Sara Willoughby: Hardworking Creative
Sara is one of my good friends; I had the pleasure of being an alpha reader for her book He’s Making Diamonds. I’m so excited to share her interview with you today… and don’t forget to read to the end, because she has some extremely exciting news to share!
What does it mean to you to be a “hardworking creative?”
To me, it means having the self-discipline to finish projects and meet deadlines and be reliable — in the middle of this crazy unpredictable life – and have fun doing it. Creativity requires commitment and working when it’s not easy… but it also requires knowing when to rest, have flexibility, and give yourself grace. Being a hardworking creative is all about healthy balance.
Tell us in one sentence what you do and why you do it.
I write to speak truth to others because that is what I was created to do.
When, how, and why did you start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, but I first started writing seriously when I was about twelve. Some friends and I had been learning about ministry in a girl’s Bible study and one of them suggested we started an online magazine with stories, recipes, devotionals, etc. So we did! Our first issue was sent to fifteen of our family members. At the time, we were really just copying a magazine we all liked, but God taught us each so much through it, and that’s what kicked off my writing from an occasional fun activity to a more serious and regular pursuit.
What was something that surprised you with the publication process of your book—something about the process that you didn’t expect, whether good or bad?
I didn’t expect people to be so helpful and supportive. I’d heard all kinds of stories about how you should expect to have to carry all the burden by yourself. But when it came to it, so many people graciously helped me on all fronts, from making sure I ate, to helping spread the word, to formatting, to volunteering to proofread in the shortest amount of time imaginable. It was such a blessing – and surprise. Even customer support on CreateSpace (the platform I published my book through) was super helpful.
What advice do you have for young creatives who want to do something with their work but just can’t seem to get off the ground? And more specifically, what advice do you have for writers who want to finish a book but are struggling?
Hang in there, and keep persisting! Trying new things is important, but seeing something through is tough, but rewarding. I’d suggest two things: 1) Cover every project in prayer. And 2) build a support network. People who can encourage you when you feel less-than or want to quit, who can give you painfully honest feedback when you’re about to do something you’ll regret, and who can boost you forward and help you make connections when you feel stuck.
As for writers struggling to completely a book, I’d recommend finding people to keep you accountable. I don’t think I’d be in the same place in my writing today if I’d started out on my own rather than with my friends and that magazine. They kept me accountable and helped shape a writing-habit that I couldn’t shake if I wanted to. When it came time to write my first book, I discovered that having alpha readers to read each chapter as I went really helped motivate, inspire, and encourage me. (That isn’t to say that alpha readers are the best option for every writer – sometimes they can be discouraging when you see how much you need to fix. But even just someone you can report your weekly word count to who will send you balloon emojis can be a big help!)
What are you writing next?
Something. 😉 It’s a secret. (But hey, even admitting I’m writing something is more than I’ve told most people.)
What does a typical day in your life look like right now?
I wake up around seven or seven-thirty, have quiet time, breakfast, and do some school. Then I brave the cold and go on a physical therapy horse ride, shower, and do some more school. If I have time, I’ll then fit as many blog and writing related tasks in as I can before lunch and a doctor appointment which lasts most of the afternoon and evening. (I bring school along to read in the waiting room.) If it’s not a doctor day, I’ll do chores and really get some writing in if my body can handle it (I have a few chronic illnesses I’m recovering from, you see). After dinner, I’ll usually squeeze in some more writing, editing, or blogging, etc.
What’s the most effective way that you have advertised your book?
I honestly think that word of mouth has been the most helpful for me. Through family and friends and friends of friends and bloggers and people on social media talking about it, I’ve made some amazing connections. For example, an extended family member in another state (who I didn’t even knew went to Bible study) told some guy in her Bible study about my book . . . and he in turn bought and read it. It turns out that he is the editor of a large magazine (like, over 60,000 readers), not to mention an author of a bunch of books, and he offered to advertise it for free in his magazine! It’s amazing how many connections God’s orchestrated through similar situations.
What’s the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you regarding your writing career?
The best piece of writing advice I ever received was “Don’t write for others…” But it didn’t end with the usual “write for yourself.” Instead, it was, “Don’t write for others, don’t write for yourself, write for God.” Remembering my goal and purpose for writing has helped me in so many practical ways. My goal is to serve my readers, not to talk about myself. It helps to hone my message and keeps me motivated. When I focus less on myself or pleasing everyone, and more on God and blessing one reader, it’s easier to battle self-doubt and despair over projects. Plus, knowing that I’m writing for God to serve others also helps me market… something I think many of us struggle with. Because when I remember that my message is meant to serve, I feel much less unsure and awkward about promoting my writing and book.
Sara is unveiling an exciting announcement today: she’s hosting a conference for chronically ill Christians (or for anyone who’s going through a difficult time in life) in January 2019. To learn more about the conference and to register (it’s free!), click here.