Into the Spotlight

In my last post I shared my experience stepping out of the writer's closet. Those first stumbles and toe stubs are behind me. Most of the time now, I square my shoulders and unashamedly wear my "I'm a writer" shirt. (No, I don't really have one. But maybe that would make it easier!)

Because now that I'm OUT and finally READY to talk about my writing, I don't know how to naturally bring it up. When my friends and acquaintances don't have a clue I've been secretly writing, what do I say? "Yeah, I'm making homemade pizza for dinner. Oh and guess what? All those years when you thought I was busy folding laundry and cleaning my house, I was writing novels instead."

Seriously, I don't usually start talking about myself and my accomplishments, unless someone asks. But friends aren't going to ask me about something they're oblivious to. So, maybe I really should invest in a "I'm a writer" shirt. Then at least I'd have an easier way to start conversations. About myself.

I've learned to be grateful for gossip and for how quickly word travels in a small community. And I've developed a new appreciation for facebook and for talkative family and friends. The more everyone else discusses my writing endeavors, the less creative I have to get in trying to bring it up.

At times it's tempting to avoid the spotlight. But as I enter a new phase of my writing career, I know I need to embrace the attention. In fact, at some point, I will even need seek it out. When I begin marketing, I'll have to do everything possible to shine the light on me and my books.

Writers can face the spotlight in three ways:

One, we can run from it in trepidation, erring on the side of being too shy and timid. In today's competitive climate, this could be the kiss of death to our career. We can't build a readership or web presence, if we cower away from the spotlight in fear or humility.

Two, we can err on the side of being too prideful. We can join the ranks of the published but unapproachable authors. These are the ones have let the glory of fame and publication keep them from genuinely associating with readers and unpublished writers.

Or three, we can have the attitude of Harriet Beecher Stowe, the author of Uncle Tom's Cabin.

Her book sold out two days after the first printing. Overnight, she became a celebrity. After her book became a world-wide best seller, someone suggested that her sudden fame might lead her to pride and vanity.

She replied, "You do not have to be afraid of that. You see, I did not write the book."

"What do you mean?" the fan asked.

"I was only the instrument. The Lord wrote the book."

She toured the US and Europe and was constantly in the spotlight. But her husband described her as "meek, humble, pious, and loving, the same as she ever was." Harriet Beecher Stowe said that it wasn't fame or praise that contented her, but rather love. This is my prayer for myself.

Someday we may have our time in the spotlight. What will you be like when the light is shining on you?


  1. Wow! I'm first this morning. (It's got to be the holiday weekend.)

    Right now, I'm just hoping I get the chance to find out how I'd be. I think, though, that my wife will keep me grounded.

  2. I would hope I am more of a #3 girl, but since I started out writing my first book as a secular romance (not a bodice ripper, mind you...just not overtly Christian)I wonder if I could really say God wrote it. Of course, He is behind all that went into it, but did He really orchestrate the message, since it does not revolve around Him?
    Wow, your post really made me question my writing!!!

  3. I'd try my hardest to emulate Stowe, most definitely. First, because I'd love something I wrote to champion a cause like Uncle Tom's Cabin did. Second, it's always prudent to be humble and guided by God. Third, Stowe, was from Maine, my home state.

  4. When and if that time comes (hopefully when), I'll just have to trust that God will find ways to keep me humble. He's usually pretty good at that sort of thing. :)

  5. I hope I'm exactly like Harriet Beecher Stowe. I hope the first printing of my book sells out almost overnight and I hope I remain humble, pious, and loving afterwards.

    This has been a great series, Jody. What funny timing as well.

  6. Great post, Jody!

    I err on the side of being timid and uncertain, so I hope pride won't be an issue. Most days the issue is trying not to cringe at my own work.

    And at the risk of offending, I think very few of us can really say, "GOD wrote this book." I think most of us can say, "God WANTS me to write" or "God told me to write this book" or "God put the idea on my heart". So usually, when I hear someone say what HBS said, I am suspect.

    In her case though...yeah. Her book changed society, and I believe what she said. And I believe her humility came from God, too. :)

    Have a blessed holiday weekend!

  7. You need to write a book on writing using all your posts. They are so good!

    I know what it was like to "shine" when I won an award for one of my stories, attended a banquet of over a hundred people and had to give an acceptance speech. I was at least two feet off the ground for the whole evening! I carried my award with me everywhere I went and slept with on my nightstand!

    The biggest "shine" will be when/if (No, take out the if.) I get my first book published. Rather than two feet off the ground, I'll be floating! LOL!

    What I learned from the "shining" moment is that your feet settle back down and it's time to get back to sitting at the computer and hoping you'll write another "shiner"!

  8. It is my prayer that at that precious moment in time, I shine the light back on God.
    Beautifully written post.
    ~ Wendy

  9. Great post, Jody! I may be one of the few non-Christians who post here. I don't believe God writes my books. I do, however, believe I'm utilizing the talents I was blessed with. I think those are two very different things. I think God or The All or Jesus/Buddah/Allah or whatever you call that force in the universe has seen fit to bless us with being human. With that comes choices, talents, personality traits, free will. How we manifest those things in the world, I believe, is our choice, not God's. That is the magic and beauty of being human. IMHO.

  10. I love Harriet's attitude, as well as Katie's comment. If we ask God to give us His perspective, He will keep us in a place where we realize we're not the gift, just the package it's wrapped in.

  11. Hi Debra,

    Thank you for sharing your honest opinion. I'm glad that you felt the freedom to do that! I appreciate hearing what everyone has to say, even if it differs from my world view.

    I hope that everyone reading this post understands that when Harriet Beecher Stowe said "the Lord wrote the book" she didn't mean literally! Obviously that's pretty impossible. But what I think she meant was that she was INSPIRED to write against slavery because of how contradictory it was to her belief in God and the Bible.

  12. Oh, you are such a positive person, Jody. My first response to this is that it would never ever in a million zillion years happen to me, so no worry there. Then I thought, I'd hide!!!!!!

    So glad God knows how shy I am and would never give me the ideas that would accredit such attention!

  13. I'm learning more and more to step out of that timid, afraid of my calling attitude and embrace what God's called me to do. That being said, I hope that when the time comes and my spotlight shines brightly into the world, I'll still be "me". I want people to feel free to approach me on the street as well as at book signings. I want to be personable and outgoing. I want my readers to know I genuinely care about them, their questions. I want to be there for my readers because without them, my work would stay on the shelf. I want them to go away from meeting me feeling like they've made a new friend. Here's hoping!

    Have a great Labor Day!

  14. OH my gosh! That's such an awesome story about her! I actually read that book and really, really liked it (except the parts I couldn't understand because of the southern dialect, lol). Wow, I hope I'd be just like her! Not afraid, but not prideful either. :-)
    Great post!
    I have to say I'm grateful sometimes for my hubby's big mouth. LOL It keeps me from having to say much and people still get the point. LOL
    I would totally want a writer's t-shirt. Sometimes I pass this car in my town that has a bumper sticker that says something about caution: Writer at work, or something. It's really cute and makes me want to talk to that person and see who they are. :-)

  15. what a great quote from stowe. awesome, really. i pray that that would be my attitude (and the truth) whether i'm pubbed or not. thanks for the uplifting encouragement. happy weekend!

    Where Romance Meets Therapy

  16. Hi Jody,
    I loved this post. And it is inspiring to read about Stowe. Since I've struggled with self-esteem issues most of my life, I can't imagine ever feeling prideful or vain, but it is my hope that even if my book reaches modest levels of success, I will be gracious and loving, not proud and arrogant...God willing.

  17. Oh wow--I love what she said. I know if we remember where our gifts come from, we'll all do fine. And also if we remember always that any fame can be short-lived and that fame only comes from others who have opinions that can change fast too.

  18. Jody, great post, and one I can relate to! I still face that feeling of wanting to share (with those who don't already know), but being unsure how to bring it up. Humility is hugely important to me, but usually my nerves get the best of me, I tumble words in a gush, and humble is that last thing I appear. It's a fine art, sharing the writer title with others, and I haven't mastered it yet.

  19. Hey Jody. I hope I'm like number three. Not only did Harriet Beecher Stowe give the credit to God, she did so with such simplicity but strength in faith. No stumbling over her words or fumbling about for an answer. She believed in her work because she knew where it came from. Ah, that kind of serenity, that kind of confidence and that kind of faith is something I hope to possess someday. And I think God is faithful, so maybe it'll come.

  20. Wow, what a prime example! If I had that sort of wellspring of fame I would need the Lord more than ever. Sounds like she had a firm foundation to begin with! As I'm sure you do ;)

    I'm sure your friends are mightly impressed with you. Who wouldn't be?

  21. Hi, Jody!

    My first inclination is to be like #1. That's who I am. I'm really quiet and don't like the spotlight on me. But I hope I'm like #3, because it would bring the most glory to God. And it would really help sell my books! I'm starting now to find tools to help me not be like #1 when the time comes!

    I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

  22. This is funny because my mom will tell her friends I 'channel' stories. They think she (and I consequently) are loons. I like the way Mrs. Stowe put it much better ;)

  23. I hope that if/when the spotlight is on me I handle it like Harriet. What she said is so true. I did not write my book; the Lord did. Being humble is very important, I think.

  24. Honestly, I think I'd waver between #2 and #3. Humility is hard to maintain when pride likes to creep in while you sleep.

    However, with a few well-placed reminders posted around my computer and a group of friends and family to keep me in line, I might actually stay more of a #3.

    Then again, there are days when running for the hills like #1 is tempting.

  25. Jody, another great post. These posts are fascinating. I understand to some degree the awkwardness of not knowing how to bring it up in conversation.

    As for me, I'll be forever grateful for the opportunity if I ever do get to taste the spotlight. It's an odd balance that will need to be maintained -- participating in the spotlight to get books into the hands of readers (which is what I want most of all).

  26. Well, I know what I'm getting YOU for Christmas! What size t-shirt are you? ;P

    Ohhhh, I hope and pray I'd be like HBS, and point back to God in a humble way. WHAT an example!

    However, knowing myself, my pointing back to God would look more like me running up and down the street screaming, "THANK YOU, JESUS!! I GOT PUBLISHED! WOO HOO! READ MY BOOK PLEEEEASE!!!"

    Have a great weekend, Jody! :)

  27. Right now I'm pretty timid. My husband usually points out that I wrote a book and often times tempted to punch him in the arm.

    When I'm a published author that may change. I think right now I just prefer deflecting the "what is your book about","where can I buy it" yada yada yada question.

  28. I recently went to a writer's conference and people were actually wearing "I'm a writer" t-shirts, lol. So you probably could actually wear it on a shirt, they're out there. :)

  29. Jody, Thanks for your reply, and thanks for your comment on my blog. I do believe in spiritual inspiration, so maybe we're on the same page, but just reading it a little differently. After all, differences in people make the world far more interesting! I love your blog and your warmth and generosity. Hugs to you, Debbie ;-)

  30. I hope I'm number 3, because I know that if I am to get published God will have a very active hand in it:)

  31. Reflecting His glory, not mine.

    Sarah Dawn

  32. I hope my writing draws people to the Lord and that He uses me to further His message. What a privilege that would be.

    While I like Stowe's reply and admire her humility, I heard an author early in my writing career challenge such claims. There is one book that is God-inspired. Period. The author said if the Lord had inspired our work, it wouldn't have typos, misspellings, redundancies, POV issues, grammatical goofs, etc.

    I believe He gives us the desire, education, ability and drive, but we have to put fingers to keyboard or pen to paper in obedience. I like to think of the Lord as my partner in this endeavor, albeit the senior partner. My goal is to do my part to the utmost of my ability and give Him the glory.

  33. Jody, it happened to me in 2005 when both of my picture books were published and my fifth child was born. I'd started writing for children when I had two children. By the time I was published, I was a mother of five. Needless to say, the spotlight was exciting, but quite overwhelming. I summoned the courage to step into the light and found, to my surprise, that I was fairly comfortable in it. But I wasn't able to fully accept the gift because of my family's needs. I feel like God pulled me back and asked me to wait it out a bit longer; like He said, "Here's what's waiting for you someday. Now you know you can do it. Step back for a while, and return here later when the time is right." So I'm in that waiting place now, preparing for a second shot in the light. This time, I'm more assured and realistic about what being in the spotlight is all about. Thanks as always for the great reflections.

  34. Jody, I love this post. I am looking forward to the light, but also scared. Sometimes I am more afraid of making it then of failing. Silly hey. But I love what that writer said about God writing the book and her being the instrument. Sometimes I wonder if God knows the writer he has to work with in me and I wish I was more. But this is who I am and I am learning not to build houses without Him being involved :)

  35. Hi Jody -

    Wonderful quote from HBS! I hope I'm one of those smooth gel pens in the Master's hand rather than a scratchy, always skipping writing instrument.

    Susan :)

  36. I really hope that WHEN I get published, I'll be a lot like Sheila Curran, whom I recently had the opportunity to interview. She let the publicist give me her home number, and then we had the most delightful conversation about writing and her books and everything. She was just so darned nice and unpretentious.

    I really hope that I'll be like that. And I'm pretty sure I would. I can't imagine ever thinking so much of myself that I'm too good for anyone.

  37. Harriet has a wonderful attitude. I believe that I would be surprised. The spotlight is rarely on me, so other forms of pride set in. Still, I know that any skill I have is from God.

  38. ...oh, let me just dream about it for a little bit more...

  39. Thanks for the story! I already loved Harriet Beecher Stowe, but this makes me like her even more.

  40. Thanks. I really enjoyed the post. Since I have been out of the closet all my life it was interesting for me to view your journey and it made me smile.

    One thing I have learned is to savor the highs because you spend most of your time alone battling self doubt and if you think you are sitting on a pedestal there are plenty of people out there who will be more than happy to knock you off.

    Revelation and PEACE for me came the day I realized God gave me this gift and I could stop stressing about what I write, and why I write. It's no different than any other area of my life. As long as I am willing he will take care of the rest. Whew. What a relief!!

  41. I've had a certain amount of fame in a past career, and I've seen how it can change people for the worse. I like to think that fame didn't change me before, and I'll continue to just be me if I get lucky enough to become known for my writing somewhere down the line!


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