So I have found myself a finalist for “The Tweeter of the Year,” an award from The Christian New Media Awards Conference.
I wondered if I should even mention it. But yeah, I am a bit pleased, for to be ambitious for one’s writing is natural–and why act deny it or be hyper-spiritual about it?
After all, nobody sets out to blog aiming to be the least-read, least-followed, or the very worst blogger in the whole world.
We write to be read, and to inspire and delight, and naturally we are pleased if we succeed in that aim.
* * *
The blogosphere is full of affirmation, and encouragement. Blogging has been a life-changing experience for me.
However, those Best of… Lists, while encouraging to those on it, as I have occasionally found myself, are discouraging—even a sock in the stomach–to those not on them. And the latter category includes most bloggers and writers.
The editor, Ted Solotaroff, says uncertainly, difficulty and doubt are as much part of a writer’s life as snow and ice are part of an Eskimo’s life.
It is the fact of anything competitive that everyone will NOT win more than they win; that no one can win ‘em all; that top bloggers or best writers lists change each year.
As Ted Solotaroff said in his brilliant essay “Writing in the Cold,” writers who survive and thrive must somehow learn to keep rowing, to not only not stop writing, but to somehow derive energy and resolve and inspiration from discouragement and failure itself.
Ah, a seemingly impossible task!!
* * *
As a Christian writer, here is how I deal with writing setbacks.
1 First of all, I consider my call. Am I indeed called to continue writing and blogging?
The answer is Yes.
It is my one gift, and I must continue.
(Both writing and blogging are such crowded fields, fraught with discouragement, that I now believe one should not embark on them unless one really loves them.)
2 Secondly, I hand it over. Hand over the success or failure of this enterprise of writing.
Surrender it to God. That gives me much peace.
3 Thirdly, I ask for God’s blessing. Visualize myself and this little blog of mine in the force field, the waterfall of God’s blessing.
4 Fourthly, have a little strategy session with God.
Am I using my gifts to the best advantage, writing about the things I can best write about? Is what I am saying genuinely helpful to my audience Are there simple tweaks which might increase readership? Any ideas for things to do differently?
If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. (James 1:5). It’s true! Often amazingly simple but fruitful ideas will emerge from these sessions.
5 And then, convinced that I am indeed called to continue writing and blogging, that I have surrendered it to God, that it has his blessing, and that I am seeking the most time-effective and strategic way to write and blog, I continue rowing!!
* * *
And here are some thoughts from C. S. Lewis on ambition.
Ambition! We must be careful what we mean by it. If it means the desire to get ahead of other people . . .then it is bad. If it means simply wanting to do a thing well, then it is good. It isn’t wrong for an actor to want to act his part as well as it can possibly be acted, but the wish to gave his name in bigger type than the other actors is a bad one . . .
What we call “ambition” usually means the wish to be more conspicuous or more successful than someone else. It is this competitive element in it that is bad. It is perfectly reasonable to want to dance well or to look nice. But when the dominant wish to dance better or look nicer than the others – when you begin to feel that if the others danced as well as you or looked as nice as you, that would take all the fun out of it – then you are going wrong.
And here is a letter Lewis wrote to his long-time friend Arthur Greeves who was struggling with being rejected by a publisher.
From the age of sixteen onwards I had one single ambition [to succeed as a writer], from which I never wavered, in the prosecution of which I spent every ounce I could, on which I really and deliberately staked my whole contentment: and I recognise myself as having unmistakably failed in it.
…The side of me which longs, not to write– for no one can stop us doing that, but to be approved as a writer–is not the side of us that is really worth much. And depend upon it, unless God has abandoned us, he will find means to cauterise that side somehow or other.
…Think how difficult that would be if one succeeded as a writer: how bitter this necessary purgation at the age of sixty, when literary success had made your whole life and you had then got to begin to go through the stage of seeing it all as dust and ashes. Perhaps God has been specially kind to us in forcing us to get over it at the beginning. At all events, whether we like it or not, we have got to take the shock. As you know so well, we have got to die. Cry, kick, swear, we may: only like Lilith to come in the end and die far more painfully and later.
…I would have given almost anything—I shudder to think what I would have given if I had been allowed—to be a successful writer…I am writing as I do simply and solely because I think the only thing for you to do is absolutely to kill the part of you that wants success.
(The Collected Letters of C. S. Lewis, Volume 1, Ed. Walter Hooper (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2004), pp. 925-927).
(Revised October 5th, 2013)