Dr. John E. Johnson

Dr. John E. Johnson
Blog, Leadership, Life Issues

For Those Thinking About Writing

Getting published is hard work. Painfully hard work. In his The Art of War for Writers, James Scott Bell provides a field manual for all writing wretches. Any hope of success will require reconnaissance, tactics, and strategy.

I am now on my third book, Contagions of Craziness. As with the first two, the process of getting published requires a careful plan. It is a war. You hope art and commerce can merge, but you know that commerce eventually controls. The bottom line wins out. People may say it is a fine and needed work, but what they will ask is—“Is there a market?” Editors may treat you with certain politeness, but you know they are asking themselves, “Will this writer bring value?” “Does she have a platform?”

Marketers call the shots. Otherwise, publishing houses fold.

You soon learn that writers must possess, among other things—

desire. The kind of passion that wakes you up before the alarm. The kind of mind that is firing away. Something of heart and conviction desperate for expression. As Bell notes, “If you don’t have it, you won’t last long on the battlefield.”

tenacity. Like a dog with a bone, you have to stay at it, even if there is no immediate return on investment. No promise of getting published. No royalties from the first work. Even if you discover there is no need to see a tax advisor.

discipline. A willingness to put things aside and work for long stretches, 8-10 hours at a time, pondering, composing, thinking, thinking of cutting yourself, writing, throwing up, editing—learning the craft, constantly striving to get better. Doing it, even if we don’t feel like it. Even if the kayak is begging for attention. Even if your dog is barking to go out

rhino skin. You will have to overcome numerous rejections, like the two I experienced this week. Novelist William Saroyan observes, “A writer who is a real writer is a rebel who never stops.” One  must live by the proverb, “Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (23:18)

thievery. Writers see everything as material. I am always out to steal words (sycophants); phrases (“self-indulgent sack of spider puke”); metaphors (“people fled like NY Jet fans in the third quarter”); lines (“so far away it is the back of beyond”). I keep a notepad nearby, prepared to commit larceny on a regular basis. Who knows when someone comes along and says, “Always clearing his throat, and saying nothing” or “as unplanned as a teenage pregnancy”?

perseverance. As one author notes, writers should sign a statement that reads: “I, __________, being of sound mind and body, do solemnly commit to keeping my grousing to myself.”

faith. One must believe that what one is doing will change the world—even if no one else believes this. One must wait with hope, even if God seems so s-l-o-w and silent.

Sometimes, however, a miracle occurs. A book does get published. Under an Open Heaven was made available in 2017. I love this book, even if it is still waiting for readers. Last Sunday, Missing Voices was released by Langham Publishing. It represents another personal dream, this one going back fifteen years.

Coming home from Thailand three years ago, I decided it was time to step out and start writing. Something was gnawing away inside. I am training leaders around the world, but their main sources for leadership are western. I am teaching leaders of the church, but there is next to nothing theological.

I started collecting leaders from around the world and began asking questions. How does an African think about strategy? How does a Latino do teamwork? How does a Middle Eastern approach transitions? How might their insights change my assumptions about leading?

More importantly, I began to listen to God. Is there any greater leader? Is there any strategist more brilliant? Any visionary more forward thinking? I started researching. What distinguishes the divine gift of leadership from other descriptions of leadership? What leadership skills ultimately matter? Does character matter? What leads to credibility?

Writing is hard. Getting published can be agony. Finding readers….



1 Comment
  • Teri
    6:38 PM, 6 April 2019

    Terrific article. Have you thought of self-publishing?

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