This past weekend I had the privilege of attending the ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Greater Philly Conference. It was my first ever writer’s conference that lasted more than a single day. I skipped the ‘Early Bird Wednesday’ but had three very full days of classes, appointments and worship. It was exhausting. It was costly. And it was absolutely worth it!
The big difference between this writer’s conference compared to others, would be that it is faith based. We did lots of praying, had worship multiple times and talked about how we can incorporate the message of Jesus into our writing – whether fiction or non-fiction. I received counsel regarding the technical part of my writing, as well as encouragement in branching out and writing things other than fiction. It was fantastic and I loved every minute of it.
But these things weren’t what changed me.
My very first morning there, I heard a message from one of the visiting pastors. One thing he said stood out from the rest of his thirty minute talk. He mentioned that years ago, when he’d published his very first book, he went to a writer’s conference thinking he’d ‘arrived’. That he was ‘one of the elite’ in the writing world. That people would line up at the conference wanting to discuss his latest book with him. But they didn’t. And it occurred to him – maybe publishing that book wasn’t where his worth should reside.
Bam! It was seriously like an arrow through my heart. You see, just two weeks prior to that day, I had felt a leading during a prayer time with the Lord. I felt like God flat out asked me, ‘Why do you write? Is it for fame? Or is it for me?’ I honestly had trouble not crying, while I sat on that bench and listened to that pastor address the conference.
Then I attended a class with a similar message, then another, then another. Maybe it wasn’t the basis of every single class and maybe this wasn’t actually the theme of the conference. But it was certainly the message God wanted me to take away from that weekend. It was definitely what He wanted me to learn, to know and to live. ‘Write for me, not for them.’
And it felt… liberating.
I feel free. I feel so very free, much more so than I ever have since I began this crazy process of seeking to get my work published.
I heard stories from other author’s about that one person – just one – who contacted them, saying their life had been changed by the message they’d read in that author’s work. A work that happened to be out of print and considered a flop by publishers standards. I heard stories from author’s about how their own life had been changed, by that obscure novel with only one printing, that hadn’t sold more than 1,000 copies.
I heard them… and I knew. This was what I was meant to hear.
Maybe I’m meant to be traditionally published and maybe I’m not. Maybe my work will be read by many and maybe it will be read by only one. But the most important thing is that I’m writing what the Lord has laid on my heart, regardless of fame, or fortune, or anything else a publisher might want from me.
That’s my job. Seek the Lord and write. Write His message. Share His message.
I may not be the best writer in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that God has given me a gift. He has given me a passion. And He wants to see me use that passion to reach others with his message. His message of love and salvation.
I didn’t leave the conference with a contract in hand, or with any real interest in any of my books at all. But I left with a mission. I left with a calling.
Just write. And that’s just what I plan to do.
Happy reading, friends!