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There are wonderful lessons to be learned about God, about ourselves and our writing journey, from the world around us. Nature is a powerful teacher about God. And so are alpacas! Come discover what wisdom these wooly, wonderful creatures have for you to help you keep your writing career on track in the new year!
There was an interesting episode on the Ask Pastor John podcast the other day where they discussed including other types of reading and studying aside from the Bible to help you learn about God and grow in your relationship and service to Him. John Piper, a man who’s devoted his life to studying and preaching God’s Word said that yes, by all means, you should have these outside learning experiences. He pointed out that God’s Word even directs us to do so, and he referenced the verses like Proverbs 6:6 that says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise!” (NIV)
Jesus says in Luke 12:27, “Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.” (NIV)
Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.” (NASB)
So we’re going to follow that vein today because Karen and Erin were recently in Seattle where we got to observe first hand some lessons from some of God’s very cool creatures: Alpacas.
Lesson 1) Stick together!
Alpacas instinctively know there’s safety in numbers. They spent their time in close proximity to each other, hanging out together in a pack with the adults watching over the youngsters.
Writers aren’t like other people. We’re a different breed, and that’s okay. We need fellowship with our own kind. We need writing buddies, writing relationships. You can find writing buddies at church or online. Or you can check for local chapters of national organizations, connect at conferences, look on Facebook, or even start a group of your own.
Older writers need to take care of the younger writers for as long as they need it. Don’t get impatient with them for being young. Nurture them, help them. They have a lot to learn, but so did you when you started. Now, you have a lot to share.
Also realize mentoring relationships can happen in little chunks. It doesn’t have to be a big formal thing between two writers. You can give in small doses to many writers, and receive from many as well.
Lesson 2) Don’t put off your own needs
When you need something, take care of yourself. No hesitation, no embarrassment, no apologies. Remember, we’re commanded to love others as we love ourselves. But if we treated people the way most of us treat ourselves, it wouldn’t be pretty. We need to be more like the alpacas. When they needed to relieve themselves, they did. When they wanted to brush themselves on a big brush they had in the shelter, they did––both by themselves and together. It was adorable to see them rubbing their long necks against it! With no worries, they just took care of business no matter who was standing there.
For us as writers, we have to take care of our health. To get rest, get sleep, and eat right. It’s the new year, so it’s a good time to develop new habits. Preserve unscheduled time in your life so on those days when you can’t get something done, you don’t end up creating a domino effect of missing deadlines. Consider what you can cut from your schedule to plan time for rest.
Most of us know what we need to do to take care of ourselves, but let us give you another reason why all of this is so important. Did you know that depression most often has a physical basis rather than an emotional one? A side effect of not taking care of yourself, not getting sleep, not having the right balance of nutrients and vitamins, not balancing our hormones, not getting exercise is depression!
Lesson 3) Imitate the alpacas’ friendliness and curiosity
Every time we’d go outside, the alpacas would stop what they were doing and look at us with these cute smiling faces. Seriously, they really did smile. It cracked us up. Every time Erin went out there she’d say, “Hi, friendly alpacas!” It was a joy to be with them.
How does that apply to us? The writing business is about relationships––with readers, with editors, with agents, with other writers. Be warm. Be welcoming. Smile. People like to work with friendly, inviting people!
It was more than just the alpacas’ smiles though. They had this fun curiosity. It wasn’t like they hadn’t seen us many times on any given day, but they acted like it was some grand new experience each time.
As writers we have to have that same curiosity. We have something new to learn all the time from other writers, teachers, editors, and agents. We’ve seen multi-published, award-winning writers taking notes and learning from other people. Even if you think you’ve heard something before, there’s always another nuance you can pick up.
The alpacas’ curiosity didn’t seem to have fear. There are many things in the writing career that can cause fear if we let it. Karen has had too many appointments with terrified writers. If only they’d relax! Don’t go in with fear. Be friendly. Be curious. But not fearful. Nobody holds your writing career in their hands but God.
Lesson 4) Maintain Wariness
Yes, the alpacas were friendly looking and friendly seeming. But they were also wary. They were cautious. They didn’t run right up to us and let us pet them. They watched, they weighed our actions. They didn’t blindly trust us.
This is true in writing as well. Maintain a sense of caution. Seeming experts may not be experts. Weigh their actions. Look at their fruit. Weigh carefully the advice you receive. Even from wonderful, experienced teachers. They all have different views and different methods. Use what works for you.
Lesson 5) Alpacas don’t worry about their daily bread
The alpacas trusted that their food and water would be there when they needed it. Karen’s brother and sister-in-law had it all worked out so the alpacas were taken care of each day. We didn’t realize how much work was even required, but different people came on different days to do the various tasks. They raked straw, gave fresh food in buckets, gave fresh hay, and fresh water. On days when it was below freezing, Karen and Erin went out and broke up the ice in their water buckets so they could drink. The alpacas never worried, never stressed.
You also are being taken care of, and you can know it. As writers, as people, we’re prone to worry. But God takes care of our needs. He provides. Everything. He’s the source of our creativity. He creates divine appointments. He’s the One who’s gone before you. All you need to do is seek His guidance and be obedient, and you can move forward without worry.
Lesson 6) God equipped them with a beautiful gift for others
As Karen was showing Erin around the house the first day, she pointed out the “wool room.” There was even a loom in there! It was like Little House on the Prairie, because yes, they shear the alpacas, and Karen’s sister-in-law spins the wool, and makes stuff from it. There’s bags and bags of wool in there. They could clothe themselves for a decade.
The alpacas don’t have to stress about their gift, about making stuff, about being used by God. He’s got that covered. In fact, if they don’t stress their coats grow better.
As writers, God’s gifted you with a story, with a gift to share with others. He’s supplied you with everything you need to follow this task He’s given you, and to do it with excellence. He’s given you the story, the heart, the desire. God is the One who supplies. You don’t have to worry about whether you’re good enough. That’s all God’s purview. He will equip you and guide you to the people and places to help you improve your craft. You just rest. Trust in Him as the provider of everything you need to provide your gift to the world around you.
There’s so much we can see when we look at the world around us with a heart that’s open, and a heart that’s seeking to see God in everything around us! Let yourself realize God is present, God is at work. God is your source. You can rest in Him. And you can delight in the world that He’s created around you!
We want to hear from you!
What have you learned from observing the world around you?
Come learn valuable lessons for your writing journey from…alpacas!
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Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous editing!