I’m Not a Writer…But I Write

Several of you have asked me to talk about how I got into writing and anything that might be helpful for aspiring writers to know. So, here goes:

“I never set out to be a writer,” said the women who has 24 published books.

Let me explain: In the mid-1980’s I set out to get training in biblical counseling (more on what that means in a future post). As part of my coursework, I was asked to write a paper addressing a problem of my interest and choice. As a person who has always struggled with my weight, I chose to try to develop a way of helping others like me: people who didn’t do what they should with food. (Eventually, this work grew into, “Love to Eat, Hate to Eat”) http://amzn.to/2vFgbbz

“Women Helping Women,” was my first book, though, and in it I collaborated with another woman, Carol Cornish, who along with a team other other female biblical counselors, wanted to help women like us know how to address common problems women faced from a strictly biblical perspective. That book was a Gold Medallion finalist in 1998 and my writing “career” was born…much to my surprise.

You see, I never set out to have a writing career. What I set out to do was help women (and men, too) know what the Bible had to say about the difficulties they were facing. As my message and theology ripened, I began to write more broadly, and books like “Because He Loves Me,” and “Give them Grace,” defined my primary message more and more. So, I suppose that the first bit of wisdom aspiring writers should take to heart is this:

Figure out why you need to be heard.

What value will there be in your writing words and others reading them? After all, in the age of self-publishing and 250,000,000 blogs (yes, really) why add something more? I’m not telling you not to, I’m just saying that knowing why the Lord has you write is as important as actually writing. Give your readers something of value; they’re giving you their time and sometimes their cash. Why should they? Show them you’re grateful and never, never take them for granted.

The second piece of advice is simply this: Don’t expect to support yourself as a writer. Sure, there are people who make zillions of dollars writing but I’m not one of them and you probably won’t be either (sorry). I’ve got 24 books in the marketplace and couldn’t live on my royalties–well, maybe if I lived in a yurt in Montana–but not if I don’t want to milk goats.

The third thing is that the publishing industry has been gutted in recent years, so don’t expect a publisher to be interested in you unless you can prove you have a platform that will guarantee sales. There are far too many books on the market and unless you’ve already built a name for yourself, no matter how magical your writing is, you won’t get noticed. Writers hate the idea of blogging and social media, etc., but this is the reality today. You’ll be your own publicity department. Find good books about platform building. http://amzn.to/2wMTYbR Read them and follow their advice. It’s hard work, but if you’ve got an important message, then it’s worth it.

And finally, hone your craft. There are people who have writing gifts (I’m not one of them)…But no matter what your giftedness, you need to practice. Reading good books helps. Writing consistently helps, too. Journal, blog, tweet, write articles, books. Be a writer. Practice.

So…what do you have to say? Why are your words important?


3 Replies to “I’m Not a Writer…But I Write”

  1. Elyse,
    I know you linked a book in the platform-building portion (and I haven’t read it, so maybe the book addresses this), but can you speak into biblical platform building at all? As a Christian writer currently seeking publication, I have been trying to build a desirable platform, all the while feeling that it runs counter to biblical teaching…specifically “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” I have been told to establish myself as the “go-to voice” for the particular subject matter I want to write on, but that’s not what I want to be…I just want to use my voice to speak the truth of Christ, not to have my voice get in the way by building my own “kingdom.” Just curious how you have maintained a balance? Thank you!

    1. Hey Melinda, Thanks for posting your question. I agree that building a platform seems to run counter to the humility and selflessness that we’re desiring. This is how I see it tho: I know that God has given me a specific message for this specific time and I want people to know about it. In this day and age, the way to do that is to build a virtual platform. So…I look at it as another way to love my neighbor and to steward the gifts He has given me. Hope that helps…This age in which we live is difficult to say the least…

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