3.18.2016

Did I Hear God Wrong?

Have you ever felt God calling you to step out in faith, only to find yourself wondering if you heard Him wrong?

I understand. Thoughts of doubt crossed my mind daily when I began to listen to the promptings on my heart to write.

The International Christian Retail Show is a big book convention where publishers, authors, agents, media and bookstore owners all gather to talk shop. Books are pitched. Books are sold. Books are talked about a lot!

I went to this conference years ago when I was a wannabe writer with a book proposal and a dream. Recently, as I signed copies of my book, two thoughts went through my mind.

First … thank You Jesus, that people actually came to my book signing. Because there’s nothing quite like standing there with a big stack of free promotion books, a permanent marker and not a soul interested.

So when people actually came, I just wanted to hug every single one of them. Seriously. And if I had lots of money, I would’ve bought them all a steak dinner. I’m not kidding.

The second thought was … look for those desperate for your encouragement.

Many who came through my book signing line were interested in writing a book. I remember being there.

I know what it feels like to walk around with a tote bag full of book proposals and a heart full of nervous hope.

I know what it feels like to consciously choose to live every day “by faith, not by sight” like 2 Corinthians 5:7 instructs. Honestly, it’s hard to hold on to God’s promises when all that’s staring back at you is a pile of rejection letters from publishers.

That calling we once felt so strongly starts to feel more like a fairytale than a future reality.

So, I felt the weight of responsibility to give them the encouragement I so desperately needed when I was in their shoes.

Maybe you are there right now, looking to actively pursue your dreams or the things God has called you to. But whether it’s the hope of being an author or another dream you have bumping around in your heart, here’s what I’ve learned:

Rejection from people doesn’t mean rejection from God.
If God has gifted you to write, write! You don’t need a book deal to have an impact with your writing. The same is true with other dreams. If you’re called to sing, create, teach, paint, develop — use your gifts right where you are to bless others.

Most overnight success stories are years in the making.
Value the daily discipline of small steps of faith, hard work, honing your craft and putting in time learning and developing. Take classes. Be mentored. Push through those moments you want to slack off. And do it over and over, year after year.

Be a blessing to others.
Don’t keep your work to yourself. Find people who could be blessed with your work. I love to write. But what I love more than writing is seeing my writing help other people. That’s where I find the encouragement to push through the hard times.

Expect opposition.
The challenges and disappointments and setbacks are all part of it. And honestly, these hard times serve a great purpose. I’ve learned much more from my failures in writing than my successes. Use these lessons … don’t waste them by giving up too soon. And remember to glorify Him whether it’s a struggle or a success. God uses all things for good.

Look for the small open doors right in front of you.
I always scratch my head when I meet people who tell me they want to write and speak but aren’t willing to teach a small Bible study first. If God is calling you to do something, He’ll have a door open in front of you. But it might be a small door. Look for the small door and walk through it.

Actually … dance through that door with great joy because He will always do great things with people willing to be faithful in the small!

If you feel called to be a writer, start with a small step by downloading my free audio series, “4 Resources You Need to Jump-start Your Writing.” Click here to get started!

10.12.2015

Why you must not silence your writing dream today

Have you ever been inspired to write down an amazing lesson you learned or record a wondrous experience you had with God? But then you put pen to paper and your inspiration dissipated as your words seemed tangled and flat.

What if I said you could become a writer who knows how to express their experiences with deeply impactful words that can help others…

Would you, could you dare to believe me?

I distinctly remember the day my dad brought home a typewriter. His office had gotten these new machines called ‘computers.’ Something within me stirred and went wild at the thought of possessing a typewriter.

I loved the way it could strike and fill a page of nothing and make it something.

Maybe, I could one day write a book? The thought came and delighted me until I placed my hands on the keyboard. And the only words that came to me were all the reasons I couldn’t possibly write a book.

The dream was silenced.

The same thing happened to me when the high school choir director announced we’d be doing a musical. I got so excited. I could see myself playing the lead role. Until I heard my friend practicing with bold assurance and booming accuracy. Suddenly every note I sang felt painfully hollow.

The dream was silenced.

And then in my mid-twenties I dared to tell a friend of mine I thought I might want to speak at the women’s event we were planning. Originally, I was just going to help plan the event. But the stirring to speak wouldn’t leave me. So, I gave voice to my crazy thought.

She just tilted her head and said, “No. I feel certain you aren’t supposed to speak.”

The dream was silenced.

Has this ever happened to you? Voices both internally and externally remind us of all the reasons we’re incapable.

Oh how impossibility loves to scream into silenced dreams.

Your writing dream might seem impossible now. But let me be the friend who whispers some encouragement to you… you. can. do. this!

I’ve put together a FREE video series to help you push through the impossible parts of your writing dream. Sign up for it today and you’ll be equipped to:

– Avoid the trap of tired, typical writing by learning practical ways to develop messages that truly stand out and influence positive change in your readers.
– Gain motivation to further your writing and enjoy the journey to becoming an author.
– Learn how to make writing a priority in your busy schedule by understanding the habits of a successful writer.

Click here to sign up.

You don’t want to miss this. Because inside every impossible is the word “possible”… if only we dare to see it.

7.22.2015

Every Book Starts with a Sentence

(In light of our She Speaks Conference happening this week, I thought a blog post on how to write a book might be helpful! Be sure to read the whole post for a free gift we’re offering.)

One of the most common things people share with me when they find out I’m an author is that they want to write a book. And I believe they should.

Not everyone will be published but having your thoughts, life lessons, and creative stories captured in a place outside your mind is good. I would treasure one page of wisdom written by my great grandmother. But all her words died with her. And I feel that tragic loss in deep places that ache for her godly wisdom.

So, if you feel inspired to write – write.

If not a whole book, one page.

If not a whole page, one sentence.

No time spent recording God’s activity in your life is ever wasted.

But if you do feel called to write a book, how does one do this? Where do you begin?

For me a book usually begins with me paying attention to three things:

* A string of life lessons I’m learning that have a common theme.
* Conversations I have with others where they bring up this same theme.
* A deep conviction that God wants me to park my brain and my heart on this topic for a good long while.

Then I put these initial thoughts about the theme of the book through a filter of questions:

* Is there an audience (beyond just my mom and my best friend) interested in this theme?
* What problem are these audience members having for which my book could be a possible solution?
* Do I have some fresh, unique, and reliable answers to share that meet the felt need of this group of people?
* Have I struggled enough with this theme to be authentically relatable as I write about it?
* Have I made enough progress in this area to handle the material in a responsible and biblical way?

I use these questions to help me hone the concept of my book. And it’s usually in this pondering and questioning of the concept of a possible book that 75% of my possible book ideas die. Because if I can’t make it work in the concept phase of a book, I won’t stay interested enough in this topic to write 60,000 words.

And heaven help the reader of a book whose author has lost interest in their own material 20,000 words in. Have you ever read a book that started off great but then started boring the mess out of you? Me too. It’s disappointing. And it’s usually because the author didn’t hone their concept enough before jumping into writing the book.

Once the concept is fully explored, it’s time to develop the content.

I start with the word count and chapter count. A typical non-fiction book for me is about 60,000 words. I personally like shorter chapters that are pretty consistent in length. So, if my chapters are going to be around 5,000 words… I will need 12 chapters.

As I look at what these 12 chapters will be, I draw a circle with 12 spokes coming out of it. In the circle I write the “focus sentence” of my book. A focus sentence is that one statement that encapsulates the value I want my reader to get from this message.

Note, I didn’t say that I write what the book is about. Nope. I write a sentence that reminds me exactly what my reader will get from this message. For example, for my book Unglued, my focus sentence was:

“This book will help a reader make imperfect progress with their reactions and therefore their relationships as they know with confidence how to better handle conflict.”

Then I start writing possible chapter ideas that stay very true to this pure focus. I use key words from my focus sentence to seed my chapter ideas and keep me “focused.”

So, based on the sentence I shared above I will come up with some chapter ideas on IMPERFECT PROGRESS, REACTIONS, RELATIONSHIPS, EXTERNAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION IDEAS, and INTERNAL CONFLICT RESOLUTION IDEAS.

Then I start writing. With a sentence. And then another. And another.

And as I write these sentences that form chapters, that eventually form a book, I remember each sentence matters. It’s my responsibility to write sentences that are authentic and inspired and true and well crafted. Not English class perfect. More conversational. With threads of personality that clearly demonstrate a consistent voice my readers have come to expect from me.

These sentences, they matter. After all, it’s not often whole books but rather sentences tucked within chapters that change people’s lives.

And at the end of the day, that’s why I sit at my computer and tap these keys for hours at a time. I love untangling thoughts that might possibly be used by God to help another.

It’s a process, this book writing thing. It’s hard and messy and crazy time-consuming. But what a wondrous thing to have words that live on beyond us. Sentences that linger and continue to inspire. Yes, please.

Now, here’s the fun surprise… you can join me LIVE from the Proverbs 31 Ministries She Speaks Conference for my opening keynote this Friday, July 24 at 9:30am EST! Here’s how you do it:

1) Download our new app, First 5, on your mobile device. You can find out how at www.First5.org.
2) Open the app and tune in on Friday to watch the live stream through First 5.

It’s really that easy! Oh, I just can’t wait to have you with us. And if you think of it, say a little prayer for me. As many times as I speak to people, I still get that queasy, nervous, bite-my-fingernails-to-the-nub feeling before going on stage! For real.

Thank you! Now, go write your heart out.