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7 Myths that Keep Pastors from Writing

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 Written by Carolyn Tomlin.

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11 Inspirational Writing Tips For New Writers

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.

9. Travel.

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!

Shared from By Richard Nolan

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7 Tips To Stay Motivated When Writing A Book

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.

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Five Reasons Every Pastor Should Be A Writer

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.

Content Availability

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.

It’s Inexpensive

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.

Increased Opportunities

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 PhilAyres.

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3 Ways to Hone the Skill that Can Advance Your Career as a Writer

There are writers. And then there are professional writers.

Over my career as a writer and editor, I’ve noticed one key factor that enables writers to perform their craft professionally.

I’ve said it before, so you won’t be surprised to hear:

It’s the ability to self-edit.

A strong self-editor doesn’t just show up to work; they show up with a seemingly counterintuitive balance of compassion and criticism that allows them to write prolifically and precisely.

That combination is exactly what companies and publishers look for when they hire writers.

Self-sufficient writers know they’re going to:

  • Choose the wrong words.
  • Add distracting tangents.
  • Repeat information.

But since they are aware of their mistakes and disciplined, they produce more sophisticated content than writers who don’t rigorously examine their own work.

Here are three practices that strengthen your self-editing skills.

1. Form your structure

Readers quickly navigate away from articles that don’t flow smoothly.

However, your first draft is almost certainly going to be a mess that no one other than you will understand.

To tackle this obstacle, assign yourself deadlines for each phase of your writing process.

Plan time to:

  • Explore your ideas.
  • Shape them into a presentation.
  • Fine-tune your message until a reader can effortlessly follow along.

And when you think your final draft is ready to publish, review it one more time. The “secret sauce” I reveal at the end of this post helps ensure you clearly guide your reader through your content.

2. Encourage a transformation

What will a reader get out of your writing? How will they think or feel differently?

Once you’ve established a solid structure, add details that enrich your writing voice and remove the parts that don’t serve your readers.

Your writing has to be personal, but not self-indulgent.

As you review each sentence, ask yourself:

“Does this text contribute to the transformation my reader wants?”

You’ll establish a connection with your reader faster when you succinctly make your point in a believable way that inspires action.

3. Value accuracy

Content managers and editors want to make writers look great. They’re less enthused about correcting sloppiness.

When they find factual errors, inconsistencies, and excessive typos, they wish the writer took the time to review their final draft as if it would be published without any further editing.

Use this simple checklist to spot and correct five of the most preventable content mistakes.

  1. Names: Google the names of people, places, products, and companies to verify they are spelled correctly.
  2. Days/Dates/Years: Every day of the week should correspond to the correct date and year.
  3. Times: Start times of events should be double-checked.
  4. Hyperlinks: Any hyperlinks should go to the intended web pages that enhance your content.
  5. Templates: If you use a template, don’t leave any sections blank or republish outdated information.

The secret sauce

Proofreading is typically an undervalued (and half-assed) part of the writing process.

It doesn’t feel fun or creative, so it’s treated like an afterthought.

But it’s a mandatory step for self-sufficient writers.

My favorite way to catch mistakes in everything I write and edit is to proofread from the end of a document to the beginning. You can learn how to implement that technique here.

Be the artist who treats their craft with the utmost thought and care. It leads to better relationships and more opportunities for creative work.

Professional writers know that attention to detail is never a waste of time.

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Don’t Just Write Pastor Books, Write Serious Books

When most pastors write books, you can bet they’re compiled from sermon notes and manuscripts. Preach a series on fear, and they end up with a book on the subject. Same with marriage, prophecy, grace, epic Bible stories – whatever. I don’t discourage that, but don’t think for a minute that’s a serious book.

Writing is different than speaking, and editing sermon notes into a readable manuscript and then calling it a “book” isn’t very impressive. If you’re a pastor or ministry leader, here’s what I recommend:

1) Go ahead and do these books I call “pastor books.”  After all, content should be maximized, and when you preach, that should be available  online, through radio and TV, podcasts, and other places – including book form.  But understand where these books line up on the food chain. These are books that will mostly help your congregation and other members of your social media or broadcast tribe. These books can often be good, but rarely make a big impact.

2) Next, focus more on your life’s work, or what I call your “One Big Thing.”  Every 3-5 years, create a book that you pour your life into. Do the deep research, interview expert sources, and do everything you can to make it significant. Sit down and actually write it – don’t just preach it. That kind of book deserves serious planning, a real publisher, marketing campaign, and possibly an agent. It should be something you’re incredibly proud of and will stand the test of time.

Pastor books are good for teaching, as fundraising premiums, or product offers through your media platforms.

Serious books change people’s lives. But you’ll never write one if you think transcribing a sermon magically becomes a book.

Shared from Phil Cooke

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5 Reasons Why Pastors Should Consider Writing a Book

Writing isn’t a desire or skill I was born with.

You see, I’m dyslexic and re-learned how to properly read when I was 22-years-old. The idea of being a pastor, author, and publisher was something I’d never dreamed of doing.

But over the years, I noticed a gradual change in my life and interests. I discovered a passion for reading, which led the way to a passion for writing. I found myself looking forward to writing papers for graduate school and excited to research and write my sermons.

I didn’t notice these changes at first. It wasn’t until some years had passed by that I realized I enjoyed reading and writing as much as I did.

But there are five fundamental things that set serious writers apart from the rest.

I started making opportunities to write, received positive feedback, and was inspired to push through my challenges after hearing from people that my writing encouraged them.

Since becoming a pastor, I’ve discovered many reasons why I should pursue my interest in writing and write a book. If you’re a pastor and you’re thinking about writing a book, here are five reasons why I believe you should consider doing so.

1. Calling

I don’t consider myself the best writer. Far from it. But I do consider myself called to write.

Writing is a legitimate extension of pastoral ministry. In the words of Tim Keller, “It is part of the ministry of the Word.”

If you desire to write, then write. But remember this: Writing well takes time. So, if you believe you are called to write, prayerfully consider if you have the bandwidth in your life and ministry to pursue your passion as a writer. There are seasons in my life where I need to put my writing on pause in order to focus on other important things.


As a ministry of the Word, writing is a great medium to serve others within your church and beyond. Writing is a great complement to your preaching. It’s a way to reinforce your message, add additional insight, and better resonate with people who best learn through reading.

If you’re not ready to write a book, consider writing a newsletter for your church, starting a blog, or expanding your thoughts via social media.


The church I pastor gives a free copy of my book to every visitor. This isn’t a ploy of self-promotion, but an opportunity to help those who are visiting to connect with the guy on stage. It adds value to those who are attending by letting them know we understand everyone has a story, and the way Jesus influences our story is worthy of sharing.

I’ve had many people who joined our church tell me that after reading my book they felt like they knew me. In a church who longs to be relationally connected with Jesus and one another, I would say this is a win!

4. Opportunity

Writing and publishing a book has afforded me, and the leaders in my church, the opportunity to talk about Jesus with people who may typically hesitate to discuss spiritual matters with a pastor. It has also provided us an opportunity to encourage people to tell their story without fear of judgment or retribution.

For our people to feel comfortable enough to share their story, we have to be comfortable enough to communicate ours, and we must do so in a way that is scalable as our church grows.

5. Legacy

Capturing how the Lord has influenced your life in the form of a book creates a lasting legacy of the example of His grace. Not only does it build connectivity locally and increase the opportunity for ministry, but such a book allows you to point to your Savior long after you’re gone.

Some leaders have messages they want to share other than their testimony, which I think is great! These messages still display the glory and redemptive quality of God in human lives.

As a pastor and publisher, I love to guide fellow pastors to realize they have a message deep within them. Not only that, but the act of writing and publishing that message will lead to deeper connectivity, opportunity, and legacy in their lives.

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5 Things Only Serious Writers Do

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?

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21 Harsh But Eye-Opening Writing Tips From Great Authors

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.

1. The first draft of everything is shit. -Ernest Hemingway
2. Never use jargon words like reconceptualize, demassification, attitudinally, judgmentally. They are hallmarks of a pretentious ass. -David Ogilvy
3. If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy. – Dorothy Parker
4. Notice how many of the Olympic athletes effusively thanked their mothers for their success? “She drove me to my practice at four in the morning,” etc. Writing is not figure skating or skiing. Your mother will not make you a writer. My advice to any young person who wants to write is: leave home. -Paul Theroux
5. I would advise anyone who aspires to a writing career that before developing his talent he would be wise to develop a thick hide. — Harper Lee
6. You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club. ― Jack London
7. Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand. — George Orwell
8. There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are. ― W. Somerset Maugham
9. If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time — or the tools — to write. Simple as that. – Stephen King
10. Remember: when people tell you something’s wrong or doesn’t work for them, they are almost always right. When they tell you exactly what they think is wrong and how to fix it, they are almost always wrong. – Neil Gaiman
11. Imagine that you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. – Anne Enright
12. If writing seems hard, it’s because it is hard. It’s one of the hardest things people do. – William Zinsser
13. Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college. – Kurt Vonnegut
14. Prose is architecture, not interior decoration. – Ernest Hemingway
15. Write drunk, edit sober. – Ernest Hemingway
16. Get through a draft as quickly as possible. Hard to know the shape of the thing until you have a draft. Literally, when I wrote the last page of my first draft of Lincoln’s Melancholy I thought, Oh, shit, now I get the shape of this. But I had wasted years, literally years, writing and re-writing the first third to first half. The old writer’s rule applies: Have the courage to write badly. – Joshua Wolf Shenk
17. Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. – Mark Twain
18. Start telling the stories that only you can tell, because there’ll always be better writers than you and there’ll always be smarter writers than you. There will always be people who are much better at doing this or doing that — but you are the only you. ― Neil Gaiman
19. Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative. – Oscar Wilde
20. You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you. ― Ray Bradbury
21. Don’t take anyone’s writing advice too seriously. – Lev Grossman
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The Importance of a Private Writing Habit

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? 


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