Miss America 2011

I need more friends. About 790 more, to be precise. This is one of the things I learned at a recent four-day writers’ conference I attended. I learned that every writer needs to have a platform: a following and an audience. Publishers want to know that there are lots of people that will buy your book, should they publish it. I spoke with a writer who met with an agent and learned that until she had a thousand friends on facebook, and a thousand hits on her blog, this agent wouldn’t even work with her.

I learned about writing non-fiction, multiple marketing, the importance of a great hook, and how to write a book proposal. I practiced pitching my ideas to editors, publishers and agents, and met some wonderful writers. Writers who, like me, love to write and want to write better. I learned who Ann Voskamp is and met some women who want to be like her, not the raising chickens and a half dozen kids part, but the New York Times bestseller, blockbuster blog part.

Several speakers and teachers talked about how to succeed as a writer. You have to work hard. You have to sacrifice and be willing to write about anything and everything. You need to set goals and follow through. These admonitions have been ruminating in my mind over the past week and a half, but I have also reflected on something else. Along with their success, some of these writers shared regrets about how they neglected their families during their years of pursuing writing careers. They were driven, and that unrelenting drive may be the reason why they have succeeded as they have, but it came at a cost.

Driven vs. Led

I want to pursue writing. If I let myself, I can be swept away by the never-ending list of ‘to-dos:’ study magazines and submit articles, send more queries, get started on a book proposal, update my blog more often, sign up for twitter, start handing out business cards to random people at the grocery store and ask them to be my friends on facebook…you get the picture. It can start to feel like I’m running after everything, or what the writer of Ecclesiastes calls a “chasing of the wind.”

I am a wife, a mother, a friend. I serve at my church. I volunteer at my kids’ schools. I try to work-out regularly and I love to cook. I enjoy watching TV with my husband after the kids go to bed. I need a good night’s sleep.

I pitched my book idea to an agent at the conference, and while trying to clarify my idea, she suggested that what women want is a book about balance: how to balance your home life with your work life. She went on to tell me how she has three kids, and finding balance is her greatest challenge.

Pursue as I’m Led

I came home from the conference not with a new book idea, but rather determined to figure out my own balancing act. There are a lot of opportunities before me. Which ones will I choose? If I receive three invitations in my inbox to write specific articles (as I did this morning), which ones will I go for? None of them? All of them? Will I frantically chase after every possibility because I need to feel validated, or will I stop and pray, asking God to lead me? Will I allow my worth as a writer to be determined by the money I earn or the number of places in which I get published? Or will I daily remember why I write. I write to share stories. My story, God’s story, someone else’s story. I write to encourage, honor and build up. My best writing happens when I can’t help but write. Rather than be driven, I can pursue opportunities as I am led. I can follow as God guides me. I can thoughtfully and prayerfully consider every idea, each opportunity as it comes, letting go of those that are not for now, grabbing hold of those that resonate, stir up and inspire me.

I have friends, (real friends - not virtual ones), that are teachers, nurses, physical therapists, and nannies. I have a friend that is tinkering with the idea of starting a catering business, and another that works with the youth at her church. I have friends in retail, friends in ministry. Many of these women are moms like me, and they are learning to juggle just like I am. Learning to ask the hard questions. “Do I say yes to this? Because saying yes to this means saying no to something else. Can I commit the time and energy to this task? Is God leading me in this? What is the cost?”

My challenge right now is to discern where I am being led, and then to follow through on pursuing those opportunities, doing my absolute best. When I rest my head on my pillow at the end of each day, I pray that I have spent my day doing what God asked me to do. That I have lived creatively, loved whole-heartedly, and followed Him unswervingly. I can then leave every outcome to my Leader, the Author of my life.

Are you wondering about the title for this post? Just an idea I came up with after the conference. Miss America 2011 happens to be the number one Google search for today. Ok, so I might be a little driven…