Friday 24 March 2017

Investing in Writing

by Jeanette O'Hagan

One day, the CEO of a large company goes on an extended international trip. She gives each of her three area-managers funds to invest while she is away. When she returns, she calls each of them into her executive office to report on their outcomes. Stephen made a killing in renewal energy futures, Zoe more than doubled the seed-investment in property developments.
The third exec is obviously nervous as he enters her office. He fidgets with his tie, fumbles the sugar spoon as he stirs his coffee.
'So Philip, how have your investments prospered?'
The young man clears his throat and pushes a folder across her desk.
Her eyebrows shoot up. 'What's this, a bank statement? Two per cent interest?'
'Yes, boss,' he mutters. 'I knew you can't stand failure. So, I put your money in the safest place I could think of.'
'You knew I can't stand failure? You could have least put it in a growth fund.'
The next day, the CEO made Stephen and Zoe partners of the company, while Philip received a redundancy package.

I've changed a few details but you probably recognise the gist of Jesus' parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). No doubt we could draw different lessons from this biblical short story (dare I say flash fiction) - but one thing seems clear to me. The CEO (or master) expected his managers (or servants) to invest and multiply his money. Perhaps even take risks with it. The one thing that got the boss' blood boiling, was doing nothing, playing it safe. It seems, God expects us to invest, certainly in the sharing the gospel message, but also in the gifts, abilities and passions He has given us.

If God has called us to be writers, then surely He wants us to invest in our vocation. To take risks even. To give it focus, time and effort.

During Grade 11, everyone wanted to know what I planned to do after I graduated from High School. I didn't have much of an idea but eventually decided on Medicine. My mum said, 'If you want to be a doctor, Jenny, you have to work harder in your subjects.' So I did, I worked harder, I got into Med School, studied for six years, was an intern for two. I had to invest hours of study, years of education into achieving my aim.  Becoming a doctor doesn't just happen, it required investment of time and energy and commitment. It also took six years (eight if you count Grade 11 & 12) when I didn't earn a single cent as a medico. It takes time, effort and deferred gratification to be a teacher, a lawyer, an engineer, a nurse, a builder, a painter ... I could go on. And isn't it also true of sports and hobbies; whether it's playing chess, making quilts or sailing yachts.

Why should it be any different with writing? Whether we wish to write as a hobby or hope to earn a living from our writing, it is usually not enough just to write without investing in the craft, in knowledge and connections.

Randy Ingermanson (The Snowflake Guy) in his e-zine says there are three things which help us succeed as a writer:

Content - have a great story to tell (fiction), a great idea or expertise to share (non-fiction).
Craft - learn how to write the best we can and in a way that connects with our target audience.
Connections - network with fellow writers, editors, publishers at conferences, workshops - and I would say, online.

Maybe we also need Commitment - not to give up, but to keep on going despite setbacks and obstacles - and Covenant - the willingness to keep God at the centre of what we do, to honour Him and trust Him with the results.

What are ways that we can invest in our writing?
  • Make time to write
  • Join a good critique group or form one
  • Read craft books or blogs (like this one)
  • Journal, reflect on our writing process
  • Have creative or author dates - fill the well (Julia Cameron
  • Read, both in our genre and out of it
  • Use writing prompts, free-writing, experiment
  • Participate in workshops, conferences, seminars
  • Enrol in a writing course
  • Get feedback - from beta-readers, editors, fellow writers
  • Learn from rejections 
  • Learn to assess and edit our own work
  • Submit our work to publishers, competitions, anthologies
  • Connect with readers at book signing, events or on social media
  • Support other writers through constructive feedback, reviews, following and buying books
  • Study and invest in marketing and promotion
  • Go to book fairs, festivals, conventions
  • Pray about our writing and the writing of others; ask others to pray for us
  • Trust God's leading and take some risks

Not all of these ideas will suit everyone.
Which ones resonate with you?
Which ones do you think are essential?
Which ones do you do well?
Where could you improve?
What could you risk?

Paul says of the Gospel, 'I planted the seed and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow.' (1 Corinthians 3:6).  Whether we are writers of specifically Christian fiction or non-fiction or of cross-over fiction- or whether we are Christians who write for the general market; if we invest, if we keep God at the centre, then surely we can trust Him to give the growth - whether that is spiritual - in lives touched and transformed (perhaps even our own), or more material - books published and sold, audiences reached, a living made.

Whatever we do, let's not be like Philip in our re-told parable and bury what we've been given through fear or complacency.

Images © Jeanette O'Hagan 2017

Jeanette O’Hagan first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of nine. She enjoys writing fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Jeanette is writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements. Recent publications include Heart of the Mountain: a short novella, The Herbalist's Daughter: a short story and Lakwi's Lament: a short story. Her other short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

You can find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes .


  1. I like your writerly take on the parable of the talents. I'd never thought of it as encouraging us to take risks, but you're right. Investing in anything is a risk, but I guess it's one we have to take.

    I know Randy Ingermanson is a Margie Lawson fan, and that shows in his three factors of success - and you've followed his alliteration. Good thoughts - thank you.

    1. Thanks Iola. Yes, it always seemed to me that the third servant burying the money was because he was scared he'd lose it - rather than just being lazy or heedless (though maybe that came into it too.) And I've noticed that Randy endorses Margie in his e-zine.

  2. Great retelling of Jesus parable. Excellent thoughts.

  3. That's such an excellent post, Jenny. Love the retelling of the parable of the talents. I've been thinking too about what we invest in writing. I've done lots of courses, gone to conferences etc, and sometimes it seems like a lot of money is going out without it coming back in (and also time etc). But every cent and minute has been worthwhile because everything helps us hone the craft. Not everyone might be able to afford courses etc, but that's why this group and other writing groups are so good. You can get so much info on the internet these days. Thanks for an inspiring post :)

    1. Thanks Nola. I've done a lot of courses too and each one has honed my talent or helped me understand the market or inspired me to keep writing. Well worth it. And as you say, there is so much that is available in groups like ACW or CWD or Omega Writers, or online or in books and manuals etc. all available for no or quite reasonable costs. I think the best thing is to start and to do what we can.

  4. Love this, Jenny. And how true it is, making that commitment to improving our storytelling and writing abilities.

  5. Great post! It's a great perspective on using our gifts and talents. My biggest challenge is actually finding time to write and join groups/conferences etc but I need to use what God has given me so need to make the time. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks Leila. It can be a struggle but I think what you say is true 'I need to use what God has given me so need to make the time.' All the best with your writing :)

  6. Thanks for the post Jenny, really appreciated what you said about investing in what God has given us. One of my biggest challenges is allowing myself the time and finances to invest. I love reading and I think books are so important but why don't I think it's okay for me to spend time and money in learning how to write well and make connections with other writers etc? I'm still working on that particular anomaly. Thank you for the encouragement and challenge.

    1. You're welcome Linsey. I don't think you area alone. Many writers feel the same, that somehow writing is frivolous or an indulgence, yet I think it is vital to reach and inspire the imagination of this generation. It's hearts and minds that change the world.

  7. Great call, Jenny. It's not just a matter of typing at your computer and expecting fans and income to roll in without the investments a life of writing calls for. Good list to start off with too.

    1. Yes! That might be how we start, but not how we keep going. Thanks Paula.

  8. Love it, Jeanette! Very clever and great advice.

  9. Timely encouragement ... and challenge.

    1. Yes, always a challenge :) Glad you are encouraged Mazzy.

  10. Thanks Jenny. Time and Money. Perhaps when the Money starts coming in, the family will appreciate the Time I put in!? A good reminder too to keep praying and to keep putting our Lord and Creative Master at the centre of it.

    1. Ah, yes, it can be hard convincing family. We do what we can. Thanks Raelene.


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