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Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Why Him? Why Her? Why Not Me?

by Normandie Fischer

Comparisons are invidious.

In her recent Novel Rocket post How the Writing Zone is a Lot Like the Twilight Zone, Edie Melson called comparison “a death trap for writers.” But how do we avoid them?

Someone is always higher up whatever ladder we’re trying to scale. And I mean always. I read that one U.S. president wanted to be head of the UN. Recent UN decisions have made it seem as if its leaders have an eye on elevation to the Godhead. Bestselling authors strive to be mega-sellers. Mega-sellers want to keep their top-dog position and be the biggest mega on the ladder.

And then there are the rest of us. My little bestseller moment lasted just that, a moment, because it was an Amazon rating, and we all know what those are worth. To fall off that ladder rung, all we need is someone else’s book to garner that BookBub ad or to become a Kindle First Pick. So, no time for polishing our nails against our shirt.

Would I like to be on the NY Times list? Would I? (Well, yes… I might as well be honest.)

I’m sure you’ve seen the discussions about what’s selling, what will be the next big thing, how we as writers can tap into that perfect idea to achieve writerly greatness. We check out covers of the bestsellers and hope ours match up. We consider switching genres to catch the rising tide on our way to fame. We scurry around at conferences, hoping the agent or editor of that bestselling author will think we have the same potential. We squint at the person in our midst whose sales enabled her to buy her dream car or the woman whose work supports her aging parents.

And we close our eyes and send up a “Hey, God, I’ll do that! I’ll give away more than my ten percent if You’ll just let me be like her!” Or like him.

We’re not even asking to be like the mega-bestseller who has blasted his way through a  town, corrupting others in his wake while he hits the Times’ list with every single book. Because, really, who wants to sell his soul on the way to wealth?

And yet what are we doing? Bargaining for position, wanting to press past others so the world will look at us, so we’ll be someone.

Think about it.

What if we could achieve that level of fame by writing one thing when what we really want to do, what we feel called to write, is something entirely different? What if fame is not part of our assignment?

What do I mean by our assignment? And why would I talk about it? I mean, God can use all things for His glory, can’t He? Why can’t He use our words and make them great?

I think He can and does, but only if we’re doing what we’ve been given to do.
I remember being promoted at a very young age to senior editor over the heads of several women and a man who’d been at the game much longer than I, and how stunned I subsequently felt at the backbiting and jealousy my promotion incurred. I also remember living in a small village house that was in dire need of repair—you should have seen me, pregnant and standing on a stool to sand the ceiling of what would be the master bedroom. Well, there was a house that I passed every day. A green farmhouse with a green barn and lovely green pastures surrounding it. I coveted that house. I mean, coveted it. Every day, I’d drive by and ask God why I couldn’t have something that lovely.

And, one day, I heard that still small voice speak to me: “I want you to begin thanking Me for giving that house to the woman who lives in it.”

Oh, man, I was supposed to thank God that I didn’t own it and she did? 

Yes. I'm sorry to say I was.

So, every day I’d drive by and repeat my grudging and obedient thanks that she owned it and I had my pitiful little village house and my sanding jobs and my painting jobs. And, finally, the day came when I actually was thankful.

God taught me in real time about not coveting. Later, when He told me to thank Him that someone else got a position in His courts I wanted, I started in obedience and ended in joy.

You and I may long to hold some ranking on the bestseller list that seems to be withheld from us. But I’ve learned that God has a purpose in it all. As long as we’re doing the thing we’re called to do, as long as we look at our writing as a gift we’re to cherish and nurture and help to grow into something lovely, then it will land where it ought to land. Where the Lord we purport to trust has chosen for it to land.And we can thank Him for doing with it as He wills. Not as we will. I’m sure we can learn things from those who have made it, but maybe our making it means something entirely differentMaybe our journey is more about obedience and peace. Maybe it’s more about finding joy where we’re placed than about raking in the big bucks and the huge accolades.
Think about it. Do you waste time comparing your success to others’? Or do you try to grow exactly where you’re planted, waiting for the new green shoots to come up every season as you touch the people you’re supposed to touch?

Talk to me. I need to know I'm not alone in this.

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Normandie studied sculpture in Italy before receiving her BA, summa cum laude with special honors in English. Known for her women’s fiction—Becalmed (2013), Sailing out of Darkness (2013), and Heavy Weather (2015) and now Two from Isaac’s House (2015) and its prequel novella, From Fire into Fire (2016). Normandie and her husband spent a number of years on board their 50-foot ketch, Sea Venture, sailing in the Sea of Cortez, Mexico. They now live in coastal North Carolina, where she takes care of her aging mother.
Normandie's Website


  1. NORMANDIE!! Trust me, my friend, you are NOT alone!! Two years ago I took an 8-month sabbatical to focus more on God, family, and writing for the sheer joy of writing because I was MISSING the joy God had for me for, and for the very reason specified in your post.

    You said: "Maybe our journey is more about obedience and peace. Maybe it’s more about finding joy where we’re placed than about raking in the big bucks and the huge accolades."

    This statement brings tears to my eyes because it is SO very true! After I became an author, I used to say that I loved writing for God but wished I could have a mini-lobotomy on that strangling part of my brain that coveted success because it was destroying me. The sabbatical that I took was the best thing God ever directed me to do, not only because it brought me full circle to where He wants me to be, but it took me to the only place where I can reap the joy and peace in Him that He wants me to have.

    Thank you, Normandie, for your honesty and transparency in talking about a real problem in the body of Christ, no matter the career.

    Hugs and God Bless!

  2. Dearest Normandie, I's pretty sure God lead you to write this for my benefit. It spoke to my spirit in Megaphone volume and I felt the message as well as heard it. Almighty God through His Holy Spirit has been working on me about this. At first I thought it was depression overwhelming me because that relentless drive I once had for writing slowly dissipated. That Still Small Voice made it clear that I was headed in a danger zone of loving the gift more than the Giver and writing had become an idol. My desire for success, wanting to be a New York Times bestseller and repeated top selling author was out of hand. It consumed my world and still I wasn't reaching my goal. After years of going around that same mountain in the desert, I finally got an agent and a couple of publishing contracts. I thought that would propel me into the Promised Land of milk and honey, literary renown and fortune. I wanted to be the next Toni Morrison, Francine Rivers and Walter Mosley all wrapped into one. It didn't happen. At first it seemed like it would, but that didn't last and money certainly was not flowing my way. Disappointment, a familiar companion, didn't daunt me though. I still had the fire and was writing like a Beaver. Then God told me to take ten days off not writing. I obeyed and to my surprise after that ten days I was not chomping at the bit to write again. Ten days turned into ten weeks and then months of lightweight writing (mostly editing what I'd already written). You see, I was out of balance. Too much was being put aside to write and the most important thing was my relationship with God. I tell you all this because the impetus for my driven state of mind was trying to be successful by the world's definition and comparing myself to others. As you so nicely expressed we are successful by being in the will of God having joy and peace. All the marketing frenzy and numbers obsession from a business perspective is not what God meant when He called me to write. Traditional Christian publishing is a business and they respond more to that side of publishing than they do the spiritual. It's understandable because they have to make a profit. So I'm learning, although I still would like fame and fortune, to be satisfied with moving in His will, in His time and His way. Paul said he learned to be content with or without. That's my goal now. If that means forever in mediocrity renown and be it.

  3. I love your honesty, Normandie. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Julie, I get that. I actually took a sabbatical when my daughter and her two lovelies came to stay for two months this summer. I couldn't write, not and be the mother and grandmother my child and her children needed me to be. I looked up, sighed, and gave my work to Him again. It was His, after all, and He'd have to manage the time constraints and the marketing--or not.

    At the end of those months, I returned to my work and slogged, literally slogged, through words. Gone was the fervor. Would it ever return? The question led me to some real soul-searching about what I was to write and for whom I was to write it. About fear and trust.

    Marlene, thank you for sharing your struggles. I bet we're not alone. The contracts come, the books release, we achieve some level of success, and then one of our good friends hits the jackpot. The only way you and I and all of us who admit to being human will get past this is to do what we're doing. As you put it, we've got to seek and value the Giver more than the gift.

    I'll be writing soon (again) about how He answered this summer's questions!

    And, Robin, thank you for commenting!


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