Monday, August 22, 2011

Fool’s Gold for Writers

The Longing

Your stomach grumbles with thunderous intensity. You slip on your good shoes, the rubber boots that will protect your feet from wading in the water for hours. Fully prepared to put in your time, you grab all the necessary sifting supplies, and you prepare yourself by keeping your expectations low and your perception sharp.
Your mind churns for the story. Prepared to put in your time at the computer, you gather coffee, your notebook of character sketches, and Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook. You keep your expectations for word count low and your intimacy with your plot and characters strong.

The Hunt
You stand in the sun scanning the shimmery river for that certain glint. Your back aches and you feel as though you could snap in two like flimsy kindling broken for a fire. You select rocks with speckles of shine on them and throw them back, disappointed, but determined to keep looking. The skin on your fingers ripples with water-worn wrinkles as you roll small stones between the pads of your thumb and forefinger.
You invest. You sacrifice. You weed through edits with fierce tenacity, keeping only the shining; only parts that move the plot along fluidly. All else gets thrown back. You rejoice and hurt in response to the highs and lows the industry sends your way. Your hunger remains.

The Find
Dirt crams at the base of your fingernails. You yawn and stretch, ready to stop for the day, perhaps ready to give up altogether. Then your eyes blink double time. They snatch upon a gold-flecked rock beneath the teasing trickling water. You reach down and lift it slowly. At closer glance, you’re sure you’ve found it. No more looking. No more hard work. Toss the boots in the trash. Give away all your sifting supplies. This is it. A fat sun-speckled rock heavy in your hand. It’s what you hunted for. It’s all you thought you wanted. The search is over.
You dream in edits. Worn thin from macro and micro edits, tired from deadlines, the hunt no longer draws you. And then the call. The agent. The publishing house. You see your cover. You hold your book in your hands. This is it, you tell yourself with a twisted feeling nesting in your gut. It’s why you worked so hard. It’s all you thought you wanted. The search is over.

But it’s fool’s gold. In your hand.

Yes, having a novel published is an incredible achievement (I don’t speak from experience on this...yet). Yes, you should celebrate and feel grateful for all you’ve invested and delight at the feel of your book in your hands.

But no, publication will not (not now or ever) define your worth.

The gold, the real gold comes in what you learned while you sifted (and while you keep sifting even after publication). Gold is found in how you choose to dedicate your time putting on those rubber boots wading in the water out of sheer hunger, learning to enjoy your calling. You’re holding onto pure gold when you understand that your worth doesn’t come from being published, but from the process. From getting your hands dirty. Worth isn’t so much about what you might find, but about who you become in the course of that discovery. Your worth was already defined by the living water.

You are more than pyrite, more than a flash in the pan.

All this time you’ve been searching for gold and you, you’re the gold.

*listened to Refiner’s Fire while writing this post
**photos by flickr


  1. This is a truth that I am so thankful to have grappled with and come to stand firm in before publication. So many, many of us begin this journey with some sort of longing for validation when as Christians, we already have it. Our worth doesn't change with publication or without it. With a book that sells or with a book that bombs. Jesus never changes. But He changes us. He alone defines who I am and what I'm worth. Great post, Wendy!

  2. This is an uplifting post, Wendy. Thank you! All to often we can get caught up in the hype of everyone else reaching that publication goal and forget that we're experiencing gold ourselves in the everyday learning as we write.

    Thanks for sharing, Wendy!

  3. Well said. As one who is one year into being officially published, I heartily agree. After publication, there's always more goal just out of reach to "define your worth". We must cherish the moment we're in. The only one we're promised.

  4. Sigh. Your posts are often a sweet whisper over my soul.

    Kinda like you! :)

  5. "Your worth was already defined by the living water." Yowza! So powerful within this metaphor, and, of course, in life. Thank you for the inspiration today!


  6. Awesome post! So uplifting. Thank you for this.

  7. Love this analogy! With writing like this, it is only a matter of time till your book is published. :)


  8. Beautiful! I must repost for Writer...Interrupted sometime! LMK!

  9. Perfect and powerful. Thank you for writing this. Every writer should read this.

  10. You're a gem, Wendy! Your writing sparkles and shines like real gold, and your insights take my breath away.

  11. Beautiful, Wendy! You sooo hit the nail on the head, here. Thanks for this important reminder. :)

  12. What a wonderful post. And something we all need to remember - every day! :)

  13. I got goosebumps when I read that last line, dear. Yes. You are right on.

  14. I do believe this is one of my favorite posts of yours. Simply exquisite.


  15. bekahjane, Thank. You!

    Anne, Thank you. Means a lot coming from you. I believe the closer I get, the more God longs for me to stand in this truth.

    Eileen, And it really is gold. There is nothing like when that idea comes to life for the first time. And I love that God's behind it all.

    April, So true, there's always something more to strive for and it's when we realize we already living in that moment we've opened the door to real freedom.

    Jessica, Thanks & I thought it was cool to read on your blog today that you led women's ministry. Another reason I want to meet you.

    Terri, Thanks lady. So thankful you've received good news lately. Texas, here you come!

    Erica, I appreciate it. I feel the same way about you. It's people like you that make me so excited for conference.

    Barb, I think that's my most profound point in this whole thing. He showed us how much He cared thousands of years ago.

    Heather, You know me & my upliftingness (fun to make up words).

    Katie, I want to hear you use the word concur at conference! :D

    Karen, Sounds like you're well on your way, too! And thanks. Your words moved me.

    Gina, Anytime. And I plan to email you back soon.

    Kristie, I know I could gain a lot from reading my own reminders. Stuff like this throws it all back into perspective for me.

    Keli, Your friendship is GOLD! Solid.

    Heidi, Thanks. I feel like it's something many of us writers know well--the temptation to put our worth in whether or not we hold our book in our hands.

    Laura, Thanks. I'm getting a lot out of your blog lately, too!

    TiAnna, Thank you. You've been a wonderful support lately. I appreciate it.

    Jeanette, You've been a cool cheerleader for me. I reflect on every word you send my way.

    Mel, Thanks lady! And I love that word, exquisite!

    Now I want to they make chocolate wine. Because I'm craving chocolate & I'm craving wine. Could really kill two birds with one stone...

    Anyway, thanks for visiting, for interacting, and for taking these words to heart.

    ~ Wendy

  16. So beautiful and true, Wendy. I am so thankful to God that my worth is not defined by whether I'm published or not. Thanks for this reminder, my friend!


  17. Wendy, Thanks! Great reminder for me today...and LOVE the description writing you've poured out!
    *great song!*

  18. Hi Wendy -

    Beautiful, lyrical post! Your words touch hearts.

    Susan :)

  19. this is just beautiful wendy. thanks for sharing! can't wait to see you in a few weeks....!!!!

  20. Really awesome message. It's all about the journey.

  21. Speaking of gold mines, your blog is one filled with nuggets of beautiful inspiration!!

    Thank you for this. I really needed the encouragement today.

    Happy Tuesday,

  22. You know I think this post is brilliant. :-)

    Must tweet! Too good not to pass on to as many people as possible! Will do so a little later so I don't flood everybody out with tweets today.

  23. Wow, this post is inspired and inspirational, my friend. Beautifully said.

  24. A hearty amen from this corner. I love how I always learn from the process.


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