Tag Archives: writing community

On the Writer’s Community and Something Better than Balance

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” – John Muir

I drive Ellie to school and decide to silence the radio. Fund-drive season on the classical station and the news on NPR aren’t as valuable as 8 minutes of silence.

Monday comes full of details to sort and I go with my mug to look at the trees a moment and listen to the birds. The current batch of writers I’m editing and coaching are so patient. By Thursday there will be meetings and mentoring, critique sessions, and individual appointments. I head back in remembering the exercises for class, handouts, preparations to finish. Another few emails have arrived with more writers’ pages to review.

The work won’t stop piling up. The words just keep coming.

The coffee mug is empty again. Why do I go? Why do I do this to myself?

In just a few days, I head to Mount Hermon for the eighth time, although I can’t remember exactly how many times I’ve been now. I’ve had some incredible meetings, which usually makes up for the mind-and-body-numbing intensity of the week.

A time or two ago, Mona asked me to give a keynote to open the conference, based on one of these blog posts called “Writing for One Master” about committing to the Inspirer. It was good, but it wasn’t entertaining. I wish I’d told more stories and included some humor.

I forget about the audience. For an editor who’s always trying to get people to remember the audience, that’s pretty strange. Considering how much of my time is taken up with my selfish pursuits, it’s not that strange. As a quieter reader, most of my life has been about me, lost in the spiral of experience and trying to keep to myself and not miss out on anything.

There’s so much to do before I go, but the big idea needs capturing before I get too distracted. Spring has begun and the days are lengthening, so we’re getting out to enjoy it more. Over the weekend, Sheri and I talked about being older and that now we’re 44, we finally don’t want to be any older or any younger, which is freeing. We’re not old or young, rich or poor, dumb or smart. We’re pretty white, but we’re not totally ignorant about what that means, and we’re still Christians, but not exactly like we were. We’re trying to balance and it’s showing, so it’s easy to think we’re making progress. But being aware of self, we could forget the audience.

“Audience of One” is such a cliché, but it’s more. I try to post about Mister Rogers more than guns and abortion, but our beliefs are best expressed by loving actions and social media isn’t active. There’s input and output but it’s artificial and our lungs need the outside air. To be helpful but recognize our helplessness, saints who still sin, we have to live in response to the One Mastering Inspirer and not just pursue big ideas.

The audience, God and others, is waiting for a compelling story of someone who clearly sees there’s more to living than selfish pursuits. Expressing the good input you’ve received into positive, life-expanding relating, that’s the true work. And remembering that comes best not in reading or writing, but in doing.

I need the reminder.

I’m no one. I’m not a published author. I’m not famous or special, but I’ve stuck with this for many years and I love the people I’ve met. There are ekklesias, gatherings, in so many places every year around the country and this is just one I’m part of, by a large measure of grace. I can sound so Christian saying that, but it’s the truth. This church is a big reason I go.

I get thrown off balance by too much to read and think about. Reconnecting with the messiness of a writing community is a chance to break out of all I have to do to enjoy the work and words again.

As usual, it’ll be Palm Sunday over the time I’m there. We’ll gather and sing and listen to inspired words shared from many sources with one origin. And I’ll be reminded if I’m not too distracted how much I need that air to clean my lungs again and reattach my selfish senses to their best audience, which is not me.

“I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith…” Gal 2:20

P.S. I posted a talk I gave at another conference here: The 6 Spiritual Lies Derailing Your Writing Process

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

The All-Time Top Reasons to Pursue Big Publishing, Part 3

The question was raised by an author who's recently been offered a contract, would it make sense to push for hardcover, the thinking being this raises credibility and importance in the eyes of buyers. Sure, if it's a good size run as well, but it'll be more expense for buyers too, so it's a gamble. And hardcover alone doesn't get you the respect you're hoping for. 

And as I've been realizing and saying in my last posts, the bigger point we're talking about here is perceptions and assumptions. Manipulating them and creating them and respecting them. If we don't understand them, we won't get anywhere. But if we just accept them and adopt them, we'll stay just as stuck. 

It'd be really cool to break down a number of publishing assumptions and dissect the resulting perceptions, or vice versa, but that sounds cumbersome and cerebral. And I'm tired and I want to get moving on the forward motion part of this journey. I'm not impatient, I just want to get going and we can talk about all this on the way. 

But above all, I want to be authentic. The troubles we have with perceptions and assumptions are largely about people not being authentic and careful in how they represent things whether it's their own work (in the case of self-promoting authors), their published books (in the case of publishers and agents), or whatever. Duplicity and selfishness tend to rule the day so there's a lot of garbage piled up in the way of trust and the real insights possible when that trust is there. I want to be trustworthy. 

I'm not going to say things to improve my "business" and I don't care if people don't agree with me. I listen, most the time but not always, to learn and make sure I'm thinking through all the angles. But ultimately, I answer to a higher purpose. I won't sit here and tell you not to pursue big publishing just so you'll come here and join the tirade against big publishing. That's not my goal and I love the people in big publishing. All I'm saying is that some authors have made it their goal to be published with big publishers and that's dangerous because big publishing is a business and businesses are soulless, so you need to take a few steps back before you get hurt. I'm asking people to let go of getting published and start with the necessary steps first.

This doesn't mean those who have taken the necessary steps of researching, writing, editing, branding, building a network, researching online marketing and building a platform aren't ready or shouldn't pursue big publishing. But they need to divorce their hearts from the process and know that it will likely mean changing a bit to fit into that hole, niche, slot, channel, whatever at the publisher. And believe me, if you're not sure what your slot is on the shelf, it means that's probably not you yet. Figure this out before you go and you'll save yourself a lot of headache. 

My "agenda" is largely to be without an agenda here. But as a guiding principle, I will promote the idea that there's a proper time and place for everything–for the writing to sing, you can't be editing and thinking about how you'll market it. Same principle when I see people at conferences taking classes on marketing and branding and such who haven't even finished their manuscript. This should be forbidden and when I'm king, I'll pass the law. But I'm just asking us to think and strategize together, break the steps down, and take them in their due course. Thing is, even if you've had some experience in all the steps, with each book, you have to do them all again, and in the right order, so it'll help to get this clear in your brain no matter where you're at. 

At the recent writers conference in Santa Barbara, I met some great people who were right on with this and I could see many of them doing very well in some of the emerging alternative publishing options. But before we go there, we need to ensure everything is where it needs to be with the book and the message, and then with the platform and presentation, so we can ensure nothing is left to chance or changed by big publishing if and when that becomes a possibility. 

And the exciting thing is, I'm hearing a lot of people agreeing. So while I keep working on this bigger site, let's keep talking about where we're at in our processes. I'd love to hear some stories, build some community. Also, pretty soon, I'll have a few polls and things to look at on the beta site so you can sound off and tell me what's helpful and what's not. It's all underway, but in the meantime, feel free to chime in and introduce yourself, your project and experience, and maybe an insight or two if you're so inclined. 

Oh, and for the record, I told my friend that the risk and the reward of hardcover is that you're betting that more expense will better convey it's value, but other things also work against this perception with buyers, such as the size of the house, the size of the print run, the visibility of the author, and previous publishing history. So while such proof of a publishers' positive belief would be conveyed more strongly with HC, the higher risk the seller is then forced to take mitigates some of that. And if the print run isn't very large, hardcover could undermine it's chances rather than help.