I've been feeling a lot like Batman lately.
If any of you have ever played Arkham Asylum, the video game, then maybe you can relate. In the beginning of the game, Batman escorts the Joker to Arkham to make sure he gets into his new home safe and sound. The Joker of course breaks free, and all hell breaks loose as you are tasked with venturing through Arkham to find and stop the psychotic clown.
The part that I can relate to is Batman's physical appearance by the end of the game. See, at the start of the game you are Batman - you have a fresh, clean superhero outfit, you're fit as a fiddle, strong as an ox. You ooze confidence and strength. But as the game progresses, you'll notice Batman's appearance change. His suit becomes torn and ripped in places, his face and body become a bit bruised and broken. Even his speech begins to sound winded and worn. By the end of the game, you can see the effects of the turmoil that Batman has endured trying to stop his arch enemy.
This last July marked five years that I've been doing this 'author thing' full time. These last five years have been exciting, scary, and challenging. Most people talk about leaving their 9-5 job to take a risk on an entrepreneurship, but they usually have a good savings account to catch their fall or a spouse who is bringing in enough funds to cover the deficit. Not us. We took a step of faith with $0 in our savings account and my wife only making $9/hour in a 32/hour a week job. We stepped out on a promise - that God would watch over us and our finances while I built my career as a writer. (To read more about this promise, grab Of Dreams and Faith.)
I've gone through quite a bit these last five years. I've definitely grown spiritually. I've learned how better to be a dad and a better husband. I've learned to prioritize relationships. I've learned that obedience is better than sacrifice - one of the hardest lessons to learn. I've learned that God knows better than I do, even if I won't always admit it in my heart.
And I've learned a ton about writing, self-publishing, and entrepreneurship.
But all this learning has come with a price. I feel a lot like Batman at the end of the game. I started out strong, wild-eyed, and full of optimism. Now I feel winded. The bruises and cuts are starting to sting. I can't go very far without having to catch my breath. I'm beginning to wonder when night will break open into dawn.
At the moment, my project list is intentionally slowing to a crawl so I can take the time to take stock of my writing career. Though some might not really consider it a 'career'. I have self-published six fiction novels, one non-fiction book, and one fiction novella...and I have made one digital sale this month. O.N.E. No paperback sales, one digital sale. My 'career' feels like it has come to a complete standstill. Only thing is, this isn't the first month I've seen this. I've had many, many months these last five years that have been in the dumps sales-wise.
It's definitely been more than a little discouraging at times. By the world's standards, I have been incredibly unsuccessful. I've had more than my fair share of critics (including family and friends) whisper in my ear, telling me to go and get a 'real' job. I've struggled hard to grasp marketing strategies, I've struggled to make sense of social networking, and I've struggled to become a 'salesman' to friends, family, and strangers to get them to buy my books.
It's a good thing then that my success isn't defined by this world's standards. God has given me purpose in my writing. These last five years, He has taken care of every one of my needs while I've sat at a desk and bled across the page. And even though I have practically no sales right now, it doesn't mean I am unsuccessful. Even though I am not on a bestseller list somewhere, even though my book isn't found in the front lobby of your local bookstore, even though the internet isn't abuzz with my author moniker - it doesn't make me unsuccessful, as a person or a writer.
I've learned so much about self-publishing these last five years, and I sense God is taking everything I have learned and is bringing me back full circle to the beginning to break through this wall that's been here since day one. God wasn't going to push me through to the next season of my life - a season when I finally harvest the seeds I planted many many winters ago - when I wasn't ready as a person. My character needed some work. My way of thinking needed some work. My perspective on life needed some work.
These five years have been all about growing, all about becoming a man, refined in the fires of experience, ready to walk into this next season. And even though it seems right now that I'm about to go down for the count - and I feel like I'm about to go down for the count - God won't let me. My own steel will won't let me. Through success or failure, I'll keep getting back up in my pursuit of God's promise. I may not be able to see the fruit of my labor right now, but I know it's coming. God doesn't waste His time or ours. Everything has purpose.
Even though I'm in the 153rd round of this fight, I guarantee you I will either win this round or get back up to see my 154th round. And even though I would have liked for this fight to end after the third or fourth round, even though I would have loved to see my writing take off after the first or second year of doing this gig, I'll stick with this until they run out of round numbers.
At times, it seems like the odds of this fight are stacked against me. The odds of the publishing world, the odds of my unique genre taking off, the odds of a nobody crawling to the top of the slush pile. But it doesn't mean that success won't come my way. It will. In God's time. In God's way. God loves working through the underdog, especially the underdog who refuses to give up. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.
2 Corinthians 4:8,9 -
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.