A Blessing for Writers

I spent my weekend at the Breathe Christian Writers Conferenceone of my favorite things EVER. I had the immense privilege of writing a blessing and prayer for this community that has given me so much and I just wanted to share it with you in lieu of a blog post today. I think this is something that can bless all creatives out there.

Last year we closed the conference with a statement by James Scott Bell:
“We are the storytellers. We bring the light.”

This year has proven time and time again that we are still called to this. These are dark and divisive times where the light is more desperately needed than ever before.

Each of us was called to this noble task ahead. How do we know we are called? We have been saved. And we are also called to share what we have been graciously given.

To adapt the words of Alvin Plantinga for the sake of us writers:
“We who are Christians and propose to be writers must not rest content with being writers who happen, incidentally to be Christians; we must strive to be Christian writers. We must therefore pursue our projects with integrity, independence, and Christian boldness.”

This is the charge I give to you, writers!

May we continue to encourage one another onward:

To create with integrity—knowing that to create costs, but that we have been called to create nonetheless.

To create with independence—knowing God has given us work that only we can do with the experiences and burdens he has bestowed to each of us.

But most of all to create with Christian boldness—to know that whether we write for an audience of believers or not, or even an audience of one, we have not been given a spirit of timidity, but one of courage.

We go out from this place to tell the truth in our stories, poems, songs, essays, scripts, letters, emails, even our ephemeral social media musings. We go out to invite the world to sit at the feet of our God and listen.

All great liturgies end with a sending, so may I pray with you to send you out?

 

Lord,

I thank you for this gathering where we may join together and affirm the gifts and words you have given to us. You have placed each and every person in these seats with great purpose and I thank you for the call you have placed on these lives.

May these souls leave here encouraged, connected to one another and even more deeply connected with you.

As we journey from here, do not let us shy away from the words you have given us to write, but instead let us push past resistance and sit down to our desks, our notepads, our computers and let us write. Let us write with the boldness you have granted each of us. Let us remember that courage follows obedience and not the other way around.

May the fruit of our worship and our writing be that which gathers, unites, and blesses.

Let us be a body that encourages one another when the truth seems too heavy, when the audience seems non-existent, when the deadline looms too quickly, when the enemy shouts too loudly, and when the words seem too few. Let us build one another up, pushing one another toward you—the giver of words, author of our lives and creator of the ultimate story.

We write because you write. We create because you create. We tell because you have saved.

Protect us as we leave this place. Give our words a place to land. Give our hearts a glimpse of home.

We thank you again, Father.

In your name,

Amen

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Platform is part of the process

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I love working with writers. Whether it’s during the process of plotting or even post publication, I love seeing how different authors minds work. I love the behind the scenes glimpses I get of those around me.

In the midst of the behind the scenes moments, a lot of talk about a writer’s platform comes up. (Probably because I am both a writer and a marketer…I doubt many writers feel the need to bring up their platform in random small talk scenarios…)

Most of the published writers I know are not too thrilled that they also have to do their own marketing. Confessing what I do for a living to a published writer usually starts a litany of complaints or confused questions.

And I get it, trust me I do. It can be really overwhelming to think about having to keep up a website and a blog and a Facebook page and an Instagram and a Snapchat and and and. It can be a lot.

Except that for a writer, platform building isn’t marketing. It’s storytelling. It is, in fact, part of the writing process.

Think about it this way: What good is telling a story that no one is listening to? What good is telling it if no one even knows you’re telling it?

Building your platform is telling the story of your story. And you get to tell it to those who care about you. You are not just shouting out unto the void, you’re telling your friends and family about it. And then they will tell their friends and family and your circle of influence begins to grow. You are telling a story that catches on.

Publishers only have so much influence when it comes to marketing a book. A book may be critically acclaimed, but that doesn’t mean it is read by the general public. Your personal connections—your friends, family, and co-workers—make a huge difference.

The leg work an author is expected to do in building their platform and marketing their book does not have to be extensive. Choose two or three things you can do well and begin to unpack your story—both the one you’re writing and the one you’re living. Those are the stories your circle of influence wants to hear.

I’ve Got a Crush

Confession time:

I’ve had my eyes on a man for a while.

He’s not exactly my type…if I had a type.  Everyone I know has an opinion about him and not all of them are flattering. And I can understand that. He was kind of a scoundrel.

But there’s something in his brashness that speaks to me; fills in what I’m not, you know? He was an adventurer and trouble. The capital T kind. But he was also an artist.

Some would disagree, but I think he understood something about dealing with words that I want to grasp.

So yeah, I have a thing for Ernest Hemingway.

Seriously. The man was a fox.

Don’t judge. Not all of us are Dickens girls. Plus Hemingway is way better on the eyes.

If you’re a nerdy writer, I’m sure you have your own literary crush. Don’t pretend you don’t. There is that person who’s style differs from yours, or you aspire to be them, or their stories just do it for you. Ernest Hemingway is mine.

I read Ernest’s quotes often. (And yes, I call him Ernest because I like to pretend we’re on a first name basis…) Here are some of the gems I’ve treasured:

As a writer, you should not judge, you should understand.

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.

The first draft of anything is shit.

The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.

Live the full life of the mind, exhilarated by new ideas, intoxicated by the Romance of the unusual. 

When I’m not sure how to make words, I turn to Ernest.

Unlike me, Ernest didn’t dance around a hard scene. He just put it out there. I’m sure he, like any of us, struggled with getting what was put down right, but he didn’t disguise his troubled spots with flowery prose. He didn’t even know what flowery was.

No, he wrestled until what he wanted to say was simple, straightforward. There for the reader to figure out.

When I get stuck, I look to a sketch I keep at my desk made for me by a friend. (Inspired by my tendency to say “Hemingway was a fox,” she drew Ernest’s face on a fox’s body.) I let Fox Hemingway give me a stern look in the eyes.

My job is to tell my story honestly. And I’ve got his blessing for it to be shitty. But I need to put it down because if I don’t, then I’ve got nothing to work with.
And no, my style is not his style, Nor do I want it to be.
But Ernest knew what he was doing. And he’s taught me a bit on how to make the words.
It’s not dancing the night away in Havana with him, but it’s something and I’m a better artist for it.
Who’s your literary crush? Any writers in your world that have helped make you better from beyond the grave?
I’d love to hear about your influences!

When the Going Gets Tough

For the past week, working on my novel has brought a sensation similar to extensive dental work. My 500 word goal, once easy to surpass, has become difficult to come close to.

I stayed up late the other night, just trying to force a few words down, but it was such a struggle. I was exhausted after a hundred words or so. And then something occurred to me that hasn’t yet in the course of writing this novel:

Why don’t I just give up?

What scared me most about the question was not that I asked it, but that it made sense.

Things have gotten hard. Life has gotten busy. My room has become a mess.

I’ve let so many things distract me, fill my time, and take my energy that I have not given myself any space to be creative.

It’s draining.

I have filled my time with good things, things that need to be done. But am I making time to do the work I was called to do?

Probably not.

For me, what does this mean? It means I need to be more intentional about how I spend my time. Working part-time from home, I will have to have set hours for work and set hours for writing, and I can’t take from one to give to the other. I will have to set aside moments for house work while still guarding those moments for creativity.

I also need to stop suppressing creative urges just because they are not convenient. For whatever reason, I have stopped carrying around my beloved notebook and I’m seeing how my creativity is suffering because of it. I am not providing a way to capture my ideas. That’s not fair to my work or my sanity.

So no, I am not giving up. I have made it this far and have too many cheerleaders willing to help me along. I can’t ignore either of those things. This novel will get written, but I need to make that a possibility.

Some re-prioritizing is in order.

What about you? When it gets hard to complete something that you’re passionate about, how do you push onward? I’d love to hear so please comment!

xo,
          –Lex

Proof-Reading: A Public Apology

So Monday’s post was… alright.

I wrote it and felt pretty good about it. At least the content. And then Monday at noon rolled around and I realized I forgot to proof-read.

“It’ll be fine,” I thought.

Lies. It was not fine. Between redundancy, some jumbled thoughts, and, frankly, some crappy craft, I find myself embarrassed when I read it back later that night. That is not the kind of quality I want to bring to you.

So after thinking over it, I would first like to apologize, and then talk about the modern miracle that is proof-reading! So folks, I’m sorry I gave you some unclean reading. (Which will be fixed right after I complete AND proof-read this post.)

Now, proof-reading:

It’s not brain science, but it’s not something I get excited to do. Just once, I want what I write to be perfect. No questions, no qualms. Just perfect. But it doesn’t work that way.

But I’m lazy. I wrote the gosh-darn thing! Why do I want to read it? Well, I thought over it and this is what I came up with.

I firmly believe that art is a way to serve my neighbor. If my work makes you happy, thoughtful, or inspired, I feel it has served it’s purpose. I have been able to provide you with a small bit of art for your journey. It is a gift.

So why would I give you a crappy gift? Why would I offer you something for your pleasure that was broken or incomplete? Art is a gift from the artist to their neighbor. It is an act of love that is supposed to echo the artist’s Creator through their created. I want that echo to be worthy, not only of my creator, but also of you.

Proof-reading is an act of love for our readers. It’s not glamorous or flashy, but it makes a huge difference! (And are true, everyday acts of love really that glamorous or flashy?… perhaps this will be a topic for later!) It is an act of service to those who will take the time to sit down and read our work.

I want this blog to be a small piece of my art for you to enjoy. And I want that art to be crafted as an act of love. As such, I want to proof-read for you. I don’t want to lazily throw this together. This is a platform where I get to serve you on a weekly basis and I want to do so well.

So again, I am sorry for the quality of yesterday’s post.

Also, a lot of these thoughts are not my own, but are influenced by a few art philosophers. These thoughts in particular are inspired by Calvin Seerveld’s, Bearing Fresh Olive Leaves. (I want to do a series on this book in the future, so keep an eye out.)

Thank you for reading! I really appreciate the support I have received from all of you.

Keep enjoying the journey!

The Words that Killed the Critic

I’ve never been one for quotes in my writing space. Many writers live and die by the mantras surrounding their workspace, but I find it distracting for the most part. Except for one.

There are no good first drafts.
 

At first read, I guess this could be considered discouraging, but I find it really freeing. It takes out all the pressure.

No book is good the first time down. I can write whatever I must just to get it down on the page. I can deal with the mess later. Spelling and grammar? What are those? Plotting? Who needs it!

Perfectionism has been something I’ve struggled with for a while. It causes the little critic in the front of my brain to tell me all sorts of nasty things as I try to do what I’m called to.

“You aren’t making this interesting.”
“Who is going to read this?”
“What makes you think you have what it takes to write a story?”
“That’s a dumb idea. Why would you write that?”
“You suck.”
“Just stop.”

It’s enough to paralyze the best writer. And I’m just an amateur here!

When the self-talk gets to be too much, I find my mantra to be so reassuring. There are no good first drafts. Why should I try to write one when it’s not possible? What is possible is just a rough draft. Heavy on the rough. The critic has nothing on that.

When I am able to be freed from my self-critic, my creativity is able to roam free and my writing reaches places I never would have had I listened to the perfectionist in my brain. My characters can be who they are and the plot flows freely.

What encourages you in your writing? What keeps the critic at bay and the creativity in open pastures? I’d love to hear!

xo,
           – Lex