To paraphrase two famous authors, there are seven habits of a purpose driven Christian writer.
Freelancing can easily become freeloading. It’s easier to watch “The Guiding Light” than to wait for God’s guiding light. It’s easier to raid the refrigerator than research. I know. I gained 10 pounds my first year of freelancing.
Can you not write? If it’s possible for you not to write, you’ll do better at a different occupation—say, basket weaving. Real writers, particularly the one’s who get published, cannot not write. Are you determined to meet deadlines? Will you make the time to write? Will you always submit your best work?
Here’s a test: Can you find your tax return from five years ago within one minute? How about the top of your desk? Freelance writing demands that you keep good financial records, charts of where you have sent your manuscripts, systems to track multiple deadlines, etc.
For the first few years of my writing career, my sense of identity and self-worth was wrapped up in being a writer and speaker. So an SASE had a direct effect on my self-worth. Thin SASEs were usually a check; fat SASEs were not. They were usually my manuscript coming back with the dreaded, “We’re sorry, but your manuscript does not fit our editorial needs at this time.”
It wasn’t until I allowed the truth of Brennan Manning’s Abba’s Child to sink in and think in, that I broke the grip of “mail domination.” I am loved by the Creator of the universe. I am His beloved child. God will love me regardless of how many rejection slips I receive.
I cringe at the idea of promoting myself, but it’s absolutely crucial. I’ve come to peace with realizing that without M-E there is no M-E-S-S-A-G-E. God always sent a messenger with His message; no writing in the sky, but a person. If I don’t promote me, the message won’t be promoted or published.
Writers must do whatever we need to do to keep our writing edge sharp: subscribe to writers’ magazines, attend conferences, take a class at your community college, sign up for a course with the Christian Writers Guild—just keep growing.
Writing is not completely self-oriented. You need a support group to keep you disciplined, organized, etc. Join a writers’ group (CWG Word Weavers), ask for prayer for your projects at church, and keep your spouse or closest friend in the loop.
And build a network of editors and other professional writers as you attend conferences and seminars.
James Watkins is the author of 16 books and more than 2,000 articles, an editor with Wesleyan Publishing House, a conference speaker throughout North America and overseas, writing instructor at Taylor University. Visit his website at www.jameswatkins.com/writing.