Monday, January 9, 2017

Expectations for Writers

By Cindy Sproles

Expectations are a double-edged sword. They can be uplifting or frustrating. It’s what we do with them that makes the difference.

When we waltz through the door of a new restaurant, we expect great things. Birthdays bring expectations (I expect my spouse to remember). After the commercial with the E-Trade baby fades from the screen, we expect easy results for our stock-pocket. Not to mention, the newest book from James Patterson is expected to be his best yet.

Expectations are everywhere. We place them on everyone but ourselves. It’s easy to demand the best from others, yet when we look at our work … there are few expectations.

Each year I meet with hundreds of conferees—new and seasoned writers who have high hopes. Each one harbors a dream of having a published book on the shelves of a bookstore. It’s the trophy of our profession. The inspiration that makes us plug ahead. A paper book with the smell of print, a cover that glistens, and the pat on the back we all expect.

I listen as writers tell me their storyhow it’s the best  in the world, one that’s never been told, and one I’ll be sorry to miss if I don’t accept it. It only takes a few moments reading through a one-sheet for me to see the writing level and if this is a story that fits my publisher’s needs.

“I’d like to see this manuscript. Is it complete?” I pull my glasses away from my eyes and peer at the anxious author.

“Oh, no. It’s not written yet. I haven’t started it. My kids have been sick. I started a new job. My husband doesn’t want me writing when the family is up and about.”

I slump in my seat and sigh. This writer has dreams, but no expectations.

Writing doesn’t just happen. You have to sit down and pen the words. You have to set goals and expectations for your dreams if they are going to materialize. Great ideas and beautiful storylines are only that until someone takes the time to write them down.

We all have life. Family. Work. And the harsh truth is, we always find time for the things we really want to do. If writing is something you really want—if it burns in your heart—then you make the time, and you make it an expectation for yourself.

The same applies for the quality of your work. When you expect good work from yourself, you will perform. But when you have no expectation for the quality of your goal or dream, then none comes.

I once read an article by a prominent blogger who chastised writing professionals for telling “would-be writers” to just write.  Her thought process was this: telling a writer who has no time or who is sporting a hefty size of writer’s block to just write is like building a fire under the ladder they stand on and waiting for it to snap and burn to ashes.

To that I respond:  First, the use of the term “would-be” writers is very demeaning. Once again, no expectation here in being called a “would-be writer.” If you work on a poem, article, or story, there is no would be. You are a writer. The trophy of a book does not the writer make. However, the effort behind the words, be they articles, church devotions, or things you write and read at a nursing home, do. Like most folks I know that unless you put forth effort, nothing will ever transpire. It’s like this: When you lay out of church for a couple of Sundays, you might feel a little guilty. But the longer you lay out, the less the guilt, and then suddenly … you’ve dropped out of church.

How can a writer be a writer if they never expect to write? Follow these answers and decide where your expectations lie:

Decide to live the dream. If you want to be a writer, begin by making the decision to do so.

Set your expectations. Expect to do your best work and then do it.

Make the time. Carve out a little time each day to indulge in your dream and then expect yourself to do it. When you draw the line in the sand to act, you will act.

Expect that your dream will happen. Set an expectation of success on yourself and you will succeed.

Constantly entertain improvement. The expectation to improve is important. Otherwise, we sit in a puddle spinning our wheels.

Believe. When you believe in yourself, others will too.

Remain humble. For in humility, Christ served. Do not be haughty or demanding. Instead, be of humble heart, and allow God to work through your writing in His time frame.

Honor your work. Complete the writing you set out to do. Laying it to the side for when you think the time is right, does not ingrain integrity or the success of completing a task. Finish the work, even if it’s tiny bits at a time.

Secure a group of peers. Find those who will be your tribe, who will encourage you, keep you accountable, and expect great things from you.

Expect good things. When you expect good things from yourself, you will be pleased with the outcome.

I remember my first writers’ conference. Eva Marie Everson stood before the group and had us raise our right hand. “Now, repeat after me. ‘I am a writer.’ And you are!” It was the most reassuring thing I’ve ever experienced. I am a writer and it’s okay to say that.

As you enter the New Year, set realistic goals and expectations for yourself. Act. As we say in the mountains, “Git’er done.” Believe in the gifts and talents you maintain, and write.

If you have something to share about your own expectations as a writer, please leave me a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

(Photos courtesy of and Stuart Miles.)

If you want to be a writer, begin by making the decision to do so. via @cindydevoted (Click to Tweet.)

The trophy of a book does not the writer make. via @cindydevoted (Click to Tweet.)

Cindy Sproles is an author and speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions Ministries and the executive editor for She is the managing editor for SonRise Devotionals and Straight Street Books, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy not only teaches at Christian writers conferences across the country, she is the director of the Asheville Christian Writers Conference. Her debut novel, Mercy's Rain, won the IndieFab Book of the Year in 2016, and her second novel, Liar's Winter, releases in the spring of 2017. Visit Cindy at


  1. Great reminder and encouragement for the new year, Cindy. Thank you so much. Just what I needed to start 2017. And P.S., I have sat across from you at a conference. It is nice to know what you are thinking when you pull your glasses away from your eyes and look at me. Wow! That puts it all in perspective and encourages me even more to "Git'er done."

    1. I always believe in doing your best. And enjoying your work. Setting a standard is important. Hope sitting across from you was not a bad experience. LOL

  2. Whatever you write, I want to read. You did not disappoint! Thank you for the inspiration and for the dog tag from Boot Camp reminding me to "finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace," which we put forth in writing.

    1. Awe that's sweet. I try to set a standard for my work. But then everyone should. Sometimes it takes longer to finish, but overall, it's nice when folks say things like you just said. Thank you.


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