Group projects were never my thing. I’m not sure too many people excelled in or enjoyed them. Like the good control freak I was, I absolutely dreaded them. When assignments came around, I was usually the one to take up the leadership role and get things done. When that wasn’t an option, I think I gave up entirely. I would have gladly done four times the work on my own than entrust any of my grade point average to a gaggle of fellow undergrads—those who ranged from nursing students surviving on coffee and optimism to petrified English majors who couldn’t stand up in front of a class if the back of the room were on fire.
(True story: I once had a group of seven people coordinating a trip to a pastor’s house to cook him dinner and ask him questions, and I didn’t get email responses from half the group members until two hours before we were all supposed to leave. I did not love that experience.)
This general anxiety and distrust when working with other people was one of the things that made the life of a writer so appealing. Imagine, the fevered scribe, sequestered in a cabin somewhere around the forests of Maine, ignoring the tea kettle as it screams on the stove, favoring just one more paragraph. Bliss.
However, unless one is a Stephen King character, this simply isn’t the reality. Whether self-published or traditional, writing actually requires (or at least should require, in my opinion) a lot of other people. Authors can try to do it alone. But, from what I’ve observed, the best books are the ones who have a team. From agents, acquisitions editors, copy editors, proofreaders, artists, cover designers, a marketing team, booksellers, and readers, the list of supporting roles extends far beyond the author.
And here is where I find myself, reliving the anxiety of reading a group project listed in a syllabus and just wishing they would let me do it all myself!
But now “They” is the God to whom I’ve surrendered every one of my decisions and processes relating to this book-making journey. “They” is the members of the press that I know is far more equipped (and can be far more objective) than I in executing this production.
Because, a painful yet liberating truth, this isn’t solely about me. I wrote some words (okay, lots of them), but this isn’t just about my project. This is about the talents, calling, and success of a host of creatives and professionals, among whom I am only one. Micromanaging every step and having a nice panic-cry every time the process doesn’t look right to me aren’t going to get the job done.
Ultimately, this is God’s project, not mine or even my publisher’s. Jesus made that clear from the first day I decided to write the book. It will look how he wants it to look, and it will go as far as he wants it to go.
It could make a best-seller list, or it could be simply a stepping stone for me, or someone else, meant to direct toward progress and pave the way for whatever is next. Either way, I can only do what I ought to have done in college—my best.
I need to accept that I have put in every bit of work that I can. I have reached for excellence and not settled. It may not be the best thing I will ever write, but it was the highest level I could reach at the time. And for that, I’m proud. I have written a novel, and now it’s time to let God use the rest of the team to make it whatever it was meant to be, to let their talents, expertise, and capabilities shine.
Because that is the purpose of community—in creative pursuits as much as anything else. We all have something to offer.
We may not be wrong, but someone else may be more right in a particular circumstance. We have our experiences and gathered knowledge but can suddenly access twice as much when bringing in another perspective.
It also brings up the importance of having the right people, the ones who, whether on the same page or different books entirely, God has brought together to create his own collaboration. With a team of people putting his vision first, it’s going to amazing. It’s going to work for the good of our careers and the expansion of my skills and understanding. It’s going to broaden my perspective and make me appreciate the comfort of fellowship.
And, for the untrusting skeptic still screaming for control, God is a really good professor. He’s not going to let my grade suffer if someone else on the team drops the ball. It may take some time. It may be frustrating, and I may panic-cry a little. But everything works out for the good of those who love him. He has this in hand, so I can let go and enjoy the process.