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134 – When God Opens Doors with Guest Mary DeMuth

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When God Opens Doors with Guest Mary DeMuth on Write from the Deep

How do you know if God is opening a door for you? How can you tell if going through, and even changing directions, is exactly what God wants for you? Guest Mary DeMuth shares keys to understanding new opportunities—even when we feel insecure—and to following God’s path boldly in this constantly changing world of writing.

About Mary DeMuth

Mary DeMuth is an international speaker, literary agent, podcaster, and she’s the novelist and nonfiction author of over forty books, including Pray Every Day (Harvest House Publishers 2020). She loves to help people re-story their lives. She lives in Texas with her husband of 30 years and is the mom to three adult children. Find out more at marydemuth.com. Be prayed for on her daily prayer podcast with over one million downloads: prayeveryday.show. For sexual abuse resources, visit wetoo.org.  For cards, prints, and artsy fun go to marydemuth.com/art. Find out what she’s looking for as a literary agent at https://www.booksandsuch.com/our-agents/meet-mary-demuth/

Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast!

Erin: Welcome, listeners, to the deep. We’re excited to have you here, and we are excited to have a guest with us, Mary DeMuth. Yay! Karen will introduce her.

Karen: Mary DeMuth is an amazing person. She does so many things and does them all so well. Her most recent thing is the Pray Every Day podcast, which, in only three years has 1.5 million downloads. You can find that at prayeveryday.show and it’s in 150 countries and who knows how many languages. She’s just really remarkable.

She also is an amazing artist. You can find her artwork at marydemuth.com/art. That will take you to her Etsy shop. But the most important thing about Mary is how much she loves Jesus and how much she trusts him and how, when the unexpected things come to her, she follows him even if it’s difficult.

So that’s the most important thing about Mary. The depth of her love for Jesus and the depth of her faith in him is just so inspiring, and that’s what we want to share with you today because she has experienced yet another change and detour on her journey in the deep.

Erin: That’s right. Welcome, Mary.

Mary: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

Erin: All right. We are excited to have you here. Some of you may or may not know we’ve had Mary on in the past for one of her books. She’s written so many, but one of them that we talked about way back when. I think that was episode 25 when we talked about God’s Wild Love, but we always ask our guests what the deep means to them.

Mary may have answered that way back when, but that changes for us. That changes according to what we’re going through in our lives. So today, Mary, what does the deep mean to you?

Mary: Today, it means fostering a very strong adherence and love for the Word of God. I’ve been making the spiritual practice, over the past two years, I’ve been choosing to rapid read the Bible in two our three month increments from beginning to end, and it’s been one of the best spiritual practices I’ve ever done. It’s caused me to have really great connections between the Old and the New Testaments, and a really strong understanding of the storytelling of God.

So, to be deep is to steep myself in the Word of God, so that I know it well enough to be able to rattle it off at any moment and to recall it at any time.

Karen: Wow. That’s impressive.

Erin: It is. How long did you say you’ve been rapid reading? Like how many times now do you think you’ve done that?

Mary: I think probably eight to ten times over the past year and a half to two years.

Karen: Wow.

Erin: That’ll get you a lot of insight. I love that. That’s a great idea.

Let’s talk about just the most recent change that’s happened in your life. Because we’ve talked about a few things and we want to cover all of them, but this most recent thing that you are doing now after writing and doing all of these other things, training writers, you are now an agent. How did that happen?

Mary: I don’t know, but it just did!

It’s interesting because growing up, I never thought, “Oh, someday I want to be a literary agent.” It’s just been part of this journey that God has brought me on. This last fall, I had to let go of my literary agent and was looking for a new one. During that time, my husband and I, and our adult kids were hiking in the mountains of Colorado.

We climbed a fourteener, which was crazy. But while we were doing that and I’d lost an agent, my husband said, “You should become an agent.” Of course I told him that I can’t be my own agent, but that kind of stuck in my mind, like, “Gosh, that sounds interesting.”

I have been mentoring writers for decades. The moment I learned something I would teach it. It’s just kind of in my blood. I’ve been masterminding, I’ve been doing intensives. I’ve been training, coaching. I mean, I’ve just been doing it forever.

Well, what an interesting way to use that skillset, but to mentor writers toward traditional publishing. I have a lot of affection for traditional publishing. I know it like the back of my hand, and I’ve been through the sanctification process that is publishing, which is all the sadness and all the joy and all the things thrown in. So I feel like I can be a really good empathetic agent who understands both sides of the industry.

Erin: What made you think, though, like from his suggesting this, how did that suddenly come to be as, “Yeah, that’s really what I should do”? Lead us through that decision-making process and how you came to feel more sure that that was the next move for you.

Mary: Well, my first reaction was, “That’s dumb. I don’t want to do that.”

But the second reaction was to pray. My very first Mount Herman that I went to, Randy Alcorn was the speaker, and he encouraged us to have a prayer team. And so even before I was published, I gathered this prayer team. So the first thing I did was I went to my prayer team and some of my counselors and just sent them that idea and asked them to pray.

About a month of praying, and then Cynthia Ruchti became my agent. She’s from Books & Such Literary Management. I said to her when she signed me, “Hey, I just want to let you know, I’m actually thinking of becoming an agent. Would there be like a possibility for me to do that here?”

The answer was yes. So then that opened up some conversations between myself and Janet Grant, and we had several conversations. Then I prayed some more. I just had so much peace about it, and we just went forward. I started January 4th.

Erin: As we’re recording this, that’s just a few days ago. So what has been your impression after all of one week on the job?

Mary: Oh my goodness. My impression is that a lot of writers who want to be traditionally published have not done their homework. They don’t understand what it takes and they sadly, naively believe that if they have a good idea, that that is enough.

While that can be true, there can be good ideas with no platform, that can happen, but it has to be a pretty stupendous idea with stellar writing and all of that. I typically, this is very sad and I wish that wasn’t the case, but the way I’m weeding out my yeses and nos, and mostly nos is just asking, “What’s your platform?”

I’m taking mostly nonfiction, so it matters more. If I were taking more fiction, that number and that thing doesn’t matter as much, but on nonfiction, if I’m going to take a project to a publisher, it’s one of the first things they’re going to ask. So it’s gotta be the first thing I asked to.

Karen: Right. Yeah, it’s funny, my first month agenting with all the proposals that came to me, probably 98% of them were exactly what you say. They hadn’t done their homework. When I was working as the managing editor for publishing houses, heading up fiction lines, I had readers who did the first pass read on proposals.

I didn’t have that as an agent and so I went to Steve Laube, and I said, “Who are these people? And how do they keep finding me?”

Please, listeners, don’t think that we’re making fun of you. It’s simply the fact that I had not realized, naively, I had not realized how many people just don’t understand what’s involved in seeking a traditional publishing contract.

Erin: Right. So aside from platform, what else would attract you, Mary, to working with a specific person? Because there may be lots of people who might meet some of those criteria. What would sway you in one direction over the other?

Mary: I’ve had the privilege of working with authors for about 15 years now, and so of course, one of the answers is relationship.

Karen: Right.

Mary: Relationship really matters. If I know someone well, and I know their writing, and I know their heart, and I know what they do to promote, and I know all that already, I can take what they say at face value. So that helps, of course.

The other thing is if it kind of hits a very strong pain point in the culture today. We’ve got lots of pain points thanks to COVID. So, I’m also looking for something to speak into what’s going on in our world. That could trump, to use, you know, a president’s name, but that would trump, some other things. That would maybe cancel out the need for a bigger platform if there’s something theological to say.

I’m also really, really interested in theologically sound voices. People who know their Bible very well. I have to be able to stand before God someday with the things that I champion and be able to say that this is good for the Kingdom. If it’s slipshod theology or it’s playing loosey goosey with the word of God, I don’t care if it’s going to make me a million dollars. I just flat out don’t care. I would not put it out there.

Erin: Right.

Karen: That’s integrity in what you’re doing. That’s far too lacking in our world today.

Erin: Let’s switch gears a little bit. We led with this whole idea of your podcast, Pray Every Day. That surely was a change from being a writer. How did that podcast come about?

Mary: You know, it launched three years ago in the midst of some pretty extreme spiritual warfare. That always makes me realize that God’s up to something when there’s a bunch of, you know, hoopla around it.

I was actually launching the book Jesus Every Day, which is a 365 day devotional, where it’s like the opposite of Jesus Calling. In Jesus Calling, Jesus says stuff to you. In Jesus Every Day, you get a Scripture, and you pray that Scripture back to God. So it’s a prayer that you say, or that you read back to God.

I was meeting with my mastermind group. I have my own author marketing mastermind group that I’m a part of, and we were on our retreat. I said, “I want to think of something that would be creative to launch this book.” My friend Thomas Umstattd said, “You should do a podcast where you read Scripture and pray according to the Scripture.”

I was like, “Wow, that’s brilliant.” It was not my idea. But that’s how it came about. It started on February 1st, three years ago, and it’s just that simple. It’s about five minutes long. I’m reading through books of the Bible. Right now, I’m reading a chapter of Isaiah every day. I read it and then I pray according to what I’ve read, and I pray for my audience. That’s all it was.

Karen: That’s amazing. The Word of God reaching out and touching people all over the world. That’s exactly what we need. I’m delighted that it has had the reach and the success that it’s had, because it’s the Word of God. That’s outstanding. That’s using social media the way it should be used.

Mary: Yeah. Definitely.

Erin: Actually I love this, Mary, because this idea, the podcast, you were like, “Oh, first reaction, brilliant idea.” And that moves forward. But the agent, you know, “First reaction, dumb idea.” But that still moved forward.

I mean, to me, it’s that when you go and you continue to explore, and when you see the path that God is putting you on, maybe some of us out there might have that same reaction: Oh, that’s not a good idea. But when we are open to it or continue to explore, and especially when we are willing to pray about it, I love how that opens doors that we would not have gone through.

Mary: Yeah. When authors come to me and say, “Well, what’s the best thing I can do for my career?” I always echo Randy  Alcorn’s advice: Get yourself a prayer team. Have them walk you through your entire career.

I would not be where I am today without prayer.

Erin: Right. Well, let’s talk about another change or maybe it’s just an addition. You’ve got this art shop. Talk a little bit about how you can be a writer and still do all these other things. Because I think some people feel maybe pigeonholed as if they can only write, but look at all these other things you’re doing.

Mary: Yeah, I think about, you know, some people are made “Renaissance-y” that way. Like that’s just to use it, to coin a word, and I’m that way.

I just have a lot of interests. If I had listened to folks way back at the beginning of my career, I wouldn’t be where I am today, because I did write fiction, and I wrote nonfiction, and I wrote memoir, and I wrote devotionals, and I’ve done historical fiction. I’ve done everything.

I don’t know why the Lord has allowed it, but it’s been great. But in terms of the art, that was a fluke. This is why I think it’s really fun. About five or six, maybe seven years ago, I had a friend of mine who, instead of not eating chocolate for Lent, or whatever, he would create a piece of art every day.

I just loved that idea, so for about three or four years during Lent, I would just create a piece of art every day. Sometimes I’d throw it up on social media. Not often, but sometimes, and I would send it to my newsletter list and whatever. I just started having all these people ask me for it.

For years I resisted. I was like, “That’s dumb.”

I was insecure about my art. I’m not insecure about my writing. I have been working on it for decades. I’m very good at it, and I know that. I’m not saying that to be prideful, but I have confidence in all of that work that I’ve done. But I haven’t studied art. I don’t have any of those decades behind me, so I’m super insecure.

Finally I just thought, “Well, I’ll just throw a couple of things up on this Etsy shop and see what happens. It’s ended up being what helped me during the pandemic to make money. It was surprising. It’s actually been very sweet.

The thing that sells the most on that shop are 31 Scripture cards. That was an idea from my friend Susan, who is an amazing author in Austin. She said, “You really ought to make little cards of Scripture with art on them.” And I was like, “That’s cool.” She was brilliant.

I guess one of the things I’ll say is listen to your readers. Listen to the people around you. Listen to people who know you. They actually may see things in you that you don’t see in yourself.

Listen to your readers. Listen to the people around you. Listen to people who know you. They actually may see things in you that you don't see in yourself. #amwriting @MaryDeMuth Click To Tweet

Karen: That’s interesting because that plays into your responses to these ideas. When your response to Thomas’ idea of the Scripture and all that was, “Wow. That’s brilliant,” it was because it was Scripture. Yeah, it was you praying what you learned from that Scripture, but it was still Scripture.

But when it was the idea of you being an agent and the idea of you doing your art, your response was, “Well, that’s dumb,” because we’re so insecure about the abilities that we have to share. Creativity in other ways beyond writing. So I think it’s a good lesson to us that if our first response is something like, “That’s dumb,” stop and evaluate why you think it’s dumb. Why are you thinking that this is not something you should be doing?

It could be God saying, “Well, that’s dumb.” Or it could be your inner voice and tapes saying to you, “No, don’t do that because it’s too scary, and you’ll be putting yourself on the line, and you just really don’t want to do that. You don’t need any more rejection, you’re an author!”

We need to be aware of how our own inner tapes impact our ability to step out and try something.

Erin: Yeah.

Mary: Karen, that is brilliant. I have never thought of it that way. I’m serious. You get five gold stars. I had never thought of it that way, but you are so right. I think a lot of us as artists, and I’ll just say it as, you know, vocalists, artists, graphic artists, whatever, we are quick to discount what God has put inside of us.

I said I’m rapid reading the Bible again. I just got through the temple and all of the people that God had imbued with these talents. Some of them were the jack-of-all-trades. Some of them were Renaissance-y. They were like doing bronze and then they were doing weaving and so on.

The Bible has precedent for you to be able to be you. To do the things that he calls you to do. He’s also very gracious to place people in your life to encourage you when you’re freaked out about it.

Karen: Yes. I love that. He takes care of all of it. Why can’t we just rest in that and trust in that?

Erin: Mary, as we’re starting to come to the end of our time, is there anything else you would want writers to know about change?

Mary: Well, of course, it’s the one thing we can count on.

Karen: Right! The only thing that never changes is change.

Mary: That’s right. It reminds me of a discussion on the Books & Such Facebook page, that’s the literary agency I’m with. Someone brought up new social media platforms, in light of just recent events, and should we jump onto those as well?

My first hunch was well, you know, of course we need to be flexible and nimble and go where our readers are. So I won’t say you have to go here, or go there. Just find your readers and go where they are.

But the other thing we talked about was thinking of some of those long-term things that cannot be taken away from you. Social media platforms can be, but your email list typically cannot be. My thought is, yes, there’s going to be change in the industry. There’s going to be change in our world, but building your tribe on platforms that you own is really important. On your website, your email distribution lists, those are things you own, and that’s where we should place our concentration.

There are so many stressed out authors. They’re spreading themselves thin. My advice in that way is to find one thing first. Do it well, and then venture after. You can put yourself out in all the places just don’t deal with them for awhile. Become great at one and then venture after that.

Karen: Yeah. That’s very true.

We can also hold fast to the fact that the one thing that will never change is God. He is speaking into our hearts and our lives. He’s leading, he’s directing. He is who he is now and forever, and we can trust him.

It’s clear that you’ve done that. It’s clear that you have grown and learned that when he plants an idea in your mind, yes, let’s explore this and see if this is a door he’s gonna open.  I love that kind of confidence and that kind of freedom because we can just rest in the fact that he has the very best in mind for us. We can never tell how he wants to use us.

Mary, thank you for being an example of that. Thank you for looking to God and to prayer, to guide you and to lead you in the decisions you make. And thank you for reminding us that the most powerful thing we can do for not just our careers and our writing, but for our lives and our witness is to steep ourselves in the Word and to steep ourselves in prayer.

It’s been a delight. You’ve been a delight, and we just wish you every good thing in this new venture God has led you to.

Mary: Thank you so much. It’s such a blessing to be on, and I really appreciate your hearts for this need in our industry and in our writings for the deeper things of God.

I think a lot of us, we look with earthly eyes on earthly success. We forget that on the other side: new heavens, new earth. I have a feeling that the first are going to be last and the last are going to be first and the best sellers are going to be the least sellers and the least sellers are going to be the best sellers.

We are not tasked with success. We are tasked with obedience, so we have to look beyond what we see here with our eyes.

Erin: Amen. Thanks, Mary.

Books Mentioned in the podcast

Jesus Every Day: A Journey Through the Bible in One Year by Mary DeMuth

Jesus Every Day by Mary DeMuth

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

Has there been a time in your life when God opened an unusual, unexpected door for you?

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133 – Detours on Your Writing Journey

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Detours in Your writing Journey Write from the Deep PodcastWe’ve all been there. You’re cruising along on your writing journey, powered by motivation and excited about the work, when WHAM! A detour comes out of nowhere and clobbers you. Everything screams to a halt, and you’re left reeling. But as bad as a detour can feel, we’re here to tell you that more often than not, detours are God’s ways of getting you to HIS destination for you!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

My (Karen’s) husband, Don, is a see-the-hill, take-the-hill kind of guy. Me? I’m happy to amble along, stopping wherever we feel like stopping. As you can imagine, Don and I have polar opposite feelings about detours. He sees them as utterly frustrating obstacles that HAVE to be overcome. But what I’ve discovered is that more often than not, the detours are the best part of the journey. If you just relax and trust you’ll eventually get where you need to be. 

I (Erin) have to say I’m more like Don. I’m directional and goal oriented. Yet for me, becoming a writer seemed to happen through one giant decade-long (or two decades-long) detour. So I’ve gained a healthy respect for detours. That doesn’t mean they don’t still frustrate me sometimes.

When it comes to our writing and our publishing journeys, lots of us hate when we smash into detours. We react with frustration, even anger. And that seems reasonable. I mean, we’ve been working so hard to accomplish what we need to, and wham. Something over which we have zero control blocks us. Why would God allow that to happen? 

What are Detours?

Well before we answer that, let’s take a deeper look at detours.

Webster defines a detour as “a deviation from a direct course or the usual procedure…a roundabout way temporarily replacing part of a route.”

A deviation. That sounds negative, and considering Webster’s definition of deviation, that’s a reasonable deduction: 

    1. A departure from an established ideology or party line
    2. A noticeable or marked departure from accepted norms

Departure from what’s established? Departure from accepted norms? Detours are sounding worse all the time. 

Then there’s the other definition in Webster’s, where a detour is “a roundabout way…replacing part of a route.” Meaning you’re going to go all over the place just to get back to where you should have been before the detour showed up!

Lots of us react in similar ways when detours stop us in our tracks and send us off on some unknown path to God only knows where. We’re like:

I can’t believe this! 

This will take forever!

I was just starting to make some progress!

I’ll never reach my destination!

AAARRRRGGGGHHH!

So yeah, detours are hard. And frustrating. 

But we want to suggest something a little different. To do so, we’re going to consider several different kinds of detours: 

  • Bad Detours 
  • Power Detours
  • Opportunity Detours
Bad Detours

Let’s admit it. Some detours are just bad. 

When I (Karen) was traveling with my editor friend Julee, we somehow ended up on a detour on our way to San Francisco. We ended up in a really bad part of Oakland. At night. How did I know it was a bad part? Houses were all boarded up or had bars on the windows. There was a stop sign riddled with gun shots, and a group of shady-looking guys stood on the sidewalk. I was scared to death!

Julee reached up to turn on the map light, and the guys saw right into our car. They started toward us, and I heard crude comments and saw the looks on their faces. Understand, Julee was young and beautiful and as blond as it gets. I shut off the map light and floored the car, watching in my rearview mirror as the guys ran into the street and yelled after us. Julee asked if I knew where I was going. I said, “Away from there. That’s all I need to know.” 

That’s a bad detour.

I (Erin) had a bad detour, too. I’d just gotten my drivers’ license. I was young and had gotten my first job at a department store near home, but I needed to go to training a half hour away. I thought I knew where I was going. I’d gotten directions, and I stayed on the road I was told. But there’s a section where that road gets a different name, so I turned to stay on the road with the same actual street name.

Turns out that road became an interstate, and pretty soon this young, inexperienced driver was on her way to Chicago. Not a good place for a new driver. This was all before GPS, so I didn’t know how to get off the expressway and back where I was going. Worse, it was dark outside and difficult to see. I tried to get off the interstate, and ended up on another expressway, this time the signs said I was headed for O’Hare International Airport. In a panic, I exited yet again and finally found civilization. I stopped at a gas station and called on a pay phone (because this was before cell phones) to get directions once again. I finally made it to the training, but I was very late and still shaking when I got there.

Those kinds of bad detours, the detours that stop you in your writing journey, DO take you all over the map. They leave you feeling powerless and lost. Confused. Deflated. Discouraged. And they never seem to take you back to where you want to be. You find yourself unsure of your next step. Or if you’re even supposed to take a next step. 

Uncertainty like that is never fun. It can make you start to doubt yourself and doubt that you ever heard from God: Maybe I shouldn’t have gotten on this path to begin with?

Then you start to doubt your purpose: Why am I even trying to do this? What made me think I could? And now those questions are a whole new detour taking you from trust in God to doubt and fear and all kinds of things you just don’t have to go through. Why not? Because there is one thing you can always, always trust about those bad detours: 

God will use them.  

He’ll use them to refine you in your walk with him. To develop a spirit of praise no matter what happens to you.

1 Peter 1:6-7 tells us, “In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

Psalm 66:8-12 says, “Let the whole world bless our God and loudly sing his praises. Our lives are in his hands, and he keeps our feet from stumbling. You have tested us, O God; you have purified us like silver. You captured us in your net and laid the burden of slavery on our backs. Then you put a leader over us. We went through fire and flood, but you brought us to a place of great abundance.”

God will also use the bad detours to deepen your trust in him and his control over your life and career. To help you believe he WILL complete his work in you, no matter how things look. To remind you that trust in him isn’t about what’s happening in your life, it’s about HIM being who he says he is. As Charles Spurgeon once said, “To trust God in the light is nothing, but trust him in the dark—that is faith.” 

Listen to Psalm 111:2-8. “How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Everything he does (even detours!) reveals his glory and majesty. His righteousness never fails. He causes us to remember his wonderful works. How gracious and merciful is our Lord!…He always remembers his covenant. He has shown his great power to his people…All he does is just and good, and all his commandments are trustworthy. They are forever true, to be obeyed faithfully and with integrity.”

Then there’s this wisdom from Deuteronomy 7:9: “Know therefore that the Lord your God, he is God, the faithful God, who keeps his covenant and his lovingkindness to a thousandth generation.” 

So the next time one of those rotten, painful, just plain bad detours slams you to a halt, use it. Purpose to keep your focus on the Lord your God, not on the path you were so sure you needed to follow. Remember he is God, and he will accomplish HIS purposes for you and your writing. No detour in creation can ever change that. 

Remember Romans 8: 5-9, 14, 18: “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires [on the path or route we think is right]; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.”

And here’s the good news, especially in the face of detours:

“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit…For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God…I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

Power Detours

Some detours are God demonstrating his power.

On another cross country trip with Julee, we tried to go visit a place where there was going to be some type of Native American event. On the way there, we had to follow a detour that led us all over the place, to the middle of nowhere in a desert area. There were no signs, so we ended up just guessing where to go. Then we realized we were running out of gas. We were praying like crazy, and our car was on fumes, when we finally spotted a gas station. We stopped for fuel, and asked the attendant about the place we were trying to visit.

He looked at us, frowned, and said, “You girls don’t want to go there. That’s not a good place. It’s not safe for you.” He gave us directions back to the freeway, which were surprisingly simple. We agreed as we got back on the freeway that the detour, and bringing us to that gas station in the middle of nowhere, was God’s way of keeping us safe. 

That was a power detour. Power detours teach us to be grateful, and remind us that God is there, watching over us. Julee and I were stunned at the way God protected us. Shoot, we both said we wouldn’t be surprised if we drove back to the station and it wasn’t even there. That God had given us a heavenly pit stop when we needed it. Whether that’s true or not, I do know that God protected us. 

I (Erin) experienced a power detour as well. Some of you know my hubby’s job went away a couple years ago. That’s pretty much always some type of road block or detour. We knew God had another place for us, but we didn’t know why it was taking so long for him to tell us where. We waited a year. Alan was looking for a job the whole time.

It turned out that the job God had for Alan wasn’t available until after the year we had waited was over. The person whose position Alan took had yet to leave. But all that time, God sustained us. He showed us he’d take care of us, and he did. Alan had wondered if God was bringing him into a different career. We got that answer: no. Out of the multiple jobs he applied for (dozens and dozens and dozens), and for which he was qualified, God brought Alan right back to teaching, but in a different place. Which was good, because there were a lot of frustrations at his other job, and he was never going to quit. 

This road block felt like it was just a holding pattern. But it was God’s sovereign hand. It was God showing his power over time. He orchestrates the universe. It was God telling us he’d sustain us and put us where he wanted us when he wanted us there. These detours help us understand that and glorify God for it. “There is no one like God to help…” 2 Chronicles 14:11.

Psalm 9:1-2, 9-10, says, “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and rejoice in you; I will sing the praises of your name, O Most High. The Lord is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.”

Opportunity Detours

Opportunity detours are when God steps in to take us off of one path and plant us on another of HIS choosing for HIS purposes. Sometimes those detours lead to a different destination, sometimes not. But always in a different way than we thought we’d be going because he knows what is best for us.

We call these opportunity detours because with each one, we have the opportunity to see these detours as coming from God’s hand, which means we explore them with a sense of confidence and anticipation. 

I (Karen) was in charge of fiction at Multnomah. A detour happened, one that stopped me cold in my career tracks. One that both Don and I knew meant God was leading me to leave Multnomah. I was shocked. I loved working at Multnomah. I was frightened, too. I made good money. How would we survive financially? But God was clear, so I left.

Within days of leaving, I had freelance editing work lined up for a year. People just called me out of the blue. Then I was called by Zondervan to come head up their fiction line. I loved working there, too. Then wham. Another detour hit.

This time, though I really didn’t want to leave that job, I was able to accept the detour and go with confidence. I went back to freelance editing. Then another publisher called, and I worked for them. Then…another detour. So I went into agenting.

Then another detour. All of which led me to where I am now, doing things I always dreamed of doing, but was too afraid, for the longest time, to do. My “trust” was in my bank balance, not in God’s provision. So I was always worried about “what if?” What if I get sick? What if I can’t work? 

It took all those detours, and moments of God refining and providing and teaching me, for me to finally do what God wanted me to do: Trust Him. For everything. Now I leave it all to God. Editing, speaking, podcasting, writing…whatever door He opens, I go through and see if that’s where he wants me.

The beauty is that we’ve never been without. I had the freedom to focus on my dad as he battled stomach cancer that last year of his life. I have no regrets about spending that time with him. When I struggled with stomach issues for a year and couldn’t work, God provided. When I was hospitalized and almost died from lung disease, God was there. It took me months to recover and be able to work again, but we were fine. Because…God. 

I (Erin) had opportunity detours, too. Some of you know that I have a masters degree in music theory and composition. That was part of my detour on the way to becoming a writing!

I had written a one-act opera for my recital for my degree. Most often composers play in their own recital, but I hated performing, so I didn’t write a part of an instrument I play. Or composers conduct at their recital, but I wasn’t very good at conducting, and this opera was not going to be easy to conduct. And I wanted to see the opera acted out, not just with singers standing there singing in concert, so I asked if my contribution to the performance could be stage directing. 

The school agreed, but I had to take a couple classes in directing. Now typically the last thing you want to do when you’re trying to finish your degree is sign up for yet more classes. But I ended up studying directing with a visiting professor who had amazing credentials (his mentor had been John Houseman), and he was only there for that one year I needed to study directing. It was in those directing classes that I ended up learning a stunning amount about writing. I learned about goals and motivation and conflict, and action beats, and you name it. It was amazing, and this detour was probably the biggest contributor to why I ended up as a writer. God had that planned all along.

Conclusion

Yes, detours can be hard. They can be stinky and bad. But God will still use them. Yes, detours can be opportunities for God to demonstrate his power, when we didn’t even realize we needed those demonstrations. But he does it because he loves us. And yes, detours are opportunities for us to trust God. To trust that our God is the God of everything. The God of our careers. The God of our families. We don’t have to be afraid.

For every detour I’ve faced, I can tell you God has been faithful to His promises to guide and sustain, to provide for me, to refine me. I can honestly say that when detours hit now, I find myself getting a little excited and asking God what He’s up to now. 

So the next time you slam into a detour on your writing journey, or if you’re in a detour right now, meet it with determination and confidence, because you’ve just encountered Almighty God and his will for you. Your journey, your career, and your heart are all firmly in His hands. There’s no need to be afraid or upset. Instead, focus on God and see where he’s taking you. I guarantee your final destination will overflow with God’s provision and blessings. As it says in Isaiah 48:17, “I am the Lord your God…who leads you in the way you should go.”

Have you encountered a detour on your writing journey? Meet it with confidence and grace! #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How has God used detours in your life and writing journey?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our January sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain! She’s been working on her first book, a Christian speculative novel titled Make Known His Path.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

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132 – How to Avoid Writer’s Burnout, Part 3

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How to Avoid Writer's burnout Part 3 Write from the DeepWhy is it so easy for writers who follow Christ to be derailed? Why do we, who are made in God’s image, forget that and find ourselves worn out, tempted to quit, or even angry and frustrated? Part of the answer is that we’re human and fallible. But the biggest reason is that we don’t ask ourselves the right questions to help us avoid, or escape, burnout. Come learn what to ask and when!

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

We’ve spent two earlier episodes talking about strategies to avoid writer’s burnout. It may feel like a lot of time to devote to this one topic, but God doesn’t mean for his children, made in his image, to live tired, rushed, stressed, burned-out lives. That’s not an effective way to, as it says in Philippians 2:15-16, “…shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.”

And it’s not an effective way to, like it says in Hebrews 12:1, “…run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” We don’t want you to set a pace that you can’t maintain, or set a pace that leads to you giving up before you’ve run the whole race.

With that in mind, let’s get to the last few tips we have for you.

PRIORITIZE SELF-CARE

If you’ve ever heard flight attendants give the safety procedures before a flight, you’ll know that when they’re talking about the unlikely event that the aircraft should lose cabin pressure and you need to put on an oxygen mask, which will hopefully drop out of the ceiling like it’s supposed to, you’re to put on your own mask first before helping anyone else. That might seem selfish at first, but then it becomes obvious: You can’t help anyone if you aren’t breathing yourself.

We’ve talked about this before but it’s worth repeating. Make sure you’re eating, sleeping, resting, rejuvenating, and getting the exercise you need. We have to plan time for self-care. It’s not a luxury, it’s an imperative.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 says, “You are not your own; for you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” It’s not selfish to take care of yourself. It’s God-honoring. So don’t stick self-care on the “maybe” list, or the “if I have time after everything else” list. There’s only so long you can get away with mistreating your body, heart, and spirit before something breaks down.

BE WILLING TO DELEGATE

This tip gives you another way to take a few things off your plate. Take a look at everything on your to-do list and ask whether you’re the best person to do it. Sometimes you’re at a point where it makes sense to hire a virtual assistant, or some help with childcare, or other household tasks, etc.

For example, it’s not just okay, but healthy to give kids responsibilities. Yes, there’s some extra time involved in teaching kids a new task, but that should pay off in the long run.

Women in particular can sometimes have trouble delegating. We feel guilty for, say, hiring someone to do housekeeping. Where do we get this idea that WE have to clean our houses? Don’t give in to an “I can and should do it all” attitude. That’s dangerous, especially since it far too often has roots in pride. Or comparison. Delegation of the tasks that someone other than you can do is an opportunity to develop a team mentality in your household and career.

Practice UNNECESSARY CREATIVITY

This tip can help maintain and even grow your ability to be creative. I was reading a book by Todd Henry called The Accidental Creative (affiliate link). One of the things he suggests for people in creative careers is to dedicate some time in your week to what he calls “unnecessary creativity.” This is anything you consider a creative task that doesn’t have any pressure. You have nothing at stake. It’s just fun. This technique, he says, helps build your creative muscle so you can be more creative during your work times. You become more able to be creative on demand.

One of the things that does this for me, Karen, is feeding, caring for, and photographing the birds in my backyard. I’ve rebuilt our bird-feeding station any number of times because I’ve realized I could do something better, or even something prettier. I looked for pretty teacups and saucers to use as feeders for the finches and mourning doves. I mix different types of food together, and build different types of feeders, to draw a greater number of different birds. Just recently I added bark butter as a menu option for the birds, and it’s been such a treat for me to see new birds coming to partake. It all lets me be creative just for the fun of it, and that brings me joy.

For me, Erin, I love photography. It’s completely unrelated to writing. There’s no pressure. I just like to take pictures out in nature and look at them. I love closeups of birds and other animals so I can see the amazing details God put into each bit of his creation. I try to make interesting compositions. Sometimes I succeed, but often I don’t. Especially when the bird I was photographing flew away right before I snapped the picture. No worries, though. I simply delete those pictures. I’m just stretching my creative muscles.

Think about the creative things, aside from writing, that you enjoy: baking, quilting, working with your hands, building things, landscaping, making music. Whatever it is, don’t see it as a waste of time that you could’ve used writing. These are ways to improve your brain’s capacity for creative work.

Yes, we’ve been telling you to do fewer things, so don’t make this something that feels piled on. But if there’s something you’d like to do to stretch your creativity into other activities, do it. Chances are it will be a relaxing break, so it does double duty as a part of self-care.

REGULAR EVALUATION

Burnout is a slow road we travel without realizing it. You have to assess your load on a regular basis. Things change. Seasons change. Activities that used to energize you may now drain you. And things that used to drain you might start to energize you. You might need to shuffle your daily schedule, or re-evaluate your deadlines.

Schedule regular times to ask yourself:

  • Do I like the pace I’m on?
  • Do I feel rushed?
  • Do I feel stressed?

Yeah, when my (Erin’s) husband’s job went away a couple years ago, we were dealing with his unemployment for a year, while we were trying to get our house ready to sell. Meanwhile, I was trying to write and edit and produce new episodes of the podcast, and our dog got cancer and died. Then Alan got a job suddenly and had to relocate without me, while I packed up the house to move. Then the house sold fast and shrank my packing time. Then the sale fell through 5 hours after the moving truck drove away, and we had a weekend to find another place to live.

I couldn’t figure out why I was dealing with terrible bouts of fatigue, worse than I’d ever had in the past. Someone asked me if I was feeling stressed, and I said, “Well, I don’t think so.” Then I started listing everything going on in my life… Um, YES, I was stressed and I didn’t even know it.

Responsibilities can pile up and simply become part of your new normal. The last year, when my (Karen’s) hubby, Don, was so incapacitated by the pain in his hip, I had to take on his chores as well as mine. So when I started to find myself resenting all I had to do, I knew it was time to stop and evaluate, to find out what could change. You have to stop and ask yourself if that’s happening.

 Ask:

  • Are the needs of my family changing?
  • Are the demands of my day job changing?
  • Or are the demands of my writing career changing?

For example, if you’ve recently gotten a contract, it may be a very different life now than just a few months ago.

Or, if you have something new you want to take on, ask what you’re going to take off your plate in order to make room.

Also, make a habit of asking yourself:

  • Did I try to fit too much in my day today?
  • Did I try to fit too much in my week?

If you’ve planned more white space in your life, that will help give you the time to evaluate as you’re going through your day. You can ask yourself:

  • What have I learned about how much time I gave to my various tasks?
  • Did I go faster or slower than I anticipated?
  • Why?

For example, some tasks that you may have systemized got easier or faster, and you can anticipate those taking less time in the future.

Also make sure to evaluate your mental, physical, emotional, and creative health after finishing big projects. Ask:

  • How did it go time-wise, stress-wise?
  • What should I change to make the next big project go more smoothly in my life and in the life of everyone around me?
  • Did I give myself enough recovery time?

Plan specific times for broader evaluation into your schedule. Check in with yourself weekly, or at least monthly, and even quarterly and yearly. We’re not saying that you have to spend every waking moment navel-gazing. But we are saying that evaluation needs to be regular and specific.

And don’t hear us saying that you’ll never be tired or feel like you’re too busy. We live in a fallen world and things do happen. But what we’re trying to do is promote a lifestyle conducive to mental, emotional, and spiritual health. You want a pace that is overall sustainable even if you have some sprints now and then.

REMEMBER WHOM YOU SERVE

This last tip can help us keep our heads and hearts in the right place. As writers, we’re not here to be served but to serve. One of the most unattractive and unhelpful traits a writer can have is entitlement and pride. The world does not owe us. Our readers don’t owe us. God doesn’t owe us. Our task is to communicate God’s truth through words on a page. But also through our actions and responses everyday.

Why are we talking about this as a way to avoid burnout? Because the wrong attitude stirs up negative emotions that drain us. We can not feel rested when we’re feeling resentful or angry. We cannot effectively create from a place of hope when we’re frustrated and bitter.

Colossians 3:23-24 says, “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” God is the one who judges our writing, our actions, our intentions and attitudes. And God is the one who rewards us. We may never see “earthly rewards” for our writing. We have to be okay with that because it’s God we serve and God who has reserved a priceless inheritance in heaven for us.

Because it’s God we serve, it’s also God who makes us able to serve. It’s God who gives us the creativity, the passion, the joy, and the strength. And God’s supply is inexhaustible. When we’re creating hand in hand with God, we’re connected to the source of life and creativity that never runs out. But he’s also the source of true rest and true peace.

Ultimate peace doesn’t come in completed tasks. It comes from being with God throughout our tasks. Yes, there’s a certain satisfaction we feel in completing tasks, and that’s fine, but that’s not the source of our worth. Because there will always be more tasks and more projects. If completing them were the source of our worth, we’d feel lousy for never getting there. And some of us do feel lousy, but that’s false guilt. 

We need to remember that the abundant life God created us for comes from being focused on him, from being obedient to him. It comes from remembering there’s only one whom we serve, a mighty one who loves us beyond anything we can imagine and who is calling us to partake in creativity with him not because he needs us but because of how very much he loves us!

Writers, you’re made in God’s image. Live like it! #amwriting #Christianwriter @karenball1 Click To Tweet
WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

How often do you evaluate your load? What helps you remember to do that?

THANK YOU!

Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Thanks so much to our December sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which should come out soon from Redemption Press. Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast Production Services for their fabulous sound editing!

STAY CONNECTED

Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download.