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Friday, November 04, 2011

Borrowing a Page from the Amish ~ Suzanne Woods Fisher

About Suzanne: She is an author of bestselling fiction and non-fiction books about the Old Order Amish for Revell Books. Why the Amish? Well, Suzanne’s grandfather was raised Plain. She’s always been fascinated by her gentle, wise relatives. Learn more about Suzanne, her books, and Amish Wisdom, her weekly radio show, by stopping by And please leave a comment!

Borrowing a Page from the Amish

“It’s good to have an end to journey toward, but it’s the journey that matters, in the end.” Amish proverb

Here’s what you probably know about the Old Order Amish: they live without electricity, automobiles, televisions, computers, radios. You might even know that formal schooling for the Amish ends at the eighth grade, but that doesn’t mean their education stops. No siree! These people read and read and read. Every Amish home I’ve been in has floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, packed with familiar evangelical authors. I’ve had more than a few conversations with Amish people who have far more knowledge of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther than I do or ever will.

And the Amish keep on learning and learning and learning. My favorite story comes from an Amish family I met in the Lancaster area. The family ran a dairy, but when the eldest son was in his early twenties, the dad passed the management of the dairy to him and took up another trade. This dad is now a self-taught electrician who hires out… even though he doesn’t even use electricity in the home.

Granted, the Amish descend from German stock, hardworking and resourceful. But there’s something more that makes the Amish work ethic such a powerful example to the rest of us. Their business failure rate, according to Dr. Donald Kraybill, senior fellow in the Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies at Elizabethtown College, is less than 5%, a dazzling figure when compared to a failure rate that soars above 65 percent for North American small-business starts. They set out to succeed.

So what is that “something more?”

Faith in God is infused into every part of the Amish life, like a teabag in hot water. Everything they do, they do unto God. Their lifestyle is embroidered with reminders of God—their horse and buggy symbolize self-imposed boundaries, their Plain clothing identifies them to their church, eschewing electricity keeps them separate from the world.

How does that work ethic translate to a modern novelist? First of all, take writing seriously. Learn, read, re-do, study other authors, ask questions, research thoroughly, glean from experts, go to writing conferences, join a critique group.

Secondly, to the Amish way of thinking, one type of work is not more valuable than another. Self-editing, re-writes, galleys, proofs, promotion, marketing, interacting with readers, It’s all significant. The process is as valuable as the finished product.

Third, redefine success. Your novel may not be the world’s best (mine certainly aren’t!), but it should be your best. Whether you snag a contract now or five years from now, whether it’s a large publishing house or a small press or even self-published, whether it ends up as a NY Times bestseller, or if it only sells five copies to your mom, your work is your gift to God.

Bottom line, the Amish are on to something. Never forget you are writing for an audience of One.


  1. Thanks for sharing your insight with us, Suzanne. Good things to ponder.

  2. Thank you so much for this! I'm a writer, photographer and painter. God has blessed me with many abilities. But the most terrifying word of all to me, is "talent."

    When I get comments that say I'm gifted or talented my heart pounds and I have to take a deep breath. Talent describes other peoples opinions of what I do. It's fickle and subjective. I am impressive sometimes and not so much on others. When I focus on what others think my mind gets jumbled and my stomach goes in a knot- you've reenforced to me that I have One boss, and One who I can serve unconditionally.

    Then I can focus on my work and not try to please others. When I do this- it does please others. When I get praise, I realize it's meant as a gift. So I thank them for their encouragement. It's not about how talented we are at all, it's about the work in front of us like the Amish believe. I agree the Amish are on to something. This is the 2nd time I've heard this in the last 2 days, the Lord has spoken to me through you.

    It reminds me of this verse, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men." Colossians 3:23

  3. Thanks for hosting me, Kelly! What an amazing blog you have here. And Karen...I can so relate to your struggle with confidence. It always helps me to "recalibrate" my focus back on God. A daily thing!
    Warmly, Suzanne

  4. "Set out to succeed." What a concept!

  5. Suzanne..I truly believe whatever happens in this life, God has placed me where I am supposed to be. I may be unsure of it sometimes and perhaps I won't know the reason why right away..but one thing I know for sure..I may pick up the pen..but it is God who guides my hand. I write children's fiction. I haven't found anyone who would like to publish my work yet..(notice I say yet, (as I haul out the "Children's Writer and Illustrator Guide) because I won't give up! I believe that is part of the Amish way as well..when it doesn't work one way, you devise another. I've had feelings that perhaps my work is too old-fashioned. I try to end on a happy note and leave the door open for a sequel. I feel children have enough to contend with in today's world,so if I bring a giggle or a smile, what a reward that would be. I thank-you for sharing with all of us. It is more helpful than you'll ever know. Wishing you continued success and happiness, Nancy Narma


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