Category Archives: Your Writers Group community

When You Finally Know Your Why – What Do You Do Next?

​”A great many Christian workers worship their work….There is no responsibility on you for the work; the only responsibility you have is to keep in living constant touch with God…” 
– Oswald Chambers,
My Utmost, April 23, “The Worship of the Work”

This was one of the fastest posts I ever wrote. Sometimes it comes out this fast because the thing that blocked it is suddenly removed. When I first wrote this, I’d just listened to about 30 book pitches at Mount Hermon, and given the opening talk the previous afternoon, a thought based on a blog post on “writing for one master.”

I always have an amazing time at the Mt. Hermon Christian writers conference. And much of the reason is that it’s always a thrill to connect with old and new writer friends. I’ve written about the essential value of writing friends a lot. But for a week every year over Palm Sunday, I get to receive from and retreat with a whole group of fellow frazzled faithful freaks all at once. And it is always such an amazing time.

If you were ever misunderstood in your life, or felt alone and unimportant to those around you, or if people  put you in a box, or you learned to protect yourself out of necessity, or spent years hoping someone would see you but secretly hoping they’d only see what you wanted them to see, and you’ve struggled to speak in your real voice…then you know what makes this conference so special. That’s the same stuff literally thousands of writers are coming to terms with and finding out they’re allowed to feel and reveal and then deal with so we can heal from it together, and finally become real together in a safe place of grace.

Now you want to come, and I would advise you do. Move heaven and earth to save up and make it happen because it’s not just about the books deals that happen there or even ultimately the professional craft that gets established, but the community of like-minded believers relating together–both sharing their stories and finding connection in deeply personal, universal identification with each other. 

Content, craft, and community are what every writer needs to learn to navigate, and all those things get unpacked, shaped, and embraced in the essential freedom of knowing there’s a big community waking up to God through pursuing the work alongside you.

The path of freedom for Christian writers is always found in seeking God through his always surprising process of inviting you toward the higher purpose, in wonderfully diverse unity together.

But as special as it is, this isn’t about the conference, or the great week I always have there, or even seeing and celebrating the amazing fruit of so many people’s life-investment come to greater fullness.

And the reason this post came so fast the first time is because I’ve finally seen it enough times to believe and know in my heart that God will use anything and everything to draw the world to Himself. That isn’t up to us. But also it is. We are given dominion and ownership over our small part, to cooperate in the work for His higher purposes.

Years have passed and some people leave and are lost to me. But many come back and my heart swells with pride and gratitude to see them still plugging away at this work for the higher purpose. They take what I and others have sown and use it to grow. And I see I’ve had a hand in some amazing stories all because God drew me to seek the joy of refining words for books, and loving the process and the people who pursue them.

Those people are my people, His people. They’re constantly taking their call and calling to others to be connectors in their circles and learning to look beyond the struggle and the pain to all the stories that point to His story endlessly reiterating in reflected refrains throughout time.

That story of what God is doing to unite us and draw all things to himself, it will never end.

My amazing “boost clinic” crew from 2018

So to all my old and new writer friends, know the dream is alive, and can never die. And wherever you are in the process, until we meet again…

Go light your world….

“The thing which is, but is not named, cannot be known. If you have no word for it, you can’t talk about it or think on it or consider it or meditate upon it…To name a thing (as art does) is to clothe it in visibility. To name a thing is to make it knowable.” 
Walter Wangerin, Beate Not the Poore Desk

Forever, for the Higher Purpose,

Mick

 

Freedom In Friendship

This may be one of the fastest blogs I’ve ever posted. I wouldn’t normally write this fast, but I’ve listened to about 30 book pitches today as faculty at Mount Hermon, and I’ve got worship to lead in the morning….

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I always have an amazing time here. And it’s always because of the new writer friends. I’ve posted about the essential value of writing friends before. But this week I got to share with the whole group all at once. And it has made it such an amazing time.

If you were misunderstood in your life, or ever felt alone and uninteresting to those around you. If people ever thought they knew you or put you in a box. If you reserved yourself out of habit, or spent years hoping someone would see you, not look down on you, not make you someone you’re not, or expect you to perform, change, lead, speak up, or set an example…then you know some of what makes a writer.

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Now imagine all those things being shared, accepted, and known. Imagine complete freedom to be unboxed together in a big community. And imagine if you got to lead the opening ceremonies to the week by talking about your favorite thing: the path of freedom for Christian writers.

You’d probably be having a pretty great week too.

This will be a short post because I’m exhausted and yet I’m not spent. I’ve reserved myself and been able to retreat to solitude this year with a private room–which is the absolute best thing in the world right now, hands down. I’m not spent because I’m not spending so much as investing. I will see this time bear fruit.

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And I know because I’ve seen it so many times. Years pass and some people leave forever. But the ones who come back? They swell my heart with such pride and gratitude. They’ll take what I’ve sown and use it to grow. And I’ll have had a hand in some amazing stories all because God made me to enjoy words and books and the people who make them.

Friends, you are those people. You are those people to me, and you are those people to others. So be those connectors in your circles today and let me know how it goes for you. I’m just amazed at how all the stories I’ve heard today can blend into one big story of what God is doing to unite us and draw all things to himself.

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And to all my new writer friends, the dream is alive. I can’t wait to see you again.

Go light your world….

For the Higher Purpose,

Mick

Stay In the Process

I received a reply email from an author.

“Looks like I have my work cut out for me,” she wrote.

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She’d been a client for several months and I’d sent my final edit laying out several things she’d need to do before and after sending it to the publisher.

Yes, you do have your work cut out, I wanted to say. Because I’ve invested some considerable time to cut it out for you.

Of course I didn’t say it. I like to pretend. I’m too self-controlled. Actually I’m too shy and insecure. But I felt it. And I felt entitled to say it because I’d given a lot. And the book was far better for it.

Was she even grateful?

Should I say something? 

Then I remembered how it’s always easy to look around at the problems in the world and see the things we’d like to change. But we can only do that if we’ve first allowed God to change us. And the fear and anger in our own hearts can keep us from ever realizing the thing that most needs to change–

Ourselves.

I have to keep saying it until I start believing it: there is only one way to change the world for the better with my truth. And it isn’t by seeking gratitude from clients.

The insight needed to see our truth and our stories requires deliberate self-discovery.  Without that, they won’t change anyone. They won’t have the key to how a story heals: demonstration.

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What I’m really after is not pointing out what others’ should do, but to see what I must do to finally overcome my barriers to telling my story, which means accepting my own fears and insecurities.

I wanted her gratitude because I love playing the hero.

It seems I need yet another revision.

“Who cannot give good counsel? ‘Tis cheap and costs them nothing.” – Robert Burton

Truth is, no one will care how much you know until they know how much you care. I seek to be served because my needs are what matter most when they’re all I can see.

Like everyone, I tend to feel so trapped and alone.

“One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone. Many of us are willing to extend a helping hand, but we’re very reluctant to reach out for help when we need it ourselves. It’s as if we’ve divided the world into ‘those who offer help’ and ‘those who need help.’ The truth is that we are both.” (Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection)

We don’t need more writers giving us answers to change the world. We need writers seeking our questions to change themselves.

And when they do, many others will be changed as well.

I say I want to help others. But what I really seem to want is their gratitude. Could reaching out for community help change the way I approach my work, my writing, my life?

The trick to all of this writing life is staying in the process. But that requires accepting help.

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I did write back to my author friend. I told her that wonderfully, yes, she DID have her work cut out now! And, I said, you’re welcome. (winky smile)

I said she might need help and encouragement along the way, to stay in her process and not run away when it got uncomfortable or exhausting. Because that’s what writing means.

And I thought how accepting a calling maybe always requires help. Maybe that’s part of the refining, to realize we’ve got to seek help and use our discernment to find it. Our source of strength is always that connection to the Inspirer, but don’t we also have to give up our stubborn independence and learn to ask and receive from the friends God’s provided?

I’ve needed to stop trying to go it alone.

The last thing I told her was that I’ll be praying for her continued stamina in the journey. And then I said I’d be here–I could always use the companionship myself.

If you’re on an interior journey, you need friends to help you stay in the process.

And always welcome your fellow travelers as friends. And simply stay in the process.

Keep seeking, my friends. You inspire me and so many more as you do…

M

Why You Need More Writer Friends

Last week, I wrote about my writer friends and how they have kept me going. I was blown away once again by this huge hidden resource of friends. And the emails and notes of affirmation following that post only proved it all the more.

I’m a lucky son of a preacher man.

"And then I said, 'Listen, Muse. You ain't too big for me to paddle!'"
“So I sent the agent my rejection of his rejection letter and I said, ‘Please don’t call. I’m too busy killing you off in my novel!'”

What I didn’t say is how incredibly life-giving it is to point my finger to the ones truly responsible for my successful career as an editor and “aspiring inspirational writer.” As a practice, nothing I’ve done has brought more confirmation that I’m where I need to be, despite the struggle.

Sure, it’s great to know I’m doing what I love. It’s exciting to get to help people while exercising my gifts and creating vulnerable, refined works of art. But what makes it truly the greatest experience I’ve had? That goes to knowing that all of these people, these unique and remarkable inspirers are friends of mine!

Think about it: the strongest bonds a creative person can create are those created with other creative people. And those who labor to share their experience honestly and humbly through artful stories are the most transparent and vulnerable creative folks in the world.

How sad so few people will ever know the kind of connection working on Christian books creates. It’s an unusual bond, transcending time and space, where you’ve shared your deepest pains, tears, and your secret ambitions, and sacrificing everything to invest yourself fully, patiently, and for the good of others.

Books bond people, but when all of this goes into them, it fuses and forges, tempering this friendship in the process. I’m not idealizing it–such bald honesty isn’t always serene. But you know your friends are true when time together instantly bonds you, but time apart also does nothing to diminish that connection.

Writer friends can help you escape fires!
Writer friends can help you escape fires!

Today, when we’re more connected but disconnected than ever, the friendships of Christian writers are all the more vital as oases of unconditional love and trust. And we need to be investing all the more.

We know powerful friendship can happen in the best churches, on the mission field, and as a soldier fighting an oppressive enemy together. It can happen on special projects among team members, when living through significant life events together or when facing terrifying situations and you’re stuck together in a hostage crisis for months on end. All these people tend to end up bonding.

But inspirational writers have experienced all these things together–and come out the other side.

We all know every harrowing curve of that cave.

Everybody needs someone who can understand and share our pain. But inspirational writers have a greater need to find something beautiful and life-giving in it, which lands them in a uniquely close and energizing select group.

And it’s undeniable: when you accept the call and the challenge to express your spiritual and emotional core in clear and unique language, you get adopted into an incredible family. Never mind if you haven’t published. And never mind if your book isn’t their cup of tea or you don’t understand proper etiquette or don’t “bathe regularly” (God bless you, Chris Farley).

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, May 14, 1994 (Gerry Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, May 14, 1994 (Gerry Goodstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

If you’ve faced the real battle in the dark cave, you’re in.

You’re family.

I’ve been the beneficiary of so much warm kindness and generous training by the people who’ve made me their focus, simply because they get what it’s like. They know how exhausting working on books is. They know the sideways glances from our original family members as we continue on, the serious financial straights, the long hours fighting for one! STINKING! WORD!

Can anyone else appreciate what this kind of understanding community is worth? I’m willing to bet for some people it’s meant the difference between a successful book and no book at all, between deep comfort and an ugly addiction to Jack & cokes and late night TV, and literally the difference between life and death.

For many, this fellowship of fools is their life-preserver.

I suppose it’s the stigma we worry about, this writer psychosis. But it’s real. And when you write for God, sometimes the people you think should understand (the good faith-filled people who honestly get God), they don’t get this writing thing at all.

“You know how when you have a really great idea and you want to give it to your main character but he just won’t take it, and he decides to thumb his nose at you and walk right out of the scene…?”

If my emotions were tacos, I would be so stuffed right now!
If my emotions were tacos, I would be so stuffed right now!

[blank stare]

Or: “I really hit bottom this week and had to step away over trying to wrestle out the specific distinction between mumbling and muttering.”

“Uh-huh…I think I hear my wife calling.”

[Disclaimer: I have not attempted either of these conversations with normal people….recently…in the last several months.]

But when you admit those things to a writer? They HUG you. They know your address and they call you by name. They know you got off the sane train two stations ago and that you fear much of your work is largely a self-involved cry for help.

Do you think knowing other writers helps? No one else has any idea how much it does.

Writers know we’re all just looking for someone to hold our stories with us and help us feel less crazy.

And these beautiful, wonderful people I name among my friends, my peeps, they don’t judge. I suppose maybe if I started swinging from the chandelier and throwing furniture–then I’d be fair game to become one of their stories.

Get more Peeps in your pie to face the dark cave with you!
Get more Peeps in your pie to face the dark cave with you!

But I’m confident they’d do it in an honoring way.

Writers, don’t miss your chance to bond with the inspiring friends you meet. Ask about their time in the cave. And share about yours. They are just as scared and crazy as you–probably more so. And if you’ve struggled to make normal friends or feel accepted and seen by your family, your church…God…well, all the better. So have we. And short of your relationship with God, Christian writer friends are honestly some of the best relationships you’ll ever be blessed to know.

And I just can’t quit saying it.

The Beauty of Writing Friends

They don’t teach you how to be a friend in college. But they should. Hopefully, at some point, you do learn.

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Probably it takes root in childhood and begins sprouting as we learn to care for each other.

It took me a while to learn and value friends. As a kid, I had trouble connecting for the usual selfish reasons. But I also felt unable to love everyone the way they needed. So I often didn’t try.

With the new independence in early adulthood a bit, I began to realize the importance of friends to everything I really wanted in life.

The writing life requires friends. No matter what happens, wherever you go or whatever you end up doing, the value of having people you can rely on is immeasurable, people who will go to bat for you, vouch for your skills and character, and believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.

Nothing but real friends makes life worth living. God knows we need real arms, real eyes to hold us. He designed us. He knows.

And for his called writers, he knows writing friends are more precious than diamonds.

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They are the ones who will go through the fires with you. They know the ropes. The pitfalls. They know what you’re up against. They know what you’re doing is the hardest thing you could do. They get the whole self-doubt and feeling crazy thing. They know the daily struggle to commit despite the lack of talent, the headaches and all it takes out of you, how it makes you disconnected and weird. And they don’t judge you for all the oddities, the weight gain or the hair loss.

And they know you’ve got to have an imperfect confidant and advocate if you’re going to have one here at all. And that makes them just about perfect.

And they don’t care if you don’t call back because you’re in the middle of getting chapter 81 finally fleshed out after 2 months of cold pizza and not cleaning the house (and thank God for my wife, yet again!). And they don’t blame you for all you miss because you’re reliving pain to put it into pages carved out of real, bloody experience.

They know you just gotta do what you gotta do. They get all that.

They prove it’s true: he who has friends is truly rich.

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But sometimes, we have to overcome the hurt that’s been done before we can engage. Writing is a way to discover some of those broken places. But books come from books and writing requires reading too.

Dr. Merry Lin wrote a book about her journey to healing and becoming a “professional friend” in her book, The Fully Lived Life It’s an incredible story and full of hard-won truth about learning to feel our true feelings, deal with those unacknowledged places, and finally heal through writing, prayer, experiencing God in everyday life and in the friends he places around us.

She shared her story, but it was mine as well.

Some of us are held back by old wounds inflicted by church people. To you, I’d encourage you to read Merry’s book which talks about spiritual abuse and its influence in scaring us off of investing in closer, lasting relationships.

Some of us started writing because expressing ourselves, our true thoughts and feelings wasn’t encouraged in our homes growing up. Writing is a way to heal that and begin opening up and trusting others with our stories. Julia Cameron’s famous guide The Artist’s Way is subtitled Recovering Your Creative Self because that’s what the journey involves. We have to return to who we were before, like the story of Peter Pan, to re-member ourselves as Ann has said.

I am who I am because of my friends and I wouldn’t trade this church for anything. But I had to learn and get past my barriers, my selfish goals and dreams, and see the reality of treasure all around me before I could pick it up and treasure it.

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To Merry and Larry and Mary and Merrie. Ann and Jan and Hannah. John and Ron and Don and Lon. To Jim.To Jeanette. To Tara and Sarah. To Lissa. To Glenna. To Dave. To Bill. To Liz and Elizabeth. To Jamie. To Rebecca. To Jenelle and Nathan. To Tina and Todd and Linda and Lynda. To Cec. To Brandy and Cathy and Kathy and Cathee and Susan and Suzee and Sue and Soo and Siouxsie, wherever you are. To Binsey. To Alice. To Jeanne. To Erik. To Michelle. To Nicole. Randy and Kimberlee and Hilarey and Ginni and Miriam and Kristen. To Peter and Dolly and Doug and Shannon. To Siri and Tony. To Patton. To Rob and Steve. To Luci and Dani and Sherri and Opal and to Christian. To Tom. To Emily.  To Tonia. To Rick.  To Jess and Jessie and Jeff. To Clarissa. To Jackie. Erin, Aly, Sandra, Carmen, Monica, Tim, Leah, Gena, Charise, Stacey, Steven, Gina, Mike, Rachelle, Blake, Chip, Vicki, Sandra, Wayne, Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

My heart is yours, for loving what mine does, and loving what yours loves.

My soul longs with that same fire.

And we will make it. And we will find our way.

And we already have.