Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14
I attended a writers’ conference this past week. During our evening meal, several of us discussed website design. One woman, who has a site for her children’s writing, mentioned she has no idea how many visitors she draws. Another person sitting with us with us said, “You’re kidding! You don’t have a stat counter?!” As someone with stat counters on every site, I could hardly believe it either.
When we watch that number tick over to another hundred visitors, we may be tempted to analyze the stats to cater to readers’ tastes, writing ‘to the numbers.’ Every writers’ group discusses what’s hot, what’s not. Who will write the next megaseller that touches off a trend with dozens of authors following? I know I’ve gone into the bookstore, trolled the aisles, and tried to figure out the theme for a book for which the market will hunger – the one a publisher will gasp over, “Yes! Exactly what we’ve been looking for!”
Dan Robbins, an Oak Brook free-lance designer, created Craft Master paint-by-number kits. In 1954, he re-created the “Last Supper” – the most popular paint by number kit ever. For every person who picked up one of his kits, and millions did, he or she sacrificed artistic originality for conformity. Maybe that’s what I’m doing when I study the titles, making note of what’s in abundance, what’s selling.
I’ve written for hire, and have no problem doing so. I wrote according to stringent guidelines, capturing the voice of the project. And the publisher, no doubt, had analyzed the numbers before embarking on the project. Back in the seventies, I purchased one of those paint by number kits. I painted a lovely stained glass window through which rays of light shone down on a pair of praying hands. Even though I started painting by number, I embellished, adding my own flair to the painting. In the end, it was my creation, or so I imagined. I take the same pride in my work for hire projects. Even though I start with someone else’s idea, I add my own flair, and in the end, it’s a part of me in the creation.
But on my own, I wonder if I have what it takes to write without the burden of marketing trends and profitability swirling about in my head. In one of the sessions I attended during the conference, our instructor informed us a publisher invests tens of thousands of dollars into every book.
I told one editor I pray over my writing daily. I ask God to direct my steps, and to burden my heart with His message. Even though he didn’t ‘tsk, tsk,’ I did feel, even as I said the words, that I probably appeared quite naïve. And maybe I am. I’m a lot less naïve than I was three years ago. Now I understand that for every book, there’s a budget. I’m just hoping, and praying…and praying, I will be so blessed to write a book that merits the budget, and more importantly, ministers in the manner God ordains.
Now I’m off to check my stats. Some habits are hard to break.
Prayer: Lord, may I always be in tune to Your will, writing as You lead, and being inspired by the Holy Spirit. Please direct my steps, giving me wisdom as I write for You. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.