3 years ago this month my first published book was released. Why Holiness Matters: We’ve Lost Our Way But We Can Find it Again was my attempt at telling my story in a way that would help others see that their own struggles did not impede them from living the life God desired for them. I never thought I had a book in me, but through a lot of support, prayer, and hard work I created something I am legitimately proud of.
Eighteen months prior to the release the man who would end up being my main support asked me if I’d ever considered writing a book. I said quite simply, “no.” Because of this I pitched the idea of a short ebook, instead of a full-length print book. This slowly changed, mostly as people who I’m indebted to convinced me that even though I didn’t consider myself a writer, I could write a book.
At the time of signing the book contract, I had another 18 months before graduating from seminary with my masters degree. I had originally gone to seminary for spiritual formation and to be equipped for leading more than music within the local church. But the process of writing the book helped me discover pieces of myself I never knew existed.
In light of all this I thought I would share a few brief lessons learned from my experience of publishing a book. I have conversations with young writers, Christian leaders, and mom bloggers, all with the hopes of publishing a book. I hope the lessons I’ve learned can be helpful.
You never know what you’re capable of until you take on a project you know you’ll fail.
My senior year of undergrad college I wrote a 3,000 word essay. I could barely get to 2,000 words before I felt I had run out of ideas. Taking on this book project was a 40,000 word endeavor, while working full-time AND going to school part-time. It was impossible.
And if I tried to take on the project myself I would have failed. I invited a group of writer friends to help me. The credit to a finished book largely belongs to them, not me.
In writing the book I started to realize I enjoyed the challenge of studying a topic and Scripture passages, and figuring out ways to communicate them to help people. I would not be in my current pastoral role had I not discovered that in the process of writing the book.
Discipline beats enthusiasm.
Karen gave me the helpful advice of not thinking about the large word count that I had agreed to in the book contract. She told me to figure out how many words I needed to write every week, every day. “Anyone can write 300 words a day,” she said. She’s right.
Eventually enthusiasm wanes, but the disciplined push through, finding new enthusiasm on the other end of their discipline. I think of book writing, marriage, and pastoral ministry quite similarly. I’m not always madly in love with my wife, but I choose to love her. I’m not always excited to pour into the lives of people, but I know my commitment to do so will produce helpful change.
Success is pointless. Utterly pointless.
What is success? And once you’ve reached that level of success, what becomes success after that? My friend Anne told me not to read the quarterly sales reports that the publisher would mail me. It was good advice because those will help you feel like a failure.
The lack of objectivity in finding success can lead some to lack internal hustle, but instead it should reorient why you take on such a large project. Work as hard as you can with the time and resources given, and then leave the success up to God.
A pastor I’m connected to released a book and then said, “I’m not really doing anything to sell it.” I thought he was rather stupid, to be honest. But now a few years later I see that he was probably smarter than me, because he wasn’t chasing after the mirage of success.
Why do I share all this?
All of these life learnings came from tackling a project I could not do on my own. I sure hope the book has and continues to have impact on many lives, but the process of writing it had as much or more impact on me. And for that reason I think all the effort was worth it.