Throughout my journey as an author, I’ve come to realize that writers need many things. None, however, as important as these two: A broken watch. And a giant piece of chocolate.
The broken watch is to represent the fact that in the publishing industry, time doesn’t just crawl. Sometimes, it ceases to exist altogether. If you write, you know that an author might actually spend more time waiting to hear back from an editor or agent on her proposal or manuscript than she did writing the entire book in the first place.
Which is, of course, where the chocolate comes in.
For me, I’ve needed chocolate since day one. I was creating and making up stories before I even hit the second grade Sunday school room at my church. Reading and writing have always been in my blood. I remember sitting in my house as a little girl, surrounded by books on all sides and crying because I couldn’t read them yet! My mom used to laugh at me (gently, of course) because I would get so worked up about something that wasn’t ready to happen. But in my little-girl opinion, I was so ready to read that I would pretend to do so anyway (stubbornness, also, might be in my blood) and I began to make up what the foreign words meant on the page. A head-start to my creativity? Only God knows for sure.
And only God knew when I was truly ready to begin my journey. I remember the day my dad brought home our first computer. I stared in awe at the complicated gadgets before me, totally overwhelmed. With all my seven-year-old genius, I pecked on the keys as if they might bite me. Little did I know this strange contraption would later become of one my best friends. Slowly but surely, I began hacking out poems and short stories on those intimidating keys. Most of the time, I didn’t finish them—I lost interest halfway through and started a new project. But it was progress, a taste of what would come in my future. I also started a diary, won awards in elementary school for reading the most books of the entire class and placed in my school spelling bee. Words always meant a lot to me, in a variety of forms. Later, I fell in love with young adult books, and even tried writing my own version of a Baby-Sitters Club story. (which is one book no one will ever read, trust me!)
All along, looking back, I can clearly see God’s fingerprints on my life, lovingly guiding me in the right direction. I picture Him smiling down in amusement at my attempts to write over the years, shaking His head and saying “Oh, just wait. You have no idea the plans I have for you.” God had a specific path for me all along, and when I was ready, the pieces began falling into place.
I got serious about my writing when I turned eighteen. I joined writers groups, started building friendships with other authors, and attended conferences—quite the step from a shy little girl hiding behind her books! Basically, God lifted me straight out of my comfort zone and plopped me down in the middle of my biggest fear—and my biggest dream-come-true. My first Christian fiction novel, a romantic suspense titled Midnight Angel, was published last January by The Wild Rose Press.
It’s been an exciting journey so far—a stressful, scary, nerve-wracking, exhilarating journey—but the best part is, I’ve only just begun to understand how the world of publishing works. I continue to grow every day in my craft, and continue to stretch myself to new limits. I’ve learned that staying in my comfort zone might indeed be comfortable, but it won’t get me anywhere. I don’t believe God ever calls any of us to stand still, but rather to keep a death-grip on His hand and walk by His side wherever He leads.
One of my favorite quotes is by E. L. Doctorow. “Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.” If you think my characters don’t talk to me, ask my husband. He’s heard me talk back! Reassuring my characters that the house that just exploded is actually a good thing, and that the bad guy chasing them won’t catch up and they’re safe (for now! Heh heh) and that the love interest they wish would pursue them will do so in due time. In the same way I pictured God smiling down at me over the years, I often smile at my characters. “Just wait… you have no idea what I have planned for you.”
But just as my characters often talk back to me, how many times have we talked back to God? You see, it’s not my character’s job to figure out story length, or watch for grammar and punctuation mistakes. It’s not my character’s job to create that important plot line or to mind their point-of-view or incorporate conflict or any of those things that I as the author must deal with. That’s my job. And in our lives, it’s God’s job. He sees the entire picture. He knows the end of the story, and how many pages are in the book.
Sometimes, I feel that as Christian women, we get so caught up in the details of the every day that we forget that our job is to simply live out the story God has placed in our hearts.
When I was in elementary school, I was part of an honors class called Discoveries. One of my assignments was to pick a partner and together, act out a scene from any story we chose. My friend, Sarah, and I chose a BabySitters Club book (what else?!) and we got to work recreating a scene from one of our favorites. It wasn’t easy. We had to have a ton of props, and memorize a lot of dialogue. The scene involved a tunnel and a house. Basically, we couldn’t have picked a harder scene to perform in a classroom! But we thought it was “The One”, and we were determined. We practiced several times and then finally acted out the scene for the class the next week. Even though it was hard, we had a blast and got a good grade! (though looking back, maybe the teacher felt sorry for us!)
In that same sense, we often feel that our chosen assignment is too hard. God asks us to do something and we immediately think “no way, that’s too complicated. I could never do that!” In doing so, we miss out on the fun and the rewards of obedience. Just like Sarah and I were determined to do our best, regardless of the hardship and the embarrassment of acting before our classmates, we as Christian women should do the same—face our fears and trust God is leading us in the direction He intended. Sure, we might need some props. We might worry our location is not ideal. But He’ll make a way. (Hey, if Sarah and I could figure out how to pantomime a tunnel and a house inside an elementary school T-building, I figure nothing is impossible!)
The truth is, we are all characters in God’s ultimate novel. Sometimes we might feel as if we play a leading role, that we really are making a difference for the Kingdom. Other times we might feel like we’re just a secondary character, and not really needed. But as an author, let me assure you: every single character is important to the story. The hero, the heroine, the best friend, the boss, the coworker, the salesman, etc. All of the characters play a vital role and fill in gaps that would otherwise stay empty.
Keep in mind that the characters don’t choose which part they play, rather, I do. I have an outline. I know where they need to be and what they need to do, and I try my best to make sure they get there.
In that regard, God has the Master Outline for us. He knows where we need to be and when we need to get there. He’s right beside us, offering his hand of strength and encouragement. He’s there to lift us up when we fall and steer us back on track when we veer off the path. He has an ultimate goal to reach and as Christians, we all play a part in achieving it. If you are still on this Earth, it’s for a reason. God will never write “The End” across your page before your story is fulfilled.
Some of you might be thinking: That sounds good, but what if I don’t know what my story is? What if I don’t know where the plot is going or what my role involves?
That’s the best part! God will tell you. In His timing. Your journey is already charted out; God just needs you to be willing to start walking. (or in some situations, start writing!)
God never promised us that obedience would be easy. Throughout my journey as an author, I’ve received multiple rejections. My published novel was rejected by many agents and editors before it found its home. There were days I was so frustrated I wanted to quit, days my self-esteem was beat down to nothing and I felt sure I had misunderstood God’s calling, sure He had the wrong girl! But I kept writing. I had to. Another quote I often use is by Sir Issac Asimov. “I write for the same reason I breathe, because if I didn’t, I would die.”
I have to write. I have to tell my story. It’s a part of who I am. Despite the rejections and self doubt, it would actually be more painful for me not to write. The good news is, none of my rejections or hardships took God by surprise. I had a lesson to learn through each disappointment, and now that I’m on the other side of that particular valley, I see it clearly. It was all for a reason, and each step has contributed toward making me a better writer, and therefore, enabling me to better tell my story.
I’ve written more books since the one I had published, and am once again in that waiting game of hoping to hear something back, and wondering what I’ll do if I don’t! But it’s all about trust. My characters can understand that concept—because just like I can’t see the future, they don’t get to know the end of the story before I write it. They go where I tell them to; trusting things will work out for the best.
Well, guess what? God promises us the same thing in Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We can trust him—the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Through out my journey as a woman, I’ve come to realize there are two things every Christian girl must have. A broken watch. And a giant piece of chocolate.
The broken watch is to remind us that we’re working off God’s timing, not our own. He’s writing your story, and you’re living it for Him, not the other way around.
And the chocolate, of course—well, you know what to do.
Betsy Ann St. Amant resides in northern Louisiana with her husband, Brandon. Betsy has a bachelor's degree in Christian Communications from Louisiana Baptist University and is actively pursuing a career in inspirational writing. Her first published Christian Fiction novel, Midnight Angel, is now available on amazon.com. You can contact her at [email protected].