Wednesday, July 17, 2013

5 Keys to Finding Your Focus

Elizabeth Ludwig is an accomplished speaker and teacher. Her lectures include editing for fiction writers, crafting effective novel proposals, and conducting successful editor/agent interviews. She is the owner and editor of the popular literary blog, The Borrowed Book. To learn more about Elizabeth and her work, visit her at

NR: Leave a comment for Lisa and be entered in a drawing for her book, Dark Road Home. U.S. residents only, please. The winner will be announced on Novel Rocket's Facebook page tomorrow. Be sure to like us there!
5 Keys to Finding Your Focus

My prayer when I first started out on this writing journey was simple—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart.

Oh, how that prayer has changed over time! After my first book contract, I quickly discovered how unpredictable the publishing industry can be (an article for another time). The joy of holding my first published book disintegrated when I learned that the subsequent two books in the series would not be published as had been promised, and I added this line to my prayer—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart, and let there be another contract.

Proving His love and faithfulness, God did provide another contract. I remember celebrating with thanksgiving the upcoming Christmas novella that would allow me to tell the story of my walk into adulthood. But then the book cover came, and I realized that readers would need a microscope to read the teeny-tiny letters of my name beneath the big, bold letters of the lead author, and I added this line to my prayer—Lord, please help me to get published, and let my words touch someone’s heart, and let there be another contract, and someday, Lord, let my name be the prominent one on the cover.

Since then, I’ve added many lines to that first simple prayer. Weights like good sales numbers, positive reviews, and contest awards now encumber what was once a sincere desire. God reminded me of this during a dark period of wrestling with Him over the path I was to follow. I knew I would have to refocus, and that meant developing five keys:

      I always thought there should be an eleventh commandment, and it would read something like this—Thou shalt live thy life with thanksgiving and remember the good that God has done. Later, I realized that this was a commandment and it was connected to the first and greatest—Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (NIV)

Key #1: Practice loving God. Everything else will follow

      Hello, my name is Elizabeth Ludwig, and I love facebook. There, I’ve said it. Unfortunately, things like social media, while intended to bring us closer, end up making us rivals. How can we help but be competitive when we’re doing nothing but reading about the successes of others? Still God instructs us to rejoice with those who rejoice, and follows it with a command to mourn with those who mourn. This means taking our eyes off ourselves and focusing on where our friends are.

Key #2: Do like facebook and “share”

       My writing journey has been filled will all sorts of highs and lows—good reviews followed by bad reviews, new contract followed by poor sales numbers, encouragement followed by discouragement. I realized it was very easy to lose my focus when the only thing I was concentrating on was the lows, but in the back of my mind was a story from the Old Testament. Remember Joshua and his instruction to the Israelites to “take up a stone”? This was to serve as a reminder to the people about God’s intervention in helping them cross the River Jordan, and it can serve as reminder today—about where He has led us and where we have yet to go.

Key #3: Take up a memorial stone

      Writing a book requires quite a bit of time and a whole lot of dedication. On top of the initial commitment, writing something readers will love means pouring a good bit of myself into the work—my pain, the things I’ve learned and lived, even a smidgeon of honesty as I reveal my own personal struggles and vices. When at last the time comes to write “The End”, the finished product can feel very personal—almost like an extension of myself—which is why having a book be unsuccessful can be so excruciatingly painful. Yet God’s word says, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (NKJV)

Key #4: Remember God’s plan and cling to it

      Remember this saying? If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it. It’s from a poem by an unknown author, and it was brought to mind recently when I was struggling to remember why I even began this writing journey in the first place. Along with all the typical highs and lows, I was facing deadlines, trying to meet promotional and marketing demands, and juggling commitments at home and work. I’m ashamed to admit, this led to an extended period of self-pity, typified by the one question repeated over and over in every situation—why? Well, God had an answer for Job when he asked that question, and He had an answer for me—you didn’t get where you are by yourself. I brought you here, I will lead you on. Follow Me.

Key #5: Follow God…even if He leads you away from the one thing you thought you couldn’t live without

Dark Road Home

The nightmares of her past have found Ana Kavanagh an ocean away.

Ana Kavanagh's memories of Ireland are mostly of fire and pain. As a girl she survived a blaze that left her an orphan, left her scarred, and left her angry at God. Now in New York, Ana finds a kindred spirit in Eoghan Hamilton, who's struggling with his own anger. His twin sister, Cara, betrayed him by falling in love with his enemy.

Cast aside by everyone, Eoghan hopes to rejoin the Fenians, an organization pushing for change back in Ireland, by securing information against Rourke, the man his sister married. Ana, Cara's friend, may be his best source, and despite the attraction he feels, Eoghan determines to use the girl's sweet nature to his advantage.

Adding to the danger is a specter from Eoghan's own past, one whose thirst for vengeance knows no bounds. Eoghan must choose which road to follow--bitterness or forgiveness--and where to finally place his trust.


Heather Day Gilbert said...

Elizabeth, what a beautiful post, and timely for me. Funny how those prayers keep morphing, isn't it? Lately, I've been praying the Prayer of Jabez--seems to put into words all the things I'm desiring, with my writing and everything else.

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

I completely understand, Heather. Best wishes to you!

Frindlesmith said...

Great post, Elizabeth. Number five really spoke to me. I've spent a lot of time writing up notes for a historical novel I'm planning, but I don't feel like the story is going anywhere. Prior to this post, I thought that I should go ahead write the book just because of all the time I spent preparing it, but maybe God is saying that he wants me to focus my literary efforts elsewhere. Definitely something to pray about.

Thanks a bunch!

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Hi, Frindlesmith! Thank you for your honesty. It's not easy admitting that we may have to change course. I'm especially bad at it, since I tend to pursue things with a sort of dogged determination. But you hit the nail on the head when you said it's definitely something to pray about. Blessings to you! I'll be praying you receive wisdom and discernment from above.

Terrie Coleman said...

I loved this post. The #1 thing is loving God, and everything else will follow. Great reminder. Thanks.

Nina said...

Five years ago, I was well on my way to finding an agent. Then I lost my daughter. That led to a wayward husband. God is my anchor, yet I have lost the yearning to focus on my writing. Your post made me realize writing is one thing I do not pray about. Thank you for your post. Each of your points have significance for me.

Julie Garmon said...

I sensed His Spirit speaking through your words. Wonderful post--gentle and full of Truth.

Thank you Ane and Elizabeth!

faerietaleforest said...

Thanks so much for such a heartfelt post. What a great reminder for me as I begin my day!

Bookishqueen said...

It is a difficult thing to learn, not loosing focus on God

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

We can't hear it enough, eh, Terrie? Sad that I need reminders when everyday, God walks with me through everything, but there it is. Oh, how I love Him!!

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Oh, words. I lost my son, so I understand a bit of the anguish that accompanies that lost feeling. Praying that you will dedicate your writing to Him and that He will direct you. Blessings!

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Thank you, Julie. I am SO glad that this post encouraged you!

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

You are so welcome! Blessings on you as you go about your day.

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Which is why I need to keep reminding myself! :-)

Blessings to you.