I was born with a silver pen in my hand, so to speak. The Lord blessed my young life with huge success. I landed my dream job at eighteen, writing for the local newspaper while attending college, and wrote my first book at twenty-four. My 1986 book Twice Pardoned (life of Harold Morris) was # 1 on the national Christian best-sellers list.
Then life took an unexpected turn, taking me out of the publishing loop for over fifteen years to care for my parents and parents-in-love as they declined in health. The Lord shrunk my life to basics-laundry, grocery shopping and cooking, driving our parents to medical appointments, attending church and events involving our children.
When the Lord led me away from public life, he gave me a promise that someday he would enlarge my life again and confidence “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6 NIV).
After our parents were in heaven and our children had left the nest, it was time to reinvent myself. But the publishing industry had changed. I attended a writers conference, hoping to get a foot in the door. An editor informed the non-fiction class our chances of getting a traditional publisher were bleak and grim.
Getting my name back in the public arena was crucial. I submitted a few magazine articles, set up a website, printed promotional materials (business cards and a one-sheet) about my writing and speaking ministry, and learned to navigate social media.
The Lord honored my perseverance, opening doors to speak and publish. Joining two professional organizations—Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and Christian Authors Network—provided amazing support and encouragement. All my writing life, I’d been going it alone.
In 2012 I self-published Cabbages and Kings—Reflections on Living Abundantly in Christ, a collection of columns I’d written for the newspaper. It’s a handbook for making Christianity work, suggesting attitudes and habits essential for living in joy, such as moving past failure and learning to put love and forgiveness into practice.
My eleventh book, I Don’t Chase the Garbage Truck Down the Street in My Bathrobe Anymore! Organizing for the Maximum Life, won the Christian Authors Network 2014 Golden Scrolls third-place award for non-fiction book of the year.
The Lord is full of surprises! In 2013 I began hosting a program on the Christian station WHCB radio, 91.5 FM, Bristol, Tennessee, “At the Library” on Saturdays at 3:30 p.m. ET www.whcbradio.org.
Why bother reinventing myself? God gave me a job to do. Giving up isn’t an option.
What about you? Have life’s detours dimmed your dreams? Do you feel drained…empty? Don’t give up! Dust off those dreams. Take your emptiness to the Lord and let him refill your hope!
Here are twenty steps for beginners or beginning-againers—and anyone else who’s ready to jump into the Reinvention Marathon.
The starting line…
• Absolute requirements: a website; business cards and one-sheet about your life and ministry; a social media presence.
• Attend writers conferences to network with writers and editors.
• Submit articles/devotionals to magazines so you’ll have clips to show editors; do an internet search for magazine submission guidelines.
• Save everything you write, even personal letters or emails. Consider developing those thoughts into devotionals.
• If your circumstances are too complicated to pursue publishing, accept that you are in this place by God’s design.
• Journal as part of your daily quiet time with the Lord. Later, you may turn those notes into devotionals.
• Write as you go. I make notes on envelopes, receipts, napkins, even my hand so I don’t lose a thought.
• File thoughts topically in folders or computer folders. When you’re ready to write an article or a book, you’ll have ample material. It will be a matter of organizing thoughts. I can’t imagine sitting down to write a book, looking at a blank screen, and having nothing.
• Serve the Lord where you are. During my shrunken-life period, the Lord gave me a mentoring ministry, sending to my own door young women seeking marriage and parenting advice. I shared principles the Lord was teaching me. Those one-one-one teaching opportunities became the foundation for my next two books: Help! I’m Stuck and I Can’t Get Out! The Maximum Marriage Maintenance and Repair Kit and Safely Through the Bulrushes—Anchors for Parenting the Strong-Willed Child.
• When the dust of life settles, make yourself available for speaking events. Send an introductory letter and your one-sheet to friends and relatives asking them to pass the information on to the pastor or women’s ministry coordinator at their church.
• Watch for opportunities. I saw a small newspaper article about a local library’s monthly book club meeting. I offered to speak. They’ve invited me twice.
• When you speak, take a pad and ask people to sign up for your email updates. I always promise they will rarely hear from me. I will not bombard them with trivial mail. I will let them know when I have a new book available or a book signing or speaking event.
• Make it easy for event planners. Prepare your own press kit with short bio, photo, and news release. Include the five W’s for journalism: who, what, when, where, why. If the event planner doesn’t send this to media, ask her permission to do it yourself. Keep a file with media information—name, phone number, email address, deadline for news.
• Organize your life. My latest book began about twenty-five years ago with a desire that my time on planet earth count for eternity. That meant I had to get organized and stop wasting my life searching for misplaced items and rescheduling missed appointments. I begged the Lord to help and he did an amazing work.
• Stay positive. Don’t let rejection crush you. Discouragement is paralyzing.
• Encourage yourself. When David was “greatly distressed,” he “encouraged himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6 KJV).
• When others succeed and you seem to be spinning your wheels, remember you are not competing with anyone else for God’s will for your life! So what if someone else writes the book you intended to write? God can give you fresh ways to express his timeless truths.
• Get over your feelings of inferiority and low esteem. Speak truth to yourself. What does God think of you?
He knows you by name.
He says you are precious in his sight.
He loves you with an everlasting love.
He delights in you.
He has imprinted you on his heart.
He has engraved you on the palms of his hands.
He takes care of sparrows, and he considers you of greater worth than many sparrows.
• Memorize Scripture. The promises of God will change your thinking, strengthen your resolve, and direct your steps.
• Persevere! God has chosen you for a purpose; your response is obedience.
The finish line…
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith….” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NIV).
© Dianne Barker 2014