Don’t use your introversion as an excuse.
Yes, you may prefer to hide out in your creative cave, dreading learning to network and talk to people you don’t know. If you get out and starting practicing now, then your path will be that much smoother.
Start by joining the writers groups and getting to know others in the community.
It may be terrifying at first but it will get easier, and you’ll be surprised at how much fun you’ll have, the friends you’ll make.Debbie Ohi, children’s author (source)
by Lisa A. Crayton
That two-word phrase has tanked many Christian writers’ hopes of publishing. While we wait for one day—a day that does not exist on any calendar—we languish in dreams deferred and wallow in regret because oneday we did not take to heart Ecclesiastes 3:1 and submit work for publication or query a dream market.
That famous verse speaks of beginnings and endings. It often reminds me of my first forays into freelance writing. I had quit my corporate job, acting on what I believed was God’s instruction to become “a Christian writer.”
I did not fully understand what that meant. I did know it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and pursuing writing that draws readers into closer relationship with Jesus Christ. It also meant writing for publication, a process that takes words from my heart—and, sometimes, my journals—and placing them before editors who can bring them before audiences small and large.
I failed miserably in those early days, but I knew that on some Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, if I kept perfecting my craft, querying, and submitting my work for publication, I would realize my dream of being a Christian writer. I was right!
Writing is only one aspect of yielding our words for God’s use. Publishing is the other. One of the greatest barriers to publishing is the reluctance that prevents us from seeing beyond our creativity and marketing efforts to the end results: lives changed.
Reluctance almost made me miss the opportunity to strengthen the faith of a childhood friend about a decade ago. I was a scheduled member of the faculty of an out-of-state Christian writers’ conference. As the Saturday before the event neared, I kept dithering about my attendance and toyed with cancelling my appearance, but God kept reminding me of Ecclesiastes 3:1. There’s a time for everything. It was time to fly.
Struggling with indecision fueled by reluctance I went to church on Sunday. My pastor’s sermon was “Time to Fly.” When he announced the title, I chuckled, knowing God was secretly sending me a message to stick with my plans.
I flew out the next day. I soon realized God had another purpose for my visit to California. Because of the time zones, I had to stay an extra night after the event. That evening I met with first-ever best friend and her sister. We had a delightful time reconnecting after more than two decades of not seeing each other. For years we had promised to one day visit each other but never did.
Before they left my hotel room in the wee hours of the morning, I prayed for them, asking God to bless them. A short time later, my friend shared she had recommitted her life to Christ thanks, in part, to my visit. Speaking with her, I understood Ecclesiastes 3:1 more than ever before. I’d wanted to stay home, but I had to fly so that another soul could reconnect with God.
One day does not exist. For Christian writers to achieve our goals—and God’s ultimate plans for our writing—we must overcome self-placed barriers to publication. Sure, there’s a worldwide pandemic. Sure, it’s hard to focus because of local, national, and international happenings. Yet, perhaps more than ever, God is saying, “It’s time to fly.”
It’s time to toss aside one day thinking and commit to writing, and releasing our work on a given Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. Only then can we fully realize God’s greater plans for our creativity. Only then can potential readers receive much-needed encouragement, hope, and peace during and after the pandemic.
Lisa A. Crayton is an editor, award-winning freelance writer and multi-published author, including 15 nonfiction books for kids/teens. She loves helping writers, and challenging them to achieve their goals and dreams! Connect with her on Facebook.
Run fast, stand still. This, the lesson from lizards. For all writers. . . What can we writers learn from lizards, lift from birds? In quickness is truth. The faster you blurt, the more swiftly you write, the more honest you are. In hesitation is thought. In delay comes the effort for a style, instead of leaping upon truth which is the only style worth deadfalling or tiger-trapping.Ray Bradbury (from “Run Fast, Stand Still, or, the Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts from Old Minds,” in Zen in the Art of Writing)
by Rachel Dawn Hayes, guest contributor
I’ve had three seasons of freelancing during my career—the first was in 2007. That’s when I thought I would soon relocate to a cabin, drive a Grand Wagoneer, wear oversized sweaters, and quickly endear myself to the motley cast of characters inhabiting my mountain town. Instead, I continued living in my parents’ house and barely paid my bills. I had a sweet VW Jetta, though.
Fast forward to 2015. In preparation for starting our family, my husband and I made the decision for me to begin working for myself so I could stay home with our children. (Other mothers/parents, hold your laughter, please.)
It went so well the second time around. I tapped into the network I’d built over my nine-year career in communications—a network that included editors, agency folk, and business owners—and, amazingly, built a profitable business. The difference between 2015 and 2007? EXPERIENCE—experience that bred confidence and connections.
At the end of my first year, my husband and I took a celebratory trip to Ireland—paid for out of my earnings. I got pregnant a few months after that and somehow met my deadlines while spending enormous chunks of time with my head in the toilet or curled up on the couch clutching a box of saltines. My daughter was born in December 2016. She was two weeks early, which meant I filed my final story of the year in the middle of the night while leaking amniotic fluid and forwarded revisions from a source to my editor the next day from my hospital bed. I took a glorious three months of maternity leave and then jumped back into writing in the spring of 2017. “Jumped” is a generous term, though. My return to working while juggling the care of a three-month-old infant was more like the awkward stumbling of a newborn fawn.
Some days it went well, and others, not so much. To my surprise, Lily did not consult my Outlook calendar when planning her nap schedule. She woke up early and upset one afternoon ahead of a phone interview with a source who had proven to be elusive—I wasn’t rescheduling. I placed Lily in her battery-operated bouncer, put in my earbuds, and opened a new document on my laptop for notes. I switched on the bouncer and nothing happened. Its batteries were toast. Then my phone rang—that elusive source was punctual! I took a deep breath, put my computer on my lap, started bouncing Lily with my foot, and answered the phone. Afterwards, I felt a sisterhood with my pioneering ancestors. I had accomplished the modern equivalent of rocking a cradle while darning socks or churning butter.
As Lily grew older and slept less, it was evident that our setup wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t get through story time at the library without thinking about my deadlines, and I couldn’t write or conduct phone interviews without worrying about Lily waking up too soon or remembering that I didn’t thaw meat for dinner. We’re going out, honey! I wasn’t doing either job well, in my opinion, and I wasn’t earning enough money to justify bringing in help. Thankfully, our family’s financial security was not dependent on my writing income and, after a few months of debate and struggle with myself, I decided to take my leave from freelancing and focus on my family.
I have now entered my third season of freelancing—writing for the purpose of building a platform to hopefully publish a book. I wrote my memoir last year while my daughter was at preschool two mornings a week. Since COVID and school closures, I now write at five in the morning. Our coffee budget reflects this. I am writing for free—something I had never done before because it was a cardinal rule of career writing that you “never write for free.” I don’t know who made that rule, but they weren’t trying to get a book published. The absence of invoices has been liberating, though. By nature of promoting my book I am writing about topics I’m passionate and enthusiastic about—there’s no way I’d be up at this hour if that weren’t so—and I am getting to share my story more than I tell the stories of others. Writing has always brought me joy, but in this particular phase it is feeding my soul in a new way. I crave it and choose “putting my butt in the chair” over reading, watching TV, or sleeping in.
I like this season best, even it means I go to bed with the chickens to make it happen.
Rachel Dawn Hayes is a mom, wife, writer, speaker, and Native Texan, who is passionate about sharing her story of pregnancy and fertility loss to encourage and edify other women. She has completed a memoir about her experiences and hopes to publish in 2021. Rachel is also an EPA associate member.
Serious writing is not something you merely do if or when you can find the time. It’s not just for Sunday afternoons, or the occasional evening, or a few hours a week when you can give it some attention. Make the time, and make lots of it. Tackle the craft daily and dedicate a generous portion of your existence to honing your skills. You’re only going to get out of it what you put into it, and serious writing requires a lot of investment.Chuck Sambuchino
(10 Tips for Writing, Writer’s Digest, August 2015)
by Joyce K. Ellis
During a rough patch in my personal life, I couldn’t write. I had deadlines but couldn’t focus. God seemed silent, and the Enemy filled the void with accusations. I felt disqualified, unworthy of my calling as a writer. Was it time to quit altogether?
Each night before bed, my husband reads to me from a devotional book, and at that time we were reading Chris Tiegreen’s Hearing God’s Voice. At one of my lowest points, the daily selection was written as though God Himself were speaking. Phrases and sentences burned into my soul:
You would be shocked if I told you how many people refuse to seek My voice because they feel disqualified…They don’t consider themselves worthy enough….
Don’t keep your distance from Me. I’ve gone to great lengths to bridge that distance and unite us as one. When you run from Me, hide from Me, or even just grow cold toward Me—whether through your guilt, shame, fear, or apathy—you are wasting a gift I have paid an enormous price to give you.”
I felt as though Tiegreen could peer into my soul at that very moment.
But imagine: That book had been published several years earlier. Considering how slowly the gears of publishing turn, Tiegreen undoubtedly submitted the manuscript at least nine months or a year prior to publication. And because the devotional book covers a whole year, who knows how long it took him to write the 365 devotionals–and arrange them so this one would fall precisely on April 15, right when I would need it? (Of course, he had no way of knowing.)
God’s voice. God’s comfort. God’s encouragement. God’s timing.
A prophet’s time travel, of sorts—projecting those words forward?
I’ve always shunned any possibility that I may have the spiritual gift of prophecy. I can’t tell people what will happen to them in the future like Daniel or Elijah or one of the other biblical prophets did. Besides, the consequences for erroneous prophecies were severe!
Then I learned a definition of a prophet as a “forthteller,” more than a foreteller. And a desire to “tell forth” to others what the Lord is teaching me has been in my spiritual DNA from my early years as a believer. I pondered the way Chris Tiegreen typed words on his computer that “projected forward” to my need years later. I thought about other times I had been helped by that kind of “time travel” from other authors. On the other hand, over the years I have prayed for God’s guidance as I write—that the words would meet the needs of readers. But I hadn’t fully understood their time-travel potential.
It all came full circle, however, when my book, Our Heart Psalms (twenty years in the making) came out at the height of the COVID pandemic, followed by street violence. In God’s time-travel plan, Our Heart Psalms seemed a book “for such a time as this.” There was a reason it had been rejected, rearranged, and rewritten so many times—and finally published in 2020.
A friend gave a copy to an elderly woman whose husband has advanced Alzheimer’s Disease. Quarantined with him, this woman has few interactions with other people. But some of the words, possibly written twenty years earlier, touched her heart, and the woman wept as God met her on those pages.
What if I had quit writing when I was at such a low point? What if Chris Tiegreen hadn’t written those words that encouraged me to keep listening to God? What if he hadn’t followed God’s direction to place them as the April 15 reading? What if we served a God who didn’t have perfect timing?
“Let’s not get tired of doing what is good [what God has called us to do],” Paul wrote. “At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up” (Gal. 6:9 NLT, brackets mine).
“As for God, His way is perfect” (Psalm 18:30 NIV).
 Chris Tiegreen, The One-Year Hearing His Voice Devotional (Carol’s Stream: Tyndale, 2014), 105.
“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.”Jane Yolen
by Ann-Margret Hovsepian
Writing is a craft and, like any other skill, we must learn it well and get better at it. Natural talent and creativity play a part, but if we want people to take our writing seriously and if we want to get published, we must also pursue excellence in our craft.
Note that excellence and perfection are not the same thing. They say (whoever “they” are) that perfect is the enemy of good. I agree. The burdensome drive to achieve perfection can prevent us from completing a task or project adequately well.
In many cases, doing a good job is all that is required of us, and is also acceptable because the completion of the task is more important than its quality. For example, if your daughter is running late for school and her hair is a mess, it makes more sense to pull it into a half-decent ponytail than to take the time to meticulously French braid it. If your boss needs the minutes of the last board meeting on his desk now, you may not want to choose that particular moment to make sure all the bullet points are perfectly lined up and that you aren’t missing any commas.
Genesis tells us that, for five days, God call His handiwork “good” but, when He created man and breathed life into him through his nostrils, He called it “very good.” What made the difference? Was it because humans are vastly superior to everything else God made? I believe it goes deeper than our mere physical form and function. The key distinction in the way God made Adam and Eve was this: He breathed life into them. He gave them not only bodies, but souls. Like God, in whose image we were created, we are spiritual beings.
I see this as a model for us to follow in whatever we do: our jobs, our ministries, our hobbies, our relationships. When we breathe God into the things we create and produce—when we do what we do with love and humility and generosity—we raise them from the level of “good” to “very good.” (Notice that God did not call His creation of man “perfect” but “very good.” Only He is perfect.)
The Bible gives us clues on how to pursue excellence:
- “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. . . Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters” (Colossians 3:17 and 23).
- “If anyone speaks, he should speak as one conveying the words of God. If anyone serves, he should serve with the strength God supplies, so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).
- “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Perfect may be the enemy of good, but very good is much better than good. This means I don’t have to kill myself trying to be the best but I am responsible for being my best. You and I have been entrusted with skills and talents we must be good stewards of.
When we breathe God into the things we create and produce—when we do what we do with love and humility and generosity—we raise them from the level of “good” to “very good.”Tweet
Your first duty to the reader is to make sense. Everything else—eloquence, beautiful images, catchy phrases, melodic and rhythmic language—comes later, if at all. I’m all for artistry, but it’s better to write something homely and clear than something lovely and unintelligible.Paticia T. O’Connor, Words Fail Me (Harcourt Brace, 1999)
by Randy Petersen
I have no words. For a writer, that’s a strange place to be. Maybe you’re feeling something similar.
This is no “writer’s block.” We know all about those cerebral deserts. Channel some bad Hemingway, laugh about it, and you can usually write your way out.
But there’s no laughing now. Just a deep sadness over injustice. Frustration that we have not changed things more. Despair over the human condition—fighting injustice with more injustice. Fear that I’ll write the wrong thing.
I cling to the belief that there is power in a word fitly spoken, or written. The pen should be mightier than the sword, shouldn’t it? But right now I’ve got nothing.
Except for you, my comrades in communication. Except for this.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with your God.
A prophet gathered all of God’s requirements into this triptych (Micah 6:8), and it matches the current crisis well. Let’s start with humility. If only everybody would think as I think, we wouldn’t have these problems! Oops. When we start directing traffic, we’ll get run over.
Mercy is a huge word it takes a lifetime to understand and even longer to practice. Let me suggest that it operates best on a small scale, in your personal relationships. How can we invest our lives in the people we know, people who are just as imperfect as we are?
And in this time we’re all being confronted with matters of justice. This quickly gets into societal structures and systemic issues. Are we, intentionally or not, abetting injustice? What can we do about that?
We writers will not change the world, except when we do. We can carry on the work we’ve always done—nudging hearts, shining the light on truth, suggesting redemptive scenarios people might not have imagined yet. We’re just wordsmiths, and yet language might be the lever that budges the planet into a different orbit.
Listen to the Holy Spirit’s whispers. Invest in relationships. Investigate injustice, even if you don’t like what you find. And keep writing.