The Curious Case of the Neglected Novel (Encouragement for Creators)

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She loved apples, playing the piano, and a good game of golf. Mostly, however, she loved writing. She wrote in the bathtub, on the washstand, at the dining room table — and when she spent time in the Middle East, she wrote on a makeshift table of boards and packing crates. For decades she averaged two novels a year, writing them longhand at first, but eventually using a typewriter. She’s the greatest mystery writer of all time, producing 78 detective novels, over 100 short stories, and 19 plays, including Mousetrap — the world’s longest-running play, which opened in London’s West End in 1952 and is still running today after more than 25,000 performances. Most of her books and short stories have been adapted for television and feature films. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she’s the best-selling novelist of all time. Her work has been translated into over a hundred languages, making her the single most-translated author; and her books have sold over two billion copies. Only the Bible and Shakespeare have outsold her.

— All these accomplishments because Agatha Christie persevered. She refused to take “no” for an answer.

Dame Agatha Christie was born in 1890, in the Devon coast town of Torquay. She grew up with a passion for detective novels. She devoured the Sherlock Holmes stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and such novels as Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White and The Moonstone. One day, Agatha’s sister challenged her to write a mystery novel of her own. Agatha produced her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles.

Over the next four years Agatha tried repeatedly to find a home for her book. Not one publisher took even the slightest interest in her manuscript. One account states the author received close to 500 rejections during this time. The mystery novelist was about to forever change the rules of detective fiction — it’s just that no one realized it at the time.

In 1920, the publishing company Bodley Head showed genuine interest in Agatha’s novel. The editor John Lane eventually offered the young writer a contract, after procrastinating for close to a year. He asked Agatha to change the ending — which she promptly did — and then paid her a mere £25. So, five years after Agatha finished The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the novel that launched the career of the brilliant Belgian detective Hercule Poirot finally saw print.

“My little grey cells do not stop at NO.”

Agatha Christie was on her way. A few years later she published And Then There Were None, also known as Ten Little Indians, and the basis for several movies and TV shows. To date, the book has sold over 100 million copies, making it the world’s best-selling mystery — ever!

Don’t stop at “No”! Keep trying. Rejection is one of life’s great mysteries. We may not always understand it, but we all have to endure it.

“Trust in the Lord and do good…. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this…. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him….” (Psalm 37:3-7 NIV)

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Count the Cost (Diet for Dreamers)

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Previously we mentioned that if you’re going to accomplish anything worthwhile in life, you’ll need to make some sacrifices. Whether it’s building a lasting marriage, raising great kids, or achieving some long-held goal or dream, you’ll need to be willing to pay the price.

Every business deal, ministry, relationship, project, hobby, or activity — every great human endeavor — comes with a price tag. Once we understand this truth, we’ll tend to analyze and evaluate every goal and situation. We’ll start counting the cost before committing to something new. After all, would you agree to purchase an item without knowing its cost? Unless you’re Donald Trump, probably not. (But we seriously doubt even he  would make a blind financial decision.)

Once we stop long enough to count the cost in time, energy, effort, sacrifice, patience, love, understanding, and faithfulness, we won’t be so quick to enter in to just any relationship or project. Knowing we’re accountable when it comes to “paying the tab” might keep us from blindly charging into things. And the things we do decide to commit to, we’ll do so wholeheartedly, knowing the cost and being mentally prepared to pay it.

Some endeavors come at a truly great price. So it helps to be psychologically prepared. Ready to give it our best shot, so to speak. The author Charles Bukowski once wrote:

If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing [friends] and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery–isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. …You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is. (Factotum)

If you’re going to make a go of something, make a “good go” of it. No half-hearted attempts. “And whatsoever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23 King James 2000) But again, know before hand what the price is — what you’re getting into. Spare yourself and your loved ones any unnecessary heartache. Once you understand the cost of realizing ANY dream, and make a commitment to pay that cost, no matter what, you’ll be more likely to follow through on every endeavor.

Count the cost. Be committed and ready to foot the bill. Then stick with it and pay the price. “Jesus said … ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62 ESV) “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it?” (Luke 14:28 NLT)

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