Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Power of Togetherness

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” What am I doing here?”

“What role do I play in this group?”

“Do I even belong here?”

I would have never ventured into a writer’s critique group alone, but by a friend’s invitation, I attended my first group meeting, notebook, pen and ROUGH first chapter in hand. I pictured a smoke filled room filled with intellectuals, puffing on pipes and thumbing through their Nobel Prize winning works. I expected to take copious notes, soaking in whatever information I could from the writing veterans leading the group. I also expected I had nothing of value to offer a group like that; after all, who was I? As we went around the room, people introduced themselves and shared their current writing projects. As I listened, I leaned one important  thing that night: they were just like me! Mostly everyone had never been published and had begun writing their first projects, equally unsure of their place in the writing field. I quickly realized that whether it was a word of encouragement of the strength of a writing piece, or a question to challenge the writer to think further, I did have something to offer.  I walked away from the meeting encouraged that maybe, just maybe God had carved a special place for me in the writing world, with a message and style just for me.

I recently attended a second critique group for the first time. This time, I strolled with confidence into the room and took my seat, secure in the realization that I belonged there and proud of my accomplishments since that first group meeting. I have grown so much in my writing skills, both stylistically and contextually that I feel I can give intelligent and honest feedback to those around me. Although I have much more to learn, I’m proud to say that I am a better writer today than I was two short years ago. I achieved some  of that growth on my own by engaging in the practice of writing and editing on a regular basis. But, I know that  I would not have been as motivated  to achieve my goals if I didn’t have a group of individuals  moving in that same direction.

In my post  ” Run the race with Perseverance,” I cited Hebrews 12:1-2 which says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.” I mentioned that my main goal in writing is not to be published or to be the best writer that ever lived, but merely live in obedience to the call God has placed in my life. What is equally as striking about this verse is not only am I supposed to throw off “all that hinders” and run my race, but to do so in the presence of  “a great cloud of witnesses.” If it were not for the group of people God had (or has) placed in my life to witness me running the race, I’m not as motivated to run the race marked out for me.  I’m so thankful for all of the people God has placed in my life to help me in my writing journey. The accountability I receive helps me moving forward towards the finish line so i can get to my ultimate goal: Jesus.

The Power of Mentorship

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When I began my writing journey two years ago, I knew nothing about how to survive in the writing world, I was a fledgling author, desperate to find a “mother bird” who would willingly care for me until it was time to give me a gentle nudge out of the nest. When God called me to become a writer, I had no idea he had already prepared in advance for that writing “mother” to come along.  My mentor came in the form of my children’s preschool teacher. We quickly became friends and our writing relationship began. As we met together, I shared my struggles and she shared hers. Through those meetings, she shared all she knew about writing through resources, previous experience and the advice of other seasoned writers. We bonded together through shared goals, vision and prayer. She is not only my mentor who is instrumental in helping me become who I am today, but through our interactions together, I am proud to call her my friend.

As a writer, it is imperative that I enlist the help of others in achieving my writing goals. Those people may play different roles: a critique group might help deliver honest feedback, an editor can help point me in a positive direction and  a seasoned writer in the business may provide the contacts necessary to get my manuscript in front of a publishing company looking for a work like mine. However, a mentor may  also play an important role in my writing goals. A writing mentor teaches me things  about the business that I may not know before. They can help refine my skills, point out consistent flaws in content and grammar.  A mentor challenges, inspires and encourages me to be the best writer you can be.

Reader, you may find locating  a critique group  difficult  due to geographic location, daily commitments and time constraints. But, a mentor may prove just as integral in your growth as it was in mine.  As Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 says,

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”

Is there someone in your life who can mentor you as a writer to help you become the best writer you can be?

Don’t forget to Stretch!

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As I stated in my last post, I chose to begin running again after a long hiatus. I know it takes consistent and diligent effort on my part in order to achieve my goal and run my race with perseverance. However, in order to keep my body running at optimal levels, I need to stretch my muscles before and after my workout. I tend to skip  that part because I eagerly desire to complete the task I have set for myself. Stretching provides benefits to me both physically and mentally. On a physical level, it prepares my muscles for the rigorous training that is ahead. It also aids in the re-cooperation process I will undergo after my workout. On a mental level, it forces me to relax and focus my mind on one task. As I stretch, I concentrate and focus my breathing, the in and outtake of life giving air my body requires. If I remember to stretch, my body repairs the damage due to ripping much more quickly. if I forget, I remember quickly the moment I try to get out of bed.

In the same way, writers need to “stretch” and  prepare their minds and bodies for the rigors of putting pen to paper. This may mean different things to different people. For some this may mean engaging in research to ensure they present their audience with the most factual and accurate information on their chosen topic. For others, it may mean digging deep and revisiting painful personal experiences so they can offer hope to others struggling with the same situation or circumstance. Still others might need to read their competition so they can approach their subject matter with a fresh pair of eyes. If writers remember to “stretch” before they begin writing, their minds, and ultiimately their writing projects will thank them.

In what areas do you need to “stretch”yourself before you begin your next writing project?

Running the Race with Perseverance

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As a way to de-stress and raise my metabolism, I chose to return to a hobby that I have neglected over the past few months: running. (I use this term loosely, because I think I saw a snail pass me on my last run).  I can’t run too far because my stamina and breathing are not at a level that allow me to sustain an elevated heart rate for a long period of time. But, I’m getting there. Little by little, my body is building up muscle strength and my lungs are becoming stronger than they were just a few short weeks ago. If I’m diligent and consistent in my practice of running, I may get to live out a dream that I have had for many years: to run a 5 k. The biggest mistake I can make, though is if I allow those doubtful thoughts creep in. Thoughts like:

I’m just fooling myself, I’ll never make it to my goal.

I don’t have what it takes to get to where I want to go.

There are many other people who can run faster or longer than me, so if I enter a 5 k, everyone will pass me by. 

My goal is just too unachievable. 

It is the same in my writing life. I may have dreams of publication, but if I allow those self- deprecating thoughts to reign in my life, I’ll never get to where I want to go. The biggest mistake I can make is if i stop writing and stop believing that what I have to say to the world doesn’t matter.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says ” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. ”

God never said I need to be the fastest, or best at what I do. All he asked me to do is get to the end and fix my eyes on the prize (Jesus), and He’ll take care of the rest.

So,I keep running (and writing).  Because I’m only asked to run the race God made for me and to run it with perseverance.

All I learned about writing I learned from Rocky Balboa

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In the words of Rocky Balboa, “The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.” Writers have a tough job, digging deep and pulling out the deepest parts of their hearts and minds to dare to make public their deepest struggles and problems. They bare their souls and allow people into their lives in the deepest m ost intimate way. If you are a writer, I’m sure at times you have felt like throwing in the towel, unsure you can move your writing forward in a positive direction and meet that ultimate goal. Yet, Rocky proves that good writers don’t stop writing even when the goal seems out of reach. Here are some tips for writers I found as I watched him triumph over his many challenges as he struggled to achieve his boxing goals.

1) Writers choose a good support system: Rocky’s trainer Mickey supported him throughout his entire boxing career. Mickey not only told him what he needed to hear in order to reach his full potential, but balanced his tough love with care and concern. He had Rocky’s best interest in mind both in and out of the ring.. Mickey said “When I leave you, you’ll not only know how to fight, but you’ll know how to take care of yourself  outside of the ring, too.” All writers need more than just “yes men”  to help them along their writing journey. Writers need to take advice from those that challenge them to think outside the box and not those who merely affirm them.

 

2) Writers have a clear vision of where they are headed: Mickey told Rocky “You see yourself doin’ right and you do right.” He helped Rocky see the ultimate goal and helped him take steps to achieve it. Writers have a clear vision for their writing and set daily, weekly and monthly goals in order to reach them.

 

3) Writers never forget where they come from: Even when he loses his fortune due to bad investments, Rocky doesn’t let it get the best of him. He instead returns to train in the same boxing ring in which his career originated. Writers do not allow the temptations of fame and fortune to derail from their original goal or purpose. They push their own egos aside and write for the love of writing not for the fame publication provide.

 

4) Writers are not afraid to admit their mistakes: As all of us do from time to time, Rocky trusted in the wrong people. The same financial advisors he thought would put his best interests first wound up stabbing him in the back. Even the best wordsmiths have received a rejection letter   or two. Instead of wallowing in their failures, however, good writers pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and ask, “Where do I go from here?”

 

5) Writers don’t quit when the going gets tough: As Rocky’s son struggles to make a name for himself in the real world, Rocky tells him, “It’s not about how hard you get hit, but its how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much you can take and move forward. That’s how winning gets done.” Writers know success only comes when you keep moving forward towards their writing goals even in the face of great hardship and suffering.

 

So, the next time you think you don’t have what it takes to be a writer, strap on some boxing gloves, get in the ring and remember, “It’s not how hard you get hit, but its how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. That’s how winning gets done.”

Are you Second?

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I came across this video and thought how much it applies not only to life, but also in the field of writing. Alex Kendrick, producer and writer of four movies, including the newly released movie Courageous, discusses his personal journey with the Lord as He was creating these films.  I want to challenge you  that as you watch this video, please take a moment and examine your heart and answer the questions God posed to Kendrick. If you dare to put pen to paper, these questions are worth answering.

Alex Kendrick – I Am Second.

Just Do Something!

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Erwin Mcmanus, pastor of Mosaic Church in California and author of several books on living our your purpose said “If its between the pages of the bible, it is on God’s heart. Don’t wait and pray, ‘If it is the Lord’s will.’ We cannot thwart God’s sovereignty. Just do something.” In my last post, I talked a little about finding your “one thing”, the passion, desire, and message that you most want to communicate with the world. For some, this may be easier said than done. As a Christian writer, I struggle with the tension between what I want to write, and what the Lord wants me to write. Sometimes I ask myself questions like:

“Is this what the Lord wants me to write about?”

” Is this His calling for me?”

” Would the Lord be pleased with my idea or topic?”

Perhaps you have never struggled with these questions, but for me, it sometimes stands in the way of me enjoying the beauty of the creative process. I’m constantly searching my heart for God’s purpose as I labor over my words,  and when I hear nothing, I assume I should wait until He feels like speaking. Yet, all writing is good writing as long as I do not contradict the basic tenets of Scripture.

Ephesians 4:29 is a good rule of thumb when embarking on a new writing endeavor: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

My words matter, whether they are written or spoken. They have the power to bring healing to a wounded heart, or turn another one towards repentance. Although I may never see the fruit or impact of our words on others, I may meet someone in the next life who was greatly touched in this one by them.

I cannot thwart God’s sovereignty. I know God’s will. But, I need to just do something.