Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Platform and what's really important

Since I started attending writer’s conferences in 2005, I don’t think I’ve been to a single one that didn’t include a class on the necessity for writers to build a platform.

What is a platform?

Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers and the speaker at this Year’s American Christian Fiction Writers Conference writes, “…platforms are built of: Contacts, Customers, Prospects, Followers, and Fans. In other words, a platform is your tribe. People who share your passion and want to hear from like-minded people.”

Hyatt, an expert on platform, has written an entire book aptly named, Platform, to help writers and speakers facilitate successful careers.

He also says in this article, “You can’t succeed without a platform.”

Many writers, myself included, feel called by God to do what we do, however, from the publisher’s end, this is still a business. There are stockholders to report to, and one by one, we’ve seen publishing houses fold or bought out by larger corporations due to the difficult economy. Platform is not only important for business but also vital for getting whatever message we have out there so others may hear it.

But honestly, I grow weary of the marketing end of this business. It’s the hardest thing for me. It’s not that I don’t work hard. I do. I just get tired of what someone has called, “shameless, self-promotion.” My introverted personality does not lend itself to it, and when I see other writers with hundreds or thousands of blog followers and huge fan bases, sometimes, I just want to sit down. It seems so impossible.

There are deeper questions this struggle begs: Why did I begin this writing career? Why would anyone want to read what I write? These questions resonate in my core and cause me to lie awake sometimes at night.

I began this writing journey, because one night about fourteen years ago, I sensed God asking me to move beyond the journals I’d kept since a child and produce work that others could read.

My hope is that others will read, because they find God speaks to them through these words, and they find help and hope for their own life.

I started this blog due to a specific direction God gave me to “ring out his word.” That’s why in every post I refer directly or indirectly to a passage of scripture. Two years and 339 posts later, I’ve tried to be faithful to that calling.

I’d been pondering these things to myself when my husband whom I’d not spoken to about this, says in a sermon, “It’s not the size of your platform that matters, but the importance of every single life.”

I’ve mentored many college students over the years, and heard a few say when considering their future ministries, “I just want to be where I can minister to the most people.” Oops.

What if God calls you to a little village in Africa, or a small town in South Georgia, and then he asks you stay there for ten years ministering to a flock you can number on your fingers and toe? What if?

As my husband pointed out, does that mean your life or ministry is less important than the pastor preaching to thousands?

Every life is important.  

When I post these musings, I think about the people who read them. I’ve said that if what I write is significant to just one, it’s worth my time. I may sense an urgency about the words I post, but then I don’t receive much feedback and doubt surges into my heart. I question if they did matter to even one.

But then something happens that makes me know God is at work.

I recently wrote this post about cleaning out the dark attic and how I uncovered treasured childhood messages from my children up there. I was reminded me of the dark time when I had cancer, and the Lord spoke so sweetly one night when fear threatened to engulf me—a treasure in the dark.

I received a message from a reader who’d recently had a biopsy, and he told me how encouraging my post was to him. I later learned he received the news he had cancer only an hour after reading my post.

If ten thousand people had read my blog that day, it wouldn’t have meant more to me than the knowledge that this one man facing perhaps the most difficult time in his life found comfort in a few words the Lord helped me string together. You see, every life is important.

I’m still going to have to market and work on that platform thing, because it’s what’s expected if I’m going to have this career to which I believe the Lord is calling me. But I’ll constantly remind myself that every life is important, and if God calls me to write for just one, I’ll be as faithful as I can be.

Perhaps you’ve viewed your ministry as small and insignificant, please take heart and hope that it matters to God. Stand on the platform God has given you, small or large, and with everything that's in you, pour yourself out for Him.

And let me repeat once more. Every. Life. Is. Important.

“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him , to tell others of the night-and–day difference he made for you--from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted” (I Peter 2:9-10 The Message).

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