Tag Archives: confidence

Attention Is a Limited Resource

I rarely remember it, but I’d be a better writer if I did:

What we think about matters. Because attention is a limited resource.



Sometimes I remember it’s important to exert energy to reserve my attention and find inspiration to write. And sometimes I completely ignore it.

This is not another post on time management.  It’s about attention management. I believe there’s a difference.

I met my youngest brother in Salem to celebrate the imminent arrival of his third child (a girl, yes!) this past week. He just turned 34 which means I’m apparently now 42. We talked some politics and church dynamics and drank scotch. I wore my new Legend of Zelda t-shirt and felt very Portland hipster.

I didn’t remember until later, looking through old blog posts, that last year about this time, we’d discussed the effort required to preserve some boundaries and margin amidst life’s busyness and demands. I was lamenting over sushi and sake how it can all become too much. And now I’ve known for about a year now, the motivation to reserve my attention for what matters is truly all that matters. We agreed that doing what we should simply because we should leads to apathy and ultimately failure. Eventually, everything becomes a chore. But if we could know the result, all we’d get out of it–and what others would as well–we might have a huge advantage in maintaining that resolve for reserve.


Consistent baby steps are important for when passion wanes. And pushing for improvement can be a great motivator. But I’m consistently caught in the trap of believing I have to “keep up” with the news and current issues and discussion fodder on social media, not necessarily to have an opinion or comment, but to know about where people’s attention is. And that’s when the familiar lie creeps in:

What I have, what I’ve lived, who I am and what I write doesn’t matter one bit. 

I’m sure you know that thought. Most people do. We might tell ourselves we don’t have time or brain space to exert ourselves for writing. But we’re really listening to the old “not-good-enough” lie.

Sure, we all do what we really want to, and choosing not to default to Internet-forever should be a simple matter. Of course we’re aware that attention is limited and once it’s paid out to noisy feeds and information whiplash, it’s gone.

Or do we?


See what I’ve been thinking after another year freelance editing and trying to write is that even if I keep a tight grip on maintaining my focus, limited bandwidth isn’t the problem. Not really. I believe I, and many other talented, privileged people who’d like to contribute something meaningful and substantive to the world through their words, are taxing their attention and overloading their brains because they fear that age-old lie: You’re not enough.

Can you remember how many posts, status updates, pictures, memes, articles, youtube videos and other bits of cultural dirt you’ve engaged with in the last week?

How much attention did you give away?

Do procrastination or fear have anything to do with it?

I get distracted and end up paying attention to all the wrong things. There’s only so much. How will I learn?

Every week, I work with writers to help them write. And what do you suppose they all need most?

Thankfully, there’s something we can do. And all it takes is a little decision.


Imagine what could change in your life by this one decision.

What if all it took was deciding to preserve your attention for what truly matters?

What is worth paying your attention to?

You know.

What you pay attention to is what will define you, determines who you will become.

can choose. I can look at my opportunity through God’s eyes. Do everything for him, see the world and time and my life as he does: precious.

I can choose to respond. All I need is the desire, the want to. That’s enough. With Him, we’re always enough. All we need to do is believe it.

If you knew what was coming for you, wouldn’t you do this?

What will you decide? What will you become?

Will you reserve your attention for what truly matters this week?

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

For the Higher Purpose,


Writing to Heal the Hole-Hearted

“The Artist is no other than he who unlearns what he has learned, in order to know himself.” – e.e. cummings

So many authors wonder how they’ll finally become ready for the “big time.”

I get it. I’ve wanted to know that for a long time too–to know my writing was good enough to be chosen. That would be such a rush of confidence and confirmation of my gifts.

And while I’ve always wanted to believe, a vast majority of the time, I haven’t believed it.

In fact, I never did until I started to want to understand others more than I wanted to be understood….

Tahoe pine

The main reason for this was all the pain and fear that was in the way. And like Holden Caufield, I needed more awareness of the larger world and the conversation I would be contributing to.

But I hadn’t yet grasped that larger context.

Unfortunately, today no one has to know about the existing heritage to contribute their ideas. We don’t even have to know what that involves. But it’s still true that to contribute something lasting to the growing cadre of human thought and experience, you must understand the larger conversation.

Because as T.S. Eliot proved: Every new book stands on the shoulders of the heritage that went before it.

I’ve known this, even wanted to utilize it. But for a long time, I didn’t push myself to become educated. I didn’t believe I could contribute in that way.

Maybe some of you know what I’m talking about. For one reason or another, you feel sabotaged by the hole in your heart.

And it isn’t our fault. As I’ve learned, the “hole-hearted” don’t hear (as the whole-hearted do) the inherent worth of their thoughts and feelings. They don’t yet believe they can have influence in their area. Instead, they still hear other things–maybe dismissal, defensiveness, disgust or disrespect that’s crowding that out. Their personal heritage taught them some useless tools, and so even as they try to live, to create, or to write, they struggle not to alternately disregard and overstate their gifts and their voices.

It’s a profound thought that’s taken me years to come to, but I believe the difference between the hole-hearted and whole-hearted is wanting to understand more than you want to be understood.

And how many sad people, and sad books, can be explained by this all-too-common limitation?

Of course, once you experience freedom–maybe in a book, like I did–it changes you. You start to believe. You may still live/create/write to be acknowledged and find more healing, but the work begins revising you. Slowly, a new heritage becomes established and you begin to get glimpses of your power.

I know this first hand. A new heritage has been calling me out of hole-heartedness, preparing me for my time to face the world and make my true contribution.

Many excellent books have added to my knowledge and helped me identify hidden shame and inadequacy. And beyond fear of embarrassment, I’ve found even the least confident writers can escape their safe cave. With practice and study, they can find what they need to pass on to their readers.

It’s been taking shape all this time, this new heritage. Maybe it’s never finished, but I’m convinced I can’t simply write to be heard, known or successful. I need to be an advocate for people just like me. And that doesn’t come through marketing tricks or good networking. It only comes through real care for readers.

I’ve learned so much from How We Love, Changes That Heal, Boundaries, and Get Out of Your Own Way. These are books based on the authors’ life work. I love Brené Brown’s work. And I love Maria Popova’s BrainPickings.org (from which I pilfered this week’s excellent quotes). All this gives me hope that though we struggle to heal and trust our voices, we can get beyond our sabotage.

Through vulnerability (in life and on the page) we learn to believe in ourselves and add our voices to speak for many. I say it all the time: everyone has a story. And it’s true. But you’ve got to seek it and refine it, and you’ve got to believe investing in yourself in that is ultimately about something bigger than just you.

So how do you find the strength to believe that when it gets hard?


My simple answer? God. I believe God is how you find it. I’ve found it’s true: He is all wisdom and all love and all power. And connecting with him, his presence inside, this is how I realize I have all I will ever need to accomplish far more than I can dream or imagine. Let religious folks say that’s humanism, but the faith to believe you have all you need, it’s a gift, and I believe all you have to do is sincerely, humbly and vulnerably ask for it.

Do you believe that? And do you want to do it?

I keep asking myself these questions: Are you open to what your book has to teach you? Can you stay and dedicate to it in the conviction that you’re the only one who can share what you know in your way? And will you follow the markers along the path of your own new heritage to trade it for whatever deficiencies you faced?

If you’ll do that, I believe you’ll find many more people who are desperate for it. We can change the conversation for so many because we’ve been training for this, and through God’s patient grace, he’s gifted us to contribute our lines, if we’ll only decide to persist when the fear comes.


That’s the battle every great story goes through—and that’s always what they’re really about–believing!

I believe that’s ultimately also how they finally get written down–

By believing.

This belief lives in the soul of humanity, put there by God, and you are already a part of it.

Believe that now, and just make today’s investment of words today, and tomorrow’s tomorrow….

You can do this. Because you were made for this, to fill the hole in your heart and to find the confidence to be the healer you were made to be.

Not because you are better than anyone else, but because you were destined to be.


“Whether you succeed or not, that is irrelevant — there is no such thing. Making your unknown known, that is the important thing.” – Georgia O’Keeffe, in a letter to Sherwood Anderson (emphasis mine)

How to Know If You Have What It Takes in 5 Seconds

You don’t have to know if you have what it takes.

You just have to know that you will take what you’ve been given and make something of that. ~ Ann Voskamp

As a coach and consultant to writers, I get asked one question constantly:

“Do I have what it takes?”

For over 13 years, I’ve spoken at writers conferences, always repeating the same refrain no matter what the class was called:

“Yes, you do have what it takes.”

Writers, being their nibbly-anxious selves, always wonder if their words are good enough, skilled enough, smart enough. It’s only human to wonder, after all. We all suffer from the “not-good-enoughs.”

And most of us know that’s a trap, at least on our good days.

But I still get asked this question all too often, and by very accomplished and recognizable people. Whether it’s voiced straight out at the beginning of a coaching relationship, or well into 2 or 3 books together, when you’d expect that question had been well-answered by now.

And it doesn’t make me question my ability to communicate anymore. At least, not as often.

But here’s what I’m thinking we need to do whenever this question comes up, whether it’s from outside of us or in our own minds.

Take it captive. 

You know what I’m saying.

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

We can–indeed, we must–just decide to do this for ourselves, but for the others who don’t yet believe they have the power of the truth on their side.

“Hey, psst. You might not be who you think you are.” Take that right by the throat. Look it in the face. Then break it’s little neck.


Not a violent person? Don’t worry–just imagine it being infused with the truth from your eyes, the light that shines out from with you, the reality that can’t be contained that you are a child of such immense worth and power and infinite capability because you are filled with the limitless gifts of your Maker.

And you are enough because you can do anything you choose. That is the unfathomable freedom you’ve been given to be completely yourself in any circumstance and in all situations.

Practical work for Christians is greatly overemphasized today, and the saints who are “bringing every thought [and project] into captivity” are criticized and told that they are not determined, and that they lack zeal for God or zeal for the souls of others. But true determination and zeal are found in obeying God, not in the inclination to serve Him that arises from our own undisciplined human nature.

Oswald Chambers, My Utmost, “Do It Yourself,” Sept 9

We have a responsibility to the truth and love we’ve been given. Either you recognize that as your “enough” or you do not. This is not a condemning comment but one intended to convey the miraculous freedom you’ve been given:

You have the unrestricted free choice to determine to discipline your mind–and that is what makes you enough. That gift you possess in total abundance. 

Your success is not determined by whether you have what it takes. You have it.

What determines success is how you use it.