Do You Know Your Priorities As a Writer?

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For nearly six years, each week I’ve posted my best teaching on writing and editing for motivation and practical help.

IMG_6749I’ve taken a break or two, but the archive of several hundred posts prove it’s a priority for me–and it’s largely because I need to keep the wind in my sails and the breeze at my back.

I write to myself to remind myself of what I know and all I’m learning. It’s an intentional strategy though it didn’t start out that way.  I sensed I’d lose much of it if I didn’t keep a record.

And I felt that early on.

Using my own recent and previous experience makes the posts honest, inspirational and often embarrassing/humorous.

The past few weeks I’ve focused on some specific help to improve your approach to writing and the overall quality of your work. Today, I’m struck by how writing and editing are similar yet distinct and have very different objectives–or strategic priorities.

I heard this phrase at church a lot this weekend as about 25 of us met to discuss next steps in implementing our “strategic priorities.” If you’re like me, you’re a bit cynical about marketing speak, particularly in reference to God’s people. But it’s just a phrase. And it describes well what we always try to do when we communicate.

We each have priorities we’re promoting, whether we realize them or not. And if we can be more strategic about how we promote and inspire those priorities in others–be it a congregation or an audience of readers–that’s worth our time.

strategicprioritiesFor our church, identifying those required some hard work and discussion over several weekends with an outside consulting group. It ended up looking something like this. The process revealed so many surprises, just like my work with authors in identifying their vision and goals.

I found it cool how well this correlated to books, especially in seeking God’s inspiration throughout the process to define the plan of action. (I probably can’t claim it’s a coincidence that I was assigned the task of “communication coordinator” between the task forces.) While I didn’t like the phrase, I’ve long felt that identifying your “strategic objectives” should probably be a first step toward writing at a competitive level.

But here’s the idea I want to unpack over the next few weeks: Writing has a different strategic priority than editing. And from my experience with books that go through minimal editing and those that go through extensive editing, the importance of this distinction can’t be overstated.

Too often, new writers conflate writing and editing as one task or at least as closely related tasks, and miss the fundamental difference between them. Where writing is necessarily an exercise in listening exclusively to the inspiration in your own heart, the priority when editing is serving the reader. One focuses on what the writer feels, wants, and needs, the other focuses on what the reader feels, wants, and needs.

They aren’t 100% exclusive, and there’s overlap with both. But I believe being clear about these different strategic priorities helps tremendously when it comes to creating books that will stand the test of time.

Making such distinctions is critical all along the journey of writing and editing a book. So let’s explore this together in the coming weeks and be aware there’s more to this task than is visible at first glance.

daylilyAfter all, becoming aware of all that remains unseen is obviously one of God’s strategic objectives for our lives as sensitive observers and recorders of his wonders. Let’s commit to exploring the depth and breadth of his inspiration to us through the original creative Word.

For it’s all, “to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! (Eph. 3:20,21)

His power is at work within us–that is nothing short of amazing.

To him be the glory.

Beware in your prayer, above everything, of limiting God. Not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what he can do. Expect unexpected things, ‘above all that we ask or think’. Each time, before you intercede, be quiet first, and worship God in His glory. Think of what He can do, and how He delights to hear the prayers of His redeemed people. Think of your place and privilege in Christ, and expect great things!

Andrew Murray

 

For his higher purpose today in all He inspires,

Mick

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12 thoughts on “Do You Know Your Priorities As a Writer?”

  1. Thanks so much for the Murray quote! If that was from one of his books, I’d love to know the source!
    I think I learned, accidentally, the difference between writing to nail down the inspiration, and writing to resent it to the consumer, when I was writing a first chapter that threatened to be 300 pages long, and then was asked to present it in a 45 minute workshop.
    It was only a first chapter, but it was out of hand!
    And the new presentation, for the workshop, was SO much better. Yet I still am in love with that firstborn chapter… :\

    1. Thanks for this, Katharine! Murray is quoted from “Thoughts for the Quiet Hour,” edited by D. L. Moody. I’m lucky enough to get a daily devotional email from a friend with many such excellent quotes … the scripture is from today’s email as well (dalevanderveen@sbcglobal.net if you’d like to be added).

      It’s a painful reality how little we writers end up getting exactly what WE want, isn’t it? And so many others seem to get away with saying whatever they like! ;)

      M

  2. Mick. Whoa. This is very helpful and keeps me from hating you. :) Actually, it puts a giant exclamation point on every writer’s need for a good editor. To assume what WE write is what THEY should receive is just a tad arrogant. Thanks for this one…and all of the others, too.

    1. Well, thanks, my friend! I’ll be sure to take it easy on you for that. :) Recognizing arrogance is about the closest we can hope for true humility in this life, I fear. And you’re a guide to more folks than you’ll ever know, myself included. Grateful for your kindness and humor, brother.

      Through all our losses, we must remember we are molded and fitted for a love beyond anything we can imagine–so never begrudge the loss. After all, the unkindest cut of all will finally unite us with our Great Love. Until then, may we strive to show ever more behind us how to “all light up and scare away the dark.”

      -M

  3. I breathed a sign of relief that you will be guiding us along this ride over the next few weeks. As we coast along the track, I’m requesting that the expereince is filled with gripping examples, specific distinctions, fast plunging dives of inspiration, aha moments at every turn. Basically hold on to the bar, stay in your seat type of entertainment. Cool?

    1. Thanks, Jenelle! I think I can do that. Like most writers, I aspire to delight and entertain even as I try to capture what I’m experiencing and express it.

  4. I really liked the Andrew Murray quote as well. Thank you for that. And yes, I am also skeptical when it comes to market speak, especially when it’s from God’s people. But maybe I shouldn’t be. If we call it “a practical vision for serving others according to our highest potential” it does put market speak in a different light.

  5. Andrew Murrey, in his writings on Hebrews 2, said it is the Christian’s duty and right to exhort one another—everyday. As Jesus did not please himself but only did the Father’s will, and in love came to serve others, we are to do likewise. If we will but consider this before putting the pen to the page, we are more likely to humble ourselves before our Great Redeemer and pen words that help and not harm. Only in humility will we “rise to our privilege” (another Murrey quote) and become the vessels serve in the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I’ve been reading your writing advice and encouragement for quite sometime now. No doubt you have been used of God to encourage and to help. You probably won’t know how much on this side of eternity. I hope that doesn’t matter.

    1. Thank you, Dea! I’m reminded of the great benefits of sharing Gods encouragement with writers nearly every day! Appreciate your thoughts here so much. -M

  6. “After all, becoming aware of all that remains unseen is obviously one of God’s strategic objectives for our lives as sensitive observers and recorders of his wonders.”
    I liked that line as a reminder of being still and listening (something I read this morning in my “Abiding in Christ” devotional by Murray :-)
    Thank you for this important post–about the role we have as writers in writing and the role of editing–for the readers.
    The distinction totally makes sense; I look forward to the coming posts.

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