The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug. **Mark Twain

Friday, June 26, 2009

Jerry B. Jenkins, Writing for the Soul

I hope you schedule reading time into your writing day. Good writers are also good readers.

One of the greatest values of reading other writers is the connection we make with their lives. Writers are lonely people. We quietly walk around the library doing research. We quietly look through books on sale at the bookstore. We quietly sit at our computers doing more research or trying to solve the next mystery so we can put it in our new book.

If we don't make connections with other writers we can become stale and lose the fire in our writing that touches the reader. I've been reading Jerry Jenkins book, Writing for the Soul. In the chapter, Keeping the Goal in Sight, he talks about being in New York in 2001 when the Twin Towers were attacked.

"Months later we visited Ground Zero, a hole too big to comprehend until it was brought into perspective by the sight of a cement truck at the bottom that looked like a toy.

I was struck that our job as writers is to provide that kind of perspective, touch points to make clear the enormity of the themes we examine. Though we may be writing fiction, if our focus is clear, we reveal reality in all its pain and joy. And as inspirational writers, we have a duty to do justice to a worldview that may bend but will never be crushed under the weight of hopelessness.

There is a place for the stark reality of the kind of writing that despairs of the seeing hopelessness of man's inhumanity to man. And while we must not flinch in the face of such a bleak worldview, our burden, our task, our privilege is to represent hope. That doesn't mean Pollyanna stories in which everyone lives happily ever after - at least this side of heaven. People still suffer. Innocents still die. But we are believers, and if we cannot crack the door to hope, we dare not call ourselves inspirational writers."

Wow! Jerry - how true. I encourage you to get his book. You can use the link in the sidebar.

God has called you to write,


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Watch out for the beetles!

Many years ago my dad preached a sermon about beetles. Not the kind from Britain, but the kind you find in the garden or boring into a tree. He shared all kinds of information about beetles. Mainly that they hide under the bark or somewhere in a stalk and destroy the plant from the inside out.

He encouraged his congregation, to not let the beetles chip away at our faith. In other words, it's easy to let all the "little" stuff in our lives slowly move us in a different direction. We may not even feel it or know it until we look back and realize that our lives have taken a different path.

Yesterday, I was traveling back from another state and decided to write down everything I do in a day and how much time it takes me to do it. Everything I listed was important. Everything I listed needs to be done. The shocker was that it takes about 7 hours and 30 minutes out of my day!

We all know how much "writing" can be done in that amount of time. I thought about all the articles and books and poems and children's stories I could have written over the last year if only I'd put some of those things on hold.

Friends are important but two hour lunches aren't. Laundry is important but perhaps I could cut the time in half if I used other methods. Good meals are an important time to catch up with family but maybe I should settle for the quick salad rather than using 2 hours of prep time for a family favorite.

In his book, Quit your Day Job, Jim Denny refers to our HOLY CALLING and discusses how we need to protect that calling and work toward our goals.

I encourage you to plan your writing day. Write down everything you do and determine if it's really important or if it's a beetle stripping you of precious writing time. If you and I are going to change the world with our words (and I believe we can) we need to schedule wisely and keep a sharp lookout for all the beetles that can destroy our goals.

God loves you and has called you to write,


Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Alienate more friends!

"I've always wanted to be a writer. I know I have a wonderful idea for a novel."

"Can I read it?"

"Oh, I haven't written anything, I just know I could. Maybe someday when I have more time."

"More time?"

"Yes, you know. When my children are grown and I don't have so much to do at church. Maybe when we have more money or my husband retires - yes, I think then I'll write a book."

Does that sound familiar? Haven't we all been tempted to put the computer away and concentrate more on our family and our friends. Why be in such a hurry to be a success? Why should I sit here day after day and work - alone? Especially when everyone is fussing at me because I'm missing out on this special day or that family function.

The fact is that any career means a choice must be made. If you decided to get a simple job at the local Chick-fil-A, choices would have to be made. There would be times when you would have to say...."Sorry, I have to work. I would love to be there but I can't get off."

Unfortunately for the lonely writer and his keyboard - many people don't feel like we have a "real" job. Most of our friends and families believe that fairies fly into our offices at night and correct that 80,000 word manuscript. And if it needs revisions, surely the editors will take care of all that. (Which is like saying the CEO of Wallmart will clean the toilets if the janitor needs a day off.)

I recently sent a "rant" off to a dear friend and writer about someone who just didn't get the fact that I had a real job. He was kidding of course, but I had to laugh at his response.

You ask how I handle extended family and friend's intrusions. I think what it boils down to is that all the people who can't or won't understand my situation as a writer are now so completely alienated that they NEVER call anymore. You just need to alienate more family members and friends and you'll have it made!

He was being funny of course - but what can you do to help others understand your work?

1. You can't convince them you have a real job if you don't feel it yourself. Make sure you have answered this question in your own mind. Do I want to be a full time writer? If the answer is yes then you will have to put in the hours to make it happen.

Just because you may not get a paycheck every week doesn't mean that you aren't investing in your business. Every time you spend the day writing, researching or are building your business just the same as if you put $$$ toward it.

2. Part of your contemplation should be understanding what you want from this new career. If you are in this for the money - Don't quit your day job! Most writers are some of the lowest paid people on the planet. But....if you want to be a writer because you feel "called" to the task and if you can't imagine a life without writing - it will be easier to accept the pitfalls that come along with the job.

3. Do you feel compelled to write? When you are in the mall and you see some event that sparks the creative juices, do you pull out a pen and scratch a few notes on the back of a bag? It may never become an article. You may always have that torn piece of bag stuffed in your drawer, but you knew you had to write it down. That's the first sign of being a "real" author. You have to write. You can't live without it.

4. Gather your immediate family and get them on board with your "calling". Explain what it means to you. Let them in on your goals and dreams. Ask them to help you reject the jabs of others. By doing this not only will you have help explaining to Aunt Martha why you can't attend her luncheon by the fish pond....but you will also have a team of people encouraging you and pushing you forward.

5. No one will ever believe this is a real job unless you do the work and submit it. You must think of this as a "job". Work toward that goal. Each of us has to work at the tempo that fits our own personal circumstances. Some of you can only work pieces here and there. Others may be able to put in part time work. And still others may be able to jump full time into the job. But none of us will be taken seriously until we send those manuscripts out. It's not being accepted that's important. It's being out there. It's being able to say...."I did it!"

Again, I urge anyone that wants to be a writer to get Jim Denney's book, "Quit your day job!" It is one of the most complete writer's guides to getting the job done that I've ever read. You can use the link in the sidebar to purchase this book. It's helped me through many agonizing questions.

So, don't be discouraged when friends criticize the fact that you aren't there. Smile and know that by alienating your friends you are one step closer to your goals.

God loves you and has called you to write,