"Sometimes while I'm talking to God, He'll show me something about myself in such a way that I have to laugh at my own humanity and how funny I must look to Him." - Donna

Donna...just found your blog...I absolutely love it! And I love your singing! I'm at work right now and it was just exactly what I needed to hear to help me make it through tonight! Thanks for your ministry here!
- Robert

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Friday, May 12, 2006

Writing by Numbers

*For something different, I'm including a few posts on writing. I have a lot of readers who write, too!

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19:14

I attended a writers’ conference this past week. During our evening meal, several of us discussed website design. One woman, who has a site for her children’s writing, mentioned she has no idea how many visitors she draws. Another person sitting with us with us said, “You’re kidding! You don’t have a stat counter?!” As someone with stat counters on every site, I could hardly believe it either.

When we watch that number tick over to another hundred visitors, we may be tempted to analyze the stats to cater to readers’ tastes, writing ‘to the numbers.’ Every writers’ group discusses what’s hot, what’s not. Who will write the next megaseller that touches off a trend with dozens of authors following? I know I’ve gone into the bookstore, trolled the aisles, and tried to figure out the theme for a book for which the market will hunger – the one a publisher will gasp over, “Yes! Exactly what we’ve been looking for!”

Dan Robbins, an Oak Brook free-lance designer, created Craft Master paint-by-number kits. In 1954, he re-created the “Last Supper” – the most popular paint by number kit ever. For every person who picked up one of his kits, and millions did, he or she sacrificed artistic originality for conformity. Maybe that’s what I’m doing when I study the titles, making note of what’s in abundance, what’s selling.

I’ve written for hire, and have no problem doing so. I wrote according to stringent guidelines, capturing the voice of the project. And the publisher, no doubt, had analyzed the numbers before embarking on the project. Back in the seventies, I purchased one of those paint by number kits. I painted a lovely stained glass window through which rays of light shone down on a pair of praying hands. Even though I started painting by number, I embellished, adding my own flair to the painting. In the end, it was my creation, or so I imagined. I take the same pride in my work for hire projects. Even though I start with someone else’s idea, I add my own flair, and in the end, it’s a part of me in the creation.

But on my own, I wonder if I have what it takes to write without the burden of marketing trends and profitability swirling about in my head. In one of the sessions I attended during the conference, our instructor informed us a publisher invests tens of thousands of dollars into every book.

I told one editor I pray over my writing daily. I ask God to direct my steps, and to burden my heart with His message. Even though he didn’t ‘tsk, tsk,’ I did feel, even as I said the words, that I probably appeared quite naïve. And maybe I am. I’m a lot less naïve than I was three years ago. Now I understand that for every book, there’s a budget. I’m just hoping, and praying…and praying, I will be so blessed to write a book that merits the budget, and more importantly, ministers in the manner God ordains.

Now I’m off to check my stats. Some habits are hard to break.

Prayer: Lord, may I always be in tune to Your will, writing as You lead, and being inspired by the Holy Spirit. Please direct my steps, giving me wisdom as I write for You. In Jesus' Name I pray, Amen.


mamag7 said...

Donna.. really enjoyed your blog about the writer's conference.. boy .. could you keep me in the loop about these, please? I know the one in Hamilton I was going to attend but we were gone for a conference in Memphis that weekend.. and as you know.... there aren't many in our area. Mostly in Columbus or north in Toledo. I sort of liken my book to a Christian Erma Bombeck book... so that would have been cool. I'll have to keep that site bookmarked and check up on it..

Hey.... stats counters ARE nice.. I check them occasionally.. Around Easter time, my Ukrainian egg site gets really busy... Over 13,000 this April.. oh yes... I like stat counters.. :)

Susannah said...

Thanks for your posts. I just launched my blog-zine, WITH a stat counter. I'm not writing for profit, but I AM curious. Maybe you could publish some of your original literary work in a not-for-profit forum and receive the satisfaction you're looking for.

Donna J. Shepherd said...

Wow, Georgia! That's a lot of hits! I'm very impressed. You'll have to share how you spread the word about your eggs. That's great!

e-mom, I pray your blog-zine is blessed, and thanks for the suggestion. I visited your blog and left a note already.

Thanks for stopping by!

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