Rewind my life six years and I would tell you that one of my biggest dreams in life is to get a book published. I hoped that someday, somehow, somewhere, for somebody I would be able to write a book. I never dreamt I would have that opportunity so soon and so often. It’s much more than I deserve.
Since 2008, when Why We’re Not Emergent came out, I’ve done a lot of writing and a lot thinking about writing. With Stephen Furtick in the news for his mansion-to-be and Mark Driscoll facing accusations (and some evidence within his ministry) of plagiarism, I thought it would be worthwhile to write down a few thoughts on pastors writing books.
1. Writing for others is a privilege. That someone should listen to me is pretty nice. That someone would take days or weeks to work through something I’ve written is remarkable. That someone would pay money to do so is amazing. Writing is hard work, but authors should never forget that to be read is also a tremendous gift.
2. Writing should be in the service of others. I have no problem with Christian publishing houses trying to make money. They have bills to pay. They can run a business on good will and pious aspirations. Likewise, I don’t have a problem with authors—even pastor authors—being paid for their work (more on this in a moment). It doesn’t even bother me that some authors would write mainly to make a living. But if we are talking about pastors, then surely our writing must be an effort to serve others. If you are in ministry and want to get a book published so you can “arrive” or can be “somebody” or can speak at the top conferences, you better check your heart. And if you are a pastor who is seen as having “arrived” and being “somebody,” that person should check his heart every day.
I think I can honestly say that my desire to write and be published was mostly about a passion to say something worthwhile and a love for writing. I was thrilled when my first book (Freedom and Boundaries) was self-published. This meant my elders could read it, my church could read it, my parents could read it. I wasn’t thinking about anything bigger. I just wanted some of my ideas to get out there. But I also know I have to remind myself of these motives often. It’s easy to start with the best of intentions and end up being an author for all the wrong reasons—because someone tells you it’s time to publish another book, because you want another pay day, because you want to climb the ladder of ministry success. All of us who write must constantly ask the question: am I really doing this to serve others or to serve myself?
3. Writing should be kept in proportion. I’m glad I read Martyn Lloyd-Jones before I ever wrote a book because I can hear the Doctor in the back of my head saying, “The pastor is first of all a preacher and not a writer.” There is nothing wrong with being a writer first, but that’s simply not the calling of a pastor. I need to be a faithful preacher and a caring shepherd before I am a good writer. I’m very fortunate to have a church that values study and supports me in my writing. But I owe it to them, and to my calling as a pastor, to make sure that I do not become an author who pastors a church on the side.
4. Writing should be kept in perspective. Virtually nothing we are publishing today will be read in 20 years, let alone 50 or 100 or 500. That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be published. It just means authors should not believe their own press clippings (or Facebook likes, or Twitter followers). I cringe every time I see another Christian author talk about his most important book EVER! or his new work that will revolutionize everything about everything. If an older man publishes his magnum opus, let the accolades roll in. But when 30somethings and 40somethings marvel slack-jawed at their own writings—sheesh. It’s embarrassing.
5. Writing should be overseen with accountability. I don’t think there is only one formula for how pastors handle royalties or how they manage writing time “on the clock” or “off the clock.” When I started writing more I asked a number of pastors I respected how they handled royalties. The responses were all over the map. It’s not a simple matter to determine how writing fits into a pastor’s ministry. On the one hand, churches usually benefit from pastors who write. It sharpens their thinking, feeds the congregation, expands the church’s “footprint,” and often enables the pastor to meet new people who become great friends and resources for the church. On the other hand, pastors must be honest that some of their writing (and all that is associated with the release of a book) is bound to take place on church time. More than that, they may sell their books to parishioners, use office staff for book related projects, and devote no small amount of their energies to a task that is not essential to the church’s ministry.
After my first or second book I made a point to set up an oversight committee comprised of three of my elders. I asked them to provide feedback on future projects and to work with me on a financial arrangement that seemed fair. I meet with this committee every few months. They have to approve my travel schedule and my major writing projects. They also get a detailed accounting of my finances every year. Our arrangement is that I give at least 25% of all royalties and honoraria to the church. We revisit this issue annually to see if the arrangement still makes sense. I am an open book with them, and they can ask me whatever they want (also, my salary is voted on by our consistory every year and any member of the church can see every line of my salary and benefits if they want to prior to voting on the budget). It’s been an invaluable process and the men have provided me with invaluable relationships. There is no one way to work with a pastor-author, except that there should be some governing body within his church that encourages, approves, and holds him accountable.
6. Writing should be done by the person whose name is on the cover. Several years ago I was reading through the final theology paper that graduating seminary students in our classis are required to write. As I kept reading I began to notice familiar phrases. Then I saw whole sentences or paragraphs that made me think, “Haven’t I read this before?” And then it dawned on me. I had read these sentences before, because I wrote them. This graduating senior had plagiarized the theology paper I had given to the same classis a few years before. We got together and talked through the issue in person. He was contrite and I chalked up his plagiarism to laziness and ignorance more than to malice. But what he had done was still wrong and a serious infraction (he ended up dropping out of the ordination process).
Whether in sermons or in print, it’s not okay for pastors to take credit for something that is not theirs. Granted, the lines can be blurry. But that doesn’t mean the line doesn’t exist. And just because it feels like the sin of sloth more than the sin of theft doesn’t make it less of an error.
And the same goes for ghostwriting and some research services. Again, I realize there is a place for people to help authors with editing, with research, with tracking down footnotes, with providing information and ideas. Every book is, in some degree, a collaborative process. But the simple fact is that for 99% of the reading public they assume that if your name is on the cover of a book that you wrote the book. If someone took your ideas and worked them into prose, then at least there should be a “with so-and-so.” If someone heavily edited your sermon transcripts into a well-crafted book, they should get some serious mention in the acknowledgements. And if research companies are writing whole chunks of our sermons and our written materials without any attribution, well, this is plain unacceptable. Writers gotta write their own stuff.
7. Writing should be done humbly. Getting published is a funny thing. I speak at conferences and have gotten to meet all sorts of wonderful Christians leaders all over the country and the world because Dave DeWit at Moody Publishers (now at Crossway) really liked the book Ted and I were working on. We got turned down by a bunch of other publishers. One guy liked it. Happened to be the right guy. At the right time. That’s the way the Lord’s providence works. I’m trying to be a good steward of it. But it doesn’t mean I’m a better pastor, let alone a better person, than ten thousand other men who (for whatever inscrutable reasons) haven’t had the opportunities I have.
And one last thought for my fellow authors: let’s err on the side of under-promotion. I get it. I know we want our message to get out there. I know a certain amount of promotion is unavoidable (hey, I made two videos for my last book). But don’t pressure your friends to do you favors. Don’t make your book sound like the greatest thing since the five solas. Don’t pass along all the kudos about your stuff. “Let another praise you, and when they do, go ahead and retweet your awesomeness”—I don’t think that’s what Proverbs had in mind. Better to sell fewer books than to look like a bozo getting to the top of the best sellers list. Writing is a privilege, and that should make us humble not hucksters.
Shared from Kevin DeYoung
It’s a contradiction we writers know all too well: wanting to write with every fibre of our being, but lacking the necessary inspiration to get started and/or keep going.
So what are we to do when creative motivation is lacking? Simply waiting around for inspiration to strike isn’t a viable option, but neither is forcing something onto the page just for the sake of writing. We’re left with no choice: we have to take inspiration into our own hands and seek it out ourselves.
1. Gain experience
It’s hard to write something truly good, something that profoundly connects with readers, if there’s no experience behind the writing. Now, when we say ‘experience’, we’re referring to both writing experience and general life experience. Let’s look at the difference between the two.
‘Wait a minute,’ you may be thinking. ‘Isn’t this a bit of a catch-22? If I’m having trouble finding inspiration to write, how can the solution be…to gain more writing experience?!’
We know it sounds tricky – and, truthfully, it can be. But there’s no getting around the facts: the main thing that makes your writing better is doing more of it. Writing and inspiration go hand-in-hand as a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy: often, the more you get stuck into writing, the more you’ll be inspired to continue writing, and so on.
Likewise, the more you write, the better you’ll get, and the more chance you have at success through publication or recognition. Oftentimes, a bit of encouragement and the reassurance that you’re doing something well can provide you with all the inspiration you need to keep going.
To get to that stage, though, you do need to face one of the most common problems for writers: getting started. But we have a few helpful hints in that vein, so read on…
It may sound clichéd, but the truth about literature is that when it comes down to it, all writing is about life. Every writer, whether consciously or subconsciously, draws on their own knowledge and experiences to inspire them and breathe life into their work.
As a writer seeking to be as prolific as possible, it can be easy to forget that actually living life is the best way to have things to write about! Spending all your time holed up, concentrating on putting words on the page, can actually be counterproductive. It’s impossible to write something that has real conviction, passion and impact if it’s not coming from a real place.
So, besides the natural course and events of your own life, what else about the world can inspire your writing?
Travel, of course, can be a wonderful muse; new cultures, new people and new adventures are all great catalysts for your creative spark. Getting out of your comfort zone and immersing yourself in unfamiliar places can refresh you and provide new perspectives from which to consider life.
However, you don’t necessarily need to spend six months abroad to foster inspiration for your next story. Seeking inspiration can be as simple as sitting in a café or on a park bench, people-watching and listening to snatches of conversation, observing the flow of the world around you and allowing it to blossom into concepts and stories.
2. Read widely
This one is a given, and it’s probably something you’ve heard many times before, but the importance of reading can’t be stressed enough. All good writers are readers too. No matter how individual a style or how natural a talent you have, your writing will always be made better by the other work you read and absorb.
Obviously, you should read extensively within the genre or style you intend to write in, but don’t limit yourself to that alone. Whenever you’re not writing, try to devour a variety of genres and forms. Explore fiction and non-fiction, short-form and long-form, poetry and short stories, magazine and blog articles… Read everything, and read often!
Reading becomes especially crucial when you’re lacking inspiration. We don’t necessarily mean that you should go searching for new ideas within other people’s works; while a brainwave might indeed strike you while you’re in the middle of a new novel, it’s more likely that reading will simply remind you why you became a writer in the first place. Try to use the work of other writers as a constant source of encouragement, inspiration and motivation.
When it comes to non-fiction, books about the craft of writing can come in especially handy. There’s an incredible number of books about writing out there, so the titles you find most helpful and inspiring will depend on your individual writing aspirations. To get you started, though, there are a few classic staples that we recommend, as they will serve any writer well. These include:
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
- On Writing Well by William Zinsser
- The Writing Book: A Practical Guide for Fiction Writers by Kate Grenville
- The Modern Library Writer’s Workshop: A Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Stephen Koch
- Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury.
Here’s a great tip in today’s age of smartphones and social media: replace the time you’d usually spend aimlessly scrolling Facebook with some proper reading time. Whenever your hand automatically reaches for your phone during lunch breaks or before bed, redirect it towards a book instead! Your writing will thank you for it.
3. Be part of the writing community
Writing is something of a lonely pursuit. Solitary by nature and by necessity, the craft of writing demands that its pursuers spend a great deal of time inside their own heads. While this suits the majority of writers, there are times when it inevitably leads to frustration, a sense of isolation and a lack of inspiration.
When this is the case, it’s time to re-join the real world, and the best way to do so while also seeking inspiration is to connect with likeminded individuals in the writing community.
As we mentioned in point 2, the work of other writers is often a great source of inspiration – but what about writers themselves? Surely there’s no better way to motivate, reaffirm and refresh yourself than by reaching out to people who are just as passionate about writing as you are!
Obviously, this isn’t as easy as flicking Margaret Atwood an email to ask for a few tips. Instead, you’ll need to track down writers online or in your area – most of whom will be amateurs just like you – and start up a discussion, a joint project, or even just a new friendship.
A few good ways to immerse yourself in the writing community include:
- Joining a local writer’s group or your state Writer’s Centre;
- Attending literary festivals, events, classes and workshops;
- Participating in online forums, such as Facebook groups for writers;
- Exchanging work with other writers for feedback and critiques.
The pleasure and benefit you’ll gain simply by talking to another writer is a gift in itself. To discuss your shared passion and craft, and perhaps most importantly of all, to be reminded that other people are having the same difficulties as you… There are few things more encouraging or inspiring to a struggling writer.
4. Keep things in perspective
Writing anything at all – whether it be a well-developed short story or (gulp) an actual full-length novel – can be extremely daunting. An insurmountable wall of possibilities and obstacles can loom up before you, and questions like ‘Where do I start?’ or ‘How can I ever finish?’ can haunt even the most confident wordsmith.
At times like these, it pays not only to remember that you aren’t alone (see point 3), but also to have a sense of perspective. Tackle things in terms of the bigger picture: remind yourself that all writers have been where you are, and that the only way you can truly fail is never to start at all.
To lessen the intimidation factor, keep in mind that writing just a few hundred words every day will add up in the long run. Before you know it, you’ll have a solid foundation upon which to build and expand or refine and improve.
For every writer, crafting stories takes time and extensive effort, so don’t beat yourself up about the problems you can see with your manuscript or the length of time you’re taking to write it. Just take things one word at a time; after all, that’s the only way to get things done.
5. Know yourself as a writer
A writer, like any other professional, needs to know how to play to their strengths. By doing so, you’ll ensure that you’re at the top of your game, producing the best work possible – and you’ll also nip a lot of insecurity and doubt in the bud.
Don’t dwell on your writing’s weaknesses or despair over the aspects of the process you find most difficult. By all means, work to improve these elements, but never allow pessimism to consume you – and, most importantly, never compare yourself negatively to other writers. Instead, focus on what you do best and what you’re most passionate about, and you’ll always find the inspiration and motivation you need.
For instance, if you have a knack for immersive, detailed description, try to build your story around this technique, painting a vivid and engaging portrait for your readers. If you’re more suited to writing snappy, compelling dialogue, use that as a focal point in your writing instead – or even try out a completely different medium that favours dialogue, such as scriptwriting.
As well as knowing your strengths as a writer, you should also make a point of structuring your writing process around your strengths as a worker. For example, if you find you’re most creative and productive first thing in the morning, get up early and dedicate AM hours to writing. Night owls, on the other hand, might choose to rise later so they can stay up writing into the night.
The bottom line is that no two writers will ever write – or work – in exactly the same way. Use this to your advantage by honing in on your individual strengths and allowing them to inspire and guide your writing.
6. Focus on writing first and editing later
At one stage or another, you’ve no doubt come across this sage piece of advice: ‘Write drunk, edit sober’. (While it’s commonly attributed to Hemingway, there’s no evidence that he ever actually advised such a thing – but that’s another story for another day.) While we’re firm believers that you should do what works for you in order to be inspired, we’re not necessarily suggesting that you pop a bottle of red every time you want to write!
Rather, we’re saying that you shouldn’t hold yourself back in any way when creative inspiration strikes. Have you ever sat down to write and found the words flowing forth quickly, effortlessly, almost as if you couldn’t control them? Have you ever found yourself feeling suddenly compelled to scribble down a phrase, thought or idea, even though you’re not entirely sure of the direction it’s leading?
Our advice is to always embrace that feeling completely. Whenever you’re struck by pure inspiration like this, don’t interrupt its flow for anything – let alone to correct grammar, change a word or rearrange a sentence. Without overthinking it, allow yourself to write whatever comes naturally, and don’t stop until you’ve run out of words! Get everything out onto the page, even if it doesn’t quite make sense or isn’t as elegantly phrased as you’d like.
It’s easy to develop the habit of editing as you write, but the truth is, this is neither the most productive nor inspiring way to do things. The writing and editing sections of your brain are totally different. When you’re writing, you’re tapping a well of creativity; you’re giving your mind free rein and exploring any and every possibility. When you’re editing, however, you enter a much more critical mindset, applying judgement, logic and rules to strip your work back to its purest and most effective state.
Always remember that a first draft is just that. It can be sculpted and shaped to your liking a hundred times before it ever sees the light of day; what’s important is that you have some truly inspired raw material to work with in the first place.
So, writers: after all that, are you feeling any more inspired? If not, don’t worry. It could just be one of those days – we all have them. Take a break and come back to your writing later; but in the meantime, perhaps try out one of our suggestions and see if it stimulates your creativity. You may be pleasantly surprised with the results.
Shared from www.writersedit.com.
A retired pastor asked a friend who owned a pickup truck to stop by his house. Once there, he loaded several heavy-duty plastic bags into the back of the vehicle. “Drive me to the city dump,” said the elderly minister.
Once there, he pulled the large black bags out and stepped a few feet away. In a few minutes a bulldozer buried the contents. With a questioning look on his face, the friend asked, “Sir, what was in those bags?” With tears streaming down his face, the pastor said, “Sixty years worth of sermons and notes—my life’s work.” This true story should not have happened.
Perhaps this elderly pastor is similar to others today. As a young man, he intended to publish his work. Procrastination became his friend, and the myths of why he couldn’t write became his enemy. As health and age-related problems crept in, he realized he had become a victim of false beliefs.
As a pastor, what keeps you from writing? Do you fall in the category of believing in one or more of these seven myths? Or do you seek the truth and use writing as part of your ministry? You decide!
Myth # 1: The Time Myth: I’m too busy to write.
Truth #1: Wise people are well-organized.
Pastors are busy people. They have congregations with numerous needs; they prepare one, two or sometimes three sermons each week. Most have responsibilities as a spouse and parent, plus hundreds of other duties. Many serve on local and state committees and travel extensively. It’s understandable that they can’t add writing to a busy schedule.
Bob Agee, president emeritus of Oklahoma Baptist University and former pastor of churches in Memphis and Louisville, believes there are two major reasons pastors do not write. The first is management of time; the second is discipline. Because of an unwillingness to manage time and discipline yourself to carve out time each week to write, the world loses ideas that only are heard by one congregation.
Effective time management means scheduling ourselves to focus on priorities, which can include writing, and there are tools and methods which can help us maximize the time we have for such tasks. For example, as you write and research, develop an electronic system of collecting data, statistics or articles in a designated file. Or if you’re more comfortable with a vertical file, save those clippings and drop them into a manila folder in your file cabinet.
One word of caution: Too many files can overwhelm you! The late Bob Hastings, former editor of the Illinois Baptist, warned about keeping paper clippings. “Don’t waste your time cutting out newspaper or magazine articles and filing. They will consume your space. That’s what we pay librarians to do.” Today, Hastings would have everything neatly organized and stored in digital files.
Regardless of your preferred method of filing, think of ways to use information that inspires, educates, informs or entertains readers in the Christian market. Writing can include: how-to, travel (missions and volunteers), devotions, interviews and church curriculum. When writing sermons, think of other ways to use the material later. Could some of the illustrations be used as devotions? Could the work be turned into a book?
Agee points to the writing example of Herschel Hobbs, who wrote 54 commentaries, The Baptist Faith and Message, Sunday School lessons and weekly columns on “Baptist Beliefs.” By organizing your time and disciplining yourself to sit down and write, you have the opportunity to extend your ministry.
Myth #2: My English isn’t perfect. I don’t write well.
Truth #2: Writing improves communication skills.
In Exodus 4, God called Moses to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt; but Moses replied, “I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4:10). Moses said, “O, Lord, please send someone else to do it” (Ex. 4:14). God allowed Aaron, his brother, to go with him, and God instructed him about what to say.
When teaching writing classes and encouraging pastors to attend, often I hear some similar excuses. “I know my English isn’t perfect. I can speak to a congregation of my people, but writing…well, it’s like putting something down in stone. It’s available for everyone to see.”
As in Moses’ case, if God calls you to do something, He will walk with you. He will see you through the task. Trust God. Whether we agree, we are evaluated by how well we communicate with others. Writing and speaking are two forms of communication, though writing takes longer.
Writing is a skill, and a skill can be learned. Because communication is at the forefront of a pastor’s job responsibilities, this is an area where it is worthwhile to spend time and energy enhancing your skills. As you grow in ability to communicate effectively, you’ll also enhance your writing skills.
Editors need fresh ideas. Tools are available to assist writers. The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White is considered one of the best guides to the usage of the English language. There are other online tools to help refine your writing skills. Computers have spell check, but don’t rely on this tool without thoroughly reading and editing your work. See if there’s an editor in your church who’s available to proof your work.
Myth #3: I’ve been rejected by traditional publishers.
Truth #3: Self-publishing is gaining respect.
Writers often report having sent a manuscript to an editor and waiting months for a response. Again and again they try, only to be rejected each time. Although it may be increasingly difficult for unpublished authors to work through traditional book publishers, there is a reasonable alternative: self-publishing. There are a number of firms that specialize in helping authors publish and market their own books, and some have a particular focus on pastors and church leaders.
Do some Internet research to discover sites that explain how to self-publish your book. There are companies that will do much of the work for you, but be sure to connect with one that’s reputable. Among the better companies that work with pastor-authors are Xulon Press (owned by Salem Communications) and Cross Books (a division of LifeWay). Talk with other writers to get their recommendations. Viewing samples of their published books is a good way to evaluate finished products.
Of course, today it’s not necessary to have a printed book in order to be a published author. The growth of ebooks and popularity of ereaders makes forgoing print a reasonable alternative. According to one recent report, ebooks are selling more than three times the amount of printed books.
One word of caution: Once a book is published, there’s no guarantee you will sell those 1,000 copies sitting in your garage, so don’t spend money you don’t have on self-publishing!
Myth #4: I don’t have time to promote a self-published book.
Truth #4: Be your own representative.
If you work with a traditional publisher, large companies have representatives all over the world who promote your book. However, in my experience, the author is still the one who works hardest to spread the word about his or her project. Within the town or community where you serve, make a list of civic clubs, businesses, Christian schools and universities, and other denominational groups where a speaker often is needed.
Volunteer to present a free program focusing on your book. Design a PowerPoint presentation using appropriate music, movement and visual images. Purchase the books at cost and have them available to sell if those attending request an autographed copy. Contact the media prior to the event. Ask local radio and television stations for a few minutes to discuss your book (and the program if appropriate). Build a network of people who can help you. Write thank-you notes afterward.
If you self-publish, write a book that helps people. Word of mouth promotes a good book. Resources such as Amazon and CreateSpace offer free worldwide advertising. Plus, authors earn a higher percentage with these companies than if they went with a traditional publisher. Traditional publishers often take 18 months or longer from the beginning to the end of the publishing process. Once a book goes on Amazon or CreateSpace, it’s available for purchase within 24 hours.
Myth #5: I don’t feel writing is as important as preaching a sermon.
Truth #5: Writing helps discipline sermon preparation.
“I began writing while I was a pastor,” says Cecil Murphey. “I wrote one hour every morning before my secretary reached the office. Not only did it spread my reputation (and attract new people to our congregation), but the discipline forced me to focus on thoughts and choose the exact word I wanted.” Murphey has written or coauthored 135 books, including international best sellers such as 90 Minutes in Heaven and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story.
A pastor can speak to a few dozen or several hundred people on Sunday; but when he or she writes, that opens the potential to speak to thousands or perhaps millions. Also, the discipline of writing can make the messages you preach in your own congregation more effective.
Myth #6: My sermons are prepared for my congregation.
Truth #6: The written word reaches generations yet unborn.
Lonnie Wilkey, editor of the Baptist & Reflector in Tennessee, says, “Writing to publish is a natural extension of a pastor’s ministry. Whether it is a compilation of sermons or a reflection on…years of ministry, the pastor who writes to publish is leaving a valuable, historical record for future generations.”
Working with pastors across the state, Wilkey serves as an encourager to the leaders of churches as they write with an eye toward publishing. He relies on pastors to write articles, weekly Sunday School lessons and devotional material for the B&R.
Wilkey says, “I have a book written by famed Southern Baptist minister R.G. Lee, former Southern Baptist Convention president and a former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis. Lee once pastored my home church, Lima Baptist in Travelers Rest, South Carolina. He writes about Lima in his autobiography. His reflections on my home church make that book a treasured part of my library, though it happened decades before I was born.”
An example of a pastor who reaches millions of people beyond his congregation is Dr. Charles Stanley, senior pastor of First Baptist Church Atlanta since 1971. Stanley has written 45 books, has a radio and television ministry, and writes In Touch, a daily devotion. In his personal biography, Stanley says he models his ministry according to this message from Paul to the Ephesians: “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus—the work of telling others the good news about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24).
One way a pastor can begin a writing ministry is to launch his own daily devotional for his congregation, using the church website, a personal blog or an email newsletter format to deliver the content. As you develop your writing skills, you can expand your horizons into other writing ventures, as well.
Myth #7: I don’t know how to start writing for the Christian magazine or book market.
Truth #7: Writing workshops and mentors are available to help you start.
Denise George, cofounder/teacher for the Boot Camp for Christian Writers, has trained hundreds of pastors and church staff to write to publish. George says, “Writing is a skill, and a skill can be learned. More than 3,000 people have attended our Boot Camps, and many of these have published books and magazine articles. Two factors that bring our people together are: We love to write, and we love God. We encourage our people. We stay with them and offer advice as they learn the techniques of writing and publishing. Most important, we pray for our people.”
Johnnie C. Godwin, who pastored churches in Texas, said, “I’ve come to understand that God’s calling is more like an amazing maze that He guides us in for all of life. If we keep on saying yes to His calling, He will make the varied expressions of His calling clear to us at each age and stage in life” (“Is God Calling You to the Ministry of Writing?” Baptist & Reflector, Oct 12, 2013).
What if the apostle Paul never wrote? Writing for the Christian market extends far beyond the church walls. Readers need the gospel of Jesus Christ in a world that needs to hear what they have to say and what Scripture teaches.
Shared from Preacher.com. Written by Carolyn Tomlin.
For new writers, getting started is easier than you think
Writing is all about inspiration. Of course, it is a matter of discipline to a certain point. However, most of the process requires inspiration.
All the qualified writers with years of experience face the same thing: they feel stuck at a certain point having no ideas or insights on what to write about, how to create a piece which would inspire others, etc.
So, if you are new to writing and experience the same thing, don’t worry: it happens to all of us.
Nevertheless, what you might not know is that there are things most writers use to get back their desire to write. And in this article, we will introduce you to them.
Eleven tips for new writers on where to find your inspiration for writing
1. Read more.
This is a key to successful writing. You need to read the works by other authors to check out their styles, motives, flow, and even their vocabulary. You need to have good examples to follow as well as brilliant stories to analyze and apply. You also need to learn from their mistakes.
However, we are not only talking about fiction. You can also read dictionaries, professional literature, or even scientific fiction. So, make sure you feed your brain with literature if you want to produce useful content.
2. Check out popular blogs.
There are hundreds of blogs which cover almost any topic in the world. Thus, frequently when writers feel like they lack the desire to work on their pieces, they opt for checking what other writers find inspiration in. Lists, decisions, achievements, and social studies taken from the blogs can serve as a trigger to make you move toward your goal.
Reading blogs has helped many authors; it might help you as well, so check them out.
3. Go outside.
Activities in the open air can have a truly wonderful effect on you. So, if you feel stuck or bored, go outside for a walk, visit your favourite place in the city, or ride a bike. You will feel how the energy you need so badly will flow back into your body.
Embrace the beauty of nature and enjoy being out as a part of your motivation source search. Find those old roller blades in the closet, or invite a friend for a stroll around the park. There are plenty of things you can do outside.
Don’t lose such an opportunity to improve your physical health and promote an improved brain activity.
4. Listen to the music.
You probably know that studies showed that classical music can have an impressive effect on your brain. The thing is that when people listen to such tracks, new neuron connections emerge. This leads to a boost of one’s creativity.
Meanwhile, you get the feeling of contentment when listening to music. It makes you happy. It creates an artistic atmosphere.
So, let such music play in the background while you are working in order to increase your productivity.
5. Get rid of distractions.
Sometimes all we need to boost our creativity is to get rid of all distractions which steal our focus and prevent us from concentrating on one task at a time.
So, make sure you turned your cell phone off and logged out of all the social networks when writing. This will save your time and energy as well as will allow you to achieve better results in writing even when you feel stuck.
Among other distractions are favourite books, correspondence, siblings (especially younger ones), or noise. So, when writing, make sure you have some privacy. Go to the nearest library or use your parents’ office to work in silence.
6. Write your journal.
Letting your thoughts flow can be a great solution. Just grab a pen and practice free writing. All the worries you have as well as things which are bothering you should be mentioned too, as they might be a reason you can’t write at the moment. Once all your thoughts are clear, and you don’t feel anxious anymore, the writing can flow better and faster.
They say that it is one of the exercises each writer should practice on a regular basis. Apart from writing down your thoughts and dreams there, make sure to add interesting dialogues which you overheard during the day, as they might serve as a source of inspiration later.
7. Observe people.
Where do the new plots and ideas come from? Where did the world’s most famous writers find their characters? It all originates from the real world.
There is nothing new under the sun. Whichever plot your book centres around, you can be sure it has already taken place in the past. Thus, observing is your key to finding new ideas and characters to describe in your stories. So, if you cannot make up a plot, take it from real life and use people around you as inspiration for the characters.
8. Do physical exercise.
The thing is that when exercising, we gain energy. We might feel tired afterwards, but our brain performance improves significantly. Our physical well-being is tightly connected to the creativity and brain activity. Thus, sometimes, you need some physical exercise to help you shake it up a little and find the inner strength to start writing.
This is not something you can do whenever you feel stuck; however, occasional trips can serve as prevention of an artistic wasteland.
Is there a place you always wanted to visit? What have you always wanted to see? Now is the perfect time for you to pack your backpack and hit the road. New experiences will give room for writing ideas while people you meet can become a source of inspiration for the main characters of your stories in progress.
So, plan a trip and go for a vacation for a good cause!
10. Spend time with your loved ones.
People you love can help you as well. Have some fun as well as some meaningful time together (though fun is meaningful too). Embrace the love they give you and spend time reflecting on what life with or without them would be like. Such reflections can also push you toward writing.
11. Spend time with the visuals.
Sometimes all you need is a series of pictures on a particular topic or boards of images on Pinterest by people from all over the world. Let your brain process bright pictures and produce ideas based on what it sees.
These eleven ideas can actually serve as an action motivation. Diversify your creative process and don’t view writing as a discipline only. You need room for creativity and other sources to encourage you to craft a good piece. We hope, these tips will help you in your search and that they will stimulate you as much as they did stimulate us!
I’ve written over 70 books over my 40-year career, and I can tell you that as much as we would like them to, books don’t write themselves. Motivation is the measurement of the energy that is put into any endeavor.
When you write a book you are bound to struggle with periods where you lack the motivation to write or experience writer’s block. To combat this, you need an arsenal of tools and techniques that you can use to help you overcome motivational issues like getting started writing, finding your message, or getting rid of writer’s block. Writing is a job and every job needs the “write” tool.
Here are a few techniques I’ve used to overcome writer’s block from time to time and really get motivated to write. I’ve used these same techniques to write 4-5 books a year.
1. Write Every Day
One of the tricks that artists use and that works well for writers too is to write often. Even when you don’t want to type a single word, do it anyways… just write. It triggers something in your brain so that the pathway between your daily routine and your creative side is easier to find.
Create small writing goals that you can achieve every day. You can set goals like, committing to writing 100 words or one page a day. At the end of 365 days, you’ll have a 365-page book.
If you want to complete your book faster, you can write a chapter a day.
Make the time that you sit down to write each day a habit. If you set a time to write in the morning, sit down and write at the same time each morning.
You can also pre-release your book on Amazon and date it to give you extra motivation to have it finished by a certain date. Write down your goals and review them every day and you will complete your book in no time.
2. Don’t Edit As You Write
One of the biggest mistakes I see with writers is trying to edit as you’re writing. Save editing for the very end. Switching back and forth between being creative and editing causes you to lose steam.
One of the greatest tools to cultivate motivation is progress. Keep writing and save the editing until you finish the book.
3. Get Rid Of Distractions
Get rid of distractions when you write. Writing a book requires all of your attention. Create a space where there are few if any outside distractions. Put your phone on silent or turn it off. Leave a do not disturb sign on your door. Filter outside noise with a white noise machine.Your goal is to eliminate all distractions and get into a state of flow.
4. Take A Break
Don’t be afraid to put your book aside for a few days when you’re feeling blocked, then when you are ready, resume writing. Just make sure that you specify the time that you’ll come back to writing. Give yourself a strict deadline, and adhere to it.
Changing your environment may be all you need to jumpstart your motivation. Try writing in a different room, outside, or in a different color.
5. Use Examples From Others
If you have had the good fortune to read Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill, then you might be familiar with another useful tool for overcoming lacking motivation. That tool is the creation of analogies that support your book.
In Think and Grow Rich Hill uses the comparisons of rich and famous people to support or outline his points. When you are stuck, look to people you value and their lives to show examples of what you mean in your book. That process opens up a door that bridges the gap between critical thinking and artistic thinking.
6. Talk It Out
If you’re having trouble writing, try talking it out. Write as if you’re talking to a friend. As you write, consider that you are telling your story to one of your friends and as you do, write it down. When you tell your friends that you are writing a book what do you tell them? Write it down. What message are you trying to convey?
Having a conversation with your book is an excellent technique for talking through the problems that you need to solve for others in a casual manner. Talking is often easier than writing which is why this technique helps break your writer’s block.
7. Try Creative Writing Prompts
Try creative writing prompts as a way to challenge yourself to write. Those might include: Describe your surroundings — Look out the window and describe the first thing you see in great detail. Keep a journal of these entries as though you are Darwin traipsing through the jungle.
Try a word challenge — Open the dictionary and choose the first word you see. Use that word in a haiku or short quote that your main character might say. There are many writing prompts that writers use to jumpstart their brains and their motivation. Find a few that work well for you.
You might also find inspiration for this activity from this list of motivational quotes.
Being motivated 100% of the time just isn’t possible for most authors. So don’t get discouraged if you’re having a hard time getting started. These tools and techniques have helped me persist many times when I simply did not feel like writing.
Everyone has a book inside of them. It’s your job to find out what your message is, take action and just start.
Shared from www.briantracy.com.
If you’re a pastor, then you should be writing. Ok, wait! Before you start with a list of excuses just hear me out (besides, I know all the excuses because I regularly used them to avoid my responsibility as a writer).
As a pastor, your teaching is part of your spiritual fingerprint – make your impression through writing.
Writing is first and foremost an act of sheer will. It’s not easy. But if you are a pastor I am fully convinced that it’s a necessary part of your ministry. Here’s why:
Expanding Your Audience
At first, this sounds self-serving. However, remember the Apostle Paul’s desire to go to great lengths to reach people for Christ. He said, “I have become all things to all people, that by all means, I might save some.” (1 Cor 9:22)
As a pastor, each week your audience is limited to the number of people that will attend your church on Sunday. That’s a problem because even if you could pack the building every single week there’s still a limit to how many chairs you can set up. And there’s even a limit to how many services you can hold.
These physical limitations are difficult to overcome, but by writing and publishing there is virtually no limit to how many people you can reach. Sure, it takes a while to build a good-sized audience, but it’s worth it.
Building a legacy
Here’s one of my frustrations as a pastor: I usually spend 10-15 hours praying about, thinking about, preparing, and writing a message to teach on Sunday morning. Then, when I’m done…it’s gone. Almost forever. No one may hear it again!
That’s a problem because I believe these messages to be God-ordained and important to the cause of Christianity. Not just to my parishioners but to Christians everywhere. I don’t want them to fade away forever.
A church and its leaders can have a great impact on the community both in terms of outreach and aid. But this is also true when it comes to the philosophy, doctrine, and teaching too.
As a pastor, your teaching is part of your “spiritual fingerprint” in the world. Allow those ideas to make an impression in the world through your writing.
As a pastor, you are in the business of creating fresh content every week. Literally, it’s your job to look into the scriptures and find innovative ways of communicating those important truths to your congregation. Like me, you take those ideas, format them to be captivating and interesting, and verbally deliver them in the form of a sermon.
While the sermon is meant to be spoken, those ideas can also become source material for your writing. Whether they become a book or a weekly blog, you have ready-to-go content on a regular basis. So, there’s no need to try to figure out what to write – just write what you are teaching.
There’s considerable evidence to suggest that much of the scripture we read each week on Sunday morning are parts of sermons, regularly given by the Apostle Paul. The book of Hebrews is one long sermon!
Note: you’ll notice that Sermon Series become great books, each sermon becoming a subsequent chapter of the book. This is one of the secrets of many ministry writers, from Timothy Keller to Chuck Swindoll.
Previously, getting published was difficult and expensive. It’s not that way anymore. A writer can publish a blog for a few dollars per month, if not for free. Platforms like Medium are also a great way to publish your thoughts.
Even if you desire to publish a printed book, self-publishing is so simple that there’s no reason not to do it.
Without question, published authors have greater chances to impact their community through speaking engagements, teaching opportunities, and additional writing prospects. This can lead to a larger audience but also to financial blessings as well. Some may shun the financial rewards that may accompany a writing career, but for many in ministry, this can be a realistic way to supplement ministry in a small church.
So where are you in the process of becoming a writer? Have you tried and failed? If so, keep trying! Develop a regular routine and stick with it.
Shared from By
Whether you’re a pro content writer, fictionist, screenwriter, academic, poet, stateswoman, or bard-preneur (h/t Sonia Simone), you’ve likely experienced anxiety or elation about any number of the habits we all have in common.
Authors of all stripes share a deep connective tissue that compels them to congregate in coffee houses and taverns — across the globe — to tell one another stories of their travails over a beverage or two.
We all have our varied neuroses, methods of madness, well-worn manuals, muses, writer porn, and incantations that we feel grant us the strength to face the glaring blankness of the page.
But there are five fundamental things that set serious writers apart from the rest.
Only serious writers:
1. Show up regularly.
2. Get started, no matter how inspired they’re feeling.
Showing up is an undervalued talent.
You could be a word-counter, time-blocker, Pomodoro technician, or an edge-of-your-seat procrastinator … all serious scribes show up regularly to write.
Frankly, it doesn’t matter how many words or how long you commit to butt-in-chair time … what matters is that you do it over and over until you have something of value for you, your audience, benefactors, clients, subscribers, or publishers.
A steadfast commitment to the art is part of your psychology
For The Writer Files podcast, I had the pleasure of interviewing writer and educator Bec Evans — co-founder of the digital writing coach Prolifiko — on the neuroscience of habit.
She and I spoke about the big impact of small habit changes on building a successful writing routine:
“Researcher, Dr. Robert Boice, studied writing productivity, and he always compared daily regular schedules, people who just write every single day, with people who binge write. And he found that on all measures of success, the daily habit wins.
“The only one that the binge writers scored more highly on was depression, because it was very much seen as people rushing to meet deadlines in a panic.” – Bec Evans
She reminded me that serious writers don’t wait for the muse to visit them before they start, and this is echoed by many famous writers I’ve spoken with over the years.
One pro journalist who subscribes to the Boice method, and sits down every weekday morning to write, is Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman.
He also shared a book with me on the podcast by author Paul J. Silvia titled How to Write a Lot. In it, Silvia discusses the fallacy of writer’s block and the power of habit:
“You don’t need … special motivation to write a lot. You don’t need to want to write — people rarely feel like doing unpleasant tasks that lack deadlines — so don’t wait until you feel like it. Productive writing comes from harnessing the power of habit, and habits come from repetition.” – Paul J. Silvia
How achieving small, attainable goals rewards your brain
The power of simply starting is an incredible psychological tool for serious writers.
The cursor blinks ominously in the pole position at the beginning of every piece of writing.
But as soon as you start a project, you are naturally compelled to want to finish it, no matter how long it takes. The human brain doesn’t like loose ends.
I spoke with neuroscientist Michael Grybko about some of the reasons why writers run into issues with deadline anxiety and the importance of developing a “pattern of positive thinking and accomplishment” to stave off writer’s block:
“Try to be more approach-motivated and [one tangible thing] we can do to help facilitate this is set obtainable goals, even small stuff.
“As you go through a project … ‘All right, I want to get this much research done today,’ your brain’s going to reward you a little bit … ‘Okay, here’s a little dopamine. Success. Way to go!’” – Michael Grybko
Small steps make for big achievements over time
Scheduling a mere 10 minutes a day is all you need to start that habit. Sit down, open laptop, don’t move ’til words.
Habits and human potential author James Clear wrote an article titled “Why Getting Started is More Important Than Succeeding” where he noted:
“Being the best isn’t required to be happy or fulfilled, but being in the game is necessary.”
All serious writers know that small, incremental steps are the only path to achieving great work, and that you can’t edit a blank page.
Only serious writers:
3. Think on paper.
Some of your best work will come by virtue of you wrestling with the words on the page, not in your head.
“Don’t think and then write it down. Think on paper.” – Harry Kemelman
When I spoke with New York Times bestselling author and co-founder of Wired magazine, Kevin Kelly, we talked about the importance of drafts and formulating ideas as you work:
“I don’t feel like I’m a writer. I write to figure out what I’m thinking … for me the killer thing is the first draft.
“I don’t have an idea to write; I write it to have an idea. So that means writing stuff that won’t be used, but I have to go through the process.” – Kevin Kelly
Once you start a project, your brain works on it in the background (what neuroscience calls the default mode network) and does some of the work for you, subconsciously.
All serious writers know that every inspired or brilliant page is typically preceded by a dozen shitty ones.
It’s all “grist for the mill”
In the book Several Short Sentences About Writing, the author, Verlyn Klinkenborg, talks about a serious writer’s job.
By giving yourself the opportunity to clarify your thinking while you write, you open yourself up to being more efficient and creative simultaneously.
“Where do sentences come from?
“How do they reveal themselves in your thinking?
“Sometimes you know exactly what you want to say. And you find the words to say exactly that.
“But just as often, what you want to say emerges as the sentence takes shape …. thought and sentence are always a collaboration.” – Verlyn Klinkenborg
Somewhere between the sentences, a subtext emerges from the interwoven ideas that occur as the work becomes … itself.
“The best writing is rewriting.” – E.B. White
The blank page is a canvas you initially fill, however minimally or ostentatiously. Slowly but surely, serious writers pare the work down, or shore it up, to its usefulness.
Usefulness is what the reader takes away, not the length or the shape of the piece at its inception. Your initial keystrokes will likely never be seen by a reader.
Only serious writers:
4. Get bored, and understand it’s part of the process.
5. Meet their deadlines no matter the hardship or duress.
Writers need to remember that writing is a tedious and, at times, maddening endeavor. It ain’t sexy.
I asked the bestselling sci-fi author of The Martian, Andy Weir, about how he stays motivated:
“A great writer … I blanked on who it was … said, ‘Sometimes you’re writing and you’re extremely motivated, cranking out words … and other times it’s just a slog. Every word on the page is a huge amount of work, and you feel like crap, like you’re hammering away … it doesn’t feel good at all.
“‘One thing you’ll notice is, if you wait a week, and then look back on the stuff you wrote, you can’t tell the difference between when you were motivated and when you weren’t.’
“It’s really important to remember that the quality of your work isn’t greatly affected by the amount of enthusiasm you had at the moment you wrote it.” – Andy Weir
Deadlines are the pressure that make a diamond
Every serious writer I know also has a methodology that gives them a professional advantage to hit their deadlines. They’ve done it so many times it becomes second nature to them.
The award-winning creator, producer, and host of the megahit Lore podcast, TV show, and book series, Aaron Mahnke, came on the podcast to discuss his writing regimen and share some advice for serious writers.
We spoke about his commitment to creating the show like clockwork and why its success doesn’t give him the luxury of procrastination:
“I have to write and I don’t wait for inspiration or the right mood.
“I just sit my butt down and I write words. I’ll tell you a secret. The words you write on your most inspired day are 99 percent as good as the words you’ll write on the hard days.
“If you put them in a deck and shuffle them and ask somebody to tell you which one is better quality writing … those days where you struggle for the words are just as good.” – Aaron Mahnke
Without some kind of deadline, either self-imposed or professionally mandated, most writers become preternaturally lazy
New York magazine columnist and essayist Heather Havrilesky talked with me about meeting her multiple deadlines:
“Try to get into the zone quickly, and if there’s flow, just go with the flow no matter what kind of madness you’re writing. I find the more deadlines I take on, the better my writing flow is. Having a weekly column really helps there.
“I think people who have giant projects hanging over their heads, and they can’t get in the flow, they’re blocked. A lot of it is because they don’t have a daily writing exercise. Like any kind of exercise, if you’re not limber enough, it’s going to feel like you don’t even know how to do it.” – Heather Havrilesky
All serious writers meet their deadlines with ease, and they don’t sweat it because they have the tools at hand to keep the cursor moving until the job is done.
“There are writers. And then there are professional writers.” – Stefanie Flaxman
Personally, if I’m on a deadline, my office gets really clean. But I know that procrastination is part of my process, so I don’t beat myself up about it.
Multiple New York Times bestselling author Daniel Pink spoke with me about his incredibly consistent, workman-like process, and I often refer back to it for inspiration and as a model of true professionalism in writing:
“When I’m working on a book or it’s at that stage where I’ve done enough research, where I feel like I’ve more or less mastered a lot of the material and can move on to executing it, I actually think of it as bricklaying where I’ll come to my office, show up in my office at a certain time, like say 9:00 a.m.
“I’ll set myself a word count for the day. Let’s say 500 words. I will then turn off my phone, turn off my email, and then I will do nothing, truly nothing, until I hit my word count. If I hit my word count at 11:00 in the morning, hallelujah. If it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and I still haven’t hit my word count, I’m not going anywhere.” – Dan Pink
Only serious writers have the ability to focus on what’s important and tune out what’s not.
Most turn off the internet, for the record.
Great writers aren’t born; they’re forged from toil, rejection, and the occasional success.
It’s their deliberate practice, grit, persistence, commitment to growth, and inner drive that sets them apart.
What sets you apart?
Shared from https://www.copyblogger.com/serious-writers
A lot of people think they can write or paint or draw or sing or make movies or what-have-you, but having an artistic temperament doth not make one an artist.
Even the great writers of our time have tried and failed and failed some more. Vladimir Nabokov received a harsh rejection letter from Knopf upon submitting Lolita, which would later go on to sell fifty million copies. Sylvia Plath’s first rejection letter for The Bell Jar read, “There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.” Gertrude Stein received a cruel rejection letter that mocked her style. Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Wayearned him a sprawling rejection letter regarding the reasons he should simply give up writing all together. Tim Burton’s first illustrated book, The Giant Zlig, got the thumbs down from Walt Disney Productions, and even Jack Kerouac’s perennial On the Road received a particularly blunt rejection letter that simply read, “I don’t dig this one at all.”
So even if you’re an utterly fantastic writer who will be remembered for decades forthcoming, you’ll still most likely receive a large dollop of criticism, rejection, and perhaps even mockery before you get there. Having been through it all these great writers offer some writing tips without pulling punches. After all, if a publishing house is going to tear into your manuscript you might as well be prepared.
Writing has become very public these days. We write on Twitter and Facebook, on blogs and in emails. We work hard to write well, be clever, capture attention, and because we’re good at writing, we’re often successful.
It feels like writing, doesn’t it? That series of events, write-post-garner attention-repeat, feels just like the experience of writing some other piece of writing and getting it out in the world and capturing attention.
The problem is that offering every thought up for public consumption often drains them all of depth. Another problem is that those polished jewels you’ve tossed out to Twitter/etc have used up a bunch of creative energy you might have spent on your actual writing.
Obviously, none of us are going to give up public writing. It has become part of our lives. Here I am, writing a blog (and enjoying it, just so you know). This morning, I wrote a bunch of Facebook posts, and I’ll avidly check back to see if anyone has responded. That’s what we do now. That’s what I do.
If writing is important to you—and you wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t—you should have a private writing practice as well as all that public work. Call it a journal. Call it a writer’s notebook. A diary. Lots of people are keeping bullet journals these days, and writing in them with their juicy fountain pens and special ink (my current favorite is Walden ink, with a Noodler’s Ahab Flex), which I think is a big plus—writing by hand is a way to access different pathways in the brain. Writing by hand is very personal, intimate, and creates a compelling emotional record over time.
The idea of a writer’s notebook has been with us for a long time. Mark Twain kept a notebook for most of his life, starting when he was twenty-one and couldn’t remember the instructions at a job. He eventually filled over 40 pocket notebooks,
“with observations of people he met, thoughts on religion and politics, drawings and sketches of what he saw on his travels, potential plots for books, and even ideas for inventions (he filed 3 patents during his lifetime). Many of his entries consist of the short, witty, pithy sentences he is famous for. He felt that if he did not write such things down as they came to his mind he would quickly forget them. He would also record little snippets in his notebooks of what had happened that day, such as what he had eaten and who he had seen. And finally, he wrote dirty jokes in the back of them.” (from The Pocket Notebooks of 20 Famous Men)
On LitHub, Dustin Illlingsworth said of writer’s notebooks:
“…what we find within their pages are wild, shapeless, violent things; elegant confessions and intricate codes; portraits of anguish; topographies of mind. Prayers, experiments, lists, rivalries, and rages are all at home here, interbred, inextricable from one another. A piece of petty gossip sits astride a transcendent realization. A proclamation of self-loathing becomes a paean to literary art. News of publication shares the page with the most banal errands imaginable.”
Just like life.
A writer’s notebook is meant to be everything, anything. A place to meander, to think, to wail and gnash teeth, to experiment and play. It’s a private log of your own life, whatever bits of it you want to set down. It’s meant to be about you.
In perhaps the best exploration of the subject, “On Keeping a Notebook,” from Slouching Toward Bethlehem, Joan Didion writes,
“We are brought up in the ethic that others, any others, all others, are by definition more interesting than ourselves; taught to be diffident, just this side of self-effacing…Only the very young and the very old may recount their dreams at breakfast, dwell upon self, interrupt with memories of beach picnics and favorite Liberty lawn dresses and the rainbow trout in a creek near Colorado Springs. The rest of us are expected, rightly, to affect absorption in other people’s favorite dresses, other people’s trout.
“And so we do. But our notebooks give us away, for however dutifully we record what we see around us, the common denominator of all we see is always, transparently, shamelessly, the implacable ‘I.’”
(I love that she lived in my town once upon a time, that she went to my same school for second grade. We washed our hands at the same restroom sinks, many decades apart, but it links us. Maybe some of her writing magic lingered and soaked into my skin through some creative alchemy.)
That viewpoint of ourselves, looking at the world through our own eyes and recording whatever we see, whatever we feel, leads to voice, the one and only thing that belongs to one and only us.
In a world increasingly public, that feels urgently important. If you’re always posing for the world, polishing clever sound bites, taking the elegant selfie, how can you know what you feel, or where you feel it, or how it burns, if you are not perfect? How can you experience your own rabid jealousy or howling broken-heartedness or sour pettiness?
If you don’t know it, feel it, see it and taste it, how will you write it into a character?
I challenge you to start a writing practice, or get back to one if you’ve drifted away. Get yourself a notebook—it doesn’t matter what kind. I like Moleskines because they’re flexible and come in many sizes and they have ruled pages that are just right for my handwriting. You might like a dot grid or blank. One of my sons carries around tiny Field Books and writes in teeny handwriting in them. It doesn’t matter, but there can be some pleasure in finding something you like. Probably better if it isn’t fancy, because then you’ll want your thoughts to be all shiny and precise and that’s not what this is about. You want to give yourself permission to be messy or mean or petty if the day requires it. Also find a pen. This does matter a bit—if it feels good to write your words, you’ll do more of it. Gel pens are often really easy to write with and cheap.
Start carrying around that notebook and that pen and when you have coffee, write for awhile instead of checking email or obsessively scrolling through Twitter on your phone. Then, take five minutes at the end of the day to write down what it was like to live this day. What did you do in the morning, and the afternoon, and the evening? What did you learn? A sentence will do.
Do it every day. Find a way to keep that notebook at the ready, so that you can see what you see when you look into the world— if you and I sat side by side at a coffeeshop and wrote about the scene in front of us, we would seize upon different details. I’ll find the turquoise blouse. You’ll go for the smell of the coffee and how it reminds you of waking up in the morning for school when you were a child and breakfast was served on a red formica table. Go with it, wherever it goes.
In the moment… I am watching my dogs tear up another quilt I brought home from Goodwill. I should stop buying them, but I hate it when they have to sleep on the plain floor.
If it feels intimidating, try using prompts, such as those found in Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, a wonderful book about the writer’s notebook. Poke around online and read what other writers have written into their notebooks and journals.
Do you keep a notebook? Have you done so in the past? What are your favorite writer’s notebooks?
Nothing is more oppressive than the blank white screen of a Microsoft Word document. If you preach regularly, you know the feeling already. Your deadline (the weekend service) is coming, and you’re trying to craft a message that will capture the truth of God’s word, and yet so far all you are looking at is a blank screen and a blinking cursor. Here’s the bad news first: The oppressive white Word screen is even worse when writing a book. Where sermons have a hard deadline that passes and then you move on, books—especially when self-published—have deadlines that stretch on forever, and you can always wonder whether what you’ve written is any good.
The good news (sort of): Writing a book is hard for everyone, even that bestselling novelist you love. The more you do it, though, the more you learn to embrace the creative tension, knowing this is the path toward writing something good. So if you’re thinking about writing a book, or are currently banging your head against your MacBook in despair, here are seven quick thoughts on how to make the writing process flow as smoothly as possible.
DON’T FORGET TO PRAY
To quickly state the obvious: Your book’s kingdom value is directly connected to how in tune with the presence of God you are. Before you start your writing project, spend significant time asking God to birth a vision in you of what He’d want you to say.
FIND YOUR BURDEN
Be able to state in one sentence (no run-ons!) what your book is about—you’ve probably heard that before; but then write another short sentence explaining why your book matters. Why is this important enough for you to spend hours working on it? What is—as Bill Hybels once said—your “holy discontent”?
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Who are you writing for? Do these people know you? Are they strangers? Are they committed followers of Christ, casual church attenders or spiritual seekers? What age are they? Get an image of two to three people you know who are your ideal audience, and as you write, write to them.
Remember in middle school when you had to turn in an outline for your research paper? Turns out that was good training. In the same way you (hopefully!) wouldn’t get up and wing a 40-minute sermon, don’t sit down and write blind. Start by outlining your chapters, and then outline a broad path you’d like to see each chapter take.
THINK LIKE A SERMON SERIES
If you’re writing a fiction book, or the history of the Peloponnesian War, ignore this; however, if you’re writing a book designed to unpack a theological concept for the purpose of life change, then structure your book the way you would a sermon series. Give each chapter a beginning, middle and end. With each chapter, create a tension up front, show what God’s word says about it, then walk people through the ramifications of that.
Each chapter should be unified by a common theme, just like in a sermon series. Even better is if each chapter builds on the one before. Maybe think of it like an episode of a really great TV show. Each episode has its own plot that you’re riveted by, but these episodes slowly advance the bigger, season-wide story.
GREAT WRITING DOESN’T HAPPEN, IT’S HONED
Sometimes it’s easy to be discouraged when you write something, read it and immediately know it’s terrible. Many people will wait to write until they have a burst of inspiration. It’s easy to think that the great writers just sit down and brilliance spills out of their first drafts, but this is never true.
Every great writer will tell you their works don’t take shape until the second or third draft. What this means for you is: 1) write regularly, preferably every day if possible, and 2) edit, edit and re-edit. Frequent writing will help you improve your skill, and frequent editing will help you get a sense of what is working, what isn’t and what you are really wanting to say.
BETA TEST YOUR BOOK
When you’re finished with your book—or even just a chapter—find people you trust, have them read it and listen to their feedback. Encourage them to tell you what parts they loved, but also ask them if there were any spots where they felt lost or got distracted.
What you’ll usually find is while people’s suggestions on how to improve may differ (and sometimes be unhelpful), they usually will agree on what to improve. If two to three people all mention a specific section as an area of improvement, a place they were confused or a time they got distracted, then know something needs to change with that section.
These are just a few quick tips on how to navigate writing your book. It’s hard work, but it’s also worth it. If God has given you a burden, then write with authority, believing He’ll use your work to make a difference. Get started today by downloading the Free Self-Publishing Guide.
Shared from https://equippress.com.