I have dreamed of writing a book for almost twenty years. Actually, if I am being really honest, I’ve dreamed of writing a lot of books. What dreams do you have that you haven’t released to the world? Here’s to hoping that this post will encourage you to courageously respond to closed doors (don’t try to pry them open) and then courageously walk through open doors (don’t shrink back in fear).
I’ve got no less than ten different book ideas safely tucked away in a password-protected journal program on my computer. Whenever I get a new idea, I pull out my computer or phone, open Evernote, and capture the moment. I’ve been capturing moments like this for over ten years. These ideas have remained safely behind an additional layer that I have hid behind for a while: insecurity. Dara (my wife) knows most of my ideas, but that is the farthest most of them have traveled.
Everything changed a few months ago when I signed a contract with the Fedd Agency. Honestly, typing out or saying the words my agent still feels unnatural. Doesn’t really roll off the tongue.
I was massively encouraged by my second interaction with my agent, Esther in April 2019. She was incredibly excited about the ideas that I had formed around the topic of neighborliness. However, this was after an eye-opening first call with Esther in September of 2016.
“I have been excited to chat with you,” Esther (founder and owner of the Fedd Agency) said. “Tell me your ideas. However, make it quick. If you can’t tell me your idea in a few sentences, you don’t have an idea.” Five minutes later I was still rambling through my catalogue of Evernote ideas. Esther graciously stopped me and said, “I am excited to work with you, but you don’t have an idea yet. Finish up your doctoral program, clear your head, and call me back in a few years.”
She had a point. I was full of ideas that had no practical expression that would genuinely benefit others if they read what I was writing. If I didn’t fully understand my ideas at that point, there was no way I could ever pass them on in a way that would encourage others. I doubled down on my education and finished my doctoral program in April 2019. A few weeks later, I took a deep breath and reached back out to Esther.
“Let’s do it again,” she said with a genuine excitement. “Remember, however, you have to make it quick. You don’t have an idea if you can’t say it quickly.”
I remember feeling a brief moment of nervousness before I replied, but that was quickly followed by a feeling of confidence and readiness. The insecurity that I had become so familiar with over the years was still present, but I believed in the message God had formed and shaped in my heart so much that insecurity would no longer keep me from sharing.
“I started my doctoral program three years ago with the idea that I wanted to understand the reasons behind the cyclical patterns of generational poverty. However, the more I studied the unequal systems that divide our communities, the more I was drawn to the call of Jesus to love God and neighbors. If we express a spirit of neighborliness, we would never have inequity in our society.” I stopped, listened to what seemed to be forever-silence (most likely a three-second pause) and Esther said, “What did you just say? Neighborliness? That’s it!! That’s the message that we all need to hear. That’s the message I need to hear.”
Later that day, Esther sent me a contract and we began the process of developing a book proposal. All of a sudden, I was going from safely storing the most intimate and vulnerable ideas that I was developing to sharing them with an editorial team (shout out to my main editor at Fedd, Tori Thacher!) that wanted to pull all of the best ideas out of me and get them into this proposal.
The editorial team coached me through writing the first proposal and I submitted it to them after six weeks of writing, re-writing, throwing paper against the wall (literally and figuratively). Tori’s first response was encouraging and challenging. “This is really good,” she said. “But you have more in you.”
Anyone else out there here the “but you have more in you” louder than the “it’s really good?” I know I’m not alone on that one. I had to move past my insecurities because I want the message to be as strong as possible. Additionally, I’m convinced Tori is a savant when it comes to writing, so I decided to take the encouragement with the challenge and keep moving forward.
Over the next two weeks, Tori and I worked hand-in-hand on a completely new proposal. It was deeper, more nuanced, and much clearer than the first one I wrote. I’m grateful for Tori’s courage to challenge me, because she pulled ideas out of me that I didn’t even know were present behind the layers of notes that I had created on my own.
I will never forget getting the final email from Esther and Tori that said that they had completed the proposal with the attached design that they would be sending to publishers. As a note, this isn’t the final artwork or even the final title (the publishers will be involved with final creative decisions).
Seeing this graphic was a dream twenty years in the making. I thought I would cry (sometimes I cry), but I didn’t. I just sat there completely speechless. I love to talk, so speechless seems to be a reaction reserved for moments like the birth of my four kids and the rare occasion that the Detroit Tigers – my favorite baseball team since I was a child – actually win a game.
The team from the Fedd Agency has been incredible along the way. They genuinely believe in the message that God continues to form in my heart. I thank God on a regular basis that they are advocating for this book (and books to come). However, I had no clue what the process would look like once they submitted the book to publishers.
I checked my email no less than a hundred times the next few days. I guess I was just figuring that major publishers were just waiting to get a book exploring the potentially volatile topic of race, economics, and the greatest commandment. I wrote Jill (director of author relations) and said, “By the way… what’s this process look like? Days, weeks, months?” She wrote back and kindly told me that the process could take several months. She added, “Make sure you’re not writing anymore on the framework of this book. It could all change if they publishers feel like it needs to go in another direction.”
That email was almost two months ago. I have learned so much about myself during this time of waiting. I have reinforced a long-known reality that I’m not really good at waiting. God is teaching me how to patiently wait for him to open doors that no man can close and close doors that no man can open (Revelation 3:8). I am learning to appreciate the present moment and not wish away a season of calm to get to the season where I will see this dream realized. God is present in the waiting.
What are you waiting on today? What dream is in your heart that has not been fulfilled? Maybe we can join each other in recognizing that God is with us in the waiting.
One of the names of God in the bible is Immanuel. It means “God with us.” Let that one sink in. One of his names in Scripture means that he is with us in every season. God ascends to the mountaintop with us to see the beautiful view of what we have accomplished and what is still to come. God descends into the valley with with us when we can’t see past the forest of doubt and fear. He is with us on every part of the journey, and he’s traveling with us today.
Let’s be real… I still hope this season of waiting ends soon. However, I’m growing more and more comfortable in the waiting because I know that God is with me everywhere I go. I don’t like seasons of waiting, but I’m grateful I’m not alone. God is with me and I have a hunch you may be on a similar journey, as well.
Immanuel, God is with us.