Monday, April 8, 2013

Indicators of Success

By Richard L. Mabry, MD

The surgeon describes a very difficult procedure to the patient, and then asks if there are any questions.

“Will I be able to play the violin?”

The surgeon pauses and rubs his chin. “I think you will.”

“Wonderful. I’ve always wanted to be able to do that.”

For the thirty-six years I practice medicine, I never undertook a surgical procedure or an extensive course of treatment without asking the patient, “What is your indicator of success?”

What does this have to do with writing? A writer will have an indicator of success, whether they consciously admit it, before they begin. However, unlike the surgeon and patient, the writer’s goals may change as things move forward.

For the new writer, the goal may be simply to start a book. That blank computer screen can be intimidating, and somehow the sight of it makes all creative ideas flee the brain like geese headed south for the winter. But, like getting olives out of a bottle, once the process starts it’s easier for it to proceed.

Completing the writing of a book is something that relatively few people ever accomplish. If you do it, you can congratulate yourself. Ask half a dozen of your friends if they’ve ever written a book, and you’ll probably get half a dozen blank stares—unless your friends are also writers.

Once you’ve written the book, your next goal is to get it in print. To accomplish this you train your sights on representation from an agent, then interest from a publisher, and finally a positive response from the publishing committee. When that happens, you’ve done it! You have your first contract. That means you’ve achieved success, right? Not really.

The published writer has a new set of goals. For the first book, they involve edits, galley proofs, and marketing. But at the same time (and even before, if you’re planning ahead), a new goal pops up: a second book—then maybe a third. The process seems never-ending.

All those goals are good ones, but I’m going to suggest something different. I’m going to suggest that your indicator of success be a single, non-negotiable, unchanging one: to reflect Christ to your readers in a positive fashion that will uplift their spirits and draw them closer to Him.

And what if the work is never published? Even then, your words will affect one person—you. And maybe that’s God’s plan all along.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the gospel every day. When necessary, use words.” God has gifted you with an ability to use words. Do so for His glory. That’s your true indicator of success.

"I'm a retired physician, who got into non-medical writing after the death of my first wife with my book, THE TENDER SCAR: LIFE AFTER THE DEATH OF A SPOUSE. I'm gratified that it continues to help those who have lost a loved one. I moved into writing fiction. Thus far I've had four novels of medical suspense published: CODE BLUE, MEDICAL ERROR, DIAGNOSIS DEATH, and LETHAL REMEDY. The second and third books listed were named finalists for the ACFW Carol Award and Romantic Times' Best Inspirational Novel respectively.My next book,STRESS TEST releases 4-9-13. I currently serve as Vice-President of the American Christian Fiction Writers and am a proud member of the International Thriller Writers. When I'm not writing, I'm busy being a husband and grandfather, working on my golf game, and doing the hundred-and-one other things that retired people do. I'm busier now than I ever was while in practice--and loving it."-Amazon


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