William D. Moak on Writing Don’t Eat the Cat Food!

From time to time in this space, WestBow Press publishes articles written by our authors in which they share some aspect of their self-publishing journeys. The following are the words of William D. Moak; author of  “Don’t Eat the Cat Food.” To begin your self-publishing journey, get your free WestBow Press publishing guide today!

Hemingway once said of the writing craft, “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” To those who don’t – or think they can’t – write, putting a sentence together is as torturous as solving complex fractions is to me.

Through my years as a journalist, PR rep, columnist and (now) book author, I constantly run across people who say things like, “How do you do it? How do you take an idea that’s in your head and get it across in writing so other people can understand it?” I always confess that I truly don’t know the answer to that. I know that I have had a lot of training in the mechanics of writing, but I believe God did give me a gift. It took a tenth-grade English teacher to bring it out. She challenged me to start taking my writing more seriously, and I credit her (among many others) with keeping the pressure on me to get better. But it’s clear that Hemingway was right: good writing comes from deep within the soul, and some of the best come out of pain.

When I first started writing my WestBow-produced book Don’t Eat the Cat Food!, I was in a lot of pain. What had been a very promising career had just taken a disastrous turn, and I was trying to figure out how my wife, sons and I were going to survive financially. I had always known (by faith and by experience) that God is real – He provides and can be trusted. But my faith had never been so tested as it was then.  Ironically, it was the days I was now spending at home, with just my little dog Flip for the company, in which my spiritual candle began to grow brighter.

MoakCoverIn my tearful prayers, I begged him to make it all go away; sometimes, I could almost see him doing a facepalm as I finally began to understand some of what he had been trying to teach me all along: I had been settling for mediocrity in my Christian life, contrary to what God has promised me. In some ways, it’s like a tiger settling for cat food, when what he really needs is meat.

A lot of thoughts jostled for attention in my ADHD brain, so I sat down at my computer one day and started typing. First, there was an essay, as I tried to collect my jumbled thoughts. As the essays piled up, an idea began to take shape in my head: “What if God is trying to get me to tell people not some ‘woe-is-me’ story, but to help them to understand how God’s economy differs from man’s?”

Then one day, I woke up and told my wife, “I have started writing a book.” Looking at me with a sideways glance, she said, calmly, “I thought you might be. Tell me about it.”

So we talked. She told me that she had been praying that God would use our situation to help others understand God better. He had been answering her prayers – and mine – in a way that was totally unexpected and new.

As the book began to take shape, I sought out a publisher. I was referred to WestBow by a representative at another label after they made a decision to stop accepting new submissions. My first contact was a guy named Jon Lineback. Jon wasn’t at all what I had expected; a pastor himself, he asked me a lot of questions – not all of them had easy answers – to help sharpen my vision of what I wanted from this book. A lot of other great WestBow folks have helped me make the book better, and help me understand the complex world of self-publishing.

When the package containing my published hardcover arrived, I opened it hesitantly. Would I be disappointed? If I opened it, would errors jump out at me? Were all of the endless rewrites, constant proofreading, and decisions worth it? Would people care? Would anybody buy a copy? Did I do this as God wanted me to?

Today, it has been three months since I opened that box. I can say without hesitation that it was all worth it. Dozens of people have told me that they have been challenged to rethink God in their own lives, and have decided they are no longer going to settle for eating the “cat food” of mediocrity because they understand that God wants their lives to count, for them to know him better, and to experience the joy found when we draw closer to God. For a writer who’s been trying to get across that very message, there is no greater joy.

– WBP –

WestBow Press authors who’d like to share a 350-600 word experience related to the self-publishing of their books are invited to do so by submitting their blog on the Blog Guidelines Page. WestBow Press reserves the right to edit stories for content, grammar, punctuation, and length.

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