Unfortunately, when you become a Christian author, you don’t get to sleep on piles of money.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure the Max Lucados and Donald Millers of the world are able to throw cash all over their beds and enjoy a nice slumber. I’m sure they can walk into church and make it rain when the offering bucket comes around. But having recently published the book, Stuff Christians Like, with Zondervan, I am here to say not all my dreams have come true yet.
I have, however, learned a thing or two about chasing your dreams during this whole crazy Stuff Christians Like experience. Three things actually:
1. You don’t have to quit your job to chase your dream.
There are gobs of Christian “Open the Gates and Seize the Day” books that encourage you to sell everything you have, quit your job, and move to Guam. And that might work for some people, but I think on average most people don’t have lives structured that way. If I told my wife and kids we were headed to Guam, they would probably sweep my leg. With a roundhouse kick if I had to guess. The truth is you don’t have to quit your job. In fact, I wrote a book, continue to write stuffchristianslike.net, and am starting to speak around the country all while working a day job in an IT department. In addition to providing me a financial foundation to leap from, my job helps keep me connected to real people with real problems. Sometimes, when you become a professional Christian, you get so far into the bubble that you start to write about “theories of what people care about,” instead of realities. You get insulated from the real world, and you lose touch with the raw hurts and hopes real people are experiencing. So if you want to chase your dreams, don’t automatically assume you have to quit your job.
2. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
I have a friend who wants to be an artist. He wants to paint fulltime, but instead works at a marketing company. He is not happy and regularly tells me, “I’m not doing what God created me to do.” (I’d argue that what we are all created to do is worship, and you can do that anywhere, but that’s another point for a different article.) The fact of the matter is my friend has the classically Christian attitude of “all or nothing.” That is, he either wants to be a fulltime artist or not an artist at all. The reality is, though, that you have to start somewhere. You have to throw canvases around on the weekend. You have to practice in the space and time you have. You can’t wait for some magical event to transform you from “not creating any art at all” to “creating art 40 hours a week.” Dreams rarely happen that way. If you’ve got a dream about doing something fulltime and you’re not doing it part time right now, I’m not sure that’s the right dream for you.
3. Things that matter a lot cost a lot.
“How do you get a big blog community?” People sometimes ask me that. And it’s a good question, but the answer is never fun. Because the answer folks want is a secret “viral online voodoo” formula that has two or three steps and may or may not involve a friend of yours getting hit in the groin with a baseball or a cat doing something funny. But there’s a big difference between viral hit and community. A viral hit happens instantly and burns bright like a flare but then fades out just as fast. A community is a lot slower. For my blog, it meant writing 500,000 words before the book even came out. It meant getting up at 5:00 a.m. each morning to write the blog before work and then spending hours at night responding to e-mails and comments. It meant spending Friday nights and Saturday mornings brainstorming new ideas. It wasn’t fast, it wasn’t instant, but with over 90,000 comments from readers in the first two years, it is growing into a community. Your goal or dream will take just as long and cost just as much. I once heard Malcolm Gladwell say that the thing that terrified him about the next generation was that they didn’t have any hunger. They didn’t have any because they grew up with everything they needed and wanted. To chase that dream though, you’re going to need to work a lot and pay a lot and invest a lot if you really want to prove Malcolm wrong.
As I write this, the sun is coming up, and my workday is about to begin. I woke up on regular sheets last night, no Benjamins in my bed. But I’m doing it a little bit at a time. I’m paying my dues, and I’m still putting in 40 hours each week at work.
Someday, I’ll make it rain like Lucado, just you wait.