Go With the Flow? (Diet for Dreamers; Encouragement for Creators)

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Ever feel like your swimming against the current? Sometimes, in the pursuit of our dreams, we actually end up doing just that. Opportunities often drift our way, but we can be so intent on charting our own course that we refuse to be swept along by the “good tidings” life often has to offer. In other words, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15 NIV) Ouch!

People are always looking for the next “new thing”; and creative people, in particular, tend to quickly get bored with their own proven successes. Go figure. But novelists have been known to “kill off” beloved fictional characters because they want to write something different; singers may leave the music genres in which they’ve enjoyed the most popularity; and actors who play the leads in hit TV shows are notorious for departing to become movie stars! Sometimes, these decisions pay off. Sometimes, however, these dreamers would have been better off just going with the flow.

Businessmen and women may abandon lucrative ventures in order to pursue something else; and people are continually quitting comfortable, high-paying jobs to chase after “pie in the sky.” Discontentment? Restlessness? Stubbornness? Plain stupidity? Sure, it’s good to be challenged, to explore new avenues, and to continue growing. But there are occasions when staying put has its merits!

Now, we’re certainly not suggesting that anyone should give up on his or her dreams, but we are suggesting that the course you take in the pursuit of these dreams doesn’t necessarily need to be the one you carefully plotted years ago. Life and circumstances frequently dictate the need to make navigational changes: to seize certain opportunities when they come your way; to be content working within your own gifts and talents, and sticking with a proven success — If it ain’t broke, then stop trying to fix it!

And to be willing to go with the flow! Here’s the story of a writer and a publishing house that did just that.

Throughout the 1920s, Street & Smith Company, one of the leading publishers of the day, ruled the newsstands in America. The publisher had enjoyed great success with its mystery and adventure pulps — monthly fiction magazines packed with highly entertaining novels and stories printed on cheap “pulp” paper — and with a series featuring a continuing character, a fictional detective named Nick Carter. But with increasing competition at the newsstands, not to mention the disastrous effects of the Great Economic Depression of 1929, Street and Smith soon found it was losing valuable ground.

As it entered the 1930s, the company made several decisions that would greatly impact its future. First, there would be no continuing characters in its pulps — a big mistake! Second, Street & Smith would promote its flagship publication Detective Story Magazine by contracting to have mystery tales from the periodical adapted for radio broadcast — a big success! Third, since there were no continuing characters, the stories would be tied together as a series by a mysterious host who would introduce and comment upon each new segment of the show — a big idea that would set the format of anthology shows for decades, both on radio (The Whistler, for example) and television (with popular series such as Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone).

The new radio show was a hit. But a curious thing happened, and Street & Smith realized it was best to just go with the flow! The host of the weekly series became the most popular aspect of the broadcast. The actor hired to perform as the mysterious narrator known only as The Shadow had decided to play the character to the hilt, employing an eerie, whispering delivery punctuated by a maniacal laugh. We’ve all heard a sample of the type of melodrama the narrator gleefully delivered: “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows! Haaa-hahaha-haaaa!

Street & Smith soon learned their advertising ploy had backfired … sort of. The radio show was supposed to increase sales of the magazine, but the newsstands were reporting that listeners were confused. Instead of picking up Detective Story Magazine, potential readers wanted to buy “that Shadow mystery magazine.” Only there wasn’t such a thing! No problem, Street & Smith decided to give readers exactly what they wanted, a pulp with a continuing character — like the publisher’s previously cancelled series of Nick Carter dime novels — called the Shadow!

No one could have predicted this ironic outcome, or this unforeseen creative and financial opportunity. Nothing had worked out the way Street & Smith had planned it, but the publisher wasn’t about to pass up a good thing. The company would just go with the flow. A wise decision, too, because the Shadow would soon become a profitable media juggernaut that would influence movies, magazines and comics for decades! But at this point in history Street & Smith still had one tiny problem: no one had yet figured out just exactly WHO this Shadow fellow was!

Enter a successful young writer who’s suddenly faced with the opportunity of a lifetime … and a creative choice that could make or break his fame and fortune. Will he go with the flow — or chart an entirely different course? Join us in our next thrilling issue for the conclusion of this startling but true story!

In the pursuit of your goals and dreams, and in all of your creative endeavors, whenever you come to a crossroads, or encounter an unusual and unexpected opportunity, ask God to help you make the right decision. Could be that you’d be best served just going with the flow.

“Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do! And whatever else you do, develop good judgment.” (Proverbs 4:7 NLT)

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