The Key to REAL Writing Success

by Ava Pennington

We all want to be successful writers. But how do we define success?

A recent search for the word “success” in the Amazon books category yielded 266,470 results. At the click of a button, more than a quarter of a million books available today on how to become successful!

Let’s face it. No one wakes up thinking, today I will strive to be a failure. Yet we often search for the key to a successful life in all the wrong places. For the Christian writer, the key to real success is a simple, four-part instruction found—where else?— the Bible.

Second Corinthians 5:7-10 (NIV) tells us:

For we live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

The answer to a successful writing life is all there, spelled out in easy-to-follow details:

  1. Live by faith

For we live by faith, not by sight.”

Everyone lives by faith in something. Even atheists live by faith. When you set your alarm clock to wake up at a certain time, you have faith it will work. When you flip the light switch, you have faith the light will turn on without sparking a fire inside your walls. Even when you place the key in your car’s ignition, you have faith the car will start.

According to the Bible, the first key to success is found in living by faith. And the object of our faith is the Lord who created us to glorify His name.

So, for the writer, is your faith in agents, publishers, and contracts? Or is it in the One who called you to write for Him?

  1. With an eternal perspective

“We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Is this life all there is? Is this the best life we can expect? Even if we don’t believe that, we often live as if we do. We make the pursuit of agents and writing contracts a priority. But everything about this life is temporary. Every earthly pursuit will fade into the obscurity of extinction.

Doesn’t it make sense to maintain a perspective that values things that will last? That’s true success. Anything less will fail because it will pass away.

So for the writer, are you writing to appear on a bestseller list, or are you writing to change lives for eternity?

  1. With a right goal

“So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.”

Advice on obtaining success usually mandates the inclusion of goals. When I worked in the corporate world, one of the first things I learned about goals is that they must be S.M.A.R.T.: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. So how does the apostle Paul’s goal to please the Lord stack up against the S.M.A.R.T. standard?

Specific: we’re to please the Lord first, before we please ourselves or other people. And the details of what this looks like are laid out in God’s instruction book for life: the Bible. This leads us to…

Measurable: How do you know if you’re succeeding? The commands and exhortations in Scripture describe how we are to live. And they become our standard. More on this when we look at the next verse.

Attainable: Is it possible to please the Lord? Yes, but only through the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us because of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Which leads us to…

Relevant: What’s the point of having goals if they’re not relevant to who you are and what you hope to achieve? Since Christians are children of God, it matters that they would desire to please their heavenly Father.

Time-bound: Is there an end date in mind? The life of every person is limited to a finite number of years, so we all have an end date for living in a way that will please God. Since none of us know when we will cease to be time-bound, let’s take every opportunity to please our heavenly Father in the days we do have.

So for the writer, who are you seeking to please? Are you writing with specific goals that you’re asking the Lord to bless? Or are you asking the Lord to guide you in the setting of those goals?

  1. Using a right measure

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

Here is the final measure of our success: our evaluation. What have we done with the life given to us? The ultimate Judge is Jesus Christ, who will determine if the things we have accomplished have eternal value (I Corinthians 3:12).

So for the writer, is your measure of success found in God’s standards or the world’s?

There’s no need to read hundreds of thousands of books on the subject of success. The key to real success is living by faith, longing to be with the Lord, desiring to please Him, and doing it all in view of the judgment seat of Christ.

How did your definition of a successful writing life stack up against the apostle Paul’s definition?

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