Thursday, October 1, 2015

Stick Your Neck Out!

I was 60 when I began to write Christian fiction. I'd been writing short stories, articles, church school curriculum, and devotionals for publication all my adult life. I'd even published a non-fiction book, but a novel was my biggest challenge yet as a writer. Could I do it?

Then I came across author James Michener's story of how he once "stuck his neck out," quoting James Bryant Conant's observation:

"Behold the turtle: he makes progress only when he sticks his neck out."

Red-eared slider Courtesy Google Image
In 1944, Michener was stuck on a remote island in the South Pacific. To kill time, he decided to write a book. But the cold facts at that time were that the chances of a new author getting his first book published were 95 to 1. He decided to "stick his neck out" anyway.

Then, he learned that if someone hadn't written a book by the time he was 35 years old, chances were he never would. And Michener was nearing 40.

Even worse, he was not writing a novel, but a collection of short stories. A friend warned him that nobody published books of short stories anymore. Even so, he decided to try.

When the book came out, it caused little comment and would have died unknown except that Orville Prescott, a newspaper book reviewer, took a chance on a beginning writer and reported that he had liked the stories.

Later, a group of literary critics studied the book and pointed out that it was not a novel, it was not about America, and common sense would say it was not eligible for the Pulitzer Prize. In spite of that, Michener was awarded the prize, and thus his book was brought to the world's attention.

In Hollywood, Kenneth MacKenna, who read books for movies, tried to persuade his company to make a movie out of Tales of the South Pacific, but the experts declared that it had no dramatic possibilities. So MacKenna "stuck his neck out" and showed it to Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.

Courtesy Google Image
When Broadway heard that they were planning a musical called South Pacific with the romantic lead a man past 50, an opera singer named Enzio Pinza, people thought the idea was crazy, but the popularity of South Pacific still endures.

And Michener went on to write many more best-selling novels--Hawaii, The Source, Texas, Chesapeake, Alaska, to name a few.

Now, I don't claim to be a Michener, but I "stuck my neck out" and have now published two novels and a third one is in the creative process.

God wants all of us to fulfill His calling in our lives, but we must be willing to "stick our neck out." We must shove down the nagging voice that asks, "But what will people think?" or "What if I fail?" As the proverb says, "Nothing ventured; nothing gained." We just need to do our part and allow God to do His.

What is God asking you to do for Him today?


  1. My husband has acted in South Pacific in high school, but neither of us knew the play was based on James Michener's novel. I even worked in a university library that bears his name on the campus of the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley, CO...his hometown, I believe.

    1. I love South Pacific! small world! This past summer I visited my 7th grade school teacher, who now lives in Greeley, where she went to college. I didn't know Michener was from Colorado.

  2. AnnaLee, what a truly inspiring post! I've heard more negativity than encouragement throughout my whole life. So many have tried to shoot down my dreams and goals. Like you, I'm glad that I refused to listen to them.

    1. Yes, Elaine, and now you've got a contract on your novel! Congratulations!