Thursday, December 12, 2019

Work, Stress, and Perspective

Earlier this week, I launched my first novel: Random Walk, Book One in the Fractured Galaxy series. Very exciting.

Also a little nerve-racking because, as my first novel, there's a lot riding on this project's financial success. I moved half-way across the country just so I could afford to live without a day job in order to write this book (and some other writing projects), and many friends and family gave generously of their time and money to help me bring it to fruition.

As such, this novel is theoretically a major litmus test for my future plans to continue not working a day job and writing pretty much full time instead. It's been a tad stressful to think about at times. As the launch of the book and, with it, the proof of the pudding approached, I found myself spending a lot of time in prayer about that. Here are a few things I've learned during this process:

1. Doing the work is important. This should be obvious, but the reasons for it can get lost in the weeds. The super-obvious reason is that without work, you don't have a product you can sell. Fine. But beyond that, the Bible tells us that whatever we do, we're to do for the Lord (Colossians 3:23-24, for ex). I've already posted about why I, as a Christian, think it's worth while to write science fiction, but it wouldn't matter what I was doing - writing, teaching, serving in the Air Force - whatever work is in my hands to do, I'm to do it well, to the glory of God. So doing the work of writing and promoting the book need not come from a place of selfish ambition (which is something I have more of than I need anyway), but from a place of service to the Lord who gave me the talent and desire to write in the first place. With this in mind, I can gladly do the work for its own sake, and worry less about the financial outcome. Which brings me to stress.

2. Stress certainly has its place. Without it, we'd (or at least I'd) breeze past deadlines with no concern, content to spend my days watching TV and reading books and generally not doing the work I've been given. Stress in its rightful place encourages me to work on my marketing skills and try various avenues of getting my book out into the world, rather than just sitting back and seeing if anything happens all on its own. But misplaced stress is just plain old stressful. If I let myself believe my financial future, or my future as a writer, rides solely on this huge, significant project, then what happens if it's not successful, or only moderately successful? Even if it's a hit, I've got more gray hairs in the meantime. But I can't control the outcome of the book. All I can control is my dedication to work on it. So I need something to keep me even-keeled, and keep me from dedicating my energy to this kind of useless stress. Which brings me to perspective.

3. I said I've been praying about all this. One of the things I've been praying about is that I wouldn't get all worked up over the prospective or actual financial success or failure of the book. I ordered 200 paperback copies from a printer here in Slovakia and spent a lot of time praying about that, too - during the decision-making about how many to order, the research on how much it would cost to send signed copies home to the States for my IndieGoGo supporters, and the process of waiting to see how high-quality the printed books would turn out. During that last bit, Truth For Life's daily Spurgeon devotional spoke right to my anxiety with a meditation on 2 Chronicles 25:9: 

And Amaziah said to the man of God, 'But what shall we do about the hundred talents that I have given to the army of Israel?' The man of God answered, 'The Lord is able to give you much more than this.'

What a lovely reminder that the Euros I spent on those paperbacks are nothing to my Lord, who can give me much more than that!

So there you have it. Whatever happens with this book, I can at least say it taught me something about doing the work, dealing with stress, and having faith that success or failure notwithstanding, my God who clothes flowers and feeds sparrows will take care of me, too. And since it's already prompted me to spend all that extra time in prayer, leaning on and learning from God, I'd say the book is a success already.