Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Humility in the Marketplace

As a Christian writer I have struggled with the tension between Biblical instructions to be humble, and the publishing world’s advice that I should promote myself. As a result, when Jean Hall, Write2Ignite’s founder, asked me to be a keynote speaker at this year’s conference I thought I’d tackle my own quandary.

As it turns out, I’m not the only one who wrestles with this issue.

I opened the keynote by asking the audience to consider the following questions:

Which is most important:
  • To learn humility?
  • To practice writing skills?
  • To promote yourself through social networking?
  • Or perhaps, some combination of all three?

I then asked participants to probe their motivation by considering:
  • Why do you write?
  • Who do you imagine telling when you get an assignment or get a piece published? (Why this person? What will you say?)
  • Would you still write if there was no hope of getting published?

One of the principles that I believe should guide Christians, comes from 1 Corinthians 4:7:  “What do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?” Just as salvation is a gift from the Lord (Ephesians 2:8), writing and teaching abilities are also gifts.  I encouraged my audience to pray as I do, that they would glorify the Lord in the use of their gifts (1 Corinthians 10:31).

After discussing five examples of Biblical humility: Sarah, Joseph, Moses, Paul, and Jesus, I suggested that there were three tools that provide “humility training.” The Bible shows us our sin; trials show us our need to look to the Lord for wisdom; and the editor’s red pencil shows us our writing weaknesses.

In the final analysis, I admitted that I didn’t have any easy answers. Instead I emphasized that humble thanksgiving for the Lord’s gifts will help Christian writers develop the right attitude about self-promotion.

Afterwards, several people came up and thanked me for the presentation.  Cheryl Reid, a songwriter said, “If I take credit for a song that I write, it takes away credit from the Lord and doesn’t matter eternally.”

Brian Keay thought that our desire to promote ourselves has deep roots: “We all come from painful backgrounds so that we yearn to be significant, to gather attention to ourselves.” He added, “When we are doing what is right we are a reflection of Christ’s glory.”

As I was walking out the door, a woman came over to me and thanked me. “I’ve attended many SCBWI conferences in Virginia and the D.C. area,” she said, “and have never heard a talk on humility.”

That same weekend, the Lord used my own words to remind me of my tendency to “think too highly of myself” (Romans 12:3).  I was both thankful and humbled to receive the Lord’s gentle chiding.

How about you? If you are a Christian writer, how do you handle this tension? I welcome your comments and dialogue on this topic. 


Joyce Moyer Hostetter said...

I think there's always the risk of getting too big for our britches. But the writing/editing/and reviewing process offers many opportunities for staying humble.

Receiving critiques with grace is one concrete way of expressing humility, I think.

I try to promote others often. Facebook is a great way to do that. Blogs are too.

That was an excellent presentation, Carol - well organized, though-provoking and clearly presented. Thanks for recapping here because you know how it is at conferences. We hear much more than we can retain!

Linda A. said...

I'm so glad you accepted this conference speaking engagement. You handled yourself well. I'm not here to answer the hard questions you raised, but I appreciate that you've got me thinking. In the forefront of our minds let's remember: to God be the glory.

Linda A.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Linda. I appreciate your kind comment!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Joyce. I have learned much from you--including lessons of humility and perseverance!

Linda Vigen Phillips said...

Thanks, Carol. You know I have struggled with my own manuscript turning into an idol at times. Thanks for reminding us that humility belongs at the forefront of the writing process.

Carol Baldwin said...

And thanks for reminding me that we have been praying that the Lord would use us as He will!

Kristi Butler said...

Carol, your keynote was thought-provoking! That is, indeed, a rarely approached subject. Loved your insight.


Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Kristi. The topic was a gift from the Lord--as well as the speech itself!

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