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.