God has put a task on your writer’s heart. He’s made it clear to you what He wants you to do. So hey, everything should be easy, right? Wrong! So what should you do when everything seems to go wrong? Come listen in as guest Christy Johnson shares some guidance.
About Christy Johnson
Christy Johnson is a soul-health coach, relationship expert, and author. As a domestic abuse survivor turned champion of forgiveness, Christy’s driving passion is to help women find hope and strength in the aftermath of failed marriages and toxic relationships. She’s the author of Love Junkies and Free Looks Good on You. Visit her at www.christyjohnson.org.
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Karen: Hello, listeners. Welcome into the deep with us today. We have a guest Christy Johnson, and I’m going to let Erin introduce her.
Erin: Yay me! I get to do an introduction. That’s because I’ve known Christy for so long. Oh my goodness, I think we met at our very first writing conference. I know it was my first writing conference. I think it might’ve been Christy’s, too. That was lots of years ago, and I’m delighted to have her with me today, and with Karen.
Christy Johnson is an author, a popular national speaker, a relationship and soul health coach, and the executive director of Living Soul. She’s appeared on numerous radio and TV programs.
Her first book, Love Junkies, and the video series that she created with it are used in hundreds of small group discipleship groups, and they’re nationwide in churches, maternity homes, prison ministries, and drug rehab facilities, and her YouVersion Bible plan for Love Junkies has over 170,000 downloads.
Christy is all about freeing and empowering women to find hope and strength in the aftermath of betrayal and brokenness caused by abuse and toxic relationships. Christy’s most recent book is Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love.
We’re going to be talking a bit more about that as the show goes on because getting that book to publication has been one heck of a trial. Christy, thank you for coming on the show. We’re delighted to have you here today.
Christy: Thank you for having me, Erin and Karen. And thank you for reminding me how we met, Erin. Seems like a lifetime ago that I wandered into my very first writers’ conference and discovered that I didn’t know that I didn’t know how to write.
Erin: This is the discovery we alI make at our first writing conference.
Karen: Those discoveries keep me employed.
Erin: Exactly. Alright, so Christy, what does the deep mean to you?
Christy: Oh, that is a really deep question, Erin.
Erin: I’m jumping in right away.
Christy: There you go. I think for me it means that the more vulnerable and transparent I am about what I really, really think the more I’m going to connect with my reader. If I can’t drill down and really get connected with my deepest fears, my deepest insecurities, and write in such a way that I’m transparent about those, I’m not going to give my reader permission to feel that deep.
If I can't drill down and really get connected with my deepest fears, my deepest insecurities, and write in such a way that I'm transparent about those, I'm not going to give my reader permission to feel that deep. #ChristianWriter… Click To Tweet
The deeper I go, the deeper I’m going to connect with my reader, and then she’s going to feel like, “Oh, wow. I’m not alone. I thought it was the only one that felt this way. Now there’s hope for me because somebody else has felt this way and found a way out of the mess.”
So, the more transparent and vulnerable I am, the deeper I go into my emotional abyss, the more I’m going to connect with my reader and give her a promise of “There’s hope for me. I can recover from this mess.”
Karen: That’s really good. You know, so often when I’m teaching or mentoring writers, I encourage them to be more vulnerable. We like to write about difficult things, but too often, authors take a step back and write from a place of safety.
I tell them that the only way to get to the heart of your readers and help to change their lives, or grant them a deeper understanding, is to be vulnerable. To take away those layers of self protection and just tell the story that God wants you to tell.
Christy: Very well said.
Erin: I’ll tell you, Christy, that’s one of my favorite things about you is that you’re very open about the difficulties you’ve had in your life, and the mistakes, and the traumas, and the trials. I do think that’s why your books connect with readers and your ministry connects with women. Because of that deepness and that openness.
Erin: Yeah. I don’t see a lot of authors getting there. I mean, they do, but you’re just one of the people who I think is very authentic.
Christy: I think it’s because a lot of times we feel like we want to reach more people, but we can’t reach everyone. The more we narrow our audience and our focus and quit worrying about trying to reach everyone…but what I love is that we can share from those deep vulnerable places when we’ve been completely set free.
Like the woman at the, well, she hid from every woman in town because she was so ashamed of her lifestyle. But once she saw herself like Christ saw her, the shame was completely gone, and she became a credible witness because the past was gone.
Until we get to that place in our writing where we’re no longer ashamed about our past because it’s the old us, then we can be completely authentic about what we’ve been through because we don’t have anything to hide anymore. That’s what really connects us with our readers: not trying to hide anything, not trying to be, you know, not politically correct, but spiritually correct. Not sounding like we’re trying to reach everyone when really we’re trying to reach a very specific target.
Karen: My husband, Don, and I were just talking about this yesterday morning while we were drinking coffee. I was telling him thank God for grace and that we live in a state of grace covered by the blood of Christ.
Because if we went before him in all our imperfections, and we didn’t have that covering of grace, we’d be in major trouble. I told him, “I’ve learned I will continue to disappoint God. I will continue to do and say the wrong thing. But because I have that covering of grace, as long as I am repentant, and as long as I continue to try to be a better reflection of him, I don’t have to worry.”
That’s a freedom to know that you can be wrong and you can be mistaken and you can be a flat out twit, and it’s okay so long as you come to him with a heart of repentance for it.
Karen: That is freeing indeed.
Out of that spirit of authenticity and sharing everything good, bad, and in between that happens, tell us about the challenges you faced in getting this book published.
Christy: There were so many, where shall I start? I did have an agent for this book and initially when I pitched a book idea to him at a conference, I wanted to write a book about manipulation and control. I had called it Controlled No More: Removing the Mask of Manipulation.
He was like, “Eh, that’s kind of a small niche market. What else you got?”
I was like frozen in my tracks, but I said, “Well, I always wanted to write a book about my forgiveness journey.” I didn’t know if people would want to read through my story because I’m not like a name brand author, but I started telling him about my journey through forgiveness.
He was pretty interested because his wife had previously been married to a man who was a serial adulterer, and she had never been completely able to forgive him.
He was pretty invested in this forgiveness idea and he goes, “What about a book called Forgiving Men?”
I was like, “Yeah, I am so on that.”
But the deeper I got into this project, my editor was like, “Mmm, no. That title is not going to work. You haven’t pegged the deeper felt need of your audience.”
The women, a lot of times, that really need to forgive, don’t really want to forgive yet. They’re still angry.
She said, “The anger and resentment, the bitterness, is the surface issue. What is the deeper felt need?”
Honestly, Karen, that took me a couple of months to really drill down and dive deep to try to figure out what was the deeper felt need. What was the thing that was missing? What was the thing that kept my women up at night?
Through a lot of reflection and 40 titles later, I discovered that what was missing was the freedom, and that became the new title: Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love.
I worked with my agent quite a bit during this process, and even though I thought I had a pretty sound platform at the time—I think I had 8,000 subscribers on my newsletter and now I’m approaching 20,000—he was still unable to find me a contract.
But I couldn’t let go of this book. It was like, I had to publish it.
Because my first book was published by a traditional house, and after a few years, I ended up buying my rights back, I thought, “How hard can this self publishing thing be ?” not realizing that the first time I did this, they handed me over all of the files, all the interior layout, everything. All I had to do is just switch it over.
I had no idea what I was in for.
I’m kind of a DIY-er, and I really like that. So, right when I was getting ready to do the interior layout, I thought I’d try to learn how to use InDesign. I watched all these videos and I thought, “I’m going to do this.”
It was kind of fun, actually. It was a lot harder than I thought, but I finally got it done. All I had to do was get it translated to the Kindle version, whatever that is. I just got exasperated and couldn’t figure it out, but I have a great mastermind team who have published many books, and Misty said, “I’ll do it for you. It’ll take me 10 minutes.”
Guess what? She couldn’t even figure it out. So, I decided, “Okay, I’m too invested in this. I can’t stop now. I’m going to hire somebody to do it.”
I researched on Reedsy and found somebody that looked like they knew their stuff. Every revision that he gave me, I think maybe he was using somebody on Fiverr. But I was so far into the project that I didn’t want to call him on the carpet because I needed to get this book done.
We went through 10 revisions.
Every time he sent me the files back, I had to proof it. He should’ve proofed it. He should have eyeballed everything. I was getting so frustrated. So that was one thing.
Then the cover design, the image that the cover designer chose didn’t really translate when you expanded it to fit onto the back cover and all that. But I’d already chosen this image, and it was just a huge learning curve. Finally I got it done.
Those are some of the things. If I had to do it again, I would, first of all, have to wait a year or two, so I could get my energy back for this. Time heals all wounds, so they say. Maybe the absence, the timeframe, will make me forget the hard journey that it was.
Erin: Right. Because here you were starting, thinking that this is going to be traditionally published. I remember when you were talking about that, and all of a sudden the disappointment of that, and then what do you do now? You’ve turned into more than an author at that point. You had a story to share and you had a message to share, and suddenly you’re being put into, you know, a round peg into a square hole that you’d never thought. You know, like, “Now I’m a publisher. Now I have to figure out what to do with this, that, and the other thing.”
How did you stay connected to God through those kinds of frustrations, through that kind of disappointment or just the constant nibbling away? I know that there were lots of other little hassles along the way. How did you cope? How did you stay close to God through those kinds of things?
Christy: Reminding myself of how God had been faithful in the past, and realizing and reminding myself, and renewing my mind, taking those thoughts captive on the failure. Because, you know, social media tells us that success equates to dollars and followers. And learning how to renew my mind. That’s not what success is. One day the Lord told me success is obedience.
And knowing that he would be faithful to complete the work he began in me and surrounding myself with his word, but also with Jesus with skin on, like my mastermind group that would listen to me cry and encourage me once again. And surrounding myself with writer friends, and my critique group, and speaker friends that could remind me of the value they saw in me and that, really, I can’t do anything in my own strength.
After a while, all of the setbacks became almost comical. I had to wonder, “Is this a divine delay?” God’s timing is better than ours. I wanted everything to be done so I could finish it and move on to something else, but he has a purpose and a plan and reminding myself that it’s okay. I had to trust his timing, not Christy’s timing.
Karen: Don and I hit so many detours in our life together. This December will be, I think, 41 years that we’ve been married. Don likes to say that we’ve been happily married for 10 years, which is out of 41. 20 years in counseling, and so many things happened.
We were going to put our house on the market and the week before we got hit by the hundred year flood that collapsed the foundation of our home. And so, you know, two years later we finally have it on the market. Our mantra has become through our life: God is in control. I may not understand it. I may not even like it, but God’s in control.God is in control. I may not understand it. I may not even like it, but God's in control. #amwriting #christianwriter @KarenBall1 @ChristyJohnson7 Click To Tweet
That’s what I have to hold on to. When you reach the end of what you think you’re able to do, when you surrender and say, “Okay, fine, I can’t do this. I cannot. I cannot do this,” and you turn it over to God, therein again, lies freedom. Because we don’t have to do anything beyond what he has equipped us to do.
Karen: We can learn from being willing to let go and to say, “Fine, then show me. Show me what you want me to do.”
Christy: Yeah, absolutely.
Erin: What do you think will be different for you going forward? Sooner or later, you’ll probably have another book you want to write. Through this experience, how do you think that’s going affect you moving forward as a Christ follower, as a writer, as a minister to others?
Christy: Knowing what I struggled with last time, and maybe delegating some of that this time, because as a DIY-er sometimes I want to do it all, and some of those things are just not worth my time. I’m very artistic, too, and the interior layout, for it to look real pretty, for me was important. Erin, you are one of the ones that told me, “You won’t be happy with Vellum because they don’t have really pretty pull quotes.”
I was like, “Oh, my book has to be pretty on the inside.”
Erin: Wait, wait. Now let me get a disclaimer in here. Vellum is amazing and I love it, but I also know Christy. I also know that compared to your last book, that is true. Vellum was not capable of doing the things that your last book had. And I know those were important.
Karen: Dear listeners, we are not dissing Vellum.
Erin: Right. I use vellum. I love vellum.
Christy: But after it was all said and done and all the blood, sweat, and tears I did on that interior layout, I looked at a Vellum book and I was like, “I should’ve just done it that way.”
Next time around, I don’t think I’m going to be so anal. I spent way too much time trying to make it perfect. And really, there’s a difference between perfection and excellence. We should strive for excellence, but perfection is unobtainable. I spent too much time trying to make it perfect when excellence was all I needed.There's a difference between perfection and excellence. We should strive for excellence, but perfection is unobtainable. #ChristianWriter #amwriting @ChristyJohnson7 @KarenBall1 Click To Tweet
Karen: Why did you feel it’s so necessary to publish this book? So necessary that you went through all this stuff?
Christy: Because the freedom that I found on the other side of my anger and bitterness, the intoxicating joy and freedom that I found, I felt compelled, absolutely compelled, that I had to show other women a way to find their own freedom.
Because there were just handfuls of women along the path of what I call my recovery out of relationship addiction, and my recovery out of bitterness, I wanted to help other women find their own freedom.
Forgiveness is such a vague concept. Everyone knows we’re supposed to forgive, but where’s the tip sheet? Like how do you do it? Where are the steps?
I find so many women that forgive, but then the offense keeps coming back over and over. They struggle with maintaining forgiveness. They can’t make it stick. I felt like there were some prerequisite steps, some skillsets that had to be in place before that forgiveness could stick, could be maintained.
That’s what I really wanted to help women find. Their own freedom. A few years ago I started a coaching group that’s basically a companion now to the book, but seeing how much freedom these women were finding, I just knew I couldn’t let this project die in midair. I had to finish the work.
There’s a Scripture that says to finish the work so that your eager willingness to begin it will be matched by your completion of it (2 Corinthians 8:11). That Scripture has compelled me to keep going when things looked hard. When rejections came in. When I felt like this was too hard. I had to finish.
Karen: What I love about this is so often when we know that we’re doing something that God wants us to do, when we know that we’re on a task that God has clearly given us, and that passion for it is in our hearts, we expect because this is something of God, and from God, we expect that everything will go according to plan, because this is God’s thing for us.
Erin: That it’ll be easy.
Karen: Yeah. We were just reading our devotion out of Streams in the Desert today, and one of the things that it said is to expect to be in the hard places.
The iron in our spiritual understanding and our spiritual soul doesn’t come from easy times, it comes from the hard times. We need to be ready to go through those difficult times because that’s what refines us. That’s what makes us more of a reflection of Christ. Christ did not have an easy time. We, as his followers, will not have an easy time, but hallelujah, God, is with us in the midst of it all.
We don’t have to worry about having all the answers. We don’t have to worry about being able to do it all. We only have to be obedient. Like you said, at the beginning of the podcast, success is obedience. When we’re able to let go of all those pieces and just trust God to put them together, he does.
I’m so amazed by the way things work out. He puts it all together and we go along for the ride, and we can glorify him then. When that book is finally done, and when it’s out, and when it’s blessing people, we can look at that and say, “This was God’s path for me, and I have become stronger in him, and my spiritual life has more iron in it because of it.”
Christy: Right. I often say between every dream and destiny we have to go through the desert in the middle, but that’s where God refines us and strengthens us. God even sent Jesus into the desert to be tempted by the devil.
That word tempted doesn’t mean tempted by sin. It means to be proved genuine. It’s in that desert, in that wilderness season. We can’t go around it. We have to go through the valley of the shadow of death.
Erin: Christy, you didn’t just go through the valley of all of your trials, though. Before you ever thought of writing a book, you went through a valley. You went to this deep place and had these experiences and needing to learn how to forgive.
Then, once you had this solution, you’re like, “Okay, now I need to help other people.” Well, guess what? That’s where writers are like, “We’ve got the solution, it should be easy now,” but still, just getting that message out is a difficult path.
I think that’s what we forget sometimes. We’ve been through a difficult path, and it’s still going to be difficult. Just that publication process. We can’t presume that’s going to be easy, but it’s so worth it.
Christy: Right, right.
Karen: Therein lies the beauty of surrendering to God and moving forward with him rather than trying to do it on our own. The end result, whether it’s to refine us or to refine the people who are reading what we’ve written or are participating in the studies, all of that is in God’s hands and he will use it all to glorify himself. What an honor to be a part of that process in glorifying him.
Karen: Well, Christy, thank you so much for joining us today. It’s been a delight to talk with you. Thank you for the wisdom that you’ve shared with our listeners.
Christy: Thank you so much for having me on. Writers are my tribe.
Karen: Well, listen in tribe. When you face the hard times and when it seems like everything is working against you, I know it’s counterintuitive, but rejoice. Because you’re on your path to refinement. You’re on your path to that end result that God has for you, for your readers, and for all of those around you.
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!
Are you going through a difficult valley in writing your book or trying to get your book to publication? What’s helping you persevere?
Books mentioned on the podcast
Free Looks Good on You: Healing the Soul Wounds of Toxic Love by Christy Johnson
Love Junkies: 7 Steps for Breaking the Toxic Relationship Cycle by Christy Johnson
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