Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Writing Expectations

by Cindy Sproles @CindyDevoted

Expectations are a double-edged sword. They can be uplifting or frustrating. Still we all have expectations. 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 results for our stock-pocket to be as easy.  Not to mention, the newest book from James Patterson is expected to be his best yet.

Expectations are everywhere. It seems 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. They each one harbor 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 with excitement, as writers tell me about their story and how it’s the best story 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.
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, 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 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. There is, once again, no expectation here. To me, 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 the writer make. I, like most folks, know that unless you put forth effort of some kind, 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 lay:
  • Decide to live the dream – If you want to be a writer begin by making the decision to do so.
    How can a writer be a writer if they never expect
    to write?
  • Set your expectation – 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 believe in you.
  • 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 timeframe.
  • 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.

Finally, I close with one the best commercials I’ve seen in a while. Though I don’t advocate drinking, I have grown to EXPECT only excellent commercials with uplifting and encouraging messages from Budweiser. They have yet to fail. When you believe, when you expect of yourself, you will achieve your dreams.  Watch this encouraging message about expecting to do the best and then doing it – click here.


Cindy Sproles is an author and popular speaker. She is the cofounder of Christian Devotions ministries and managing editor of Straight Street Books and SonRise Devotionals, imprints of Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas. Cindy is the executive editor of www.christiandevotions.us and www.inspireafire.com. She teaches at writers conferences nationwide and directs The Asheville Christian Writers Conference - Writers Boot Camp. 

She is the author of two devotionals, He Said, She Said - Learning to Live a Life of Passion and New Sheets - Thirty Days to Refine You into the Woman You Can Be. Cindy's debut novel, Mercy's Rain, is available at major retailers. Visit Cindy at www.cindysproles.com and book her for your next conference or ladies retreat. Also connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. Thank you Cindy. I set a schedule for writing at the beginning of the year. I was just doing it when I felt like it. It is my job. I must show up for my job and perform well. My new mindset has given me more pleasure, peace, and pages for my book.

  2. Cindy, thanks so much for this encouraging post to set expectations. The one I have the most trouble with is "Expect that your dream will happen – Set an expectation of success on yourself and you will succeed." Far too often I set that expectation, then allow doubt and fear to sideline me until I push the reset button and get going again.

  3. Thank you for truthful inspiration. The commercial is a perfect example of all the people in my life that are for me. I thank God for the teachers and encouragement he sends my way.

  4. Great post, my friend. I especially love this statement: The trophy of a book does not the writer make. There are many wonderful writers who have not seen their name on the cover of a book, but the words they pen for the Lord are reaching a multitude of people.

  5. What a wonderfully ON TIME message for me! I just wrote about something similar and I know now for sure God is confirming and repeating what He has already spoken to me. Thank you for this.

  6. Cindy, just what I needed today. Sometimes I get discouraged and think who am I trying to fool, I can't do this. You have set me straight. Thank you.

  7. “Expect to do your best work and then do it.” -– such excellent advice! Rather than pinning our hopes on the type of success that sits outside of our control, it makes such much sense to concentrate on those matters we can influence: our attitude, and our output. Thank you for an excellent post.

  8. I AM a writer! :) Your post gives me the courage to proclaim it. Thank you!