Working through the Gray

by Jeffery Romine

When I was co-chair for a medicinal chemistry program, my counterpart often insisted that the success of our executive director, his immediate supervisor, a man who had achieved not only a position of authority but respect within the organization, was due to his remarkable ability to see through the gray. At any given time, competing projects could be resourced or cut, and it was his responsibility to make the call. His skill, or let’s call it an aptitude, was to put his money not on those projects with the most popularity or even scientific excitement, but the most promise to deliver.

“We need results,” argued my co-chair in an effort to get me to make compounds that would advance our project along its critical path—lest we get cut. He was right, and he was right in his equally frequent follow-up statement, “What’s the point of getting to the market too late where others have already reaped the profits?”

While I wouldn’t say that the day-to-day operations of a pharmaceutical company are akin to a ‘dog-eat-dog’ world, I do say that timely progress is essential. The problem for my co-chair and me, however, was that we too often faced gray data. We could either scale up and push a compound forward or make more derivatives to be sure we had the best profile. In order to know what to do, we needed more data, better data, less gray data, but to wait for it to come along, when and if it did come along, meant lost time. The one sure thing was:  Should we need to change directions, whatever we chose would be like a boat anchor pulling drag on our progress .

I’m an author now, and the challenges are similar. Should I revise my draft one more time or send it out? Should I write another novel or try my hand at nonfiction? Should I spend time on social media or spend money on advertising? See the gray here? Advice can help sort through the gray, and there are plenty of eager predators out there ready to provide that help—for a price.

The learning curve enroute to becoming a successful author often calls for decisions before we have clarity, but clarity can demand more time. We need advice. Working with a literary strategist like Tom Blubaugh can help cut through the gray, but he offers an altogether different take on time.

“The author’s journey is very similar to when a missionary is called into ministry. There is money to be raised, education to be garnered, languages to be learned, preventive health measures to be addressed and, of course, a people group to be selected. Years intervene between the call and the ministry. Such is true for authors too, especially those who would pursue writing as a full-time profession. There are books to write, a social media presence to build, a target audience to identify, and credibility to establish,” says Tom.

Here are a few thoughts that can help us map out our process with assurance toward the best outcome.

Don’t rush. As the scriptures teach, “The plans of the diligent lead surely to advantage, but everyone who is hasty comes surely to poverty” (Prov. 21:5). Take the necessary time to ensure you’re building upon a solid ground.

Check your motives. One ingredient that can render us vulnerable to predators is something that roots in our hearts. While we do need to earn a living and pay bills, we must ask ourselves whom we serve. Jesus said we cannot serve two masters. “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matt. 6:24) Has God called you to write? Do you have a special message to impart, a burden in your heart to share with others? If so, then the aim is to get it right, meaning accurate and well-crafted, rather than get it out on Amazon. Instead of firing off book after book (some authors strive to publish a book a month), let your work reflect his radiance.

Don’t get ahead of the Lord. Finally, if your motive and method are right, then there is no point to getting ahead of Him.  Discipline, steady progress, and choosing wisely as to where best to put your time and resources are sufficient. The Lord knows who your target audience is for your writing. Or, better said, the Lord knows who his intended audience is for the message he placed in your heart to share.

Often times, that gray can be put there by God to help you focus on what you do know in your heart. That fog can actually be faith, obedience, and grace at work so that we can hear that still, small voice of God and know that He is here.

What gray have you faced lately? How did you work through it?


Jeffery Romine, PhD is an author, chemist, and volunteer staff member of Authors Community.

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18 thoughts on “Working through the Gray”

  1. Jeffery,

    I want to thank you. I am sitting in my car, warming it up to take my son to work and was pouring my heart to God for help and then with a sigh, I opened my phone and saw this.

    I’ve been a professional illustrator for 30 years, and helping indie authors since 2004, yet this is the first year I’ve been without work near the holidays. I’ve also been publishing books and comic books since 2005…and have been building my next big world for middle grade readers.

    Problem is, I stress when I don’t have clients. That stress, over time, becomes panic and then that chases away any Spirit I may have to help me. This past week has been extra painful…and I now see I lost my focus.

    I do believe I was called to write, and every time I do so patiently it works.out well. More faith is where I find my greater need after reading this, so thank you for a wonderful article.

    1. Jamie, I feel your pain and frustration and your relief to recognize the abundance of God. I’m in that same boat with you, actually. It is so hard to rest in the Lord because we get that feeling that we should be doing something to get out of the “hole” we’re in. I find myself praying harder in my panic rather than letting go of the situation and let God take care of it in His perfect timing. He cares deeply for us and not just the big things, but also all those little things that make up a day.

      I find a great deal of comfort in that. Jeff’s post was really good for me this week as well.

      Thank you, Jeff, for a very thought-full post 🙂

  2. “Be still and know that I am God,” is easier said than done…

    That’s especially true when you are called to raise awareness of a serious issue. An American publisher called Solstice Publishing had the guts to put me in print empowering students to say, ‘No!’ to exploitative predators in gangs. So she cleared some of the fog for me. Unfortunately, grooming and trafficking are still happening in an organized way. However, if one person reads of these traits and recognizes them, then my job is done. There are the same issues around lack of respect in the US, too. My research told me so. Thanking God for the organizations supporting people caught up in gangs and trusting that many more survive.
    Please, help spread the word to the vulnerable by recommending they read “What If I Go?”

    Your efforts and empathy are much appreciated. Writers are not alone in voicing real concerns.

    1. Thanks Polly. By predators, I simply meant those offering advice for a fee, primarily concerned with making money more so than assisting authors in finding their way. I must get two or three offers per month by someone wanting to help me market my books. (I’m not saying there aren’t legitimate businesses out there, but one needs to be careful.) The predators you’re referring too also work to exploit the system, but much, much more egregiously.

  3. Hi – and great post.

    My gray time has been recent. After a manuscript landed into the hands of an agent, and working on it for two years, it was ultimately declined. I don’t normally get stuck or gray with the process of being rejected. But, it was a long time in coming and he did give me a lot of praise and suggestions. So trying to follow these suggestions, I find myself dragging my feet, wondering if I should shelve it– there was a critique group I belonged to and not one Christian was interested in reading. That left non-Christians who did read (I have no idea how many). But across the world (I didn’t even think about this ’til later) God used my words to share the Gospel. So, I wonder, has the purpose been met? Are my motives for the glory of God or for me? There is a lot of prayer in this, and this particular journey with one novel has been ongoing since 2012 (!) From 2012 to 2016 the Gospel was spread. THIS WAS TOTALLY COOL and a total surprise to me. I think that churning out novels every month and even every 3 months results in a draft that can be unreadable without being edited (software programs don’t do it!) by a pro, and may end up watering down in fiction/non-fiction, the Gospel.

    1. Claire, rejection can be a dam across our motivation juice flow 🙂 I hope you didn’t stop with just one submission! How wonderful that God allowed you to see what He was doing through your efforts! That is great affirmation. We all need that kind of encouragement at one time or another.

  4. I never cease to be amazed how Father God works. I was worrying and wondering if I was taking the right route in writing historical fiction with a Christian undertone. I doubted that it was the Father’s will I was seeking or if I was seeking to satisfy mine. I have other non-fiction material that definitely shows His glory, and I worried I should be spending my time there, or if I was even close to doing His will by even writing. A lot of self-doubt. Out of the blue, for no particular reason, I decided to read this blog because of the title. I was curious. Then I got my answer. We don’t always know if our words are being used by Father God, but His ways are above us. I just want to say thank you for your words. You were definitely being used by Him today Thank you.

  5. I’ve spent my life achieving without reason. The gray is how easy it is.
    As a child I decided that “the universe” would push me where it wanted me, and my efforts were like swimming against the tide, so I should let the tide determine where I was going.
    In terms of Scriptures, they have always been there. I’ve read, agrued, and interpreted them. As a writer, now approaching a possible family “expiration date” (not sure which genes are in play) I turned to “fulfilling prophecy”.
    With books like: SAINT PAUL’S JOKE, BIBLICAL PROPHECY: ARE WE IN THE REVELATION ERA, GENESIS OF GENESIS, and several more. Each reveals things people were not aware of — like the actual timeline of Revelation of the reason the Patriarchs were given such abnormal lifespans…I closed the loop that had been broken 2,000 years ago.
    Grey areas…they seem to be where we live.
    We are the ones who create the white & black borders then choose which we want to live closest to. Or, as the leaf drifting upon the closing water, we can stay to the middle and not get hung-up or stuck.
    “Go with the flow” has meaning.

  6. I think it’s good to remember that the “gray” are often areas where there is no absolute right or wrong; we just have to make a decision with the information we have. Remembering this often makes decision-making much easier for me.

    1. Me, too, Rhonda. So often we look back with hindsight and say, “Oh, I should have done so and so. It would have turned out better.” But understanding that we make decisions with the information we have at that time rather than the cumulative info in the here and now, gives us a break! No need to feel guilty 🙂

  7. Enjoyed reading your piece. Confident that the Lord has put the dream in my heart to reach others for Him through my fictional writing, so your points 1 and 2 are covered. Still trusting for #3. In your words “The Lord knows who your target audience is for your writing. Or, better said, the Lord knows who his intended audience is for the message he placed in your heart to share.” Not too much action on the sales front yet, but He is never late. Keep plugging away and waiting for Him to move the mountain.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Marlene. I’m in the same boat, trusting the Lord with my books too. I’ve realized God wants me to wait upon Him, trusting, and let Him light the path before me one step at a time.

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