Discover Something Greater Than Working for A Dangling Carrot

Discover Something Greater Than Working for A Dangling Carrot

I’ve been quiet on the blog here for a few weeks, because the Lord and I have been in conference behind closed doors. The question I brought to the table was about my success as a writer, and by that I mean how many.

In the professional writing world, everything revolves around how many. Publishers won’t give you the time of day unless you can show them your own full bushel basket of readers to whom you can sell a book.

So when I started blogging four years ago, I was immediately hit head-on by the industry’s demand to count heads.

Seven readers (but one of them is my mom and another my husband and another my daughter, so that number didn’t count.)

Twelve readers.

Seventy six.

Four hundred.

One thousand.

“It’s a start,” says the agent.

In the book DRiVE: The Surprising Truth About What Motives Us, Daniel H. Pink says that a dangling carrot of extrinsic motivation can actually work like a hit of cocaine. In the writing world, that means you hit a certain number, but then you reach that number and the next time you need a bigger number. He says extrinsic motivation is toxic to creativity because it narrows the focus to achieving the reward.

Toxic is the perfect word for it.

I wasn’t getting the numbers I needed to be a professional writer, and it brought me to a crisis. Thank the Lord for wise friends, though.

My friend said to me, “You know, being good at marketing isn’t the same as being a good writer. You can be good at one and not at the other.”

So that’s what the Lord and I have been talking about for a long time and even more intensely over the last few months.

How many?

Last week I was reading Making Men Whole, by J.B. Phillips, and he said:

Though we often think in terms of world issues, the majority of us are not called to be world leaders or anything like it, but sensible and faithful servants of the One whose purpose it is to unite the scattered races under one Shepherd.

I sensed the Lord speaking to me through these words. Anyone who wants to be a writer immediately begins to think on world terms –New York Times Best Seller list and how to get there.

But my growth in readers has been very small and slow. Do you mind me being honest in this? I have friends whose readers number in the tens of thousands, and it has been almost impossible not to compare myself to them.

“Do you want me to do a smaller scope of work?” I asked the Lord. “Do you want me to be one of the sensible and faithful ones who works on a more humble stage than some of my writer friends?”

Then one night I was reading an article about Ann Voskamp in Christianity Today. Ann was the first blogger I came across when I began writing, and she impressed me with her talk about “Upside Down Blogging,” which means we become less so Christ can become more. In her article, she said we need to break our ladders and stop trying to build platforms, so that we can bend down in the dirt and get our hands dirty.

Break our ladders.

Stop climbing.

After much prayer, listening, reading, prayer, listening, reading, I believe the Lord wants me to break my ladder, at least for now. That means I’m going to continue writing for the sake of talking about the wonderful hope found in Christ, and I will stop trying to get my name out there. No more marketing, at least for this season. It’s a big deal and goes against everything my prior literary agent told me to do.

I’m a little sad, I’m going to tell you. When you work hard at something for four years, it feels like giving up a dream.

Becoming less feels like dying.

It’s also a relief, though. To stop striving and to focus only on what the Lord has shaped me to do is a breath of fresh air.

During this intense conference time with the Lord, he put in front of me a Scripture passage I can hold onto.

But as for me, I will always have hope;

I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteousness,

of your salvation all day long,

though I know not its measure.

I will come and proclaim your mighty acts,

O Sovereign Lord;

I will proclaim your righteousness,

yours alone.

Psalm 71:14-16

My name in the writing world may stay quiet or even become less, but as for me, I will praise the Lord more and more.

J.B. Phillips says:

We must not be infected by the world’s valuations of either speed or success. The responsibilities which faced Christ as a human being would be, if we stop to think, enough to drive the most balanced man out of his mind. But he maintained His poise, His joy and His peace. He did the Father’s will; and that is both the most and the highest that we can do.

This is a rich intrinsic motivation –to do the Father’s will because it is the highest that we can do.

What work do you do in service to the Lord, and what motivates you to do it?


  1. You have put into words the anguish I have been feeling for months. The toxic pain of THE NUMBER. When I started blogging, I was positive it was what I needed to do to be obedient. And in recent months, I’ve come to doubt that calling because of THE NUMBER. Thank you for your honesty. Today I put up my ladder, too.

    1. Isn’t it a sickening battle that creeps in slowly and destroys our joy in writing and serving the Lord? Yuck. Congratulations to you on breaking your ladder -no small act for the soul.

  2. Oh, how beautiful this reminder! I just was discussing some of writing and such with my husband. For several days I was feeling discouraged because every time I write a book, I feel like someone “bigger and better” writes something similar. I was feeling like there was no point in writing– I should just admit that I’m not as good and let others tell the story– and then I got on facebook and a woman had left me a message about Pain Redeemed (my first book). She just told how the book had pulled her from the pit she was in and she was learning to live and trust God again, and it was like God’s voice echoed in my kitchen. Being called to something doesn’t mean we are called to greatness. Not by this world’s definition anyway. We don’t have to make it on the NY Times Bestsellers to prove that our story is worth telling. If this one woman found healing and God’s presence again, then my book was worth writing and publishing. Because God was glorified and that’s the whole point.

    And while I am processing all of this, I read this post of yours, and it is God’s grace again. Teaching my heart to stay in place, to recognize what the whole point of writing is; doing the will of my Father. For His glory. For His purpose.

    Anyway. Thank you for this reminder. I needed it.

    1. It makes me cranky to get a beautiful note from a reader, about how God touched her through my writing, and then an hour later I’m doubting my ability to write and start comparing myself to other writers. Arrrrghhh. It gets so old -the war against the natural man inside of me. We certainly are easily discouraged people!

      A few years ago I read Pain Redeemed and found your story to be so honest and valuable. I’m a pastor’s wife, and it gave me great insight and a new sensitivity into the pain and struggle women experience when they don’t have a baby in their arms. So I give a huge hug to you, sister, and say you have a beautiful gift and a unique perspective. Don’t grow weary in well doing!

  3. Love you and your work in this world (Mathew 5:14 comes to my mind)! Blessings upon you today!

  4. Tina Gilbert says:

    Christy, your words have also been an encouragement to *me* the past couple years. I love your style, because you put Truth out there for us in a simple, easy-to-relate & yet no-nonsense way. I appreciate that.
    I am a new truck driver. And also a new pastor’s wife {almost ?}: my husband of 20 years has just taken on studying to be a pastor. This past year {my first year of truck driving} has been very rough. I believe the LORD *has* called me out here to do this work, but I kind of got sidetracked & off-kilter for awhile as, it seems, I am also entering the middle of my life. I have wondered why I’m called out here & I’ve wondered about the timing once my husband began his courses. But I still believe it’s where I’m *supposed* to be. It’s my work, if only for now. I’m striving to find reason & balance & purpose & direction – and I do know the LORD will lead me, one step at a time. ♡ tina

    1. A truck driver -now that is an interesting new occupation! I could never sit still long enough to drive for a living. I can hear my husband laughing at the very idea.

      I love that your husband is studying to be a pastor! I think we need new adventures with the Lord in the middle of our lives. Blessings on the both of you!

  5. Oh, my friend, your words are so refreshing and encouraging to me! I am deeply touched and inspired by your determination to walk in obedience above all. I don’t think you’ll ever know how many lives you’ve touched by your example and your writing ministry—more than mere “numbers”!

  6. I read the comments below and I just want to add my second to each one! So thankful you intend to continue writing as you have truly been a blessing to me!
    Perfect reminder for us all: we become less as He becomes more. Thank you for being so real and relatable and humble.

    1. Thank you, Jackie! Often I struggle with how honest to be in my writing, so I appreciate the encouragement.

  7. Cindy Merritt says:

    Christy, I love your transparent honesty. You’re my favorite blogger (and I follow several). Thanks for writing for ME, here in Oklahoma, and for not worrying about the numbers. I believe God is using you in a mighty way.

    1. Yes, just for you, Oklahoma! 🙂 Thank you so much for the kind words, Cindy.

  8. Christy,
    You need to know that your writings, especially your study “Seven Actions to Take When Life Gets Hard”, have been so instrumental in helping me stay focused spiritually during the most difficult time in my life. I’m so eternally grateful for you and the way you share God!s truth. I can’t even convey what a big deal this is. So many lives have been touched by God displaying his strength and sufficiency through my adversity. My circumstances haven’t changed but I have and you were part of that. Thank you!

    1. Oh, my heart! That is sweet news. God is so good to take my humble words and fit them to what you’ve needed. Thanks for the note!

  9. I’m not sure how I stumbled across your blog. I think you wrote a guest post and then I hunted you down from there ? Nevertheless, I found you a couple of years ago. Since then, I have been so richly blessed by your grace, wisdom, encouragement, and authenticity. I pray for you and will continue to do so in the context of rest for your soul and peace to guard your heart and mind as you stop hustling. You are more than enough. I’m so glad you are still going to write. You are most definitely a part of my mornings and Jesus uses you to help fill my cup.

    1. You’ve stuck with me for a couple of years? Thank you for that, sister! I’m very glad to join you in the mornings. Thank you for the prayer, too -my soul needs it!!

  10. Ellen Cole says:

    I am but one, but your writing never fails to encourage me. I am grateful that you plan to continue to use your God-given gift to write and encourage the few, if not the many. There are numbers you cannot see or calculate. Writing for the Lord is different than other writing. Other writers just need people to buy their work to get their numbers. Those you touch inevitably touch others, who touch others still. God alone knows your numbers and that’s all the marketing you need.

    1. Now that is incredible truth. God alone knows the numbers! But it’s hard to remember that when it’s the visible numbers the publishers want. Thanks for writing to me, because it’s the individual connection that helps get my feet on the ground and remember the importance of why I’m writing.

  11. I am so blessed by your messages and so glad that I found you! Isn’t there some type of saying about when you stop trying so hard it will fall into your lap (or something similar). Anyway, I love you for all you.
    Thank you!!

    1. Thanks for the love, Sue! You know, I thought about the “falling into your lap” thing, but I decided it’s almost manipulative of the Lord to think, “Well, maybe if I stop trying and back off on marketing, then he will really bless me with the numbers.” I landed on the fact that I am his servant, and he can do with me as he wishes. I need to be obedient and willing to live with a smaller circle of influence indefinitely, if that’s what he wants.

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