PH: The Art of Changing Lanes—The Writer’s Lonely Road
Yesterday after church, a large group of us decided to visit a restaurant several exits away. We all took the same route down a town highway missing all of the interstate traffic because we all departed from the same location. However, when it was time to go home, all of the Hickmans (who had come in three cars) needed to get back onto the interstate to head home. There were unbelievable obstacles that we hadn’t anticipated. Road construction seemed to be everywhere. I sat strategizing: how in the world was I going to get back home? Every decision I made led to another road block, every lane change making my route more unstable. I wanted to ask one group of construction guys, “How do you expect me to get home?” I felt ostracized from my own neighborhood. It was as though gatekeepers had been dropped out of the sky to make my journey home miserable. Of course I knew these guys weren’t interested in blocking my journey home, but in finishing the job.
When I set out to write books for a living, I thought the hardest obstacles were behind me after I had gotten that first book contract. But as I navigated through my first book deal, reconstruction was already going on in my heart. God was taking me through changes and he decided an overhaul was more important than a pleasant and easy path. If I was going to continue to travel ahead telling stories, He wanted them told differently than anyone else had ever told them. He wanted me to tell my story through a unique voice that had been earned coming down a road of suffering.
When my family all arrived home yesterday, it was all at different times and none of us had come home the same way, but we were all so grateful to be home and to be back together again. The roadblocks had isolated us but in the end we were not really separated. Three of my closest friends who are all novelists have known one another before readers knew us as faith-based authors, all having gone through the struggles and pitfalls of the publishing arena, and all of us facing changes. Each time we have gone through changes, we’ve all faced a different challenge unique to us. It’s a common bond we share and it is blessed by times of refreshing where we have one another to lean on. We commiserate and realize that while we’ve all gone a different way around our problems, we’ve all faced the same universal challenges. We’ve all had to learn to change lanes, to navigate, and to know that change is out of our hands. The truth is, if those roadblocks had not been placed in our path, we would not have matured spiritually and as writers.
The other universal challenge we all responded to was pressure. If the roadwork had not been going on yesterday, the Hickmans would have all come home the same way that we’ve all grown used to traveling. Isolation caused us each to use our minds and to strategize.
Perhaps you’ve read the stories of other authors and how they’ve gotten published and the thought came to you, “Oh! That’s the road to publishing. Well, I can go that way too.” May I gently suggest that your road to publishing will be uniquely yours? One of my friends had written a thousand articles before she decided to write a children’s book, to hit national bestseller list-dom with that book, to use the revenues to build a career as a writer of women’s fiction, and then to change lanes and begin exploring spec-fic, branding herself as a writer who takes her characters down unexpected roads. My other friend was a bestselling romance author who faced the shock of an unexpected divorce, fell before God in surrender, surrendered everything to Christ including her books, and then began writing bestselling faith-based fiction that has helped so many women facing divorce know that God is with them, even in the middle of divorce. After publishing my first five novels, God led me into a desert of dissatisfaction that caused me to stop and assess my writer’s life and to start writing books of faith possessing a more mainstream aesthetic. My story is unique to me and I’m sure you’ve heard the stories of other authors by now. God brings us all a different way, and yet somehow, this way springs out of the universal truths written by One Universal Author, Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
In a few weeks, these construction crews will disappear and our community will have brand new surfaces on our interstate and on the many roadways that lead to our homes. We will enjoy the nice new surfaces and some will forget the chaos caused by obtaining them these past few months. I like Abraham’s take on change. God told him to set up a pile of stones as a memorial so that others would pass by, point, and remember that God had made known to His people a more redemptive way home. 2 Cor. 3:3 says, “clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.” Our life stands as a living stone to those who pass by, so that they will stop, reflect, and remember what it cost to be standing here. Our writer’s voice when developed as a unique aesthetic ought to accomplish the same thing, lingering as a mile marker in the hearts and minds of those who pick up our books.
My life’s scripture is “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lam. 3:22-23. If I had not been taken a different and at times lonely way than all of my sisters in the faith, faced the gatekeepers, the lions of publishing, how would I know that God’s compassions never fail, that they are new every morning, and that God’s faithfulness is great?
Changing lanes is a sign that God is intervening so that I won’t grow stale in my faith or in my journey as a writer. He continues to teach me the fine art of changing lanes to mature me and to venerate His Son, Jesus Christ.
And when I face a gatekeeper in the middle of life’s reconstruction, I’m not really alone. It’s a two-party trip.
Patricia Hickman's ( http://www.patriciahickman.com/) latest release from FaithWords is Whisper Town.