Once you’ve decided to write for ministry or profession, or simply out of an unquenchable love of words, you’ll discover it’s not always a fairy tale. The journey you are on is filled with obstacles, challenges that must be met with determination–and maybe a little sprinkling of glittery fairy dust.
Here are seven tips gleaned from the timeless story of Cinderella to guide you on your journey.
1. Embrace Hard Work
Cinderella toiled at her monotonous tasks every day. She didn’t let her circumstances get in the way of her joy, but kept at her chores with a song in her heart. Writing is lonely, tedious work with long hours of unrewarded effort. We can endure it, or we can embrace it. We can grumble or we can delight. It’s a daily choice. When we embrace the writing process, joy comes. It’s not reserved for someday when our book is finished, our blog takes off or our sales increase. Joy is with us for the journey.
2. Use What You Have
Her mother’s dress was faded and dated, not nearly elegant enough for the ball. She’d feel out of place and draw stares and ridicule if she wore it. But, it was the best she had. It would have to do. Cinderella embellished the dress using little treasures she’d gathered over time. She did her best to create a gown fit for the royal occasion. As writers, we take what we have—our stories, imagination, expertise or spiritual insights and shape them into words on a page. We craft them with the tools we’ve gathered on our writing journey to fit the needs of our readers. We must learn to believe—as Cinderella did—that our best efforts, humble as they are, will be enough.
3. Overcome Critique and Rejection
Cinderella’s evil stepmother and step-sisters tore her creation to shreds! Sometimes we show our writing to others and they shred it, too. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they really want to help us, but their help feels a lot like hurt. We trusted someone to give us constructive feedback only to be reduced to the grief of our junior high English class. We receive our shredded work with the same pain and humiliation we felt when our teacher handed back an essay with more red ink than black. Cinderella fled to the garden with her pain. She let the tears come. We may have tears too. Then we need to recommit to our purpose and believe again that anything is possible.
4. Bring on the Magic
Once Cinderella had done all she could and her critics had done their best to undo her efforts, Cinderella cried out for relief. She was comforted by her Fairy Godmother, who knew just what to do to remake her mess into a masterpiece. In the publishing world, these magic-makers are called Editors. Editors also know how to make our messes into masterpieces. When we’ve done all we can do to perfect our writing, it’s time to kick it up a notch by enlisting professional help. Trust those people who want to help make your dreams come true.
5. Follow the Rules, Know When to Break Them
Cinderella was forbidden by her evil stepmother to go to the ball. Had she not broken this rule, all would be lost! The prince, bound to pick a bride, would have settled for a politically advantageous marriage, rather than marrying his one true love. We need to know and follow the rules of our craft. We need to conform to the rules so our work is clear and readable. We also need to know when to follow our hearts, take our writing outside the lines and break any rules that hinder our artistry. Sometimes a well-placed sentence fragment creates the cadence and tone we want our words to convey. Sometimes even the lowly, unloved –ly adverb deserves a place in our project.
6. Meet Deadlines!
Cinderella’s Fairy Godmother gave her a firm deadline: leave by the last stroke of midnight. Her failure to pay attention to the clock was almost her undoing. She had to scamper from the ball at the last second as her fairy-tale world unraveled around her. Because she didn’t intentionally focus on meeting her deadline, she lost the support of those who were there to help her. Once the horses turned back into mice, they were no longer strong enough to carry her home. Of course, Cinderella was in love and practically floated home in her blissful state. We may not be blessed with euphoria to carry us past the consequences of missed deadlines.
7. Take Risks
Cinderella risked everything by asking the prince if he could accept a humble, honest country girl. We need to ask agents and editors if they’re willing to work with us, even in our humble circumstances. Maybe our platform isn’t as large as we want. Our WIP is never perfect enough for us. But at some point we have to type THE END and hit the send button. It takes courage. We risk rejection. But we can’t get a yes, if we don’t risk the no. Cinderella’s risk was well-rewarded. Ours will be too.
Elizabeth M. Thompson writes from her experiences as a Bible teacher, wife, mother and grief navigator. She enjoys speaking at writer’s conferences and women’s ministry events. Elizabeth serves on the Inspire Christian Writers Board. Her publication credits include articles published by Focus on the Family, Today’s Christian, and contributions to several compilations.