Month: January 2018

061 – Do You Want Your Writing to Matter?

Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young Do You Want Your Writing to Matter? Write from the Deep PodcastWriting that matters isn’t about what you study. It’s not about your craft or your skill. It’s not about theme or characters or organization or any of that. Powerful writing is about what lies deep inside of you.

One of the Bible passages we often mention when we talk about writing from the deep comes from the book of Ezekiel. The first 3 chapters are all about Ezekiel’s vision of God and how God commissions him. Then in 3:10-11 God says, “Son of man, let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself. Then go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not.”

Look at that last part again: Do this whether they listen to you or not.

As writers, we’re in the same boat. We’re writing without knowing whether anyone will read our words, or how many will read them, or whether anyone will take them to heart. But that’s not the important point here. What we want to talk about is the prerequisite God gives Ezekiel: “Let all my words sink deep into your own heart first. Listen to them carefully for yourself…”

Why? Because we need to be in this writing thing to change ourselves first. To understand God’s message for us personally. To avoid superficiality.

Whether anyone reads your book or not.

Ultimately, writing isn’t about your readers. Not first. It’s about you. About what lies deep within you.

So what does it mean to let God’s word sink deep into our hearts? What does it look like? How do we do it? Here are some practical steps.

Signs that you’re letting God’s Word Sink Deep into Your Heart

You work to know it inside and out.

  • You’re intimately acquainted with it, like a best friend or spouse
  • You know it thoroughly and deeply from many sides and angles

How do we get there? You study it, you take time to think about it, and you pray for insight. We talk about this a lot because it’s crucial for us as Christians and writers to know God through His word.

  • Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.”
  • Psalm 119:34 “Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.”

 

You love it.

Think of how you feel when a friend (or spouse or child) is tucked deep in your heart. You don’t stop loving them no matter what. They’re ensconced. It’s a deep love that knows no bounds. That’s the kind of love we want to have for God’s word.

How do we get there? Make knowing and loving God’s word a priority. Give time to it. Choose it over other things. Love is a choice.

  • Jeremiah 15:16 “Your words were found and I ate them, and Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart; for I have been called by Your name, O Lord God of hosts.”
  • Psalm 119:72 “The law from Your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.”

 

It changes you.

  • When God word has sunk deep in your heart, you act differently. You are different through its influence. It rubs off on you. It affects you. Think of how it is with friends, when someone’s influence changes you for the better. The influence of God’s word makes you a different person because it’s the influence of Christ and His character. It’s Christ in you.
  • You see things differently. God’s word, like a friend, makes you see yourself differently and see other things differently because of their insight, their experience. It changes your view of things. God’s word is living and active. It is one of the few things that can penetrate to judge us. It convicts us and shapes us.

How do we get there? You let it challenge you. You listen for conviction. You open yourself to new paradigms. You pray for help in changing.

  • Ask yourself, if I truly believed what God says about this, how would this day, or this problem look different to me?
  • Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
  • Remember, you can’t be transformed if you’re not willing to be transformed.

 

You look to it for your nourishment.

  • Another mark of letting God’s word sink deep into your heart is that you hunger for it’s nourishment.
  • It produces fruit—sending out new sprouts of understanding and study. And that glorifies God. And as you study, the word goes ever deeper.

How do we get there? Think about what you feed on. Often it’s things that don’t satisfy. Go to God’s word when you’re tired, when you’re discouraged, when you need strength. Too often we look to other things to nourish or refresh us.

  • John 6:30-33 “So they [the crowd Jesus was preaching to] asked him, ‘What sign then will you give that we may see it and believe you? What will you do? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written: “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”‘ Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.’”
  • John 15:7-8 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” It’s not just about you. When we get our nourishment from God, we bring Him glory. Yes, the fruit is for our good, but it’s also for God’s glory.
  • Think of God and His word as your rest rather than TV or entertainment. Often we choose entertainment for rest and nourishment rather than God’s word.

 

You look to God’s word FIRST for guidance, for wisdom.

  • When you’re letting God’s word sink deep into your heart, it becomes your go-to place for direction, as opposed to the wisdom of the world.
  • Listening carefully to God’s word implies that you’re listening with discernment, and with the intention of being obedient.

How do we get there? Listen thoughtfully. Not hurriedly, not distractedly, not superficially. Our world is all of those things.

  • Wisdom and guidance don’t come on our timetable, they come on God’s timetable, and with God’s priorities. He may be answering the question you should be asking whether than the one you are asking now. Be open.
  • Go where you can have some peace and quiet to think.
  • When you’re making a decision—any decision—know what God’s word has to say about it.

 

The fruit of Letting God’s word sink deep into your heart

When God’s word has sunk deep into your heart, you find yourself speaking words of truth to others, words filled with God’s wisdom, because out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks (Matthew 12:34).

What that looks like is trusting God’s truth and wisdom rather than your own. Not scrambling to come up with answers, or trying to cover God’s backside when He doesn’t seem to make sense. Instead, you’re resting in the truth of His words and promises. And, often, speaking only when He gives you truths to speak. Sometimes, as hard as it is for us, what people need when they are struggling is our silence.

Whenever it is time to speak (and write), we want to let our hearts speak. To create writing that matters in people’s lives and hearts, we have to be changed ourselves. We have to take God’s truths deep into our own hearts and spirits and lives, and open ourselves to what He wants to do to change us first.

THEN, as it says in Ezekiel, “go to your people in exile and say to them, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says!’ Do this whether they listen to you or not…For then they will know they have had a prophet in their midst.” It’s not about gaining glory as a prophet, but about people trusting you to speak and write truth, and to trust God, and His word planted deep within you, as the source of your writing and life.

 

We want to hear from you

What other signs show we’re letting God’s word sink into our hearts? What other ways can we do that?

 

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Do you want your writing to matter? That’s not about skill or craft. It’s about what’s inside of you.

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060 – Are You a Success? A Conversation with Steve Laube

Are You a Success? Steve Laube Literary Agent joins us on the Write from the Deep podcastSuccess means so many things in our world today, but how can we, who write because God has asked us to, know if we’re a success? Come join in the conversation with literary agent Steve Laube to understand true success and how to measure it.

Steve Laube, president and founder of The Steve Laube Agency, is a 36 year veteran of the bookselling industry. He began his career in the bookselling arena, and his store in Phoenix was named the Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) store of the year in 1989. He then spent 11 years with Bethany House Publishers rising to the position of an editorial director. In 2002 he was named the AWSA Golden Scroll Editor of the Year. The next year he became a literary agent and soon formed The Steve Laube Agency. Later he was named the ACFW Agent of the Year. Recently he was inducted into the Grand Canyon University Hall-of-Fame by their College of Theology. He is the President of The Christian Writers Institute and has published the latest edition of The Christian Writers Market Guide (also available online). In addition he serves as the Publisher for the Enclave Publishing imprint of Gilead Publishing. He is married with three grown children and one grandchild.

Key points on defining success

Success is very difficult to accurately define because each person tends to measure it their own way. The world often defines success as money, fame, or fortune. But how do we as writers define what is the worst and best that could happen for our writing project? Or our career? We can’t ask someone else to quantify success for us. We need to sit down—with our spouse, our family, before God—we need to sit down now and specifically define what success is.

The difficulty is that if it’s based on numbers, say we want to sell 50,000 copies of our book, and we sell 48,000, does that mean it’s a failure? Did God fail us?

It’s also problematic to go too far in the opposite direction, to make our definition based too much on sentimentality. If we say, “Well, I just want to do what God wants me to do,” that may be true but it also feels like a cop out because we can blame God if we just got too busy, or we got sick, etc.

There are all sorts of things that interfere with measuring anything, and it becomes a spiritual problem. So many authors get dissatisfied. What if you get a taste of success and you made some good money on your first book? It’s easy to make your career all about yourself, to get into a “me, myself, and I” mentality. And that’s where it becomes a problem. If you feel like that sales number will be easy to do again, you are now setting expectations and defining success in the form of human criteria.

If it is all about “me, myself, and I,” we can never be happy.

Too many authors are unhappy because either their next book isn’t as successful as the last, or it is successful, but it’s still not enough. Wanting, needing, “more” attacks the writer at the very core of their relationship with God, at the core of what is peace and contentment.

We have to find peace in the midst of rejections, failures, poor reviews, problems with our editor, low book sales, or whatever. Our perspective is easily skewed. We forget that everything we do in this industry is an amazing involvement to begin with no matter how many people we reach.

Steve knew a woman who spent a thousands of dollars to self publish her book. It hardly sold any copies, and she was disappointed. Yet later she said her niece read it and came to the Lord because of it. When asked if she’d have spent that money simply to ensure her niece came to the Lord, she said, “Oh my goodness, yes.” There is no price tag on that. There is no human measure.

God works on the offbeat, but we get so focused on the beat. On our ideas and expectations: “This is when and where I should be published, and this is how many copies it should sell…” And God says, “Yes, but. One person was brought into eternity through that book. How much does that measure as success?”

What’s humbling about this task as writers is how people see things in our writing, and how they’re changed by it in ways we never thought or anticipated. Each reader brings his or her own experience to the book, and it becomes a new creation just for them. God works His will through the words we put on the page in order to speak to someone’s heart.

We’re constantly trying to measure in human terms and we can’t. We can’t comprehend God’s economy. He’s the one who’ll leave the ninety-nine to go and find the one. Are we willing to be the writer who writes to that one rather than the ninety-nine? Or the ninety-nine thousand?

This writing journey isn’t about how you feel about success, or how does success make you feel. It’s: What does God mean to happen for you and for your readers? What is God’s intent in this and how is He using you to accomplish that intent? It’s not about feeling good about hitting the bestseller list or feeling bad because you didn’t win some award. None of that matters. What matters is if you’ve been obedient, and if you’ve put on the page what God asked you to put on the page.

Jesus says in John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last…” We can’t measure that fruit with quantifiable human standards. All we can do is walk in that, be obedient, and trust that that fruit is going to happen in us and others however God wants it to happen. In man’s world, fruit rots, but in God’s world, fruit can last forever.

When you focus on yourself, it goes back to “me, myself, and I,” and you get wrapped up in yourself—in self doubt, self criticism—and you begin to worry, and worry eats away at your soul. There’s an anonymous quote that says, “Worry is wasting today’s time, cluttering up tomorrow’s opportunities, with yesterday’s problems.” Where is our faith when we do that? What are we trusting in?

Ignatius Loyola said, “Work as if everything depends on you, and pray as if everything depends on God.” We need to focus on working hard, doing our absolute best for God’s glory, and at the same time praying and trusting that God’s glory will be magnified in the work that we do no matter what that looks like. Because if we try to put a label on it, and try to paint a picture of it, we WILL be disappointed.

 

Our New Year’s exhortation to you

Stop, take a good look, pray—and not just for a day or a week, but for some serious time—asking God what success really means for you. Ask your spouse, your kids, get them all involved so you have a solid understanding of what true success is for what you’re doing. So that when the time comes—and you know it will—that you’re discouraged, or you feel that you’re a failure, or that voice comes at the back of your head saying, “Whatever made you think you’re a writer?” you can answer with certainty that God came to you asking you to do this. And you can say “I am a success because…” and you can list out what He tells you is the measure of success and what you know within your heart is a true measure of success.

 

We want to hear from you!

Have you wrestled with the definition of success? What have you learned through that?

 

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Are you successful? Come join us and guest Steve Laube and find out!

Please share!
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