The writing life can be discouraging. You have days where you get bad reviews, your royalty check is long overdue, and the news you post about your books seemingly goes unheeded. It can be a lonely and frustrating experience for both publish and beginning authors.
When those moments darken your horizons and claw at your creativity, remember that the path ahead isn’t always the one you expect. The hand guiding you is the same one that ordains the times for nations.
The path I took over the past 30-some years isn’t one I’d ever dreamed up in my fiction, even though it turned me into the author of 10 published novels.
I’d wanted to write for as long as I could remember. Somewhere among my archived papers hides a story I wrote in third grade about two space adventurers. Pretty sure the tale was based on two LEGO astronauts and their spaceship which I’d constructed.
Consider it the prototype of later work.
I wrote fiction throughout high school and college, building numerous short stories and fragments of others. I kept most of those efforts to myself. Painful shyness afflicted me. Fear of others and their opinions prevented me from seeing the path ahead.
College forced me to confront those fears, and when God came looking for me toward the end of my four years in Boston, I got an even bigger kick in the pants. Newspaper reporting doesn’t tolerate shyness. Eight years of continuous writing and talking to people slowly pushed me into situations which were uncomfortable for an introvert. They slowly transformed my personality.
During that span I created an epic space opera, Commissioned. I wanted to explain the importance of the Word of God in people’s lives, while placing characters in a sprawling adventure set on a galactic stage. Too often I’d read science-fiction novels which had stimulated my imagination but denigrated the faith vital to my world. Writing such a book was an uphill slog, since I was spending most of my day, every day, creating articles for a newspaper. As anyone in the industry can attest, constant production saps your will to be creative by the time you get home.
All the careful planning I did, all the steps I took to pursue both my job and my writing, blew up in my face when I lost my job in July 2008. Up to that point I’d been convinced I’d been doing what God wanted me to do. How could He, then, let me fall flat on my face? The strain was suffocating. I was supporting not only myself but my wife, and our two young boys. I’d failed at tasks before—who hasn’t?—but had never been without a job. As a father and a husband, I felt I’d flamed out. It was my nadir.
God wasn’t done. I just couldn’t see anything on the road ahead. If you were riding shotgun in a car on a dark road, with no streetlamps or headlights, could you trust a driver who claimed to be able to still navigate? It was a tough sell, for me. We all read and speak about how we trust God. I found I had no choice but to do it.
He put me into a new line of work—libraries. I’d had limited volunteer experience, and zero training. But I discovered something miraculous. Since I wasn’t constantly producing articles, when I got home at the end of the day I felt the desire to write. Lunch breaks and evening hours soon filled pages. Six years prior to my journalism career’s collapse, I’d written about one third of Commissioned. In nine months after I lost my job, I finished the remaining two-thirds.
Within five months of finishing Commissioned, a small publisher called Marcher Lord Press (now Enclave Publishing) picked up the novel and split it into two books. Three months after that, I held a copy of The Word Reclaimed in my hands. Its sequel, The Word Unleashed, followed six months later.
The next seven years became a rush of ideas and stories, culminating (thus far) in the publication of The Word Endangered by Enclave and Empire’s Rift by WordFire Press (Kevin J. Anderson Presents) last fall. It was as if the first half of my professional life had turned a spigot just enough to let stories trickle out; the second half cranked it wide open, and worlds came gushing out.
I’ve learned valuable lessons about craft, creation, and communication that I might never have learned until far later in life had my course not been so drastically altered. One thing sustained me throughout all the turmoil and doubt: God intervened, in perhaps the one way I’d never anticipated He would, so I would be put on this writing path.
Speculative fiction is my forte, so allow me to speculate. Suppose you provide me with a time machine—preferably an automobile, though it doesn’t have to be a DeLorean. If I were to take a quick hop back to the end of 2006, exactly 10 years ago, and tell myself about what the future held, he would—or I would—laugh in my/his face. Back then I was confident God oversaw everything. That, however, didn’t translate to true acceptance. He showed me new possibility, a new reality, and in the process set me on track.
No matter where you are in the writing journey, don’t despair. The path may be shrouded and difficult to discern, or it might be altogether invisible. But it’s there. When the time is right, when God wills it to happen, you’ll see the next steps.
My challenge to you today: Imagine you have one chance to travel into the past to meet your younger self. How far back would you go? What would you tell yourself about your life to come?
Steve Rzasa is the author of several novels of science-fiction, steampunk, and fantasy—with a bunch more in progress. He was first published in 2009 by Marcher Lord Press (now Enclave Publishing). His third novel, Broken Sight, received the 2012 Award for Speculative Fiction from the American Christian Fiction Writers.
Steve grew up in Atco, New Jersey, and started writing stories in grade school. He received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University, and worked for eight years at newspapers in Maine and Wyoming. He’s been a librarian since 2008, most recently earning his Library Support Staff Certification from the American Library Association in 2014—one of only 135 graduates nationwide and a handful in Wyoming.
He is the technical services librarian in Buffalo, Wyoming, where he lives with his wife and two boys. Steve’s a fan of all things science-fiction and superhero, and is also a student of history. www.steverzasa.com
Empire's Rift The Baedecker Invasion (A Takamo Universe Story) (Volume 1)
The Naplian Empire’s war of expansion against the Grand Alliance has taken a turn for the worse. With vital serjaum fuel reserves wiped out by a surprise attack, Admiral Daviont of the III Corps makes a long, desperate journey to the fringes of Terran space for a massive undeveloped source of serjaum—the Baedecker Star System. But his action does not go unnoticed. Their mortal enemies, the Briddarri, send their own task force to intercept. At Baedecker Four, starfighter pilot and governor’s son Taggart “Tag” Wester has his hands full steering clear of his wing commander’s wrath. When an emergency call unearths a dangerous foe from the past, he’s put to a test unlike any he’s ever face—one of courage, and leadership. Elden Selva is on a mission to restore power to the defeated Northern Alliance, by retrieving the remains of Truppen cybernetic soldiers. What he finds is far more than he anticipated, and the ensuing conflict changes both him and the woman he loves. The invaders and defenders collide in a struggle that will not only shape their lives, but have dire consequences for the entire galaxy.
Steve is generously offering a first 15-pages critique of a Speculative Fiction manuscript to one commenter in preparation for the ACFW Genesis Contest. Leave a comment and let us know you want to be entered.
Because we are delighted when a librarian visits, Seekerville is giving away an Out Of Print tote in honor of his visit.
Two winners. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.