Five Conferences and STILL Not Published

Why You Should NOT Be Discouraged!

by Lori Roeleveld @LoriSRoeleveld

At one conference at Blue Ridge I had a turning point moment that might have derailed my work entirely. As I walked with an editor from dinner to the main evening event, she asked how many writing conferences I’d attended.

“This is my third Blue Ridge conference so, five altogether, in the past five years.” I replied.

She shook her head and looked at me askance. “Wow. And still not published?” Her look clearly indicated there might be something wrong with me or my work. (At least, that’s what I FELT the look communicated.)

I stopped in my tracks muttering something about having forgotten something (like my entire motivation for being there) as she continued to the main hall.

“What am I doing here, Lord?” I prayed (and, okay, I may have ugly cried for a few moments in a bathroom stall.) “I’ve worked hard and I thought I heard you correctly about writing. My family has invested money in helping me get to these conferences. I’ve taken time away from other pursuits. Is it going to turn out to be for nothing?”

The conference didn’t get much better for me. The year prior, I’d won first place in a couple of contests. This year, second place in a category I felt (foolishly) “wouldn’t get me anywhere.” No lightning bolts went off between myself and publishers. I learned a lot and deepened many dear relationships, but I returned home with that editor’s words ringing in my ears.

I wish I’d understood then, what I know now, about the long-term nature of this writing path God has chosen for all of us.

When I began writing and considering publishing a thousand years ago, I thought it was like finding a secret key to unlock the door to a cave of treasure. If I worked hard enough and discovered the code/key, a door would open, I’d be ushered in, and life would be forever brilliant and amazing as an author. For a few writers, it is like that, but precious few.

For many other writers, especially Christian writers in this economy, our experience will be much more like that of farmers who toil, work, study, invest, labor, nurture crops, and pray only to witness some crops flourish for a time and others fail in their season. We will enjoy brief harvests and then turn to face another unplowed field awaiting the same work all over again with no guarantee of return.

In writing, as in farming, there are unfair elements – publishing locusts, economic blights – and seasons where even the farmer fails, and so there is no crop because so much depends on his or her labor.

Some seasons we’ll flourish and know why we’ve been called to this work. We’ll imagine season after season of bounty. And other times, we’ll encounter drought that threatens to destroy us and we’ll wonder if we should sell our fields and move to town.

Most times, will be a little of both, where we rise early to tend our fields, ride into town for our paycheck job, and return at night to continue our farm work. It will be exhausting and we’ll wonder why God didn’t make us doctors, accountants, or welders.

We need one another all the time (which is one reason to keep attending conferences). Celebrating alone without those who witnessed all the labor isn’t as joyous as sharing grand harvests with others who know the work. Facing failed crops alone is dismal, but knowing others have faced them and survived makes us stronger. For all the long hours in between, we need one another to keep at it.

God called us to this work in these times knowing the challenges. In those moments when we feel like quitting, we need to ask Him if there’s something else He wants us to be doing. If there is, we should be doing that anyway. If there isn’t, we need to keep at it.

Sometimes, we need to adjust our expectations and our measures. Sometimes, we need to stop fretting and just keep working. Sometimes, we need to give ourselves a break and take a vacation from writing. All the time, we need to thank Him for work that drives us continually to Him and gives Him great material to make us more like Christ as we wrestle with envy, discouragement, faith, self-discipline, and doubt.

All the time, we need to understand there’s always more going on than we can see going on, just as the farmer knows the same when he looks over a planted field. Because in truth, we aren’t the farmer, we are the seeds He planted, buried in the dark earth waiting for the season of our bloom. He knows the right time to unleash what is bursting within us, longing to emerge from the earth and we can trust Him.

All the time, you are loved. All the time, you are called. In your darkest moments, you are a Jesus follower, you are His writer, you are creative like our Abba, and He sees you where you are. Nothing you’ve written will be lost or in vain for when Jesus returns, there is life ahead and there will be more stories to tell—forever.

Lori Stanley Roeleveld is a disturber of hobbits who enjoys making comfortable Christians late for dinner. She’s authored an inciteful blog since 2009; a pursuit that eventually resulted in two provocative non-fiction books, Running from a Crazy Man (and other adventures traveling with Jesus) and Jesus and the Beanstalk (Overcoming Your Giants and Living a Fruitful Life) as well as an unsettling novella, Red Pen Redemption. If you don’t find her at her website, www.loriroeleveld.com, know she’s off slaying dragons. Lori lives in Rhode Island with her husband surrounded by family, absolutely surrounded.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Five Conferences and STILL Not Published

  1. Lori –

    You inspire me! I’ve been to five BRMCWC’s and still haven’t been picked up by an agent. But my hope remains in Christ. I’m learning what I need to learn. Meeting who I need to meet. And being blessed by those who need to bless me.

    When I come onto the Blue Ridge campus, I feel such a presence of God that it makes me want to weep. And add being with others of like mind … that is enough to make the trip from PA to NC worthwhile.

    Looking forward to seeing you again in a few weeks.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful reminder. I’ve been to MANY conferences (much more than five) and am still not published. Though, I am closer today, than I was when I first started nine years ago, and closer than I was even at the last conference I attended. At every event, God shows me something new. Sometimes hard, most of the time inspiring. And I wholeheartedly agree, conferences are the best places to unite with your tribe, fellow writers who are on similar journeys. What we can learn from each other and how we encourage one another is priceless! And you never know what “God encounters” await us!

    • We all start some place different and our destination will look different, as well! Only God knows the route we’re taking, so it’s important to stay the course. It’s wonderful to meet with others who can advise, teach, encourage, and re-direct when we need it!

  3. Your words brought tears to my eyes. I’ve worked so hard and believed so strongly in what I know He called me to do. But waiting is so discouraging. In the end it’s ONLY HIM I desire to please and best seller or unpublished probably doesn’t mean much in His eyes. Humble. Obedient. Faithful. Persevering. Those are titles He desires, is impressed by, and rewards.

    I’ve only been to two conferences in the past three years and can’t afford this one. But I press on. Guess I’ve got a ways yet to go to get to five.

    • Daniel was about 17 when he was dragged into exile and around 85 when he was thrown into the lion’s den. He spent those years praying, working, waiting. When I’m low, I think about him. When I’m really low, I think about Christians who have a desire to write but are North Korean and sentenced to labor camps. I keep going then, in their honor. Who knows what God has planned for you, Carol? Do what He calls you to do.