Christmas is my favorite time of year and this year especially has been bittersweet. Its my first without any parents and I'm realizing that I'm the oldest generation now. yikes. I guess now that I'm the oldest generation in the family, I'm supposed to be the wise one. double yikes. And those of you who know me can stop laughing. hmmmm
But the release of CURRENT OF LOVE has been such an exciting distraction that I barely realize how much I miss my family.
As I discussed in my October blog, one of the things I've learned about this business is that it works in God's time and within His perfect plan. I certainly didn't plan for all the events occuring with lightning speed.
The Christmas season is a good reminder of our wondrous God and His mighty plans for us. Because this has so been on my mind, I want to invite a Seeker friend of ours who has had a similar message in regards to her writing career.
Ann Lee Miller has written a beautiful article about the Raging River of Ambition we all have within us pushing us to sail off Unpubbed Island and jump in feet first into the rapids so to speak of publication. I love the title Raging River of Ambition. Doesn't that describe what drives us to publish? I suppose ambition is our gift from God that gives us the push and motivation to pursue this amazing career. (Notice I used a nice word to describe it)
Anyway without further ado, I'll welcome Ann Lee to Seekerville and let her tell you her amazing story.
Channeling the Raging River of Ambition. How Does It Feel To Want?
By Ann Lee Miller
I became a writer the year I discovered Sister Sheila had hair. I was in fifth grade at St. Hugh’s Catholic School in Miami, knee deep in nouns and verbs, when Sister Sheila walked through the door in a new habit that showed two inches of mouse brown hair threaded with silver. Sister Sheila encouraged my writing during the final melt-down of my parents’ marriage. Her belief in me propelled me all the way through a BA in creative writing from Ashland University (OH).
Now in my fifties, my children raised, ambition rages through me, splashing over the banks as it goes. I am one of the fortunate few who get to write full-time, and if it weren’t for maintaining ministry, friendships, and needing to pay some attention to the man who believes in me and makes my writing life possible, I’d work sixteen hours a day. I don’t just want to write. I want to publish, sell millions of books, and travel around the country speaking to readers.
“How does it feel to want?” my mother used to say.
It feels stronger than my need to win freestyle races as a swimmer in high school, equal to my teen-aged longing to fall in love, and nearly supersedes my life-long yearning to be utterly entwined with Jesus.
Is the wanting wrong?
Well, it wasn’t for Biblical Joseph. His dreams sound even more far-fetched than mine. In Genesis 37:1-11 God gives seventeen-year-old Joseph two dreams he interprets to mean his parents and eleven brothers will bow down to him. His father rebuked him, and his brothers were incensed. But God brought the dreams to fruition in Joseph’s life.
I wonder what kind of role those dreams played in sustaining Joseph through all the hard years until they became reality. For me, the dream I knew, knew, knew would come true kept me writing for sixteen years of not publishing.
Maybe Joseph’s dreams made him a little pushy in a good way. He excelled at every job he was given. He avoided an affair with his master’s wife. When he interpreted dreams for the king’s baker and cup-bearer, he instructed them to remind the king about him. Joseph did everything in his power to make his dreams come true. I honed my writing skills attending writing conferences, digesting craft books, participating in critique groups, and, entering contests. I submitted to agents and editors. I waited patiently. I wrote books.
Joseph was created to rule as a benevolent leader and to rescue his family from extinction. I was created to write stories that will change readers’ lives. The passion to live out one’s purpose cannot be sin. Without it, none of us would step into our destinies. My books would never get “out there.”
What about when ambition runs full-tilt into a wall?
Just as Joseph was poised for greatness—in charge of a powerful man’s household—he was thrown into prison. After two-and-a-half years with an excellent agent, I was let go—still without publishing. Two hundred and fifteen agent queries later, I failed to scare up an agent. E-books pushed the publishing industry over the same cliff the music industry had plummeted a few years earlier. No doubt, Joseph despaired in jail. I questioned for the first time whether I would ever publish. We both cried out to God.
What about when your dream comes true—and it’s not enough?
Joseph was liberated by the king after approximately twelve years in jail and rose to be second in command in all of Egypt. The Bible doesn’t elaborate on how Joseph felt during this period of his life.
In February God nudged me to do something I’d never considered—self- publish. In the past six months I’ve launched three novels, held them in my hands. The reviews hover between 4.5 and 4.7 stars. One of my books has 92 reviews at this writing. I’ve visited dozens of blogs, received fan letters, and had a handful of newspaper articles written about me. I’ve even sold some books.
And hungry for more—more sales, more validation—perhaps as hungry as I was before I published. I need to let Christ harness the hunger and channel it in the precise direction he designed my life to go. As I bring my plans to God, I see him constantly course correcting my life.
For eight months I tried to land two important speaking engagements. I met with the leaders in person, followed up with several e-mails. Finally, I put my hopes into God’s hands and quit praying about them. Two weeks later, I got a call about the most coveted venue. The next day, the second leader phoned and a third slated me for an additional engagement. At the same time, I began discussing a book launch in conjunction with an artist’s monthly gallery art-walk. All these across-the-country speaking opportunities will happen within two days in February! And the door to a fifth engagement remains open. Only God could have planned such a time-efficient trip with so many marketing avenues.
How do I keep my ambition within the banks of God’s will long-term?
Joseph submitted to the authority of the king for the rest of his life. He had many opportunities to return to his own country. He sets a good example. I place God as CEO of my company. Of course, I’ll be tempted and have the freedom to elbow Him out, but publishing during the second half of life doesn’t leave me time to squander Twittering or blogging, or Facebooking if that’s not what I’m supposed to be doing.
Some practical steps I’ve taken to keep God as lord over my career:
1. I framed Psalm 127:1-2 and hung it on my office wall.
Unless the Lord builds the house [career], they labor in vain…. It is vain for you to rise up early, to retire late, to eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.
This passage packs a wallop because God has given me bits and pieces of my stories hundreds of times as I’ve drifted off to sleep or woken up. I hear God telling me that if I let Him balance my life, He will give me everything I need writing and career-wise.
2. I spend the first 30-60 minutes of the day reading the Bible and praying. This quiet space gives the Holy Spirit opportunity to come in and land in my mind. Often He readjusts my priorities for the day. Maybe I need to meet with one of the teens I mentor. My chronically ill friend may need a visit. Cleaning the house for a youth group meeting, cooking a better than usual meal, writing a letter or making a long distance call may take precedence over working. I wish I could say I take these readjustments gracefully, but I do them—and pray for a good attitude.
3. One of the most difficult disciplines is completing the day’s writing before turning on the internet and cluttering my mind with marketing details. For me it is disobedience to “play” at energizing, fun marketing before “working” at creating 360 pages of gut-wrenching prose inhabited by the Holy Spirit.
4. It is a daily battle to quit working at 6 p.m.—not one I win every day. But my husband, children, friends, and church deserve my attention. And I need the refreshment and love they give me.
5. Sometimes I take a walk to detach from work and reflect on all the amazing things God has done for my career thus far. I choose to be grateful. I choose to trust Him to continue guiding my career and throwing wide the doors He wants me to walk through.
With my first book launch 15,000 people heard Kicking Eternity advertised as free—my unorthodox marketing plan—through a Facebook event. Facebook removed the page and did not respond to my inquiry asking why. A list of 15,000 potential buyers of subsequent books was lost. Knowing God ran my business carried me through the disappointment.
A month later—three months after launch—Amazon price-matched and dropped Kicking Eternity to free. Imagine my amazement when I stumbled across the fact that thirty thousand people had downloaded the book. At six months from launch, over sixty thousand copies have been downloaded. The Art of My Life is selling modestly, and my third book, Avra’s God, debuted this month. Free e-copies of Kicking Eternity may be requested at AnnLeeMiller.com.
Daily placing God as CEO lets the steam of my ambition/desperation escape the pressure cooker in my inner man. I am able to discipline myself to write, and curb marketing to second priority. Inside, my next book can quietly simmer.
Wow. I don't know about you but that is a message I need to remember. Don't you love how she compared it to Joseph's journey?
Thank you Ann for sharing this testimony with us. It is especially poignant as we get ready to start a new year. It is also another reminder of who we need to keep our thoughts, dreams, aspirations and dreams focused on at this wonderful time of year. And all year actually.
And because its Christmas, Ann and I have some wonderful gifts to winners drawn from those of you who comment.
Ann is offering an ebook copy (any format) of AVRA'S GOD to a lucky winner.
Avra’s God Back Cover:
In the tradition of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, four friends navigate college and the drama churned up by their Florida beach band to cement friendship and more.
Avra wants love, but drummer Cisco—self-medicating from his parents’ divorce with sex and intoxicants—is a poor choice. Cisco hungers for fresh-baked cookies and the scent of family he finds at Avra’s.
Kallie shares her classically trained voice only with lead vocalist Jesse and fights to keep her heart safe. Jesse feeds on fame and hides more than insecurity beneath his guitar.
The friends surf ego, betrayal, and ambition and head for wipeout. But somehow, when they're not looking, Avra’s God changes them all.
Sandra is offering to three lucky winners your choice of a hard bound copy of PRICE OF VICTORY (which makes a lovely gift) or an ebook copy of CURRENT OF LOVE.
We have a wonderful Christmas buffet that includes my grandma's crystal platters filled with fresh fruits and slices of orange bread. The orange bread is made from the oranges off my tree in the back yard. You'll love this. Its a tradition in our family. (Maybe I can talk Ruthy and Missy into posting the recipe at the Yankee Belle Cafe.
Please share with us how you control the raging river of ambition or how God has worked in your writing life. Winners of gifts will be drawn from those who leave comments.
If you comment, check the weekend edition to see if you won one of the gifts listed above.
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Bio: Ann Lee Miller earned a BA in creative writing from Ashland (OH) University and writes full-time in Phoenix, but left her heart in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, where she grew up. She loves speaking to young adults and guest lectures on writing at several Arizona colleges. When she isn’t writing or muddling through some crisis—real or imagined—you’ll find her hiking in the Superstition Mountains with her pastor husband or meddling in her kids’ lives.