I’d like to offer a reminder that there is One who sees all we do and all that we write, and this One has a different way of measuring its value. I remember a worship song a few years back titled, "Audience of One.” I loved it immediately because it reminded me of what Jesus said was the first and greatest commandment.
“And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him, "Which commandment is the most important of all?"Jesus answered, "The most important is, 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:28-30)
The idea here is to also love the Lord our God “with all we write.”
I’ve been a published novelist for two years now (under contract for four). I’ve seen a snag in writing that can sometimes trip us up, cause us to lose sight about writing for that “Audience of One.” Once this shift occurs, we can become prone to discouragement. If it goes on long enough, we may be tempted to give up altogether.
The snag is our target audience. Unless you’re writing a worship song or a devotional prayer, it’s likely your target audience is people, not God. You may even be writing about God, but not to God. So your mindset as you write is connecting well with people, hopefully having your work reach them in some published format.
Over the past week, I attended two Word Weaver groups. The first was my local chapter. At the second I was a guest speaker. If you haven’t heard of Word Weavers, they’re a wonderful group of Christian writers who gather together in various chapters to support each other, primarily in critique groups. Here's a link if you'd like to find out more about them: Word Weavers Online. At the beginning of each meeting, they go around the room and share any bit of encouraging news or progress they have made in their writing over the past month.
For me, this is often a challenging moment (probably should explain why).
Many of the writers I’ve talked with in these groups have two things in common: a) they hope to one day become a published author of a full-length book (fiction or non-fiction), and b) so far that hasn’t happened. Certainly, some attending these groups don’t share that goal, but it seems fair to say the majority do.
The things typically shared during this part of the meeting are more often things like an article someone had published in a small magazine or local newspaper, something they had written on someone else’s blog, or perhaps a rejection letter from an agent that offered a ray of hope (vs a standard form letter).
After hearing these things, I’m hesitant to share my updates.
The reason? For some unexplained reason, God has poured out a great measure of success in my writing life in a fairly short time. In the last two years, I’ve had 3 novels published by a major publisher (Revell). All 3 books have received rave reviews. A 4th novel is coming out in September and a 5th in the spring. This past month, Revell signed me to write 7 more novels over the next three-and-a-half years. Oh, I almost forgot, they emailed me this week because a major Christian television show wants to fly me out to tape a series of interviews.
But as I listened to what others shared at these meetings, I was struck by how meaningful and important these “smaller” success stories were, especially when you consider God's perspective. I’ve talked with some of these writers; they have important things to say, and I’m glad others are getting to read their work in these “lesser” formats (meaning less than a full-length book). My desire is to encourage them not to view these other writing opportunities as small or insignificant. It can be an easy snare to fall into, especially if our eyes are locked onto that over-arching goal of getting our dream book published.
God doesn’t see or measure things that way.
Jesus saw a lone woman at a well. He saw a much-hated tax collector named Zacchaeus sitting alone in a tree. He felt the touch of a single woman in a large crowd, afflicted for years by a terrible disease.
He sees you there, writing alone. Every time you write.
He sees the people on the other end, who need to read what you’ve written. He is glorified and pleased when others are encouraged and stirred by things you’ve written. Whether that audience is large or small, whether you’ve been paid much or little, or nothing at all.
I’m reminded of these encouraging words from Paul: “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:58)
It is not in vain because the One who matters most is always watching and always ready to commend and encourage. Allow your hearts to be refreshed as you write by God’s assessment of things.
Reset your gaze and write once again for that Audience of One.