Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Writing for Publication and . . . Servanthood

Writing for publication means serving your reader.
I had some "life" happen recently that meant I wasn't able to prepare the post I had planned for August 1. So a wise friend asked if I had something I could re-run. Yes! I remembered this article I wrote a few years ago, back when this blog was a newsletter for subscribers only. I thought this might be a really good article to run this month. Sorry it's a bit late, but life happens. And when life happens, it's important not to miss it.

So, I hope you enjoy this re-run article.

Writing for Publication and...Servanthood

I had a couple of interesting conversations with writers lately. One lady contacted me because she noticed the local writers group and she was thinking she might like to join. Though I encouraged her to come to the writing group, she seemed shy and uncertain. Finally she confessed what was really on her mind:

She said she wasn't sure it was right to call attention to herself through writing. She was concerned about becoming prideful about writing in a way that would be unbecoming for a Christian. (Tweet that!)

I had to be careful in my response, because I didn't want to laugh out loud. That might have come off as rude.

Will You Be a Famous Writer?

I asked her what she meant about calling attention to herself. She looked confused. I asked her if she thought if she started writing that everyone would then know her and she would be famous. (Tweet that!) She kind of, sort of indicated yes.

I asked her if she had read any magazine articles lately. She said yes. I asked her who wrote them. She said she didn't know. 

I wondered if she'd read anything else lately. Articles online? Newspaper? Book? Would she have remembered any of these writers' names? My bet is if she could have remembered any, it would have been the name of a book's author.

Then I told her, Look, if you start writing, chances are extremely thin that you'll become famous. Most people won't even notice your name on a magazine article. I'm convinced the only people who read bylines are other writers. (Tweet that!) ("Oh, look! My friend Linda got an article published in here. Good for her. Wait a minute. How'd she do that? I wanna to do that.") (Tweet that!)

Publishing is Like the NFL

This lovely Christian lady was all worried about calling attention to herself and becoming sinfully prideful. But what are the chances of her actually drawing that much attention? I told her it's like playing in the NFL. A lot of kids start out wanting to be a star in the National Football League, but first you have to make the team. Then you have to make the high school team, the college team, and then win a spot on a professional team. Only a few people actually make it that far. And when you do make it that far, there are only so many slots on a team and only so many players can be chosen to fill them.

Publishing is similar. There are only so many slots available for writers. There is only so much room for so many articles in a magazine. (Tweet that!)

There are only so many slots in a publishing house for so many books to be published. (Tweet that!) 

And when you get to that level, you're competing with professionals.

So where is your level of skill in writing? Are you at a professional level? If yes, then keep submitting. 

If not, what do you need to do to get there? Work out more in the gym? (Write more.) Get with a Trainer? (Find a writer or group who can teach you?) Practice your skills? (Practice your skills?!)

Why Do You Want to Writer?

After I told that nice lady that she would probably never have to worry about becoming sinfully prideful because she'd probably never be famous, I ask her why she wanted to write. I don't think she really knew how to answer that question. (Tweet that!)

Will it Serve?

I had a second conversation with a different writer who, basically, wants to write what she wants to write. She has something she wants to say. It's important stuff to her and she wants the whole world to know it and so she wants to tell the whole world. 

Well, okay, that's all good and fine. But is it something anyone else wants to read?

Will it help the reader? Will it serve the reader's wants or needs? Or is it just a demand that somebody listen to what she has to say? (Tweet that!)

You see, so many people think the reason to write for publication is to become really famous and to make a lot of money. Other people want to be heard, to be listened to. But all of these reasons are filled with "I wants":

I want to be famous. 
I want to be rich. 
I want to be listened to. 
I want to tell. 
I want to be known for telling you this. 
I want to be heard. 

If you're writing for publication, this is never going to work. When we write for publication, we're not writing for ourselves; we're writing for someone else: our reader. (Tweet that!)

The way to write for the reader is to SERVE the reader. 

You think you have something to say? Okay, will it serve the reader? Is it something the reader wants or needs to hear or know? If not, then the writer is only serving him/herself.

I know what you're thinking: "Yes, but I'm writing because I have something to say! And it's important."

Yes, of course it is. It's on your heart, or it's in your mind, and you want to share it so badly. And that's fine, because often we want to share what we know because we know it will serve other people. It's a fine line, but it's a line.

I know what some of you are thinking: "But I don't have anything important to say. I just want to tell stories [or write articles, or fill in the blank ______ ]."

It's About the Reader

Listen to me. Are you listening? You do have something important to say. Especially if you are a Christian. You do have something to say that people in the world out there need to hear. (Tweet that!)

So what's the difference? When writing for publication (not for yourself--your journal, your exploring, your own benefit), our writing should be about the reader.  Not, "What do I want to say that I want everyone to hear?" But, "What do I have to offer that will help my reader?" (Tweet that!)

This is the Servanthood of writing. (Tweet that!) And you can sum it up in this question: "How can I SERVE my reader?"

As an example, my aim with this e-zine [now a blog] is to serve those who read it. It's not about me. Sure, there are times I mention what's going on in my writing life... That's because I believe many of you are interested in what I'm up to--and if you're not you can skip that part. But the main purpose of this [blog] is to help you, to serve you, to help you become the writer you want to be--whether that's published or just a better writer or whatever you're longing for.

If you're not getting published, maybe you can take a look at this area of your writing and see if there's room here for improvement. Editors are interested in serving their readers. You need to not only serve your reader, but serve your editor. But I guarantee you, if you're serving your reader, then you're serving the editor.

How Do You Want to Serve Your Readers?

So this month as you write, how do you want to serve your readers? What do you have to offer that will help your readers? (Tweet that!)

Now don't give me that "nothin'" answer. I know better. Especially if you're a Christian--because you have a knowledge of the One. 

But Christian or not, you have information for a magazine article that would help someone. You have an experience that taught you something that would help someone else. You have a story with a message that will bring someone closer to God. (Tweet that!)

The delightful thing about writing is that our serving can be done in infinite ways, unique to each of us--which satisfies the longings of our souls to write and be heard. (Tweet that!) But in the end, it needs to be for and about the reader, not the writer.

If you have this attitude of Servanthood, you'll never worry about becoming sinfully prideful, because it's not about you. It's about the reader. And for the Christian writer, it's about Christ.


If you are a #writer, it's all about serving your reader.  Click to Tweet

The "Servanthood" of #Writing.  Click to Tweet

The way to write for the reader is to SERVE the reader. Click to Tweet