers - it includes pub stuff and the blog, and other things. My other goal is to try and make that more workable. I can understand why authors just have a newsletter or take one day a week to do their online business which frees up the rest of their week.
    I hope this is a great week for you and signs of spring are sneaking up on you:) Thanks so much for your comments here - they always bless me.

  6. Laura, I'm agog at your mountain view. I'm not sure I could tear my eyes from it long enough to get anything done, much less write a book. Is this what you see from you deck?

    I fell in love with the NW a year after Brian and I were married, and we went to Missoula to visit his brother. That was 1988, and from that moment I knew the NW was where I was meant to be. God would have to give me special grace to ever live away from mountains again.

    Thanks for posting your peaks and valleys. This writing life comes with its challenges, but I think the rewards are greater for that.

  7. Beautifully said, Brenda! I especially appreciate how you emphasized that we "pass" through the valleys and don't get mired there. Because God is so good we know even the valleys are for our good.
    I hesitate to post on such things sometimes as I don't want to strike a complaining note. I'm very thankful for the path He has me on but life after publication isn't all peaks. But then nothing in this life is. That's why heaven is heavenly, I guess:)
    Your comments are a great way to begin my day. Thanks so much.

  8. Lori, I think you're a beautiful example of blooming where you're planted. I'm afraid I have a little of Lael in me and will never be completely at home here. In fact, I just told Randy if I should die before I get back to Kentucky for good he'd better ship me there in a pine box:)

    I should have said, yes, this is the view from my backyard before the cedars and alders grew so tall they blocked much of it:) Also, it's so wet and foggy here the mountains are often obscured. But on a clear day like the one in the photo, they are just phenomenal.

    I agree that the rewards of writing make the valleys worth it, especially if you know the One who's really leading the expedition:)

  9. Hi, Laura,

    Thanks for sharing the peaks and valleys. I'll forward a link to a couple of writer friends who will appreciate your thoughts. I appreciated them, too, especially "Sensing that you're in the center of God's plan for your life, maybe for the first time." That's exactly what I have felt for the past few years. It's hard to explain what that feels like, but it is good.

    I MISS THOSE MOUNTAINS! They were one reason I told God I didn't want to go to Africa. I'm going to blog about that later this week--and post a picture we took in PA when we were there at Christmas. God's handiwork is breathtaking!

    Bless you, dear Laura!

  10. Linda, I knew you'd understand my list as we're at the same stage of the journey. It is a wonderful thing to feel the fulfillment of God's plan for your life with writing, something I've sensed since I was a child. It's very different than I thought it would be but I tend to see everything through a romantic lens:)
    Can't wait to get back to your blog! It always inspires me.

  11. "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil;
    For You are with me;
    Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me."--- Psalm 23:4

    This immediately came to mind when I read your title for this post. I love that even when we are in those valleys, we don't need to be afraid because He is still there to guide and direct. His love goes with us.

    Those mountains are so beautiful! There is nothing quite like the Pacific Northwest!
    I've never been to Kentucky and I know your heart longs for your original home but how could anyone not love living in the Northwest! (Maybe i'm a bit biased.... ha ha)

    God bless you today!
    Are you and the kids doing anything today since they are out of school for MLK day?
    We don't have any plans. Possible some of their friends may come over to play for the afternoon. That's about it. Just enjoying the day off!

  12. Lisa, Thank you for such uplifting comments! Psalm 23 is one of my favorites - and one of the few I can remember as I get older:)
    I bet your kids are enjoying being off today. As for us, all we seem to be doing is sharing a bad cold:) I know you can relate to that!
    You and Lori B. are dyed in the wool Pacific northwest fans, for sure! I'd love to come further than Canby and see what it's like down there. Once I flew into Portland but that didn't count! Someday maybe. Enjoy your day off! If moms have such a thing:)

  13. Aw, thank you so much Laura! Its always wonderful when you stumble upon someone who loves many of the things you love--- I had a feeling you would as soon as I started reading your book!
    And wow...that is some view you have! Its a wonder you get anything done with that to distract you ;)

  14. Heather, Honestly, I go back to your blog again and again. It's like candy to me:) I went into your archives today to see how you got started and came across your baby daughter. She's so darling!! Since I don't have girls I'm very girl sensitive:)
    Your art reminds me of the folk art I grew up with. Since I'm not an artist I may not be using the term folk art in the right way. I'd love to hear how you describe your work. I'm really wanting to order your watercolor of girl with birds:) And I just might!

  15. Oh, Laura, you've made me so thankful for not being published.

    So glad you've accepted this journey, though. Your writing is an inspiration to me!

  16. Bless your heart, Eileen, for so honest a response! It's not easy oftentimes but then few things in life are. I admire you so much for taking some time off from writing to enjoy your girls and Penny and all the things that make life so worthwhile. You'll never regret that decision. Plus you're way younger than me:) Plenty of time later to take up that writing again! Thanks so much for coming by today.

  17. No, I'm not glad that I'm NOT a writer! It's still my heart's desire....I think. Thanks for giving us an inside look of what a (successful) writer's life is really like! Bless you for your honesty.

  18. I'm not published so sometimes I feel like I'm in the valley. takes so much time! But isn't it all God's time anyway? That's what I keep telling myself.

  19. Laura, what an amazing picture of the moutains. Seeing that everyday has to be inspiring beyond measure. Isn't God good to give us gifts like that?

    Your blog post really hit home, too. I can most certainly relate to many points and soon will be relating to even more. Thank you for sharing it. The feeling that I'm doing what God intended for me to do is probably the one feeling I had not been able to express. Thanks for putting that one into words.

    I also loved Brenda's point about walking through the valleys. Even better, we don't have to climb out on our own.

  20. Lorna, I appreciate your comments here so much. I was thinking that there are as many different author styles as there are books. I tend to be on the serious side and so everything hits hard for me and is an adjustment. I'm sure some love the unpredictability and constant challenge! In the end, knowing we're doing what God has for us helps weather it all, like you alluded to. And a wonderful sense of humor like yours doesn't hurt, either:)

  21. Mary, So good to hear from you as I've been thinking of you:) You must be a writer as you keep on keeping on - one of the hallmarks of the writing life! As for being successsful, I'm still small potatoes;) How on earth do bestselling authors do it, I wonder? They hire an assistant, I guess. I think the Lord knows that that's beyond my ken. Happy writing and reading to you today!

  22. Britt, I understand your comments completely. I was so long in the valley I lost sight of the mountains completely for many years. But looking back I see such a pattern - that circumstances and events that I never gave any thought to were all an important part of what I'm doing today. I'm sure you'll be able to say the same. Keep going - I admire you so much for joining that ACFW loop/critique group. You're way ahead of where I was at your age.

  23. I guess I just wasn't meant to be a writer although I have thought about it for many years and have written stories for a College newspaper and then had some one go over it and make all the corrections :)
    So now I am just thinking about trying to write a story for readers digest and see what happens...I haven't given up...just changing gears.
    I know your whole family is proud of you does take a lot to become a writer and then have it published into a book you can hold in your hands.
    And now I can say "I have a Good Friend that is a Writer :)

  24. Nancy, I so appreciate your thoughtful comments. I think you are one of those people that do many things well - wish I could craft like you! And your story for Reader's Digest sounds great. I've often thought it would be fun to write in a shorter format and not a long novel.
    Bless you today, dear friend!