Knock Yourself Out

“Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7 Amplified Bible

This is a luxurious (for me) post in which I unload about writing. To begin with, writing is H.A.R.D. work. American author Mary Heaton Vorse is quoted as saying, “The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair.” A hundred other things clamor for the time a writer devotes to the solitary task of stringing words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and so on and so forth. I’m sure bestselling authors have little trouble dismissing the oh-so-real voice that tells you, and keeps telling you, “You’re wasting time!” But for writers who had better not quit our day jobs it’s quite a chore to silence that nag and keep believing.

A couple of guys from the 1940s said something along this line: Writing is easy. You just sit down at a typewriter and open a vein. In modern slang, we leave it all on the page. We pour ourselves into the writing, heart and soul, so it’s really a drag when so few read the work. A work of length, such as a novel, can represent years of devotion.

I wrote my first novel more than fifteen years ago. Then I began knocking on agents’ and editors’ doors. I began seeking an audience and asking how I might get my work “out there”. At that time self-publishing was widely known as vanity-publishing, so that says something about the low esteem in which it was held. However, an unusual thing happened during the year in which I was seeking traditional publication. A self-published novel found it’s way onto the Pulitzer Prize short-list. The book didn’t win. It wasn’t even a finalist, but it did receive attention from the committee. I decided, then and there, if the objective was to reach readers, why not put the work out there myself? And so I did.

My colleagues and friends bought copies, which accounted for almost all of my sales. I mailed copies to everyone I could think of who might improve the novel’s exposure. Nevertheless, over the ensuing months the royalty reports dwindled to nothing. After another year or two of holding out hope for the dream, I abandoned it. No use wasting my time. I turned my attention toward something real: the career I had in my hand, my FAA career.

Just recently, though, I began to think about some of the wonderful connections that happened because of those copies I gave away. I connected with a senior editor at a major publishing house, with whom I still have an open door to send work. I corresponded with a wonderful woman who worked for a literary agent (the agent declined to represent the novel). She got me a gig writing a short story for a university literary journal. That story, Vieux Carré, is on this site under Stories. A well-respected minister left a voicemail, saying he loved the book. I have a handwritten note from Harper Lee – yes, Harper Lee! – thanking me for the copy of A Lifetime Ago I mailed to her agent in 2002. “I know I shall enjoy reading it,” she wrote. I keep her note in a precious copy of To Kill A Mockingbird given to me by a good friend. Mockingbird affected me, as it did millions of people. The novel affected Ms. Lee more than anyone. Books do that to their creators sometimes.

And just this month I wondered what other connections might have happened if I’d kept asking, kept seeking, kept knocking, kept believing in the work, rather than tossing it aside as if writing that book had not changed my life, tossing it aside as if the story did not convey exactly what I intended it to convey. I tossed aside the fruit of my imagination, prayer, and hard work as if it meant nothing to me. I turned my back on characters born from my veins, blood of my blood, as if I didn’t love them when, in fact, I did. I love them still.

I wish I hadn’t stopped knocking, but I did. That’s a fact. But it isn’t too late to knock at a few more doors. It’s not too late to ask the Lord to help me seek and find readers for these characters, who in my not-so-humble opinion, deserve to be heard.

Sometimes following the Lord is as easy (or hard) as not letting go of the dream He’s placed in your heart. Sometimes holding on is all you can do and more than enough.

Don’t wander off.
Keep His promise in your heart.
Ponder it, as Mary pondered the things she saw and heard (Luke 2:19), which would not be fulfilled for decades, centuries, millennia, and are still being fulfilled to this very day.
Don’t let time become your enemy.
Befriend it.
Redeem it.
Make the most of it.

All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.

I surrender all,
I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken;
Take me, Jesus, take me now.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine;
Let me feel Thy Holy Spirit,
Truly know that Thou art mine.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power,
Let Thy blessing fall on me.

All to Jesus I surrender,
Now I feel Thy sacred flame.
Oh, the joy of full salvation!
Glory, glory to His name!

I surrender all!
I surrender all!
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all!

 

© Melissa Kay Simonds

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