Thursday, June 2, 2016

Emerging from the Rubble




For every creative soul there comes times of discouragement and confusion; perhaps even that horrid question: ‘Should I just give up?’
Well, should I? I’ve been published for twenty years, and enjoyed huge success—relatively speaking—in the Australian Christian market. I couldn’t write fast enough, and the re-prints kept rolling in. I didn’t realise that I was riding a wave, and that somewhere around 2007, the wave began to beach. Things didn’t immediately collapse at that time, but with the introduction of the wonder medium, the eBook, the Australian Christian market began to stutter, then cough, then choke.

Concurrently, with this change, Australian Christian writers began to emerge. Writing groups, like Christian Writers Downunder and Omega Writers, began to form and gain momentum. We had conferences where we could listen to some excellent advice on just about anything writing (including how we should avoid using the word ‘just’). Groups like Wombat Books and Even Before Publishing got legs and started to walk. 

But unfortunately, none of us seem to have got to the running pace in the Australian Christian Market.
From my own experience of small independent publishing, I’ve seen the huge support of the Christian Booksellling Association of Australia (CBAA) dwindle by degrees. Part of it has been because of the digital changeover, and some of it (in my case at least) has been because a good part of my audience and support base of twenty years ago were people 60+. Twenty years on, and these people have gone on to the Lord.

So where does that leave me? Where does that leave any of us who have been educating ourselves in the art of writing? Australian Christian writers are more abundant now than when I first started, and the quality of writing is improving all the time. And yet, the better we get, and the more of us there are, the less the opportunities to get that piece of work into the hands of readers.
Sometimes I feel as if the whole thing has collapsed into a heap of rubble, and we are left, picking over the ruins, looking for signs of life.

At a recent conference, I was chatting with a pastor’s wife, and she told me the story of her son. He is a young man who has a music degree, made it to the finals of one of the television singing competitions, had been leading their church music team and is a competent worship leader. He made the choice to go to Nashville in the US to see where else God would take him. This young man and his wife found themselves in a church in Nashville—ironically, it was a church run by a well-known Australian worship leader. This church has exploded, and there are a lot of Australians gathering together there. One morning, the worship leader asked for anyone in the congregation who was a worship leader to stand. No less than fifty people stood up. The young man could see that his chances of becoming a worship leader in this church were not high, and yet he had committed himself to serve in the carpark team.
As I listened to this story I thought, wow! There’s nothing apparent there for him to hope for in terms of his gift, and yet still he chooses to serve.

Then, last week, I caught up with a movie producer friend of mine, and we sat and talked the Australian film industry, which shares many similar frustrations to the Australian Christian book industry. He told me a story from a documentary he saw. The film team were in a Hollywood producer’s office and the camera zoomed in on one corner of the office. Piled up to waist height on both walls in the corner were manuscripts waiting to be reviewed—from the last week! AND apparently these were only the scripts that had a catchy log line and pitch. The rest had been discarded. Wow!

So, in this day and age where everyone can write, and write quickly; anyone can set a manuscript, and put together a cover, and publish online; how does my work or your work find an opportunity to bless others? The competition is ridiculous.

Actually, I don’t have a definitive answer. I’m still troubling through the variables myself. Should I give up?
One thing I do know, if I am picking through the rubble of a collapsed industry, then I must find the survivors, and give them nourishment, however that might be. If I am serving the Lord, and that comes in the guise of cooking a meal for a sick neighbour, or giving courage when I have opportunity to do so, then that is what it is. After all, I do believe the Word of God when it says:

“5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight.”
Proverbs 3:5-7New International Version (NIV)

Meredith Resce is author of 17 published titles, including The Heart of Green Valley series, and Mellington Hall. 


 Please connect with Meredith on her facebook page or website

 
 






17 comments:

  1. Great post Meredith. Wow - 17 published titles? How cool is that. Awesome achievement. Thank you for pointing out how things are with Australian writing at present. It fully resonates with my experience too. I liked how you worded it: "Australian Christian writers are more abundant now than when I first started, and the quality of writing is improving all the time. And yet, the better we get, and the more of us there are, the less the opportunities to get that piece of work into the hands of readers."

    I've spent the month of May as a month of retreat to seek God's heart in my writing. I am so glad I did. I found God leading me back into writing this year (after a break of a few years)but a lot of my enthusiasm had disappeared because no matter how hard I've tried, I have not gone beyond first base in my writing.

    I've emerged from my retreat with a song in my heart and that song is God's call. What I am standing on now is not the present situation (which can be pretty discouraging) but rather the joy of knowing that He has called me. And when He calls - even though the journey is often different to what we expect - we can go forward gladly and obey. Because of course it's the obedience that matters, not the results. The results are all in His Hands.

    Keep writing Meredith. And yes, we should also continue to serve the world in other ways - like making a meal for someone who needs it. Thank you for a thought provoking post! Great job. :)

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  2. Thanks for putting into words what so many of us experience daily, Meredith. As an indie publisher myself, my big questions are these; how many copies should I order? What if I have more than I can sell? Of course there's no answer, so I find, like you, to try living as Jesus would have me; ie getting involved in life around me. Sending copies to those who I know who really can't afford to buy them has been one blessing. Hah, I often leave copies on trains & planes, praying for those who might read them. So all we can do is to follow Proverbs 3:5,6. and that eventually relieves the stress.

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  3. Thank you for your post Meredith, hard to believe it is 20 years since picking up your novel 'The Manse'.
    I self published a little encouragement book in 2010.
    Self-published because every other avenue was not interested in what I had written. My family are BIG encouragers, so with some funds from my Mum, my husband and I launched into the self publishing arena.
    I thought printing 200 books would be plenty, but my husband has a bigger faith than me, so we ordered 400. Less than 100 are in storage and I have given quite a few away.
    But, like you say, I believe I am serving the Lord with my words and only He knows who might benefit from the words 'we' have written.
    I read in a book once "if you don't know what to do, keep doing what you are doing." I think that is good advice!

    Love your work - keep doing what you are doing!

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  4. Hi Meredith,
    Like you, I find it ironic that wonderful Aussie publishers and support groups have started up at the same time the industry itself seems to be taking a nose dive, for the reasons you've mentioned. I find your stories of fellow creatives in this blog post encouraging (in a sad and perverse sort of way, as we'd all like to be flourishing in the ways we imagined).
    I've asked myself that same question too, and even put my pen down for the last year and a bit, but got started again because what I'm working on right now has captured my curiosity and intrigued me. I guess the bottom line is that this is really what keeps us motivated, despite plummeting sales and hard-to-find readers.
    I like to think back to the good old times, like when I first made contact with you in the 90s, and wonder whether God has finished with us all yet :)

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  5. I'm sure God hasn't finished with us yet, but how that looks might not be like it has always been. We just have to keep focused on the Lord, and look for the paths he lays out before us.

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  6. Hi, Meredith. I really love the point you have made above in response to what Paula wrote re the fact that God hasn't finished with us yet, but that how that looks might well change. Also that we need to keep focussing on where God is leading each of us as authors. Can't add much more really--except that I hear your heart and that of all the other authors who have commented too. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all.

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  7. I was feeling a little depressed after reading your post, Meredith, then later on this afternoon I came across this verse: 'Who dares despise the day of small things' (Zechariah 4:10).

    Christian publishing in Australia may be a small thing but God can use it greatly, which is good to know.

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    1. Didn't mean to discourage you, Susan. Just trying to process how our writing might look in the next season.

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    2. No worries, I think evaluation is important, even if it is slightly discouraging. Then we are better prepared to take a step of faith

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  8. Thanks for a thought-provoking post Meredith. You're testament to the fact that Christian writers can make a difference in people's lives. It can be very discouraging if we look at it with worldly eyes, but God sees the big picture. If we're obedient to our calling, open to the Spirit's leading and willing to put in the effort, we can still bless others with our writing. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Wonderful post and lovely blog. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  10. Great post Meredith. Seventeen published titles is impressive :) It is indeed ironic that at the same time the support and development of Australian (& NZed) Christian writers takes off, the market itself bottoms out.

    I appreciate your encouragement to just keep writing (& publishing) and trusting the Lord. And I like Susan's scripture - not to despise the day of small things :) I think your comment that many of your fans were 60+ and have since graduated to heaven.

    I can't help wondering whether the rubble means God is clearing new ground to do new things. Perhaps we need to be innovative and daring - seeking catch the attention of the younger generation or of Christians and others who would enjoy our work if only they knew about it. Not at all easy to do, I know - but with God 'All things are possible.'

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    1. I think your words are definitely worth pondering, Jeanette. what new ground is God clearing? I anticipate new things with eagerness.

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  11. Thanks for your honesty, Meredith. I will always be grateful for the help and encouragement you were to me when I started writing. I think that a wonderful part of the journey God has taken us all on, has been to meet other writers with similar passions and gifts and to journey with them. It isn't easy for us to see what lies ahead in writing and publishing, but it's good to know that there are many of us listening to God and trying to follow His guidance re our gifts and desires. As we wait for His will for each of us to unfold, we can be praying for wisdom and courage. If the season of writing has passed for some of us, a new season will open up before us. Of that we can be sure.

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