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200 – Writing Wisdom and Advice: A Celebration of Our 200th Episode

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Writing Wisdom and Advice A Celebration of our 200th Episode Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIt’s been such an honor and delight to share your writing and spiritual journey with you! As we celebrate our 200th episode, we have a gift for you: writing wisdom and advice from some of our amazing guests! So come listen in and be blessed!

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

Welcome to the deep, my friends! We’re glad you’re here with us. Today we’re celebrating! It’s our 200th episode! We started this podcast in September of 2015, everybody. Two episodes per month for eight years!

God has been so kind in giving us this task, showing his faithfulness and presence. Way back when, before we started this podcast, God spoke to us at the same time about how writers needed encouragement to help them deal with the struggles in their spiritual life on the writing journey. We’re so honored that he’s given us this task, and we’re delighted that you all are here.

Yes, God did lay it on our hearts. You have to know, we didn’t tell each other about it at that time. He spoke to us individually, and then we came together and discovered this and knew it was God.

We have to give a shout out to Thomas Umstattd Jr.,  too. Right about the time we were thinking about this, Erin mentioned it to Thomas at an ACFW conference. He said, “You and Karen doing a spiritual podcast for writers? Huh. That could be very interesting!”

It was so kind and so encouraging. Thomas and James L. Rubart gave us advice and tech help, too. We sure didn’t know how to do any of this, but Thomas did, and he was a resource and guide as we got started.

Thanks also to our awesome sound editor Mike at Podcast PS. He gets the brunt of all our bloopers and goofs, and he fixes them. Thanks, Mike!

For all of you out there who’ve supported us on Patreon, you’ve been a crucial part of these podcasts as well. We couldn’t have done this without you.

As we thought about how to celebrate this 200th episode, it occurred to us to reach out to former guests of the podcast and ask them for their advice and counsel for you. Our celebration is a special treat for you!  To keep the podcast from being an hour long, we’ve shortened some of the comments.

DiAnn Mills shared this:

“Karen and Erin’s interview with me…showed Christian sisterhood in action. They made me feel like I was the most important person on the planet. I valued the prayer time, professionalism, and insight into my book’s topic. The time sped by, and I regretted the ending of our conversation.”  DiAnn Mills

That’s how we always feel at the end of our time with our guests. Oh my goodness, we’ve laughed and cried and grown closer to God and each other. It’s fellowship in action. We’re so blessed by the body of Christ. That’s God’s design and purpose. We’re in this together, y’all. Stay connected, stay encouraged.

“You’re already doing a good thing for your life as a writer, because you are listening to this wonderful writing podcast. We can learn so much from one another. Be a writer’s writer like Karen and Erin. Cheer another writer on. Offer encouragement. Open doors. Someday another writer will do that for you, too. We can help one another.”  Karen Stiller, author of The Minister’s Wife, and Holiness Here coming out in Spring of 2024.

“I’ve always loved the title of your podcast, Write from the Deep, because it’s truly the only guarantee of a Christian writer’s success. No matter what degrees we hold, how many contracts we’ve secured, workshops we’ve taught or attended—if we don’t quiet the outer noise and dig deep to hear the still, small Voice inside, we have nothing of eternal value to write. So, no matter what distracts us, we can Write from the Deep when we LIVE from the deep. That’s why David’s psalms are so powerful. He wrote what he lived, and his words burn in our souls.”  Mesu Andrews

“When I was first published, decades ago, it was a challenge to find helpful information on the craft of writing. Writers groups were a rare gift and writer’s conferences became a lifeline. I’ve appreciated the way Write from the Deep has brought these necessary components to the next generation of writers. The variety of topics, personal stories and valuable insights from Karen and Erin have made this podcast a treasure chest for both new and experienced writers. Thank you, friends, for all your hard work. I’m honored to have been a guest and blessed to be a listener.”  Robin Jones Gunn

“God planted a love for words within the heart of every writer. God does not need our words, but he delights in using them in order to encourage, teach, inspire, and challenge – first us, and then others. Let God first have his way in your heart, then he will gladly help himself to your words to advance his kingdom purposes.”  Shadia Hrichi

We need encouragement, we need inspiration. This world can be difficult and dark. Lindsay Franklin shared with us that they recently discovered a would-be intruder trying to break into their house. While they were all home, in the middle of the day! How brazen. How disconcerting and eerie that must have been! So Lindsay Franklin gave us this bit of wisdom:

“Life is weird, but God is good. We’re never promised things will be easy or everything will work out perfectly. But we are promised God’s presence, and that’s more than enough.”  Lindsay Franklin

“I’ve been taking great comfort recently in these words of Jesus from John 8:12: ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ It gives me such peace to know that if I am truly following Jesus, I am walking in his light and I can trust him to lead me one step at a time, only as far ahead as I can see for the next step and the next and the next. I’m trying to live life that way—one step at a time, eyes on Jesus, all the way home!”  Deborah Raney

Robin Lee Hatcher gave us this Scripture from Isaiah 42:16 (NASB95):

“I will lead the blind by a way they do not know, In paths they do not know I will guide them. I will make darkness into light before them and rugged places into plains. These are the things I will do, and I will not leave them undone.”

“God gave me this verse for a particular book when I was in a panic, not knowing how to tell the story in my heart. He made darkness into light before me then, and he has continued to do so for the many novels that have followed.”  Robin Lee Hatcher

These Bible verses from literary agent Steve Laube then tell us what happens next, when God makes our darkness light:

“Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God…His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire…Therefore, I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”  Combined from Matthew 5:16; John 5:44; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 2 Peter 1:3-4; Psalm 86:12

“My advice is pretty simple and something I’m still working on myself: Keep your focus on the Lord. Always. It’s so easy to be distracted by this world and all the things. Everything we do should be done to the best of our ability for the glory of the Lord.”  Kimberly Woodhouse

Kim is still working on that, like we all should be, because it’s hard!

Paul Hastings, host of Compelled Podcast – Christian Stories and Testimonies gives advice that echoes Kim’s:

“Sometimes when I grow discouraged by lack of progress, I must be reminded of an eternal perspective. Seek first the kingdom of God, and he’ll take care of the rest. Even if you never achieve fame or acclaim as an author here on this Earth, if you serve the Lord faithfully then at the end of time you will hear the words ‘Well done, good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of your Master’ (Matthew 25:21).”  Paul Hastings

“The Holy Spirit knows best about your career. Trust his voice rather than the siren call of social media. Faithfulness trumps fame and. Book sales don’t equal your worth.”  Mary DeMuth

“Don’t get your identity or self esteem from your successes and failures as a writer.”  Sharon Dunn

“We are beloved children of God. That is our identity whether we write or not, whether we have ‘success’ or not. 2 Corinthians 4:7 tells us, ‘We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us (ESV).'”  Sharon Hinck

I like the focus Thomas Umstattd Jr. has on service in the advice he sent us:

“As a Christian author, your job is to honor God and thrill your reader. That’s it. At the end of the day, no one else matters. Not your agent, publisher, book store owner, book critic, English teacher, or editor. They are not your customer. They are not your God.  If your readers love your book, and you honored God in writing it, that is enough.  Love God, and serve your reader.”  Thomas Umstattd Jr.

Thomas also shared this Scripture with us:

“‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second [commandment] is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:30-31 (ESV)

“To my writing brothers and sisters, a simple word of encouragement: God is already preparing the hearts of your readers for the message or story he has called and equipped you to share. Even before you’ve written a word. Even before you’ve posted something about your W-I-P on social media. Even before you’ve sent the first email, the first newsletter, the first blog post. Before all that, God. You can trust him. You can rest in him. Take a deep breath, and write.”  Liz Curtis Higgs

“No matter what, when, or how God called you to write, the platforms and audience he gives you are HIS. Your career is HIS. Write as he guides you. And be willing to leave it all behind if he calls you to something new and unexpected. Your writing is not your life-path. JESUS IS.”  Brandilyn Collins

Elizabeth Ludwig says something similar:

“My advice to writers is don’t ignore your spiritual journey! God has much to teach you along the way. Sometimes, getting there is more beneficial than actually arriving.”  Elizabeth Ludwig

“I loved being part of Write from the Deep. During the two episodes that we visited, I especially loved connecting my health and spiritual journeys to the writer’s journey. And the Scripture that speaks to all of that is found in John 13:7, where Jesus is washing his disciples’ feet and he says, “You do not understand now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” After our conversations, it became even more clear to me that God is using each of our writing paths in ways we may not fully know this side of Eternity. And that gives me purpose and peace, knowing I don’t have to design and figure everything out on my own.”  Lori Ann Wood

“It can be difficult for authors to dig deeply into their own pain and past mistakes when shaping their stories, but the result can have eternal results in readers’ lives when they do…I would encourage young writers to set priorities in their life and writing, and then allocate their time accordingly, aware of the endless distractions that would divert them from God’s calling to write.”  Lynn Austin

Not only do we have to deal with distractions, we also have to deal with blank pages…sitting there…waiting for our genius…and waiting…and waiting…

Robin Lee Hatcher offers these words of wisdom for writers:

“You can’t fix anything you haven’t written. Give yourself permission to write ‘bad stuff.’ You can fix bad stuff. You can’t fix a blank page.”  Robin Lee Hatcher

I always find the blank page the hardest part, maybe some of you can relate. Once something is there, then comes the fun part—making it better, for me that’s easier, so I love Robin’s advice. Just get something on the page.

“Some of the best advice I’ve received as a writer is to invite God into my creative process. And so now, that’s the advice I love to give other writers, too. Pray before you write. Talk to God about the details, big and small. And ask him to show you the stories he has for you. It is such a gift to be able to create alongside our Creator.”  Becca Wierwille

To follow that up, Laurel Thomas says:

“My advice would be to receive with confidence from the Creator as we create!”  Laurel Thomas

I love that simple key: receive with confidence. That means we take note of the fact that God is the ultimate Creator, and he’s made us in his likeness, and he DOES gift us with creativity. It comes from God. We don’t have to manufacture it. We can be confident that it’s already ours through him.

Lenora Worth echoes that:

“Always, always, ask God first. Ask him when you get an idea. Ask him when you write the proposal. Ask him when you have doubts or when you hear good news. Ask him, ‘Lord, can you show me the way?’ And thank Him. He gives us the talent and the words. Never take that for granted as we tell the greatest story ever told. His story.”  Lenora Worth

Our creativity is important. Cathy Gohlke had this to say:

“Our world stands in great need of stories that discover the healing wonder found in relationship with our Heavenly Father.  Take stock of your life, of the unique experiences—the good, the bad, the victories and failures, the times you’ve shone in the sun, and the times you’ve had to rise from the ashes—and the lessons learned from those experiences.  Recognize the threads God has woven through your life—the themes—and objectively view the tapestry he’s created in you.  Realize that these life experiences and how you’ve grown from them, how they’ve brought you closer to God, are his gifts to you—gifts that you, as a writer, are able to use to inspire readers through your pen.  What the enemy means for evil God can use for good—as long as we open our hands and allow him. As writers we are constantly faced with discouragement and self-doubt.  Realize these are insidious, desperate tools of our common enemy.  Realize, too, that God has given us armor—the armor and implements of war found in Ephesians 6.”  Cathy Gohlke

“Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”  Ephesians 6:14-18

We can’t forget that last part about praying. Prayer is the thing we do while we’re WEARING the armor. We don’t just stand around dressed in armor. We use it in prayer battle.

Prayer isn’t the least thing you can do. It’s the greatest. We need to be bolstered by prayer because of another Scripture that Christy Bass Adams mentioned:

“I’m reminded of Matthew 10:16 (CSB) as Jesus is sending out the disciples and instructs, ‘Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.’ Answering the call to write is like sending the sheep out among wolves. This world needs confident, focused, and determined Christians. We must intentionally pay attention, research, and carefully analyze our partnerships and alignments. Writers are vulnerable. Rejections can often cripple us or steal our hope for a season. We must learn to speak up. Fight for what is true and right. Take a stand on faith and be firm about that stand. But also, be gentle in our tone. Innocent as doves. Kind in our responses. Careful and purposeful with our words. Words are powerful and we must use them for the greater and higher authority of Jesus Christ.”  Christy Bass Adams

“Do not be afraid, for He is ever with us. Claim your name—Image Bearer of the King—and go daily into battle for the Kingdom of Heaven as the pen warrior you are, remembering that victory and glory belong to Him.”  Cathy Gohlke 

What a blessing it’s been to talk and share with these amazing people and writers, and to share the experiences and wisdom God has given them with all of you. As we mentioned, our goal with this podcast was to encourage writers in their spiritual journeys.

Tina Yeager shared this encouragement with us, and with you:

“Karen and Erin inspire listeners to draw from the living wells of their souls for meaningful creative work. Write from the Deep delves into topics with profound impact. May all of us called by our Creator remember our purpose as a compass, to submit to his guidance, and to maintain an attitude of worshipful wonder. May anointing continue flowing from this podcast through all who experience it for many seasons to come.”  Tina Yeager

May each of you continue to draw closer to the One who guides and uses us for His purposes. Blessings to you all.

Join us for writing wisdom and advice from many of our previous guests as we celebrate 200 episodes! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever gotten?


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

Thanks so much to our October sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! She’s a speaker at women’s retreats, and her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available. She’s hard at work on the next book in the series!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


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

199 – Why Every Writer Needs Solitude

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Why Every Writer Needs Solitude Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungEven if you have all the craft books you could ever need on your bookshelves, you’re not fully equipped to write. Because your craft isn’t the only thing you need to work on. So join us in this podcast, the first of a new series on activities that draw us closer to God, as we explore solitude.

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

As Christian writers, most of us would wholeheartedly agree that the deeper our relationship with God grows, the more at peace and on target we’ll be as we live—and write—within God’s will for us. No matter the path, no matter the difficulty, we can remain steadfast and purposeful in seasons of ease and seasons of hardship. 

But the catch, of course, is in how exactly we are to deepen and maintain our relationship with God. Let’s face it, few of us can say we’ve arrived at our best and deepest relationship with him. It’s a process, and sometimes a very difficult one.

It just so happens that there is a Biblical model for spiritual growth and development, for building and deepening our relationship with God, and Jesus himself modeled it for us, as did the apostles in the Bible. Yet few of us faithfully follow in the footsteps of our spiritual models. Few of us truly do the things they did.

What are these things? We’re glad you asked, because we’re going to be talking about them in various upcoming episodes over the next few months. You’ve probably already heard of these things, these practices. Some people call them spiritual disciplines, but let’s not think of them that way. Because they’re not disciplines for discipline’s sake. We’re not doing hard things just to make ourselves spiritual.

These are activities. They’re practices that are all about spiritual growth. They’re about tightening our connection to God and blossoming in our conformity to Christ and in our role as his witnesses. 

Today we’re going to focus on the practice, or let’s call it the relationship-building activity, of solitude.

That might sound crazy. How can solitude build a relationship? What we mean when we say solitude in this context is simply the practice of withdrawing from human-to-human interaction in order to focus on God. To listen for him, to listen to him, and to talk with him. 

By solitude, we also mean taking a break from the onslaught of this world and all the opinions, values, and agendas that perpetually bombard us. To get away from wondering if what we’re saying or thinking might be “liked” on social media.

What we’re talking about is not just being physically alone—being some place where no one else is—but also consciously isolating our minds from the input of other people, from what they’d say or think. A place where you’re separated from human companionship, attention, and influence, and where you’re fully available in God’s presence.

We know that there are extroverts—like Karen—out there for whom being cut off from people feels awful. And there are introverts like Erin who may be thinking, “Bring it on. I’m fine without people!” But we’d all be missing the point because we’d be focusing on how this practice makes us feel rather than on the purpose and usefulness of this activity.

Let’s talk for a few minutes about what this activity of solitude is and isn’t:

First, it isn’t the same as “loneliness.” An article in Psychology Today talks about the difference between loneliness and solitude. It says, “loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness.”

That does sound awful!

Solitude, the same article says, “is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself.” 

Solitude is meant to be a constructive state. It’s meant to be good for something, and one of the things they say it’s good for is engagement with oneself. 

While we’ve mentioned that a main purpose for solitude is to help us engage and listen to God, it’s also important to engage and listen to ourselves. If you’ve ever been in a very noisy environment, you might’ve used the expression: “It’s so loud in here, I can’t hear myself think.” Well, our world is often so loud that we can’t hear ourselves think, and if we can’t think, we can’t truly know ourselves. 

If we don’t know ourselves, how can we be truly authentic in our relationship with God? How do we know what we think about what he’s saying, about who he is? 

Inauthenticity doesn’t necessarily we’re trying to lie, or misrepresent ourselves to God. That doesn’t work when we’re dealing with an all-knowing God, anyway. But we’re saying that there’s a barrier in our communication loop with God if we don’t know ourselves. We can’t have deep relationships without authenticity. 

This may be one reason why the idea of solitude can be uncomfortable for some people. It means we have to be vulnerable with ourselves. We’re dropping our mask and taking a good look at who we are and what we think. What if we don’t like what we see?

Sometimes that’s actually good. It helps us see where we need to make changes to move toward becoming the kind of person we will like when we take a close look.

Sometimes not liking what we see isn’t good, because it isn’t an accurate picture. But when we’re letting God into that place with us, where we’re completely vulnerable and exposed, we can let him tell us what HE sees. We can let him show us the truth of how he sees us. That truth is always delivered with a profound, unconditional, unchangeable love. The kind of love that heals and builds us up for the work God has tasked us with.

Benefits of Solitude

Know Yourself

One of the wonderful benefits of solitude is that we learn to know ourselves. We get a more accurate view of who we truly are and aren’t, and that can help us become better people. 

We’re not saying all this is easy. Our world today makes it far easier to live in a state of distraction and disconnection. That’s a state that doesn’t demand anything from us. Reconnection does demand things from us. We pretty much need to force ourselves to reconnect with our thoughts and feelings, and it’s hard. But the rewards are great.

Benjamin Franklin writes in Poor Richard’s Almanac, 1750, “There are three things extremely hard: steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”

Breaking Patterns of Conformity to Culture

Another benefit of solitude is that, by giving us distance from our society, we’re better able to identify and break any destructive patterns of thought that we’ve fallen into through our immersion in our culture. Every ad on social media, on television, in print, on buses and billboards, has an agenda, a perspective. So do the movies we watch, the novels we read, the streaming services we binge.

More often than not, this agenda is not in agreement with the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s not in agreement with the biblical revelation of who God is, and the truth of how we are to live as Christ followers. Colossians 3:1-3 says:

“Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.”  NLT

We need a break. We need time to pull away and recenter and make sure our hearts and minds are fixed on God, not on earthly things.

Deep Reading and Reflection

Another benefit of solitude is that it gives you the opportunity for deeper reading, and more than that, for reflecting on what you read. Imagine if you took time in solitude, with no distractions, to read your Bible more deeply and to spend time just thinking about it. What might the Holy Spirit say to you or do in you if you wait for Him? If you sit quietly and ponder the implications of what you’re reading? How much more grounded could you be in God’s truth?

You could also read other things in your practice of solitude. Inspirational biographies, theology, poems, or whatever can help you develop your thoughts and beliefs and reasoning skills. The technology in our fast-paced world is pushing us into shallow thinking. We’ve talked about this before on the podcast. But you can be training yourself to be a person who is characterized by thought and reflection rather than someone who might spout off quick reactionary responses that today’s social media constantly tempts us to do.


Another activity you might do in solitude is singing worship songs. Solitude need not be all carried out in silence. You can sing as loud as you want with no one to overhear, which is especially nice if you can’t carry a tune worth beans. The Bible encourages us to sing to the Lord, so we should. And not just to sing, but to sing new songs. You can make them up on the spot, about whatever you’re thinking and feeling. Let your creativity come out. We’re creative people, made in the image of our Creator. We honor him when we use our creativity to express ourselves in worship.

Experience Nature

Another benefit of solitude is the opportunity to get out alone and experience the wonder of God’s creativity and design in nature. To immerse ourselves in it. Romans 1:19-20 tells us that what can be known about God is plain to us because God has made it plain, “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made…”  (NIV)

God intends for us to see his fingerprints in nature. But we have to take the time to do it. To go out and soak ourselves in it and let the heavens declare God’s glory to us. 

Psalm 96:11-12 says,

Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy”  NLT

Take the time to go listen to all this wonder, this praise!  

Creative Growth

Solitude can also give you the opportunity to foster creative growth. It gives you time with your Creator, where he can speak new ideas and inspirations to you. It gives you time and space to consider new creative connections, explore new ways to solve problems.

It can also give you an opportunity to go experience other forms of art—go to a local gallery or exhibit. Don’t just wander through, but take the time to sit and ponder the works, or maybe just one piece. How does it speak to the human condition? What does it imply about God? 

Or listen to some new music. Something you haven’t heard. Something that’s different. Let it speak to you. How does it inform or enhance your own creativity? What can it inspire?

Requirements of Solitude

We’ve covered some of the ways solitude can refine you and grow your relationship with God. Let’s talk now about putting this activity into practice.


First, solitude is going to require planning, especially if you don’t live alone and you have family responsibilities. Solitude can be nearly impossible to come by. I (Erin) remember the days of having preschoolers at home—you can’t even go to the restroom by yourself. 

Making a plan for when you can get away for solitude will require a few conversations and the cooperation of your family, and probably friends, too. You’ll want to talk this over with them and be sensitive to those who may not understand why you need solitude, who may even be hurt or offended. 

You also need a plan for where you’re going to go. Where will you find a place to be alone? You want to plan ahead so you’re not wasting your solitude time looking for a place to be alone. 

It might be as simple as sitting in the car in your garage, or on your back porch. Or it might be a walk, or a drive to someplace specific. Get a plan, and get it on your schedule. Otherwise it won’t happen.


The next thing solitude requires, and this is probably obvious, is time. Time is a precious commodity. We can never get more of it—there’s always 24 hours in a day. But we hope this podcast helps you see why solitude matters. Why it deserves some of our precious time. We need this break.

In Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, he calls solitude one of the most fundamental disciplines for spiritual development. 

Even if all you can manage is a half an hour once a month, that’s a great start. Hopefully as the seasons in your life change, you’ll be able to set aside more time in the future. 


The last requirement we want to talk about is commitment. For some of us, solitude will at first be awkward and uncomfortable. We may find it hard to begin, hard to sustain, and hard to continue with. We encourage you to make solitude a true commitment. Again in Dallas Willard’s book he says about solitude that it “must be returned to again and again” as the spiritual life develops. 

In other words, it’s not a one and done. It’s a continuing practice that helps shape us, that helps us grow in our likeness to Christ and makes us better able to avoid conforming to the patterns of this world. 

That’s the goal of all the disciplines, or activities we’ll be talking about in this series. We’re meant to be in the world, but not of it. We need these God-given activities to help us do that. To train us. To foster our growth and our connection to the God who has called us to be his own. To be his witnesses in a hurting, weary world.

It’s so worth it. We need to take the time to do these activities and draw closer to him.

As Christian writers, we need more than great craft. In this podcast we'll talk about what more we need and how to get it! #amwriting #christianwriter Click To Tweet
Book mentioned in this podcast

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard


What do you think about solitude? Does in feel inviting, frightening, or something else altogether?


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

Thanks so much to our October sponsor of the month, Tammy Partlow! She’s a speaker at women’s retreats, and her debut novel Blood Beneath the Pines, a suspense set in the deep South, is now available. She’s hard at work on the next book in the series!

Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. for their fabulous sound editing!


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

198 – The Blessing of Tragedy with Guest DiAnn Mills

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The Blessing of Tragedy with Guest DiAnn Mills Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungIf you’ve faced tragedy in your life, you know the first reaction is to ask why. Even get angry with God over what’s happened. Guest DiAnn Mills shares how God led her through all those stages, but even more, how he blessed her with reconciliation because of the tragedy. Come listen in as she shares all God has done in her life and writing since the worst day of her life.

About DiAnn Mills

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She creates action-packed, suspense-filled novels to thrill readers. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and won two Christy Awards, the Golden Scroll, Inspirational Reader’s Choice, and Carol Award contests. Connect with DiAnn at diannmills.com.

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Erin: Welcome, listeners. I’m excited that you’re here with us in the deep, and there’s extra excitement today, yay, for our guest! Karen will introduce her.

Karen: Hey, we are welcoming DiAnn Mills to the podcast today, and we’re so excited. DiAnn has been a part of publishing for so many years, I think almost as long as I have. She’s an award-winning, bestselling author many times over, and a popular speaker and teacher at conferences. She’s a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers. Thank you for that, DiAnn!  

She’s a former director of the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference and a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and of the Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. It’s amazing everything that she does, and she shares her passion for helping other writers be successful by teaching writing workshops around the country.

Not only that, she has been termed a coffee snob and she roasts her own coffee beans, y’all. She roasts her own beans. I am so in awe. She and her husband live in, as she says on her website, sunny Houston, Texas, but I think it’s fair to call it blazing Houston, Texas, with the way it’s been now. DiAnn, welcome. We’re so happy to have you here.

DiAnn: Oh, thank you, Karen and Erin. It is just wonderful to be with you. I’m excited. I’m always excited to talk about the craft of writing and especially to talk to my friends. What more could I ask for? 

Karen: I know!

Erin: Well, let’s start right off with what does the deep mean to you, DiAnn?

DiAnn: The deep means to me that the longer I know Jesus, the longer he is in my heart, the more that my power hour with him every morning deepens our relationship, the deeper we go. I love that. 

We just keep traveling this journey together, and he’ll say, “Stop a minute, DiAnn. I want you to see this. I want you to feel this. I want you to experience this.” 

I love that. There are no words or senses that we can talk about that can compare with what it means to go deeper. To go deep with Jesus. 

Karen: There’s an old hymn that I love called “In the Garden.” I come to the garden alone, and then he comes and meets you there and walks with you and talks with you, and the joy you feel as you tarry there? That’s that continual relationship with Jesus.

You don’t find it anyplace else, that continual conversation back and forth throughout the day. That continual sense of his actual presence and his guidance. It’s astounding when you finally realize as a believer that he is there for every minutiae, every second, every millisecond of your life, and he is guiding and directing and loving you.

It’s a new depth to your understanding of him and your submission to him. Because you can trust him so wholly. I mean, it’s amazing. 

Erin: It’s also where we grow. 

Karen: Yeah. 

Erin: We experience transformation in those times. We might not recognize it. It’s hard to measure your own growth in the moment, but without that continual contact, that power hour, that walking in the garden, we don’t have transformation. We don’t grow closer to Jesus, we don’t turn into that image, without him shaping us in those times. 

Karen: That’s exactly right. I know, DiAnn, that you’ve come from a very difficult and painful time in the last several years with the loss of your son, and that has probably drawn you even closer and deeper into Christ.

You’ve incorporated some of that into your newest book, Facing the Enemy, some of that experience into your fiction. We talk often with people about how we incorporate our own stories and our own struggles into fiction. I’d like to hear from you about your journey through that time. It was difficult, but I’d like you to share with our listeners how God met you there and how you got to the place where you could share what happened on that journey in your book.

DiAnn: Actually, it was July 2021. We were on a vacation in Ohio with my brother and sister and their spouses. My youngest son called my husband. My husband got off the phone and said, “I need to tell you something. Brett was…” Let me take a big deep breath here… “Brent was hit by a car. Hit and run, and was killed.”

The first thing I had to do was thank God for life, and for the years that we’d had with him. The second thing was, “Thank you God, that I’m with my brother and my sister.”

Karen: Yeah. 

DiAnn: That helped tremendously. Once home, I journaled. We always hear the value of journaling, but until you walk through a tragedy, it just does not have the impact of what that can mean. So, over the next days, I journaled. I journaled, “God, why? Why now? Why him?”

The way it happened, I was angry. I was hurt. I cried. I was angry at the whole world. 

Karen: Mm-hmm. 

DiAnn: The time came to write the book, and I knew that I needed something in my character’s life that was earth shattering, and there it was right in front of me. So, Facing the Enemy was my healing book. 

While it’s my healing book, it’s still hard to talk about those emotions without feeling them and experiencing them all over again. What I did is I took my heroine, whom I called Risa, her name means laugh in Spanish, and I had her experience the same thing that happened to our son, but in her personality. 

It was horrible writing that scene. But yet it was comforting, because I don’t want to experience anything and shut it up inside of me if it could help someone else. Some reader may have had a loss and have never been able to deal with it. I wanted that transparency.

I wanted to take my pain, what I was feeling, and use it in a story that might help others. Granted, my goal for writing is always to entertain, inspire, and encourage. Always. Once I got past that part of the tragedy, and where my heroine decided to go, and what she decided to do with it, I picked up my second great passion, and that is for adoption.

I have four sons. Three are adopted. I say the youngest one’s my fault. Brett was one of the adopted sons. I used a bit of an apprehension that I always had as a woman in my late twenties and having a new baby, a new toddler in my life who was calling me mommy.  I also knew that the mother had six months to make a decision whether she might want that child back, and so you live with that.

The two passions, the two things that I can cry very easily about are in Facing the Enemy. That’s one of the ways that God brought me deeper. 

I hesitate to say this because I’m concerned that readers might think, “Well, she took her son’s death and she just used it to write a book.”

Oh, that gives me a gasp in my spirit, and I hope no reader thinks that. Sharing pain is very difficult, but the transparency is where we grow and change and become better people and grow closer to Christ. I remember, and I’m going to say this in one breath, and I might have to stop and get a drink of water here, that at the funeral, my son, the youngest son, gave part of the message to everyone.

Because my Brett struggled with drugs and alcohol, struggled very much with that, and the addiction always had more control than what he was able to do. And so my youngest son said, “God said, ‘Come home. Be free.'” 

Yes. Yes. One more drink of water for me here…

Karen: It’s fine. Take your time. 

DiAnn: Oh, I don’t know what you’ve got to cut out… But anyway, that was the one thing I’ve always been able to remember. I think that helped in the healing process, not only for me, but for my character in the story. 

Erin: Wow. 

DiAnn: For all of us. 

Karen: I’ve always said, as I teach at writers conferences, that nothing in God’s economy is wasted. Everything that happens to us, if God has given us the task of writing about him and stories centered on him and his presence in our lives, nothing that happens to us is ever wasted. It all is used by him for his purposes to refine us or to grant us illumination that we can then share with others. 

My husband and I have struggled for lo these forty-three years of our marriage. Yet God has sustained and provided for us and brought us to a place where we’re stronger than ever. Though, we still struggle. 

We have such different backgrounds. When I wrote my book, The Breaking Point, I drew on so much of what we had experienced, not to capitalize on it, but to say that this is the reality. This is the reality of walking into a marriage without prayer. 

This is the reality of bringing two completely diverse backgrounds into the same quarter. This is the reality of when you grow up in Leave it to Beaver and your spouse grows up in Nightmare on Elm Street. It’s not an easy road. It’s very difficult and coming to a place where God has brought us that we have submitted to him and to each other, we still have to do that submission every day.

I know from the reader letters that I’ve received that book affected people and helped them in their struggles in their marriage. Because as believers, aren’t we called to transparency? Aren’t we called to share out of our own experiences and not hide our weaknesses? Not try to seem like the perfect Christians to everybody on the outside, because there’s no such thing. There’s just a forgiven believer who follows a suffering Savior. 

We have to be honest. Christ was honest. He shed blood, sweated blood, and that struggle was real, and it was for us. If we’re not willing to then share our own struggles and difficulties, we shouldn’t be doing this. 

Erin: Right. 

I want to circle back just for a minute to what you said first, DiAnn, about how you journaled. How you journaled first. I think that’s so important because there is where you were dealing with the brutal honesty of how you personally felt. You worked through those issues to the best of your ability at that time. You poured out that anger and that hurt and that why and that grief in that journal.

I love that you did that beforehand so that you weren’t trying to do that necessarily in the book. When it came to writing the book, you were able to draw on those feelings, but you’re speaking into that from the other side. People are getting the best of both worlds there, so I love that you did that. 

But I’m wondering, obviously when you had to write those scenes and especially that one scene, practically speaking, how did you manage that in a practical way? Do you have any tips for the listeners on how to make yourself write those words on the keyboard? 

DiAnn: Uh, after a lot of tears. And I could only write a little bit through my journal at a time. I would read what I had written, and then I would close my eyes and tell myself, “Risa, how would you walk through this? How would you handle this?” 

By doing it through my character’s eyes… and I’m an organic writer, everything comes out of character. I’m a panster and my publisher may not always enjoy that. I am pretty much a panster, but I am organic. I will have seventeen pages of who my character is and a lot of backstory and things of that nature. 

In fact, one of the questions I asked myself came from Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel, and taking many of his workshops, and that is, “What is the most painful experience you’ve ever walked through and who was there? What was the dialogue? What were you feeling?” And all those kinds of things. 

How many times have I given that advice? But when I had to do it, it was incredibly painful. That to me is a testimony not only to how valuable that question is, but to our God. As you said, nothing is wasted. 

Erin: Yeah. 

DiAnn: Nothing.

Karen: For a long time, I thought that if we say why to God, we were showing doubt, and I thought that was just wrong. I’ve come to understand having gone through the whole doubt process myself when I was angry…not that I ever really doubted God was who he was, but I was at a point where I was like, “Well, if this is what it means to serve you, then who needs it?”

I’ve come to understand that he’s so much bigger than anything that we can bring to him. Any emotion, any anger, any frustration, any despair. He’s so much bigger than any of that. He will meet us exactly where we are in the midst of our pain. 

I’m constantly amazed at the care that he shows us. At the provision. Even when we are sometimes spitting in his face, he is there wrapping his arms around us and loving us regardless.

Erin: I love, DiAnn, that you talked about another passion that you put into that book, because one of the things I wanted to ask you about is how you kept grief from inhibiting your imagination for the rest of the story.  

I see that one of those things was talking about another of your passions, which was adoption, but was there anything else you did to help jumpstart your creativity or help your creativity flow during those difficult times?

DiAnn: Understanding that the writing process is for the reader. It’s never about the writer. Never about me. Never. With that, it was like, “Okay, God, please stand behind my computer and put your hands on my shoulders so I can do this.”

But I always went back to… we were in Israel, my husband and I were in Israel, and we were at the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus sweated blood. I’m thinking just like he made a decision in a garden to take back, yank back, the decision that Adam and Eve made in a garden, then I’ve got to take what he did for me and move forward. That I can encourage somebody in their faith. That I can inspire someone in where they are. 

Also, the process of writing a book has that entertainment factor. That’s foremost. So it had to be a story that provided hope and encouragement and reality. One aspect of this story, and this is on the back cover copy so I don’t think I’m giving anything away, but Risa is an FBI special agent and she realized and found out that while her brother saved her and pushed her out of the way for him to be killed in the hit and run, that car was aiming for her. 

She resigned from the FBI simply because she didn’t want anyone else hurt. So she went back to her old job, which was a professor at a college, a local college, teaching creative writing. I mean, yes, we giggled with that because that’s kind of what I was doing. 

Karen: Right. 

DiAnn: You know, God has a way of just saying, “Hey, Diane, what about this? Or what about that?” 

That really did help. But, and this is a part that’s on the back cover copy. Risa has an assignment for her students, who are all freshmen in college, creative writing, and a short story had to be turned in over Christmas. One student said, “Can I turn mine in early?”

Well, she couldn’t resist, and she read it. Here he told, word for word, what had happened to her with information that no one else knew and that all exploded.

Erin: This is a great example of how creativity is about connections. I love what you’re saying that the Holy Spirit is there with you and empowering you and enabling you and then these connections happen. “Hey, how about if she’s a professor teaching creative writing? And oh, this can happen and that can happen,” and these connections are suddenly firing. I love that. 

As we’re approaching the end of our time here, do you have any final words of wisdom that you want to leave our listeners with?

DiAnn: Yes. Laugh. Be Risa. Laugh. We have to laugh. We have to learn to laugh. We have to reach from within us and laugh.

And hold on to Jesus. Oh my goodness, this world can be ugly and nasty, but look where we’re going. So let’s make an impact while we can.

Karen: I agree. DiAnn, we’re so grateful for you coming and sharing your story and the ways that God has met you in all of this.

Friends, as you listen, I’m praying for you. If you are facing a difficult time, may the God of all comfort cloak you in his presence and in his peace.

If you are considering incorporating your own struggles into your story, turn to him with it and let him guide you. Let him show you the suffering and the recovery, and let him show you the places where you can bring in laughter. Because even in our darkest moments, if we have our focus on him, he will delight us and he will give us reasons to laugh in the midst of tears.

Thank you so much, DiAnn, and God bless you and what you’re doing.

DiAnn: Thank you. Thank you for letting me be a guest. I’m honored, and thank you for putting up with my few moments of “get your professionalism together, DiAnn.”

Karen: No, no. Long ago, I used to sing with my dad a lot, and the words of the hymns that we sing get to me. I said, “I’m so worried that I’ll be singing my verse or doing a solo and I’ll just break down and cry.”

My dad said, “Karen, if that happens, then the people who are listening need your tears more than they need your voice.”

All of it again is used in God’s economy. 

Erin: Indeed! Thank you, Diane.

Facing the Enemy by DiAnn Mills

Facing the Enemy by DiAnn Mills

Guest @diannmills shares how God used the worst tragedy of her life to bless her and bring unexpected reconciliation. #christianwriter #amwriting Click To Tweet

In your own writing, have you found yourself needing to draw from a tragedy you experienced? What helped you through it?


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