Friday, January 29, 2010

Two Decades: A guest post from Mary DeMuth

Today, I am excited to have Mary DeMuth join us. Mary is a master craftsman and a woman who is crazy about Jesus. I think you'll see some of both elements in this post. She writes with an amazing literary style. While she's written fiction and non-fiction, this month her memoir releases. Thin Places -- I love the idea behind it -- that sometimes Jesus brings stretching experiences because it's in the thin places we can see Him more. Here's the trailer for that book.

Here's Mary with some wonderful advice whether you're a writer or trying to excel at any gift God has given you.

For those of you discouraged about the writing journey, I hope my story helps a little. Or at least gives you an idea of how important tenacity is in the writing journey.

I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s excellent book called Outliers about the irony of genius. Most of those highly proficient in a career or endeavor spent 10,000 hours before they “broke out.” As I thought about my writing career, it all suddenly made sense. I spent the decade of the 90s (plus two more years) writing in obscurity, hour upon hour until I’m sure I surpassed the 10,000 hour mark. After that decade, I attended Mount Hermon with a novel in hand, landed an agent, and sold two books in that first year. Folks often want to hear that part of the story, but it’s hard for them to hear about all the underlying work that went into that dramatic year.

I don’t at all see those 10,000 hours as wasted time. It’s what I needed to apprentice myself to the writing craft. I found my voice. I learned to write fast. I exceeded deadlines. I curried discipline. All those traits serve me well now.

So now I’m in my twentieth year of this journey. I’m not a bestselling author. I’ve achieved some critical success, but I’m not fully making a living at it. I see this last decade as a building one. Recently the Lord showed me something profound while I gardened in my small vegetable patch (readying it for winter). My garden is small, though I long for a larger one someday. The Lord said, “I gave you a small plot so you’d learn to bloom there. If I gave you a field, you’d have been overwhelmed.” True, true, true. Had I been granted instant success, it would’ve been like trying to garden on ten acres when I hadn’t mastered a 3x30 plot. All these ten years have been training ground for me to learn everything belongs to Jesus. Had I become successful out of the gate, I shudder to think of the Me Monster I might’ve become. I’m at that place where I’m keenly aware that everything is a gift. Success. Rejection. Waiting. Accolades. It’s all from His hand. And it’s not about me.

I’ve had an inkling that my next book could be the breakout one. But I’m also grounded enough to know that it could flop around like a dying fish. It’s okay. God, through ten years of 10,000 words and ten years of small plot gardening, has taught me the beauty of His sovereignty in it all.

So if you’re on your journey discouraged that publishing isn’t happening fast enough, that you’re “good enough” to be published but aren’t getting nibbles, stop and wait and consider.

Have you put in your hours?
How’s your small garden plot? Any weeds?
Have you rested in the fact that God has us all on vastly different journeys, and that yours will differ from everyone else’s?
Are you learning contentment, tenacity, patience?
Are you better craftwise than you were last year at this time?
Have you passed on what youv’e learned to others, being generous in what others have taught you?

Just some thoughts to consider as you journey forward.


Casey said...

Thank you, thank you Cara for posting this and thank you, Mary for writing this! Sometimes it is so hard to wait, am I doing it right? Do I even have the ability? Sigh, God is in control of my writing career, how often I need to be reminded of that. :)

Thank you again!

Mary DeMuth said...

Casey, I'm thankful you liked the post. It's hard to wait, but what you learn in the process is priceless.


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