Thursday, 1 April 2021

The fine art of being a fool


For a blog due on April Fools’ Day, how could my mind not turn to some interesting occasions in my writing journey when I have felt so foolish and so far out of my comfort zone? Perhaps you can recall similar times too when all you wanted to do was run away and hide. Yet, as I look back, I’m glad I experienced these challenging situations, because I learnt so much in the process.

I have always thought being an author is one of the most humbling, vulnerable occupations ever. We know we cannot please everyone, yet when those honest but critical editorial comments arrive, we often feel like curling up in a ball in a corner, don’t we? And when we are finally published, then comes the challenge of book promotion. And that can leave us feeling even more foolish, depending on what ventures we tackle.

Soon after my first novel was released, I remember sitting at a writers’ centre book fair behind a table on which I had placed a hopeful number of those lovely, new copies I was so proud of. Beside me was another author with his pile of books. And beside him was another … and another … and another. We looked at one another’s books—and waited for those hordes of interested readers who never came. In the end, after buying my neighbour’s book and selling him mine, we all slunk off home, feeling more than a little foolish.

On another occasion, I sat at my book table in the hot sun for hours at a church fete where no one much turned up—and certainly no one interested in buying books. That day, I went home feeling both foolish and exhausted, vowing never to do anything like that again.

Then there have been those customers at in-store book signings who, when offered a free promotional bookmark, have looked at me as if I were some weird, alien being and bluntly rejected me. And I remember others too who, when I have shown them one of my novels, have turned their noses up and said in a disparaging tone, ‘Oh, I don’t read novels!’

I could go on.

So … what have I learnt through such experiences? I have learnt perseverance. I have learnt patience. I have learnt not to take things too personally. I have learnt to smile and hopefully not judge others so readily. But above all, I have learnt to ask God for the strength I need to tackle such situations. So earlier this year, when faced with the daunting challenge of holding a Facebook Live book launch for my latest novel, Down by the Water, I decided I would try it. After all, what was the worst that could happen? Only that I would look and sound a fool! Besides, there were some decided advantages to an online launch—and perhaps God might be able to use it in ways I could never have imagined. And that is what happened, despite the poor sound quality on the day and despite my not knowing what I was doing.

I’m so glad we have a powerful, loving God who knows our foolish ways and our weaknesses, yet still chooses to speak through those words we write, aren’t you? See 1 Corinthians 1:27-29!


  1. Dear gentle Jo-Anne, what sound advice you give.

    Thank you for reminding us that writing - for publication at least - is not an adventure for the faint-hearted. At least, not one for the faint-hearted to tackle without that certain nudge from God whose strength is made perfect in our weakness.

    I've yet to face either the lonely book table or the online launch (or a live one for that matter), but I'm reassured and my courage is bolstered by what you've shared today; you risked exposing your own vulnerability and in doing so, demonstrated your courage, perseverance, patience, forgiveness, and willingness to risk a rebuff rather than miss the chance to connect with God's chosen audience for the works he has commissioned you to complete. You're a blessing.

  2. Oh wow, Mazzy, thanks for such lovely, encouraging comments! Yes, I think it's true that writing for publication is not an adventure for the fainthearted, but, from my own experience, that nudge from God makes all the difference. Once there is a bigger purpose behind what we do, our perspective changes and we can laugh at, or at least put up with, the things that might make us feel just a tad foolish! And I reckon when the time comes for your own book launch, you'll sail through it all, ably supported by your lovely 'Quirky Quills' writer friends--and the rest of us! God bless.

  3. Publicity is a hard game for most of us. Thanks for letting us see you do this hard stuff without any gloss.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Miriam. I probably gave a bit of a warped view of book promotion in this blog, as I have also had many lovely, rewarding experiences over the years, as well as those ones where I felt a little foolish! It's all part of the deal though--and I've found the best way to approach it is to be grateful for every opportunity we get to publicise our books and to make the most of each one of them. And while at times we might not sell many books, there are always those lovely connections we make with others and the 'God conversations' we have along the way.

  4. Thanks Jo-Anne. Your words have always been so encouraging. I often recall my first meeting with you when I enrolled in a full-day mentoring session with you at an Omega Conference in Brisbane. Judy Rogers and I were the only two participants. It was my first step towards the publication of my memoirs. Thank you.

  5. Yes, Hazel, I remember that first meeting with you so well too. You were so shy and quiet, but you were brave too and listened so well--and here you are now, with those memoirs and more published! I loved meeting you and could see the love of God shining in your face, so it was a delight to help you, even if in only a small way. God bless!