I made a big career change.
For the last twenty-three years, I've served as a paid clergy member in three different churches.
But as of today, I am a full-time writer.
Sometimes people make major career moves because of crisis. Their department is shut down, their company closes, or they are simply let go.
Other times, the change-up is due to a health problem, a personal tragedy, or a family need that moves them cross-country.
Mine, however, was due to wanting to pursue a life-long dream. It just took a while for that dream to find its way to the surface.
While I was a late-bloomer in respect to reading books, I was hardly so when it came to story-telling. Whether being read to as a child or watching a movie with my parents (eating my traditional bag of Twizzlers), I was enamored with the art of telling stories. This love reflected in my creative writing assignments in school, eventually leading me to write and publish my first novel in 2005. It also reflected in my sermons.
However, my commitment to the pastorate prevented me from writing novels full-time. And, rightly so. I not only enjoyed my work in and for the church but I felt that God called me to it. Few jobs are more rewarding (and more intense) than serving the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of a community. Thus, writing was as a side job. When I made time for it, I took it seriously. When I was away from it, I missed it.
Then 2018 happened.
Certain years, we break records. Other years, the records break us.
2018 was a year that forced me to reflect on not only my past twenty-three years as a pastor, recording artist, record producer, restaurant owner, and writer, but on what I wanted for the next twenty-years for myself, for my wife, and for my children.
The process was fairly disconcerting.
I tend to be someone who needs very little instruction, micromanagement, or encouragement. Give me a task and I'm going to knock it out of the park for you (or die trying). Likewise, my natural aptitude at being good at a variety of disciplines has traditionally left me with no shortage of projects to tackle or people to please. Then, to top it off, I'm an enthusiast (#7) on the Enneagram, which means I'm going to be super excited about whatever work is in front of me.
Needless to say, by the time my church sent me on a generous two-month sabbatical at the end of 2018, I had plenty to sort through just to get to the question of "Who do I want to be when I grow up?"
But—somewhere along the way—I'd already grown up and made a wonderful life for myself. Did that mean I was stuck then? Or was I allowed to keep dreaming new dreams? Or… perhaps… rediscover old ones?
The answers came in several surprising ways, many of which I hope to write about in the coming months. But one notable answer came while listening to famed science fiction authors Jason Anspach and Nick Cole on a podcast. During the interview, they expressed their mutual joy at being able to tell stories to a wide audience through writing—and doing so "even as Christians" without an agenda.
I remember pausing the podcast, driving my Toyota Matrix in stunned silence. This was my new horizon. This was my next dream. Their words sparked something to life in me that had been silently growing for years—waiting for the right time to come alive.
Then, as I heard authors like Chris Fox talk about making a living at writing, I became convinced that my desire to write was not some hasty midlife crises pipe dream but a viable career path that could support my family.
By the time my sabbatical was over, I knew what I wanted to do with the next twenty years of my life…
I wanted to be a writer.
The full transition from my "day job" to my "new job" took nine months—including dozens of 90-hour work weeks, sleepless nights, intense research, incessant note taking, storing up cash, and lots and lots of grit.
I am tremendously grateful to my wife, Jenny, for telling me to "write the stories that no one else can"; to my friend Mike Kim for seeing the potential in my writing abilities and challenging me to "make it happen before you're 40"; to Jason and Nick for responding to my very early emails; to my friend and former boss, Kirk Gilchrist, and the staff, board, and congregation of New Life Christian Church for believing in me and supporting my move without reservation; to the wonderful counsel, spiritual direction, and mental health therapy from Douglas Ort and Jim Krisher, you've helped me discover gold; and for new partners, like J.N. Chaney, Jen Sell, Molly Lerma, and countless others who have helped make my dream a reality. Thank you—I am doing this on your shoulders.
Looking back, it's important to me that people know I loved pastoring. Some of days were harder than others. But most were incredible. Interestingly enough, now that I'm writing full-time, my wife and I have more time to travel and serve churches around the globe, not less. I'm also speaking more than ever, and Jenny is singing more than ever.
In many ways, becoming a full-time writer any earlier than this—while it was plausible—may have been a disaster. I'm not one for rhetorical mind games and endless "what ifs?" but I recognize it took forty-years for me to gear up for this. Forty-years to get in shape, build my chops, and learn my trade. And now?
Look out world.
I'm writing a minimum of 5,000 words per day, producing a novel per month, and on track to release eight books by the end of 2019. I've already broken into Amazon's Top 100 sci-fi authors list twice, and I'm proud to have two Amazon #1 Best Selling Books on my resume—all in the last thirty days.
Additionally, I'm outlining four non-fiction books for 2020. I'm excited to coach other writers and leaders in helping them serve their audiences across business and non-profit spectrums.
For those local to our home in New York, no—we're not going anywhere. The Thousand Islands is where we work, learn, and play, and New Life is our spiritual home, so you'll still see us on the stage and in the seats.
For those out and about in the rest of the world, we look forward to connecting with you no matter what form that takes.
To all my readers, friends, and family, thank you for your encouragement and support.
See you in the galaxies,