To Publish or Not To Publish?

That is the question.


I’m a firm believer that if we don’t have a big dream we’re striving toward, then we’re just kind of drifting through life. That’s why I made a bucket list back in 2008 when my cousin’s son was diagnosed with cancer. That’s why I put publishing a novel at the top of that list. And that’s why I started working toward that goal in the summer of 2009. Five years later, I have two novels published by Curiosity Quills, a small press, with the last installment of my 18 Things trilogy due in January 2015.

I thought waiting for it to happen would be the hardest part. If I could’ve put my dream in a microwave and made it happen in 30 seconds, I would have. But that’s not how most dreams work. Like most writers, I endured lots of discouragement while agents, editors, and even friends and family members told me it wasn’t going to happen. They weren’t mean about it. They all thought they knew best. But it wasn’t their opinion that mattered to me the most. I’m the one who has to live with my decisions when I lay my head on the pillow at night. If I gave up, what kind of example would that be to my kids and the students I teach every day, who I tell every day, DON’T GIVE UP! THAT VICTORY YOU NEED IS JUST RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER! *shakes pom poms* Sure, I had my doubts from time to time,  but I learned to tune out the haters. I knew the path to publishing wasn’t paved with rainbows, unicorns, and puppies. I also knew God would make it happen when the time was right. And he did!

But then I discovered I was wrong (happens occasionally–hahaha). The hardest part wasn’t the 3 years I waited to get a publishing contract, the hardest part has been trying to juggle my teaching job, my writing career, being a wife to three needy children (yes, I counted my hubs as a child, lol–LOVE him though), volunteering at church, bible study and book club, cleaning and cooking (oh, who am I kidding?).

Here’s another thing I firmly believe: EVERYTHING you have is a gift from God, including your talents and abilities. And why would God give us these things if he didn’t want us to use them for his glory?

The thing is though, I NEVER EVER EVER want my own family to think my writing is more important than them, and when I’m in my writing cave (AKA dining room) chained to my laptop every summer, spring, and winter break, typing out what the voices in my head tell me to, I know that’s how they feel sometimes. So I told them after I publish my last book under my contract, I’d give up publishing for a while. My hubs and 10yo cheered (my almost 14yo said I should do what I want-she won’t have much time for me when starting high school in the fall anyway, which of course, made me crawl up like a baby and cry in the corner for an hour while shoving donuts in my mouth). My editor laughed. “Just keep telling yourself you’ll be able to do that.”

Anyone a fan of American Ninja Warrior? Last summer and this summer, there’s been one girl to make it past the qualifying rounds. Both were gymnasts, the one from last year was a trapeze artist. That’s what my struggle reminds me of, a trapeze artist. It’s an analogy I came across in my daily devotional one day:

There’s a moment of truth where she swings out to catch the bar that’s swinging toward her. But in order to reach the bar, she has to let go of the one she is swinging on. If she doesn’t let go, she just swings back to where she started. But if she lets go, there’s a split second in time where she’s hanging in mid-air, thirty feet above the ground, and holding onto absolutely nothing.

That’s what faith looks like. Is giving up my dreams of being a professional author a lack of faith, or an act of obedience as I commit more time to my family? What’s more important? Faith or obedience?

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja Warrior, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Join us the first Wednesday of every month as we release our fears to the world – or offer encouragement to those who are feeling neurotic *shoots hand in the air*




21 comments on “To Publish or Not To Publish?

  1. That’s an inspiring post. I always feel like I have so much to do before I can sit down and write and you have two books published and 3 (sort of) children. Puts my life in perspective.
    I want some pom poms now though. Purple sparkly ones.

  2. I love how you describe faith Jamie. Perfect analogy.
    I know how you feel. It’s hard. And fam always comes first. Maybe instead of giving up publishing, you’ll be able to make the move to full time and take a leave from teaching. Depends on where your passion lies.
    See you in a few weeks!

  3. That’s exactly what faith looks like.
    My writing will never come before my wife and my Lord. It is a gift He’s given me, along with music. But neither will ever rule my life.
    Taking a break might be a good thing. The craziness really does start after the writing and it takes up a lot of time.

  4. Yep, that’s faith. 🙂 How do you juggle it all? Sorry, had to ask. Glad you never gave up because the world would have missed 2 wonderful books. (soon to be three, I hope 😉 )

  5. Re: everything being a gift from God, that sentiment (which I agree with) always reminds me of the George Harrison song “Pure Smokey.” He explained in his autobiography I, Me, Mine that not only was it his way of thanking Smokey Robinson for such beautiful music for so many years while Smokey was still earthside, but also ultimately thanking God for having given Smokey the talent in the first place. George wrote about how all gifts and talents are just gifts on loan from God, and it’s up to us to express thanks and put them to good use while we’re in the material world. One of the lines in the song is “I want to thank you Lord for giving us/Pure Smokey.”

    I’m sorry I sat on my own Divinely-loaned gifts and talents for so many years instead of being more proactive about sharing them with the world. I never wanted to be like the Chekhov character Mrs. Turkina, who writes all these novels and reads them to her admiring family, friends, and neighbors, but who shuns the idea of having them published. I’m embarrassed I was Mrs. Turkina for too long.

  6. It’s a juggling act alright. It’s a second job!
    Good luck finding a balance.

    IWSG #215 until Alex culls the list again.

  7. Perhaps you need only to take a step back and a step forward at the same time. A little less writing and editing and a little more family time. A few evenings editing, a few evenings snuggling on the couch with dh. Or snuggling on the couch while he watches tv, and your pen and notebook are in your hand. It’s all doable, we just need to find the combination. Never give up your dream, just try to see it from a sideways angle. Sometimes a change of angle is all we need.

  8. Jamie, your post is lovely and it brings many thoughts to mind. One is a FB post about a man named Harry Bernstein who pubd his first book at 96 and wrote five more before he died at 101.

    I am old enough to be your mom … yikes … I might be old enough to be your granny. I have 17 yo boy/girl twins. I am by nature more spiritual than religious, yet I believe that there is a Higher Power (that I call God), I believe that in our life we meet many living angels and that the ones I may never meet have always watched over me as I tripped and fell through this life.

    A personal crisis in my life took me on a very long detour, away from my dream of writing. I had no thoughts of publishing then, only to have the time. I made a conscious decision to put my dreams in a box and took care of stuff like feeding the kids. A single mother since my younger was five months old, I learned quickly that we make hard choices. My son was 14 and found me putting all my journals away. He asked me what I was doing and I told him I was putting all my writing away. He told me it was a big mistake.

    I don’t want to think of whether he was right then. He’s 45 now. I only think that the chance to find my work again happened more than twenty years later.

    God does indeed give us gifts. If we do not accept them, we are not turning from who we are meant to be. Once God gives us a gift, they are not taken away. There is no such thing that if you don’t use it, you lose it. NO, you don’t lose it. It sits patiently, growing in ways we can never understand, and when time and life brings us to another crossroad, we can reach inside our souls and find them again.

    So here I am, what is laughingly called a Late Bloomer, a senior citizen finding herself in a place of peace and joy. The kids are fine, the grandkids are fine and my 42 yo baby girl is about to have a baby girl (18 days and counting) and life is good.

    Whatever you do in life, grab hold of it and and never let go. If you are a great teacher, wife and mother, you can teach others the importance of finding a dream. Later, when I’m long gone, you might remember this. Nothing in life is ever truly gone. It waits for us and when we reach for it at another time, it comes back and says, “Hey, glad to see you again.” Enjoy your life, whatever you decide to do 🙂

    Sorry this went on a lot longer than I had planned.

  9. When you write about all those things you do, I have to wonder how you manage! So I totally understand taking a step back. I think in the end though, despite your family needing reassurance that you are there for them, they will understand that you are not complete without the writing part of you. I hope you continue to find the time and inspiration to write, perhaps only on a less hectic schedule. 🙂

  10. You’re such an inspiration! You teach, have kids, and have written books! I can barely keep up with my teaching and writing a little blog. One day, I hope I have your same dilemma – but just like someone commented before me, I know your family will know you are there for them, and that writing is a part of you that you are called to, too. You’ll figure it out – we always do 🙂

  11. Choosing family God and family over writing is never a lack of faith. People are what matter most in this world, so I cheer and applaud you. I do the same with my writing — it fits in when I have time. Those I love come first.

  12. Wow, all these words of encouragement and advice are making me all teary eyed, especially yours, Florence ❤ ❤ ❤ I want to say I'll just do the writing when it 'fits' my schedule, but I'm such an OCD person, it's seldom I can ever do anything in small spurts. Have to chase that shiny object until I catch it. I might try writing a book with a friend next . . . then I only do half the work, right? We'll see!! 🙂

  13. Juggling everything is the hardest part. If we could make enough to write fiction full-time, it would be much easier! But in those early years you have to squeeze it in between all your other obligations, and that isn’t so easy!

  14. So true. I hear many people say: “I’ll give it a year and if it’s not working by then, I’ll give up.” That’s sad. Because in most cases, you’ll have to wait longer than a year. A succesful author once told me that it takes ten years of dedicated work before you can really call yourself succesful.

  15. Praying for you, love. Big decision, and God certainly honors those who seek him in those big decisions, which you’re clearly doing.

    Another option is for sure indie pub. As a mama with a little baby, I’ve been blessed to be able to go at my own pace. Message me if you want to know how it’s going (the answer is ‘great!’)

  16. Wonderful post. My dream was to be published and I stuck to it, even though it calls for many sacrifices. Now that I have more experience behind me, I do get some more breathing space.

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