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Write from the Deep
34 minutes | Oct 4, 2021
151 – How to Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones
We know that good habits can have a great influence on us, but negative habits have an influence too. Everyone knows how hard it is to break a bad habit, but there’s good news! Come discover effective ways to replace your bad habits…and their destructive influence. But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! In our last episode we began talking about habits, which are learned routines or behaviors that we repeat pretty much without thinking about them. We’ve taken the bulk of our material from a book by James Clear called Atomic Habits, as well as a book by Charles Duhigg called The Power of Habit. They’re worth your time to read because they’re full of interesting information—more than we can cover in two podcasts. We also talked about the habit loop that James Clear wrote about. It consists of: Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward. The cue is the trigger that causes your brain to initiate a behavior. The craving provides the motivation to act. The response is the actual action, the behavior. And the reward is the goal, the thing you get for doing the behavior. We encourage you to go back and listen to that episode if you haven’t yet. In today’s show, we’ll give more tips for developing a habit, plus we’ll talk about some ways to say goodbye to habits that aren’t serving you well. The reason why this is so important is because habits shape our lives. Habits Shape Our Lives James Clear writes in his book Atomic Habits, “Researchers estimate that 40-50 percent of our actions on any given day are done out of habit.” That can be good, because habits reduce cognitive load and decrease the number of necessary decisions we have to make, which frees up more brain power for creative tasks. We’re writers, so of course we want all the creative energy we can get. Our goal is to give you some tools to put new habits in place to help you live a life more in tune with God’s vision and purpose for you and your writing. For example, maybe you want to start a habit of: Being more grateful by thanking God every day for something specific Praying before you write each day Reading one new craft or marketing book each month Meditating on one of God’s qualities each night. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us that when we’re “beholding the glory of the Lord” we’re “being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another…” Writing encouraging notes to others Often people will ask how long it takes to form a habit, but James Clear argues that that’s the wrong question. He says, “Habit formation is the process by which a behavior becomes progressively more automatic through repetition.” It’s these repetitions that actually change your brain. So the right question to ask is how many repetitions does it take? To help you feel like you DON’T have to be a perfectionist about this, studies have shown that missing one repetition isn’t the end of the world. It’s not like you need a string of thirty successful attempts in a row or you’ll have to start all over again. But when you do miss, you’ve got to get back on track as soon as possible, because you don’t want to start repetitions for a new habit of skipping your habit. Making a Habit Easier to Start If we want to create a new habit, our goal is to make sure the behavior gets repeated. And one of the best ways to do that is to make it easy. So easy it almost feels hard NOT to do it. You want to reduce the friction associated with that habit to as close to zero as you can get. 1. Prepare in Advance One way to reduce friction and make your habit easier is to have what you need ready in advance. If you want to start a habit of going to the gym to workout, for example, pack your workout bag ahead of time and have it ready to go. Choose a gym that’s on the way to or from work. Or, do you want to eat healthier? Make healthy meals on the weekend and have them ready to warm up during the week when you’re too tired to cook and you’re tempted to eat junk food or fast food for dinner. 2. The Two-Minute Rule Another way to make a habit easy is to use the two-minute rule. The new habit should take less than two minutes to do. Our biggest hurdle can often be just getting started. The two minute rule makes the habit so easy that you’re willing to do it, and it’s almost hard NOT to do it. If you want to start a daily writing habit, for example, consider starting with one sentence a day. It’s almost ridiculous, right? You can do that. One sentence. ANY sentence. You might even feel silly not writing another sentence after the first one. But don’t write that second sentence. Because that’s not the habit you’re working on. What you actually want to establish is the habit of putting your behind in your writing chair every single day. You’re working on the habit of showing up for your writing time. After a month or so, when you’ve repeated this action—putting your behind in the writing chair—often enough that you go there almost without thinking about it, you can work on staying long enough to write two sentences, or a paragraph. That’s just one possible way of making a writing habit easy to start, but you get the idea. The two minute rule is probably the single best idea on how to start a new habit. 3. Make Habits Satisfying Another way to make a habit easier to start is to make it more satisfying. We like to repeat behaviors that feel good, that give us some sense of pleasure. In Charles Duhigg’s book, The Power of Habit, he talks about how people rarely, if ever brushed their teeth before a toothpaste called Pepsodent came along. Only about 7% of Americans even had toothpaste, but a decade later, 65% had toothpaste, mainly Pepsodent. And it was effectively sold all over the world. The inventors of Pepsodent had a brilliant ad campaign that helped create a habit of teeth brushing. What nobody realized at the time was that part of the appeal of Pepsodent was that they had added citric acid, mint oil, and a few other chemicals that were supposed to make it taste fresh. But those ingredients also acted like a mild irritant that created a cool tingling sensation in people’s mouths. This sensation was something people liked. It made them feel like their teeth were clean. The tingling made the habit satisfying, and it turned into a craving that helped drive the habit loop. Within a few decades, other toothpaste manufacturers figured this out and started changing their own recipes to create that same sensation. Even today, most, if not all, toothpaste formulas are created to have the same effect. So when you want to form a new habit, look for ways you can make that habit immediately satisfying. For some habits, this might be easy, but for others, it can be challenging, because for some habits, while we know they’ll benefit us in the long run, it’s hard to see a benefit right NOW. For example, if you want to exercise everyday, this has long term benefits, but on your first day of exercise you’ll probably feel none of those benefits. You might even feel more tired than normal. So how can you give yourself an immediate reward to help satisfy you? Remember the commercial for apple watches that showed a couch potato type of guy sitting on his couch, and then his watch reminded him to stand up? Then they fast forwarded through time and repetitions, and he started walking, then running. They showed this happening over and over and with each repetition this guy goes farther and passes his old self, and at the end, he’s swimming. What was that commercial all about? Creating a picture for a reward. Apple was effectively showing this guy’s long term benefit all in the space of thirty seconds to help create a craving for that new self. Habit Tracking Another way to create an immediate reward is by using habit tracking. For example, the little rings on the Apple watch that keep track of how many times you stand or move during the day aren’t an afterthought. They’re deliberate. They give you an immediate reward, the satisfaction of filling all your rings. They even have little games with cute animal rewards. If you like to keep things low-tech, you can habit track by putting a big check mark on your calendar for everyday you perform your behavior. All those marks help you see your progress. They offer proof that you’re making a change that’s important to you. They also provide a visual cue for the habit you’re working to create. Habit tracking also helps keep you focused on the system. Remember that the idea is to slowly incorporate change into your life by focusing on systems that help you create the life you want to live. Changing Habits Habits can be wonderful tools for productivity and for a life lived in accordance with our values. But there is a flip side. Remember how we said 40-50% of our actions on any given day are done out of habit? That means you may not be aware of a significant amount of your behavior. So, how do you know if your habits—these things you’re not thinking about—are serving you or hindering you? We said this in our last episode and we’re saying it again now because it’s so important: We encourage you to devote time to carefully observing your behavior. Make a list of your habits—write them down!—so you can consider them impartially. Then you can make choices about which habits and behaviors point you in the trajectory you want your life to go, and which don’t. And the ones that don’t? It’s time to change them. For example, many writers struggle with doubts and negative self-talk. And, side note here, we’ve seen it so often we developed a Going Deeper Workshop called Overcoming Damaging Self-Talk to help writers break that insidious habit. James Clear has some useful guidance on changing habits. For every idea he gives to helping you start a habit, he applies the opposite advice to habits you want to change. 1. Avoid Cues Rather than making your cues obvious to help you start a habit, one of the best things you can do to change a habit is to eliminate your exposure to cues. So, rather than create a time and place plan to help you do a behavior, figure out instead how you can avoid that time and place to help you avoid a behavior associated with that time and place. You want to avoid your cues. If you drive by a coffee shop everyday on your way to work, and you want to stop getting coffee there because you’re trying to cut down on caffeine, or save money, or whatever, change your route to work. Even if it takes you longer, it’s worth it not to drive by your temptation everyday. Changing your behavior isn’t about staring at your temptation in the face and saying no. Often it can be as simple as avoiding that temptation to begin with. James Clear points out that research shows those who we think are disciplined are really just better at “structuring their lives in a way that does not require heroic willpower and self-control.” That’s a big piece of the puzzle when it comes to changing habits. In fact, the reason willpower isn’t the way to go when trying to change or avoid a habit is that those cravings are engraved in our brains. Once they’re set, we can’t help but be affected by them. But, when you eliminate the cue that starts the craving, you don’t have any reason to do the behavior. So, one way to help change habits is to make your cues invisible. If you feel you eat too much junk food, don’t buy it. Send your spouse to the store so you’re not even tempted to buy it. Or don’t go down that aisle. Or put it on a high shelf way in the back of your cupboard—like the cupboard over the refrigerator that’s practically impossible to get to so you don’t see it every time you open your cabinet for something else. If watch too much TV, get rid of it. Or, get rid of cable and internet so you have far fewer options. Or put it in a room that you don’t go in very often. Have you noticed that so many houses seem to face all the furniture toward the TV? Rearrange your furniture. Take your TV out of your bedroom if you watch too much late night TV. Another thing you want to do when you’re looking at what’s going on with your cues is to check what’s happening with your habit stacking. Maybe you find that you come home from work, change clothes, and grab a dinner that you eat in front of the TV, and then never get up until bedtime. Change the stack. Don’t eat in front of the TV. Don’t rely on your willpower to turn the TV off at 7pm so you can write. Or maybe, if you must eat in front of the TV, put your TV outlet on a timer that shuts off at 7pm, and use that as a new cue to stand up and to go to your writing spot. 2. Make It Hard We talked earlier in this podcast about making the behavior of a habit easy if we wanted to encourage it. Well, if you want to discourage it, make it hard. That’s in essence what we’d be doing if we stuck all our junk food in the cabinet over the fridge—not just taking the cue out of sight, but also making that junk food hard to get to. There’s a lot of friction involved in dragging a chair or step ladder over to the fridge and digging that food out. If you want to cut down the time you spend on social media, take the app off whichever device you mostly use. If you’re always on Facebook on your phone, take it off your phone and only allow it to be on your computer. Or, download one of those apps that limit or cut off access to websites you designate. That’s one way to use technology to help you. It becomes a commitment device, and a choice you make in the present locks in your behavior in the future. Use technology for your benefit where you can, because in today’s world, technology is sometimes against us. Have you noticed how binge watching has become so popular these days? One reason is because companies like NetFlix make it so easy to keep watching. The next episode just starts right up for you. You have to work, to exercise willpower, to actually turn it off, and that can be hard. 3. Make It Unattractive Aside from technology, You can use people to help you change your habits. You can use what’s called a habit contract, which can make your habit less satisfying. To make your habit less satisfying, create an unpleasant cost, basically a punishment. Remember that our brain wants to repeat behaviors that are rewarded and avoid those that are punished. So perhaps you want to stop worrying, or swearing, or whatever. You can make a habit contract with a willing friend. You tell her you’ll put a dollar in a jar every time you give in and actively worry, or swear, or whatever, and every week your friend gets the money and goes out to a fun coffee place without you. You get left behind, or whatever else is painful to you. Maybe she’s a supporter of a football team you hate, and she gets to buy hats and mugs and all kinds of stuff for her team, and you have to then use them all. Be creative and have fun with this. Of course, we don’t want to leave you with the idea that all habits are simple and fun to break. They’re not. In fact, Charles Duhigg writes, “…a habit cannot be eradicated—it must instead be replaced.” He also stresses that there isn’t any one, sure-fire method that works for everyone to create behavior change. But in his book, he walks through what he calls “the Golden Rule of habit change.” Studies show that you can’t completely extinguish bad habits, but you can have a great deal of success if you keep the old cues, keep the old rewards, but substitute a different behavior. That’s the simple rule, and it makes sense because it’s the behavior that you’re trying to change. This is a good method because some cues you just can’t avoid. For this to work, however, you first have to recognize what your cues are, what the reward is, and most important, you have to be very sure what your craving actually is. James Clear writes that “a craving is just a specific manifestation of a deeper underlying motive…It is the desire to change your internal state.” The behaviors we have attached to satisfy our cravings aren’t necessarily the best ways to achieve the desired change in our internal state. Cues and rewards aren’t necessarily bad, but the behavior we choose after the cue to get that reward can be a problem. For example, someone may feel anxious and crave relaxation, but if the behavior of getting drunk sprung up to get that reward, that’s not good. Relief from anxiety can be found in other ways that don’t involve alcohol, so that’s the behavior that could be modified. You can have a cue of anxiety, and a desire for a relaxed state, which gives you motivation to act, but you achieve that reward with a different behavior. Habit Reversal Charles Duhigg gives a good example of how behavior can be modified through habit reversal training which is founded on the Golden Rule of habit change. There was a woman who wanted to stop biting her fingernails. Her habit was so bad that her fingertips were often covered with scabs. Her psychologist, by questioning her, helped her uncover what the cue was for this habit—she felt tension in her fingertips. Awareness of the cues is the first step in modifying a habit. So many of us do our habits out of…well, habit, so we may be completely unaware of what our cues are. But it’s crucial that we identify them. For example, one of the reasons Alcoholics Anonymous is so effective is that it forces members to identify all their cues. The therapist for the woman biting her fingernails sent her home with a notecard and told her to put a checkmark on it every time she experienced the cue of tension in her fingers. This helped her become even more aware of her cues. But you also have to understand the reward. Through her therapist’s questions, the woman discovered that she was often bored when she felt the tension in her fingers and after she bit her fingernails it was better, and it turned out that what she was craving was the physical stimulation. So the therapist moved to the next step and gave her what’s called a “competing response.” When the woman felt the cue in her fingers, she was to put her hands in her pockets, or pin them under her legs, or grab hold of something like a pencil—anything that would make her unable to bite her nails. After that, she had to immediately find some sort of quick physical stimulation like knocking on a tabletop or rubbing her arm. So she was achieving the same reward—a physical stimulation, with the same cues triggering it. But she was changing the behavior—the response or routine. The end result is that the undesirable behavior is successfully modified to something acceptable. To sum it up, you recognize your cues, identify your craving and rewards, and introduce a competing behavior that can achieve the same reward. And we can’t stress this enough: you have to go deep to accurately identify your craving. For example, our alcoholic isn’t craving being inebriated. That person is craving something that being inebriated provides, be it relaxation, numbness, acceptance within a peer group, the ability to forget something terrible, or whatever. So it’s vital that you dig deep into your own motivation. If you write fiction, pretend you’re a character in one of your novels and don’t be satisfied with the superficial answer. Maybe you want to stop snacking at work. You need to understand why you’re snacking. Ask yourself what you’re really after. Are you truly hungry? Are you just bored and in need of a break? Or are you tired and need something to wake you up? There’s one other important aspect of successful behavior change we need to cover, and that is the belief that change is possible. You have to believe it. Charles Duhigg quotes J. Scott Tonigan, a researcher from the University of Toronto, who says, “I wouldn’t have said this a year ago—that’s how fast our understanding is changing, but belief seems critical.” One of the things that helps boost belief is the power of others believing. Groups can help foster belief. Duhigg points out that belief is a vital component in Alcoholics Anonymous. He quotes a senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group who says, “At some point, people in AA look around the room and think, if it worked for that guy, I guess it can work for me. There’s something really powerful about groups and shared experiences. People might be skeptical about their ability to change if they’re by themselves, but a group will convince them to suspend belief. A community creates belief.” So one of the best things you can do when trying to change a habit is find other like minded people who can support you and help foster your belief. But let’s not forget the most powerful belief. The belief that with God, all things are possible. Some of you may know that Bill Wilson, the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, attributed his ability to overcome alcohol to God. And many other people interviewed by researchers also point to God as the reason they don’t relapse even in the most difficult of times. Of course, researchers wanted to discount this. You can’t really test God in a hypothesis and that, among other things, can make researchers uncomfortable. But God kept coming up over and over in the interviews. So much so that researchers couldn’t discount it. Their solution was to neutralize the notion of belief into a generic statement that belief is necessary, but they say a belief in general, either in themselves or some other higher power, will do. I think we do need belief, we need hope. But we as Christians understand that the highest power in all existence is God, the Creator of all things. And he’s not bound by our understanding, our limitations, our beliefs, or our habits. Psalm 139:13-16 (NIV) says, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” How encouraging it is that when we want to change behaviors or create new behaviors and routines, we have Almighty God. Take this to God. Ask him which behaviors are helping you and which are harming you. Trust him to give you the guidance you need. Jeremiah 32:27 (NIV) says, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” He can show you your habits. He can show you how to change them. Job 42:2 (NIV) says, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” God knows what works best for you. God knows which habits are hindering you. Isaiah 46:9b-10 (NKJV) says, “I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure.’” We serve an amazing God. A God who wants us to act in a way that’s best for us. In a way that he designed us. In a way that makes us better reflections of him. Take this to him and watch and see what he does! Come discover effective ways to change your bad habits...and their destructive influence in your life and writing. #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Have you ever had to change a habit? How did you do it? Books mentioned in the podcast Atomic Habits by James Clear The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST We’re so grateful for the sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice—like Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing, which we’re going to be bringing you. Commandment #1 is: Love thy reader as you love thy book. This is the greatest commandment and the most foundational. If this is wrong, you can’t fix it with the other commandments. If you want readers to care about your book, you need to care about readers. A lot of new authors fall in love with their books. They write the book they want to write, regardless of what readers want. Then writers start trying to figure out how to find readers and make them want the book. That’s backwards. Caring about your reader isn’t something you tack on at the end as a promotional tactic. It is where you must start. You need to know thy reader, listen to thy reader, and serve thy reader. Jesus told his disciples that the greatest among them would be those who are servants. Approach your writing out of love and with a servant’s heart. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. THANK YOU! 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! STAY CONNECTED Want the latest news from Karen and Erin? Click here to join our newsletter and get an exclusive audio download. The post 151 – How to Replace Bad Habits with Good Ones appeared first on Write from the Deep.
29 minutes | Sep 20, 2021
150 – How to Build Useful Habits
We all have habits. Some good, some not so good. But did you realize that your habits can save you from such things as decision fatigue and damaging behavior? Come listen in as we explore how to turn your habits into powerful allies in a world overflowing with tension and struggle. But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! We talked about decision fatigue in episode 149, and we mentioned that habits can help us reduce the number of decisions we have to make every day. Then in episode 146, we covered five things no one told you about the writing journey—and one of those things was that you need more healthy habits than you realize. If you haven’t had a chance to listen to those episodes, I encourage you to do that. Today we want to help you put healthy habits into practice by covering how to build habits. Not only that, but how to build these habits in a way that doesn’t take Herculean effort. Let’s face it, sometimes we see a person who has all kinds of great habits, and we think she must be the most disciplined person in the world. Guess what? She’s probably not. And you don’t need to be either. There are secrets to building great habits, and we’re going to share them with you. Let’s start with a simple definition so we all know exactly what we’re talking about when we say “habit.” What is a habit? First, here are a couple of definitions of habit from Webster’s dictionary: : a settled tendency or usual manner of behavior : an acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary But I like how James Clear, in his book Atomic Habits, defines a habit. He says it’s “a routine or behavior that is performed regularly—and, in many cases, automatically.” Atomic Habits is a useful book for lots of information, ideas, and examples, and we’ve taken the bulk of the material for this podcast from it. It’s worth the time to read because we can’t cover it all, so I recommend it to you. Another classic book on habits is Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit. James Clear argues in Atomic Habits that “changes that seem small and unimportant at first will compound into remarkable results if you’re willing to stick with them for years.” I agree with this, and I think it helps to put habits in a more user-friendly light. Habits shouldn’t be about radically changing your life to incorporate fifty new regimens. Instead, creating habits is about implementing small changes that slowly accumulate into the kind of lifestyle you’ve always wanted but maybe didn’t think you were disciplined enough to have. Let me reiterate. We’re saying these changes SLOWLY accumulate, and slowly make a difference. The effects of habits generally don’t operate on a linear progression. So no, you can’t go from being a couch potato to a marathon runner in one week, any more than you can instantly go from being a person who can’t seem to find time to write to a person who produces a novel every 6 months. But you could do those over time if you developed the right habits and overcame the wrong habits. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having goals like that: to run a marathon or write a novel in 6 months. But, counterintuitively, James Clear says that one of the secrets to helping people build habits is to focus not so much on the goal as on the process. He gives an example about cleaning a messy room. If you manage to get it cleaned up, you’ve got a momentary change—it’s now clean. You’ve solved the problem at a surface level. But if you’re not a tidy person, then that room is going to be messy again very soon, and you’re back to square one. If you focus on your system, on creating habits that a tidy person would have, then you’ll be solving your problem at the systems level, and you won’t have a messy room to begin with. So how might this apply to writing? Writing a novel is a wonderful success that lots of people never achieve. But it’s also just one achievement in time. Becoming a consistent, dependable, productive writer is a lifestyle. If you build habits that focus on the systems level of that lifestyle, you can write one book or, just as easily, you can write thirty books. That kind of productivity becomes much less daunting. So, how do you build a habit? James Clear’s book breaks habits down into a four-step process. This is a predictable pattern because our brains are predictable. They’re always trying to figure out what’s happening around us and how to respond in a way that’s most satisfactory to us. When our behavior results in good consequences, our brain says, “Hey, that was good. Remember that and do it again.” When the consequences are negative, our brain says, “Hey, don’t do that again.” The pattern of a habit is: Cue, Craving, Response, and Reward. CUE The cue is a trigger that causes your brain to initiate a behavior. It’s a situation your brain recognizes and ties to a reward. For example, you come home from work to the smell of cookies baking in the oven, because let’s imagine you have a wonderful spouse who loves to bake, and sometimes when you come home, there are cookies in the oven. Your brain knows that the smell of cookies often ends in a delicious, satisfying taste experience. And this wonderful aroma of cookies leads you to the next step of the habit pattern: craving. CRAVING You WANT that delicious cookie. You desire that cookie. You are motivated to get and eat that cookie. And it’s not because it’s an attractive round shape or color, though it may be a lovely cookie. What you’re really after is that delicious taste sensation that happens when you eat the cookie. Without motivation, you have no reason to act. Without a spouse making cookies, you don’t come home to a cookie smell. But we’ll pretend you do have that spouse, so there is a cookie smell. So what do you do? You make a response. RESPONSE The response is the third step of the pattern. A response is the behavior you do because of the craving. This behavior is the actual habit. Now, a response does depend on how motivated you are and how much resistance there would be to carrying out the behavior. For example, if you just came home from having dental work done, and your tongue is completely numb so that you couldn’t taste anything, much less chew, you’re probably not going to eat that cookie. But most of the time, a plate of your favorite cookies fresh out of the oven will generate the response of eating one, and this will bring you to the last step of the pattern: your reward. REWARD The reward is the delicious taste sensation. Rewards are the whole reason you do the behavior. James Clear calls rewards “the end goal of every habit” because they satisfy our cravings. They also teach us which behaviors we should repeat. If your spouse’s cookies always taste great, your brain will want to repeat the reward over and over. But, if your spouse has an unfortunate and consistent problem following recipes, and salt frequently gets substituted for sugar, the terrible taste will be a negative reward, and your brain will urge you NOT to eat those cookies no matter how they smell. So, if you have a cue that triggers a craving, and the craving motivates a response, and the response provides a positive reward which satisfies the craving, that becomes a cycle you’re going to repeat. The reward will eventually become associated with the cue and you’ll have a habit loop. One other quick example of habit is putting on your seatbelt when you get in the car: Cue: You get in your car. Craving: You want to travel safely. Response: You put on your seatbelt. Reward: You aren’t injured during the trip. Now, lots of times you don’t even get in an accident, but if you do, chances are you were safer because of your seatbelt. We all probably know somebody who’s life was saved by a seatbelt. If you know someone who was injured because of wearing a seatbelt, that may have become a negative reward, and so you DON’T wear a seatbelt. Ultimately though, many of us put on our seatbelt without thinking about it because habits become unconscious. IMPLEMENTING HABITS This is all fine and dandy information, but where is the part about this being easy? About not needing to be a hyper-disciplined person? That comes in understanding some tricks to making habits easy to start. This is where James Clear’s book really shines and becomes worth the read. We only have time to give you a few of his tips. 1. Make a “time and place” plan Two of the most common cues that initiate a habit are time and place. If you want to develop a new habit, decide in advance where and when you’ll do that. So, if you want to develop a habit of exercise—let’s say walking everyday—then determine when and where you will do this. This actually works. An experiment about exercise in Great Britain showed that participants who made a plan of when and where they’d exercise were far more likely to follow through. Be sure to pick a specific time that happens everyday without fail, and a place that’s easy to get to. For example: Every morning, right after breakfast, I will walk around the block. “Every morning” does happen everyday, but that’s not specific enough. “After breakfast” is specific. And the place “around the block” is simple enough. You don’t have to drive to get there. Just go out your door. Another benefit to making a plan is that you don’t have to make a new decision. You’ve already made it when you made the plan. Your job is to merely follow through with the plan you already made. Here are some other examples of plans: At noon every day I will stand up and stretch for 10 minutes. Before I get out of bed every morning, I will be still and listen to God for 10 minutes. Psalm 46:10 even encourages us to do this when it says to, “Be still and know that I am God…” To help you pick good a good time to plan your habit, make a list of things that happen in your life everyday without fail. That’ll give you more flexibility and options that you may not think of otherwise. Think about what might be your pivotal times of the day, where one habit can alter the course of your whole day. For example, I know that I do best if I exercise first thing in the morning. For me, that’s become a key to starting my whole day off right. 2. Stack Your Habits Sometimes the easiest way to get a new habit started is to attach it to a habit you already have. One simple example of this is if you wanted to build a habit of flossing your teeth, you could stack it on top of brushing your teeth, assuming brushing is something you do everyday. Another example is something I do: I eat a protein bar every morning. I cannot get my work day started without food. So that’s the time when I do my Bible study. It’s a linked habit now. I grab my protein bar and my Bible and I know I’m unlikely to skip Bible reading because I’m extremely unlikely to skip my protein bar. Stacking your habits can become an extremely powerful means of creating a lifestyle you want or need. I suffer from severe chronic insomnia, and I need every possible help I can get when it comes to falling asleep. After habit stacking, I’ve come to the point where I have a whole wind-down routine every night (that takes into consideration the lighting, the temperature, what I’m focusing on etc.). It starts an hour before bedtime, and truly it’s helped. One of the reasons why it’s effective is that not only am I doing the right things to help prepare for sleep, I’m not making any decisions about whether I want to do this specific thing or not. I’m just doing it and letting my mind go to the places it needs to go to for calmness and sleep. Randy Ingermanson, in his Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, wrote a article on habits and what he called his “Daily Startup Habit.” That’ll give you another real-life example of how you can powerfully use habit-stacking. One key to habit stacking is to make sure you pick a good time and a compatible habit. Like flossing your teeth goes pretty well with brushing them. But if you’re brain dead in the morning before your first cup of coffee, don’t stack a habit of writing before your coffee. And maybe not even after, depending on how long it takes you to wake up. If you love to eat messy barbecue chicken wings for lunch, don’t decide your lunch hour is the best place to stack a habit of writing either, unless you want a messy keyboard! One of the things James Clear suggests is that you do a “habit inventory” before you think about what new habits you want to start and which habits you might want to stack. It’s good to be thoroughly familiar with what you’re already doing—habits you like and want to keep, as well as habits you don’t like and want to stop. 3. Make Your Cues as Obvious as Possible Remember, a cue is what begins the habit loop. It’s the reminder. You want it to be as noticeable as possible. A simple example of how important visual reminders can be is the end caps in bookstores. Those are prime places that publishers pay extra for. They want potential buyers to SEE and crave their books. I have a medication I need to take every night. It’s on my nightstand. That’s an obvious visual cue. When I wanted to be sure I practiced guitar everyday, I had it sitting out on a stand, not put away in the case. The healthy snacks at my house are easier to spot than the chocolates. When you’re trying to start a new habit, ask yourself what you can do to create an environment that encourages your habit. Maybe, if you want to become the type of person who only eats healthy snacks, you only have healthy snacks in your house. James Clear says, “If you want to make a habit a big part of your life, make the cue a big part of your environment.” Or, let’s go back to wanting the habit of writing everyday: create a dedicated place in your home where you write. You see the space, it triggers the cue to do your writing, because it signals to you that you want to be the type of person who writes. 4. Increase the Temptation of Your Habit This is a simple trick: If there’s a habit you want to start that you don’t anticipate liking very much, bundle it with another activity or habit that you really like. Maybe you love looking at puppies on Instagram, but you hate processing your email. So, you can decide something like this: After I have my coffee everyday (so you’re picking a time), I will process email. After I process email, I will look at puppies for five minutes. Or, if you want to start a habit of eating one vegetable snack per day, you could say: At 3:00 while I have my afternoon vegetable snack, I will look at puppies. Again, this would totally work for me! But there’s more… We’ve talked about what habits are and given some tips to easily building new habits you want. Stay tuned for the next podcast in this series, where we’ll bring you a few more tips for building habits, as well as some guidance about how to change habits you no longer want. Until then, think about your habits. Pray about them. Ask God to show you what he thinks about your habits. Which ones are serving you well? Which aren’t? What do you need to add in your life to help you in this task of writing he’s given you? Are your habits working for—or against—you? #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What is the easiest way you’ve found to build a good habit? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST We’re excited to have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. He knows what he’s talking about, friends, and we highly recommend his podcast! It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. You can find it at NovelMarketing.com or in your favorite podcast app. One of Thomas’s recent episodes was “How to Write Book Reviews Readers Will Want to Read.” I loved this episode because it covered a useful skill writers can use to help build a following among readers. Thomas talks about different kinds of reviews, different angles you can take for your reviews, as well as how to write reviews that are NOT boring. If you want to attract readers to your writing, writing reviews in an interesting way not only helps readers get to know you and your style, but readers love you for providing useful information for them. They WANT to find new books to read. I encourage you to check out this episode of Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com, where you can find plenty of other book promotion and platform help as well! THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our September sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which is under contract with 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 P.S. 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. The post 150 – How to Build Useful Habits appeared first on Write from the Deep.
32 minutes | Sep 6, 2021
149 – How to Overcome Decision Fatigue
Decisions. More and more of them are thrown at us today than ever before. And in so many cases, we just don’t have the knowledge or information we need to make wise choices. In fact, we have so many decisions and choices to make that we’ve become immobilized. Making decisions seems like the hardest thing in the world! Let us help you find ways to break free of the dreaded decision fatigue. But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Remember how terrible we all thought 2020 was? I remember turning to my hubby, Don, on New Year’s Eve, and saying, “What if 2021 is looking at 2020 and saying, ‘Here. Hold my beer.’?” In other words, what if 2020 was just a warmup for 2021. We consoled ourselves that that couldn’t happen. And it didn’t. Not for us, at least. Until March. When we discovered that our water heater was leaking. A lot. In came the workmen, and they discovered all manner of mold in all manner of places in our entryway…under the floor, in the walls, even under the subflooring. Thus began the unending repair process. Because of Karen’s lung disease and the danger the mold was to her, Don sent her off to Erin’s house for almost two weeks. Enough time for them to tear everything out, deal with the mold, then get the subfloor put in. Then, when Karen got home, they’d pick out new flooring and it would be put down in a week or so. Well…you know that old saying “Man plans and God laughs”? The day before Karen went home, they found the water damage was more extensive than they thought. And it impacted not just the entryway but the kitchen. So instead of coming home to a mold-free house and having the fun of picking out new flooring, Karen found the entryway and kitchen cut off by plastic sheeting while they continued to work, tearing up the kitchen floor now. Good news, though. Don had saved a good portion of the flooring from the last time they replaced the kitchen floor, so at least we wouldn’t have to put a new floor in the kitchen. We chose a new floor for the entryway, which involved getting floor samples and taking them home and trying to decide which one matched everything best. Then it was Karen’s job to pack up everything breakable in the kitchen and figure out where to store it all. Yes, it’s too late to make this long story short, so we’ll just hit the highlights: The workers ruined the piece of flooring Don had saved for the kitchen, so now Karen and Don had to choose new flooring for both kitchen and entryway. More samples brought home. More trying to figure out from those small samples what would look best. Finally, in June, the workers got all the new flooring in and were finished! Celebration! Then Karen and Don realized the new floor was darker than they thought it would be, so suddenly they were talking about and picking out possible counters and backsplashes! Do you have any idea how many types of counters and backsplashes there are? Think we’re done? Hardly. Two days after their new floor was in, Don found the kitchen and the dining room flooded. The workers had pinched the tube going to the ice maker in the fridge, and it burst. Now the kitchen AND dining room floors were both ruined. Karen and Don went to order more of the floor they’d just had put it their kitchen. It was out of stock. No idea when they’d have it. So they had to schlep more floor samples and choose a NEW floor for the kitchen and dining room. Once again, after putting everything back in place, Karen had to pack up things in the kitchen and now the dining room. Then find room in the house to store two rooms worth of furniture and stuff. If she never hears, “Where would you like me to put this?” again in her life, it will be too soon. The workers got the wrong color of paint for the dining room walls. They messed up the electrical so they had to bring in an electrician. And on and on it went, with Karen and Don having to make multiple decisions almost EVERY DAY The job was finally, finally finished in late July, four long, decision-laden months. But by that time, Don and Karen were both dealing with: Procrastination. No matter what a decision was, like what do you want for dinner or what shall we watch on TV, they both put off choosing. Karen had brain fog like never before. Impulsivity. Karen would decide things by closing her eyes and pointing. If Don asked why she picked that one, she’d just shrug. She had no idea. She just wanted the decision to go away. Avoidance. More than once Don told Karen, “I can’t deal with this right now.” Karen’s line was, “If I have to make one more decision, I’ll scream!” Indecision. They’d waffle back and forth, then second-guess each other. And then snap at each other. Which brings us to… Irritation. They were so mentally exhausted, if either one of them asked the other for something, it was like poking a tiger with a toothache. As you may have guessed, Karen and Don were DEEP in decision fatigue. As we were talking that over one day, we realized that while not a lot of you may be facing what Karen and Don did, thanks to the state of the world today, you’re probably facing your own nightmares of one decision after another after another. Studies have shown that decision fatigue is rampant. No surprise when you consider the countless number of decisions the Pandemic has brought our way. Should we: Wear masks, go to the store, send our kids to school, homeschool, let people come over or don’t, go to work, find a place to work at home, which news sources to watch, to read, to trust, go to church or watch online, travel or don’t travel, and on and on it goes. Medical, family, and safety decisions abound, and we have to deal with them all! That’s not all. Writers still have to make everyday decisions for their work and careers and story lines. I can’t even tell you how many online discussions I’ve seen with writers wondering if they should be honest about what they think on social media, how to deal with the censorship, should they address the pandemic in their books, what about cultural appropriation, will my factual historical storyline offend readers and should I change it, and on and on. And just when we think life is returning to normal, there’s a new crisis and MORE decisions to be made. Not just that, but what about every new marketing idea or social media fad that comes along? Should you hop aboard or sit it out? It’s no wonder so many of us feel like crawling under the bed and not coming out until we hear the trumpet call of Christ’s return. And it’s no wonder so many of us struggle with decision fatigue. So what, you ask, IS decision fatigue? In an article on Usatoday.com, Roy Bauimeister, the psychology professor at Florida State University who coined the term, explains, “It’s a state of low willpower that results from having invested effort into making choices. It leads to putting less effort into making further choices, so either choices are avoided or they are made in a very superficial way.” Bauimeister adds in another article on Healthline.com that “decision fatigue is the emotional and mental strain resulting from a burden of choices.” The Newport Institute, in their article called “Change Fatigue and Decision Fatigue,” defines decision fatigue as “a mental overload resulting from constantly having to make stressful choices.” Basically, our minds have limited energy, and when we are constantly making decisions, we drain that energy to a dangerous level. Why dangerous? Because when we don’t have the necessary physical and mental resources, we often make decisions that negatively affect our lives—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—and the lives of those we love. Bad decisions can: Make us compromise our beliefs or convictions Damage relationships, both personal and professional. It’s too easy to be swayed into a bad career move when we’re tired or mentally bound up. I’ve known authors who, in the midst of uncertainties and fatigue, sign a contract that seemed perfect only to discover when they were more clear-minded that they’d made a terrible mistake. One they couldn’t undo. Leave us engulfed in anxiety, trying to figure out how to fix what we’ve done or caused Damage our reputation, personal or professional, making it hard for people to trust us. Have negative effects for years. In a devotional on insight.org, Charles Swindoll writes that, “Psalm 137 is the mournful song of a people enduring the grind of lingering consequences after a long history of bad decisions. The composer gives voice to the anguish of God’s covenant people, removed from their Promised Land, cut off from their birthright. As a band of Jewish POWs, they have been taken by the Babylonians into a foreign land.” Just read that Psalm and you’ll see that the Israelites’ poor decisions led them to years of imprisonment by other nations. And, as God warned them, their land was a desolation and a horror. They became servants to their enemies, all because they made poor decisions rather than following God’s leading. Another factor in decision fatigue is that the days of operating on automatic pilot, making decisions easily because the situation is familiar or routine, have gone out the window. Everything is changed. Everything is unpredictable. Too often we don’t have the information we need, or we have too much information and it’s all conflicting, to make wise decisions. Look at publishing. Editors are making decisions about historical novels based on “sensitivity” readers or readers’ “feelings” rather than on historical facts. We heard from best-selling novelist Tamara Alexander about that in podcast episode 130. Contracts are being cancelled and books and/or authors are being blasted, even threatened, for perceived offenses. Just recently author Karen Witemeyer was awarded the RWA’s Vivian Award for the best romance of the year “with religious/spiritual elements.” An award that was rescinded by the organization when people came after them and Karen for “romanticizing” the Battle of Wounded Knee. In reality, Karen wrote a moving story of how God redeems a man who took part in the horror of Wounded Knee. But the “people” have spoken, and so the award was rescinded. The publishing world, both secular and Christian, has turned on its head. Some are calling censorship brave and necessary, embracing the very cancel culture it used to condemn. How on earth do we navigate THOSE stormy waters? Elizabeth Yuko, a writer and staff member at the Fordham University Center for Ethics Education, expresses this well on USAToday.com: “We’re …making high-stakes, moral decisions…that have consequences we’ve never had to deal with before. These things come with such a moral weight on them, it comes with even more stress.” So, decision fatigue is real. As are its consequences. In the Healthline.com article, “Understanding Decision Fatigue,” the stress over time of having to make so many decisions can lead to irritability, increased anxiety, depression, and cause physical issues such as tension headaches and digestive issues. It can cause us to shut down emotionally. It can create mental stress, hinder our ability to reason and process things, reduce our desire or ability to compromise and work for a win/win solution, and, not too surprisingly, lead to depression. Now that we know what decision fatigue is, how do we know if we’re dealing with it? We talked about some of the signs already: Procrastination, Impulsivity, Avoidance, Indecision, Irritation, depression. Other signs include: Inability to focus Guilt for making poor decisions Impulse buying Fatigue that won’t go away Does any, or even all, of that sound familiar? Yeah, it does to us, too. So what can we do about decision fatigue? 1. Take your struggle, and your decisions, to God. Ask for peace, clarity, and wisdom. Remember Solomon? The wisest man who ever lived? In Ecclesiastes 7:12, he wrote: “Wisdom is a shelter…Wisdom preserves those who have it.” Don’t make important decisions without God’s wisdom. Read God’s Word. Consider doing word studies on wisdom, rest, peace, knowledge, and other words you find calming and inspiring. Trust God to lead you. As He says in Psalm 32:8,10, “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you…the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” 2. Share your struggle. Talk with those in your family about the issue. Be honest, and let them be honest as well. Ask each other for help. Work together to develop a strategy to deal with decision fatigue. See how you can help each other in your places of weakness. If one of you loves to cook, that person can get input from everyone else to develop a meal plan for the week. If you hate deciding what to wear but one of your kids is a fashionista, ask for help choosing outfits for whatever events/appointments are coming up. Maybe you don’t even have to make that decision. That’s an important point to consider. Don’t make decisions that you don’t have to. Talk with trusted counselors and seek their prayers and counsel. Remember how Moses couldn’t hold up his staff in Exodus 17? Aaron and Hur came alongside him and enabled him to do what God has asked. Let those you trust come alongside you, too. 3. Make a plan ahead of time for how you’ll handle decision fatigue when it hits. Making a plan can take the pressure off when you’re feeling overwhelmed at having to make a decision. A good place to start your plan is with a primary question to ask yourself when you have to make a decision. It could be something like, “Which choice can God use to refine me?” or “Which choice will bring glory to God?” or “Do I need to be the one making this decision?” Work through the possible answers and responses until you have a workable “script” to follow. Churchleaders.com gives a great suggestion to add to your plan: Resist. “Specifically, resist external pressures that might affect your decision-making that are motivated by such things as partisan politics, bad theology, fear, anxiety or personal felt needs. It’s not that some external pressures aren’t worthy of being taken into account; just never allow yourself to make a decision simply because of external pressure.” 4. Focus on self care. Keep watch for the signs of decision fatigue. When you see them in yourself, admit what’s happening and take care of yourself. Be sure you’re eating healthy. Get the sleep you need. This includes naps. If you’re fading during the day, a nap can work wonders. If you can’t nap, take a short break. Do something that rejuvenates you. Exercise. Exercise boosts endorphins, which make us feel more energized, and increases oxygen levels in the blood, which is imperative for thinking straight. The brain’s cells are hypersensitive to decreased oxygen in the blood. My dad always said if I was feeling tired, go for a walk rather than take a nap. I thought he was crazy until I tried it. It’s amazing how energizing moving and walking can be. Develop routines to cut out unnecessary decisions (e.g., what time you’ll write, when you’ll go to bed, when you’ll get up, etc.) and maintain them. We’ll be talking more in an upcoming podcast about how to develop habits and routines. Because again, that can help you decrease the amount of decisions you have to make. Don’t be afraid of wrong decisions. Know you do the best you can with what you know in the moment. Step away. Give yourself time and space to think and pray things through. Don’t be rushed by the tyranny of the deadline. Consider Mark 6:31. Jesus and his disciples had been teaching and healing for days. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’” Never underestimate the power of taking the time to recoup. To let your heart and spirit reset on what’s most important. Remember God’s words in Isaiah 30:15, “This is what the Sovereign Lord, the Holy One of Israel, says: ‘In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength.’” Don’t be like the Israelites who wouldn’t listen to Him. Take His truths to heart and rest in them. 5. Focus on WHEN you make decisions. Believe it or not, timing matters. Opensourcedworkplace.com shares a fascinating study done by the National Academy of Sciences back in 2011. Over 10 months they studied the rulings of over 10 thousand judges. What they discovered was that “the judges in a parole board who heard prisoners’ appeals early in the day were more likely to give a favorable ruling about 65% of the time. But as more and more decisions were made, with deliberations done over and over again, the chance of prisoners receiving parole in their favor dropped to almost zero. The researchers also recorded the judges’ two daily food breaks, and found that after the percentage of favorable rulings dropped to nearly zero, it jumped back to about 65% after each break.” Food doesn’t just feed your body, it feeds your brain. The glucose enables it to have the energy to think more critically. Daniel Kahneman talks about this as well in his book Thinking Fast and Slow. In the case of the parole board, the judges decisions at times had nothing to do with the prisoners or the judges personal feelings. It was all about the timing. So, if possible, make your decisions in the morning after a good night’s sleep and after healthy meals. God’s Peace and Wisdom to Overcome Decision Fatigue We deal with so many strange things in the course of our lives as writers and believers. Where making decisions seemed easy, almost second nature, it can now become so overwhelming we’re frozen in indecision. But God doesn’t want you stuck in decision fatigue. He’s with you in every decision you have to make. He’s ready to guide you, to whisper truth and wisdom to your heart and spirit. Don’t let the craziness of the world make you forget that the God of the universe loves you unconditionally. And He offers you rest, peace, and wisdom. As Paul wrote in Colossians 3:15-17: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do (or decide!), whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Are you making decisions when you shouldn't? #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What are the hardest decisions you’re facing today? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST We’re excited to have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. He knows what he’s talking about, friends, and we highly recommend his podcast! It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. You can find it at NovelMarketing.com or in your favorite podcast app. The last episode on Novel Marketing was An Author’s Guide to StoryOrigin. StoryOrigin is a useful service for authors trying to build their newsletter list, which is crucial these days for author marketing and connecting with readers. StoryOrigin helps you create a landing page for your reader magnet, which is something you give to people when they sign up to your mailing list. StoryOrigin handles the delivery of that file so you don’t have to, which is nice, because trust me, readers can have all sorts of problems downloading files. StoryOrigin also helps authors connect with each other to develop a network for cross promotion. For lots more information about this resource, and it’s potential for you, check out Thomas’s interview with the creator of StoryOrigin on the Novel Marketing podcast in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com where you’ll also find lots more book promotion and platform help. THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our September sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which is under contract with 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 P.S. 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. The post 149 – How to Overcome Decision Fatigue appeared first on Write from the Deep.
27 minutes | Aug 23, 2021
148 – Using the Stories in Our Lives with Guest Laurel Thomas
So often writers wonder how to find themes for their books, but our guest this week, Laurel Thomas, has good news! God has planted rich themes in your own journey and life! Come listen in as Laurel gives us guidelines and tips for not just finding those themes, but understanding what to do with them. About Laurel Thomas Laurel Thomas loves words and their power to convey remarkable stories. She’s written for inspirational magazines including Guideposts and Mysterious Ways, as well as ghosted nonfiction. Her novel River’s Call was published by Wild Rose Press and boasts five-star reviews. In her position as general administrator for WriteWell, SellWell and WriterCon 2021 in Oklahoma City, she teaches and supports other multi-published industry professionals who equip writers for success through national conferences and weekend intensives. Find out more about Laurel Thomas at her website: laurelannthomas.org. Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast! Karen: It’s another day at Write from the Deep, and we are so delighted you’re here to join us. We are also delighted to welcome a guest. Erin, tell us all about her. Erin: Her name is Laurel Thomas, and she is a dear friend of mine. Laurel Thomas is a former high school English teacher who loves words and their power to convey remarkable stories. She’s written for inspirational magazines, including Guideposts and Mysterious Ways, as well as ghostwritten nonfiction. And her debut novel River’s Call was published by Wild Rose Press. She’s also a writer’s coach and a chaplain to the Oklahoma state bureau of investigation. How about that? She’s a general administrator for the conferences and writing intensive of WriteWell, SellWell and Writer Con 2021 in Oklahoma City. Aside from all of that, though, Laurel is one of the sweetest, most gentle-spirited women I have ever met. I’m telling you, her love for Jesus and for others actually radiates out of her whenever you get like within five feet of her. It’s like this wave. Laurel, I am just so delighted to have you here with us today. Welcome! Karen: Welcome. Laurel: Well, it is wonderful to be here and to see Erin’s face. I’ve missed her since she moved away. Thank you, Erin, and thank you, Karen, for inviting me today. I’ve been so excited. Karen: We were, too. Erin: Yes! So our first question as always, Laurel, what does a deep mean to you? Laurel: For years and years, I wrote nonfiction and loved nonfiction. What I would do was in the morning, when I had a quiet time, the Lord would show me something special. And so when I first started writing, I thought, I think I’ll just practice blogging. So I would take those little mini revelations and I would apply them to real life and get them down on the blog. That’s how I started really getting my writing out there. ‘Cause I had written, ghosted nonfiction for pastors and you know, lots of different venues, but I really had never gotten my work out into the universe. So, that’s kind of how I started. I have learned over the years that our Father is the Creator, and he has incredible insights into people, into life, that really need to be communicated. So when I think of write from the deep, I think of that scripture, and I told Erin this, from Psalm 42, that deep calls to deep. There’s something about the wooing of the Spirit who calls to our spirit. There is such joy, such riches, such treasure there. That’s basically how I would translate the deep. Karen: That’s wonderful. I like that. Erin: Yeah, and it really ties in with the things that we wanted to talk about today, because we wanted to talk about how our journey with the Lord offers those rich themes and how we find those themes. What do we do with them? This is something that you’re doing well. So talk a little bit about how you do this. Laurel: Thank you. You know, I made a big shift in 2013 into fiction. It was funny. As a writer, I thought, how hard could it be? Well, it turns out, it was difficult. I was like, “It’s still writing…” Well, the learning curve was incredible. When I started, I wasn’t very good, but I started anyway. I really have realized something so important as a writer, and really it’s true for life, too, that growth really means going into those uncomfortable, new places that we are not familiar with, that we’re not really totally comfortable with, and really we don’t have mastery over. But the Lord beckons us into those places. And if we will humble ourselves and be willing to go with him in those new places, it’s just kind of amazing how he will expand us, and what he’ll release in us that we maybe didn’t even know was there. If that makes sense. Karen: It does. That’s what I really love about God when he draws us into this task of writing. I don’t think I’ve known any writers in all the years I’ve been in publishing who’ve come into this task and said, “I can do this,” and didn’t have a sense of, “What the heck am I doing?” Yet what I love about it is that God knows where we’re at every stage. And at every stage he draws us deeper, not just into him, but into our own selves and to understanding who we are and why we are and what it is that motivates us and what it is that stirs us. I remember a lot of years ago, I loved to read romance novels, but reading the Bible, wasn’t all that appealing to me. So I actually prayed for God to give me a love and a desire for reading scripture. When I went to read scripture next, there was such excitement inside of me. The words were living water that came into me and refreshed me and gave me new insights. That was my first step into the deep with Jesus. Then that informed the writing and the work that I did. So, yes, it makes absolute sense. Erin: I love also what you said about going into a place that’s uncomfortable, which we don’t want to go into, obviously. I mean, we know we’re not good at it. We have no control over it. The only way for us to do that is to be humble. Humility is the key. It reminded me of the Israelites wandering through the desert. Why did God give them manna, like over and over and over again? It says in Deuteronomy 8:16-17, by the way, Deuteronomy one of my favorite places to find verses because they’re so good. So it says this: “In the wilderness, he fed you manna, which your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and that he might test you to do good for you in the end. Otherwise, you may say in your heart, my power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” I love that because if we’re not humble, we’re not acknowledging that it’s God who’s doing the work. It’s God who’s getting the glory. So that’s my favorite keyword there. Laurel: I love that. Of course, it’s true for probably any career that we really feel called to. I mean, there is a certain amount of equipping. I had to learn the craft of storytelling. That meant that I had to humble myself to begin anew. To go to conferences, to study craft books. And then to actually write fiction and actually get it out there and let other people, like in critique groups or writers intensives, see it. It had to have eyes on it. It had to have readers’ eyes. It had to have published novelists’ eyes. That was a venture again into the deep where you just kind of have to practice. I remember, Erin, the first time that I went to Mount Herman. You were there. I got all of the recordings. All of them. When I got home, of course, technology was different then, but I listened to all of those recordings. Over and over and over. I prayed, “Lord, is this going to be like osmosis? Is this going to be like immersion therapy? I hope so.” I mean, it was great for getting me started. But still there was so much practice and there was so much that I needed as far as feedback. I’m grateful that I’ve had really kind people around me. I haven’t had people who really have shot me down. Well, I entered a few contests. I might have been shot down a little bit… Erin: I’ll tell you, I’m a fan of getting the recordings of conferences. I can’t tell you how many conferences I bought the full set of recordings for. I learned so much that way. It’s just a crash course. But let’s circle back to talking about how our journeys with the Lord give us rich themes for writing. You probably have some examples or stories from your own life where you’ve done that. Laurel: This is one of my favorite things, Erin. I get so excited. Years ago, I had a dream and my husband and I were in the dream. We were living in a mountain chateau, and we had a whole bunch of children around us. It was pretty unlikely. We have never visited a mountain chateau. But anyway, all of these children were there. When I woke up, I was like, “Lord, that is…it was such a vivid dream.” I had this sense that the children were in danger, and that the reason they were there was because we were supposed to protect them. So I started researching about hidden children. Sure enough, I got all kinds of information about Jewish children who were sent away during the Holocaust for their own protection, because the Nazis considered them useless eaters. They were less than the least. I was like, “Oh, this is amazing!” I tried to create a story from that dream about these children who are hidden away in a mountain chateau. But setting it in World War II was just too much. I couldn’t get a handle for it. So I put it on the shelf for a long time. Erin: Right. Laurel: One morning, I was thinking about the magi. I had studied the magi, and what the Old Testament calls cities of refuge. It was interesting, both of those concepts. Let me just go back real quickly to cities of refuge. The cities of refuge were put in place early on. They were fascinating because the path to a city of refuge had to be lined out very clearly. Those refuge cities were built in white limestone. They were placed on top of the mountains so that if anyone was accused of manslaughter, they could run to that city of refuge, and they would get a fair trial at the city of refuge, if they made it. If they didn’t make it, there was a blood avenger, usually a family member. So if they didn’t make it to the city, then a blood avenger could kill them legally for that manslaughter, which was, of course, accidental. Anyway, the long and the short of it was I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write kind of a fantasy about a city of refuge? And who would the enemy attack? Maybe magi children? And magi children who were gifted in ways that would impact their world in a way that really was supernatural, but was supernaturally natural?” As I had done a little bit of research on the magi, I found out that Daniel was actually the chief of the magi during his time with the kings. When he worked with, I think, four or five different kings. But anyway, the magi kind of got this, I don’t know, this bad reputation. But really they were known kind of in our culture, our Christian culture, as magicians or occultists. But that’s not really what they were, especially during Daniel’s time. They were influencers of culture. They were often spiritual counselors to kings. So they were known for supernatural wisdom. So when we see the wise men coming to meet the new King, Jesus, they were not occultists. They were learned wise men who came from a different culture, but who were recognized as counselors to kings. So the fact that they came to see Jesus is very significant. This is convoluted, but I’m just showing how a story arrived and evolved out of two things the Lord showed me, which were the cities of refuge and also the information about the magi. Karen: It’s funny. I’ve talked with a lot of writers over the years, and I’ve heard a lot of stories where they say, “You know, God showed me this X number of years ago, and I just didn’t know what it was for, so I just tucked it away.” Then at some point down the road it’s as though that thing just hits them again. Because of the current circumstances, or what they’ve learned since then and their relationship with the Lord, suddenly it’s so clear to them, and they build this whole story, fiction or nonfiction, around what they learned. One of the things that we can learn from this is that we need to be focused on what God is telling us. We need to be focused on what he’s speaking to our own hearts and why, and what we’re learning about him. Not so much focused on getting published, but focused on growing in him. Then when he gives us the tasks that he does, whether it’s writing, or whatever creative endeavor it might be, we’re prepared to go in. He enlightens us so that we can enlighten others. I love that about him. Erin: I like what you’re saying, Karen, because we can get so focused on what’s happening externally. We can get so focused on goals and so focused on, you know, finishing the book. We forget to pay attention to what’s happening inside us, our own internal journey and how much we, in our relationship with God and what he teaches us, how much of that we can put in the story. Instead we’re just like, “Oh, I got to, you know, do all these things, I don’t even have time to spend time with God today. Sorry.” That’s not going to make it work. The other thing I like, Laurel, is that you did not hold that vision, that dream as sacred. Like, “I can never change it. It must be a mountain chateau and all of these children.” I love how you held that loosely. How you were like, “You know what? That’s just sort of an ingredient in my crockpot, and it’s going to simmer, and it’s okay if it comes out as a fantasy that has nothing to do with the chateau.” Nothing to do, even, with your first exploration of the Jewish children. That whole transformation. You were so free and willing to let that transform. You know how difficult it is when a writer has something in their mind, some vision that they can’t let go of and they can’t let it morph and grow and bloom and transform to meet who they are today and what they’re growing into, and to have all of their experiences coming to a head at one point. That’s just a great example of how you let that simmer and stew and transform into something great. Laurel: That’s such wisdom. So you haven’t read these, but actually, there’ll be two books out of that idea. The one right now that is under consideration is called When Stars Brush Earth. Erin: I love that title. Laurel: I wanted to say, too, Erin, that this is very personal, but you’ll find it in River’s Call and you’ll find it also in When Stars Brush Earth and The Stones of Promise, is that there’s always a heroine who really has no clue who she is and who struggles basically with an orphan spirit. You know, not being able to connect, not recognizing love when love is all around her. That has been a personal journey that I know well, and so that has really been inscribed into my protagonist and really it’s in all of my novels. In some aspect, there is a main character who really has no clue who she is. Yet, who she is is shouting to her, all around her, to the people who truly love her. You see a little bit of that in Missy. That’s where I began to investigate that in River’s Call. So that would be like a major theme. As far as, like, how do we take a personal journey and then communicate it in a way that is engaging in a story, in story form and in our main character. So it’s been interesting. Erin: That’s cool. Karen: Laurel, believe it or not, our time is almost up. As you think about all the things we’ve talked about, and you think about those who are listening to this podcast, do you have any final words of wisdom or encouragement? Laurel: I always say trust that the Creator who created you loves to create through you. The journey of creating through words… I have a scripture, real quickly, that I read this morning. It’s Psalm 33:9 in The Passion Translation. It says, “He breathed words and worlds were created.” I just thought, “Oh, my goodness. Some thoughts from God are so big.” I think that in a way, what I see, Karen, is that I would love to understand and to really communicate to other writers that the bigness of God can be imparted into a craft. It’s kind of a dance, and it’s kind of a playground, and it’s kind of a discovery that is so delightful that it—if as Erin said earlier we’ll take the pressure of pride out, and the pressure of ego out—it becomes this really delightful journey with the Lord that is rich and that blesses other people. It doesn’t get any better than that. Karen: That’s a, win-win. Thank you so much, Laurel. It’s been wonderful to have you here. Erin: Thanks, Laurel. Laurel: Thank you so much. I enjoyed talking to both of you. WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Have any themes from your life made their way into your books? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST We have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We don’t take a sponsorship like this lightly. We agreed because we know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice. Not only does he talk about book promotion and marketing, but he also covers various aspects of business. For example, one of his recent episodes was An Author’s Guide to LLC’s. This is something many writers have questions about. And if you don’t, you probably should, because it’s important to be knowledgeable and wise in all aspects of the writing industry. This episode covers issues like: What is an LLC? Why you may (or may not!) want one, and how LLC’s tie into estate planning. Remember, as writers, you’re creating intellectual property that has value for years. You need to understand how to be a good steward of it. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. Book by Laurel Thomas mentioned in the podcast River’s Call by Laurel Thomas We use affiliate book links. You can help support the podcast by using these links if you plan to purchase any of these books. Thanks! What’s the best source of themes for your writing? Guest Laurel Thomas gives us guidelines and tips for not just finding those themes, but understanding what to do with them. #amwriting #Christianwriter @karenball1 @LaurelT84325053Click To Tweet THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our August sponsor of the month, Bobbi Updegraff! You can find out more about another important cause she sponsors at friendsofrenacer.com. It’s a wonderful ministry of presence—of praying, visiting, listening, encouraging and helping financially—the orphaned children in Honduras! Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 148 – Using the Stories in Our Lives with Guest Laurel Thomas appeared first on Write from the Deep.
28 minutes | Aug 9, 2021
147 – Letting Go of Control with Guest Cara Putman
It’s a fact: control is an illusion! And nowhere is that more true than in publishing. Yes, we can control what we do and how hard we work. But the results? That’s all in God’s hands. Cara Putman—a talented writer, professor, and mentor—with a definite A+type personality—shares the wonder and joy found in giving up control and trusting in God. About Cara Putman The award-winning, best-selling author of more than 35 books, Cara Putman graduated college at 20 and completed her law degree at 27. FIRST for Women magazine called Shadowed by Grace “captivating” and a “novel with ‘the works.’” Cara is active at her church and a full-time Clinical Associate Professor on business and ethics to undergraduate and graduate students at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. Putman also practices law and was a second-generation homeschooling mom for twelve years. Putman obtained her Master’s in Business Administration from Krannert and her J.D. from George Mason University Antonin Scalia School of Law. She serves on the executive board of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), an organization she has served in various roles since 2007. She lives with her husband and four children in Indiana. You can connect with her online at: caraputman.com. Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast! Erin: Welcome, listeners. We are so glad that you’re here with us today. We have a guest. Yay! We’re going to let Karen introduce our lovely guest. Karen: I am delighted to welcome Cara Putman here to the podcast. I met Cara years and years and years ago at one of the writers’ retreats that we both attended. They were so much fun, and Cara was so much fun. She has, I kid you not guys, the most beautiful smile you’ve ever seen. She and I had an adventure on one of these writers’ retreats where we got these marvelous sundaes that were out of this world. I still have pictures of that. They were so good, and she’s this little skinny thing and I’m not, but it was okay because we shared a love of hot fudge. She’s an award-winning, best-selling author of more than 30 books. You’d never believe it because you look at her and you think she’s 13, but she’s written 30 books. Since the time she could read Nancy Drew, she’s wanted to write mysteries. In 2005, she attended a book signing at her local Christian bookstore, and the rest they say is history. There she met Colleen Coble, who has mentored so many writers in this industry. With prompting from Cara’s husband, she shared her dream with Colleen and since those infamous words, she’s been writing books. And I tell you, she writes amazing books. In addition to that, get this guys, she’s an attorney, a lecturer at a big 10 university, and she’s active in women’s ministry, and she’s an all-around crazy woman, which she has to be to take on all of that. She’s crazy about God, her husband and her kids. She graduated with honors from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. Oh, and she says, “Go Huskers.” Which for me, that means go Huskies from Washington! She went to George Mason Law School and Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. That’s her MBA. You can learn more about her books at caraputman.com. Cara, welcome. Cara: Thank you so much for having me. Karen, one of the things I first remember about meeting you at one of those writing retreats is I had my two-month-old with me… Karen: Oh yeah. Cara: And you were the Baby Whisperer! I’m sitting between James Scott Bell and Randy Alcorn, feeling like such a fraud. I had like two books out at the time. It was 2008. You just, Rebecca could be a little fussy, and yet you would just take her and love on her. And I thought, this is a woman who has a heart of gold and loves Jesus. Karen: The funny thing about that, she came to me and she called me the baby whisperer. And I said, “You know, I just did with Rebecca the same thing I do with puppies, when they’re fussy. It worked really well.” Cara: It did! I was so overwhelmed and intimidated walking into this room of all of the Christian authors that I have so respected and admired. And you know how sometimes Satan will be like, “You’re a fraud. You don’t really belong here.” I so felt that, especially since I was showing up with this newborn baby. Yet you and everyone else just were so welcoming and that’s one of the things I love about Christian fiction authors. We’re just the best. Erin: Let’s start off here with our question we love to ask everyone. Cara, what does the deep mean to you? Cara: I love that question. Here’s what the deep means to me when I’m thinking particularly about faith. I think that there are two ways that people approach it. Some people get content with the shallow end, where, you know, they’re getting their toes wet and maybe they attend a Bible study or something, but it’s not one that has them like pulling it all apart. They’re what Paul would call content with milk. Then there are those of us who are like, “I am so past that. I want steak. I want to cannonball off the diving board.” Although you’d have to drag me up to do like that two-story one. The Olympics are coming, so I’m imagining the platform. You would have to throw me off that thing. But I want all that God has for me, and that’s what I think of when I think of the deep. It’s just going in where you can’t stand anymore. You know, Hillsong had that song that everybody was singing for forever about oceans. And just that idea that God’s crashing over us. Sometimes it’s painful. It’s not always fun, but we just want everything he has for us, so we are risking it all and going into the deep. Karen: Oh, I love that. You know, we were talking before we started the recording about you being a type triple-A control freak and how God decided to put you in that personality into a career where we have no control. So I’m sure that there are many of our listeners out there who understand implicitly the idea that this is a tough thing to do, because there really isn’t a lot that we can control. Why don’t you talk about that a little and about your own journey into being able to let go and trust in God’s control? Cara: I think one of the things that a lot of people can look at, like my bio that you were reading, and say, “Oh, she started writing in 2005. She got her contract in 2006. First book comes out in 2007. It wins a major award in 2008. It’s all been butterflies and rainbows. The occasional unicorn shows up.” It’s easy for people to look at it and go, “That’s her journey. It’s been this piece of cake.” And yet, publishing is so far out of our control. I mean, I like being an attorney. My other hat is I’m a university professor and there’s control. I control my classroom. I control what my students are learning. I control how fast we learn it and when we learn it. Then you look at publishing. It’s the complete opposite. There are things that we control as writers. We control whether we’re going to sit down and do the work. We control whether we’re going to write the proposals that feel like slitting our wrist and bleeding all over the place and going, “Is anybody going to like this?” I despise proposal writing. By now, haven’t earned the right for them to just be like, “Hey, we know she’s going to write a great book, go for it”? Yet I’m not there. There has been so many times I’ve gone, “Okay, God, why am I in this industry?” And he’s like, “Because you can’t control it.” I can do everything perfectly. And I am an Enneagram three perfectionist, first born, type A. I mean, hello? Is there any more of a person who’s like, “Just give me a job, I can do it and I’ll do it great, and it’ll be perfect”? It doesn’t matter in publishing. You can do everything absolutely perfectly, and one of your books releases two weeks into the pandemic, and guess what? The libraries and bookstores are closed, so print sales are tanked. There’s nothing I can do about that. In that process my publisher said, “No, we’re not going to offer you another contract.” I wanted to be like, “Excuse me, this is a pandemic. Really? You’re going to hold that against me?” But then I’m thinking about all my friends who rely on their writing income, and who are releasing at the same time and going, “Oh, God, this is not good. Help us!” Fortunately, that book has completely recovered since then. Those are the things that we can’t control. You can write the most beautiful book and nobody finds it. So I’ve learned it has to be about going, “Okay, God, just help me have a heart for whoever the readers are that you want to read it. Help me to focus on being obedient and doing what I can do.” Then holding it open-handed. I had to do that with the dream since I was 14 and was like, “I can write books and Janette Oke isn’t writing fast enough. I can do that.” Yet God didn’t say go until I was 32, and then it was really fast. But the dream actually started a lot earlier. Karen: That’s amazing. Erin: What steps do you think you took along the way with God to get from the point of, “But I can control it. I can control it”? I mean to get from there to where you’re like, “It’s cool. I’m laid back. God’s got it.” You know, that didn’t happen overnight, obviously. So what do you think were some keys that helped you move from one place to another on that journey? Cara: I would say it’s still a journey. I mean, remember the type Enneagram three. It’s all about looking successful. So there are times… like one of the gals I kind of mentor, and now she’s almost a peer, which is so fun, but she was calling me last week, going, “What does this mean?” I’m like, “Oh, it means you’re getting offered a contract from the publisher that just told me no.” And being able to celebrate with her when that publisher was my dream publisher from the beginning. And I got there and I got five books. And I’m like, “But I could name an author, and at five books… she wasn’t always the best-selling author that she is today.” But publishers don’t give you that kind of time. I say that to say, it’s still a journey. I had to really watch my heart because publishing can feel very unfair. Erin: And it is. Karen: It is very unfair. Cara: I can look at it and go, “Uh, wait a minute. Why are you pouring all of this into someone who’s brand new when I’m doing everything you asked and more?” Those are the moments where I then have to go back to God and go, “Okay, I’m trying to have my heart in the right place, but I’m starting to see that it slipped out of alignment.” So I don’t want anybody to think that I’ve got it dialed in and made. I think where there’s been progress is that now I can see that and I can go, “Okay, God, this isn’t where I want to be. I want this to be surrendered. I want this to be open-handed.” Like when I got the answer from my current publisher, that there wasn’t going to be another contract, part of that journey was actually going, “God, does that mean I’m done?” Because I don’t want to keep pouring energy and emotion and effort into something where the grace has lifted or where it’s like, “You’ve written the books I had for you to write.” What I think I’ve heard from him is that I’m not done. There’s been some really cool encouragement that’s happened, but I’m still waiting for the next contract. Where I’m taking encouragement is that I haven’t gotten nos. Nobody has said no. So then I’m like, okay, is it because we’re in the pandemic and they’re still waiting to see what’s going to happen? But if it were a no, then it’s a closed door. Where it is, it’s still maybe an open door. I don’t know. So it’s that journey of just being able to, in some ways I guess, really trust God’s timing more. One of the things that I have been able to see by looking back, and that’s one thing I’m really big on is don’t forget to stop and look back so you can see God’s hand and see the progress, because sometimes we get so focused on the future that we forget to see his provision in the past. And if we don’t see his provision in the past, it’s really hard to trust him for the future. By looking back, I could see if I had been under a deadline this spring, so spring of 2021, I don’t think I would have been able to meet the deadline—and I’ve met every deadline ever, and that’s 36 books—because I was teaching full time at a major university in COVID. By the end of May, I was so fried. I didn’t have anything left to give anybody. I don’t want to write under those conditions. I had to take like the rest of May and June to kind of get back to where I was like, excited to write. Then the novella I wrote that’s coming out October 1st, my editor was like, “This is the best thing you’ve written.” It was fresh. It’s funny. It’s a new voice. I couldn’t have done that if I hadn’t been able to give myself May to just kind of decompress and go, “Okay, that was hard. It took a lot out of me.” But even being able to say that is huge for me, versus just plowing on to the next thing. Karen: The beauty of that is God had you where you needed to be to minister to the kids who were in that school setting and to be able to help usher them through their own difficulties and what they were facing as they were studying. Like you said when we were talking earlier, you were like the only actual physical face of a professor that they saw, and you were there for God’s purposes, and he knew how much energy you needed to put into that and how much energy you couldn’t afford to put into writing. We’re so focused on the immediate, and we’re so focused on saying, “Well, that makes no sense whatsoever.” But God’s like, “My will, my wisdom are so far beyond anything you have.” So learning to say, “This doesn’t make sense, and it doesn’t seem fair, but Lord, where else am I going to go?” And following down that path with him. Cara: It’s so true. I tell people, I feel called into two spaces and I don’t want to go where there’s not a call. Karen: Right. Cara: I still feel called to writing. It’s good because I always, I keep checking with my husband. Because sometimes I get so focused on it, I can’t stop. I can’t give up. Whereas I know it’s not giving up. It’s a, “Is this where I’m supposed to be right now?” So I definitely feel called to writing still, which is fun. But I also very much feel called to the students where I teach. I mean, we literally have the largest international student population at a US university, and a lot of those students come through my classrooms and, you know, being that face, being someone that they know genuinely cares about them and whether or not I’m shouting from the rooftop, “Hey, I’m a Christian,” I’m loving them. I’ll pray or walk campus, and I’m like, “God, help me to love them like you love them.” Because there are days where some of them I want to knock upside the head and go, “Come on. Get it pulled together.” But at the same time, I just want to love them like Jesus does because it’s tough for everybody. So making sure I’m showing up in that way. Karen: I think all of us who’ve been through college and whether it’s just undergrad or on into graduate work, we all remember the emotional ups and downs and how unbelievably difficult those times were in our lives. To have somebody who can be an emotional, and even if we’re not aware of it, a spiritual anchor for us, that’s life-changing. Cara: Absolutely. Erin: You know, it’s interesting because you talk about this publishing industry being out of control and we all would agree, but one of the things that we can also control are our thoughts. That seems to be something that you’ve really taken hold of. You can control what you think about, and you can control how you frame what’s happening in your mind. And you can control that you’re going to trust in God for this, because that’s a choice. I love that that’s part of your journey. Karen: Yes, absolutely. Cara: I think that that’s one of the things that it can be so easy to lose track of. There’ve been so many great books coming out lately about that from Get Out of Your Head by Jenny Allen and just there’s a whole host of them that are focused on that idea of taking every thought captive. That’s when I can actually tell, “Okay, my spirit’s not in the right place, because my thoughts are out of control.” That has really become a place where I then stop and go, “Okay, God, what’s your perspective on this? Because my perspective on this could be that everything is out of control and you’re not showing up. Why is this happening for that person when it’s not happening for me? And that’s not fair, and why aren’t you taking care of me?” Just being honest and transparent. I can check the status of my heart and my relationship with God in my ability to celebrate with my friends, versus going, “Why not me?” And there can still be an element of, “God, I would love that to happen for me, too,” but I always want my posture to be one where I’m celebrating the victories that other people get and able just to really be that safe place, whether it’s at the university or with my writing friends. You know, to be able to be that place where they can come and know that they’re going to be celebrated. Karen: Right. It’s so important to know that we have people who are rooting for us. That regardless of what’s happening with them in their own careers, that they’re there for us and supporting us and celebrating with us and weeping with us. That is a ministry so far beyond just writing. That’s a ministry that speaks to the hearts of not just the writers, but of everyone around us. We had a friend once who used to hold so hard to what she wanted that she would miss so many opportunities that God had for her. I told her, “Here’s the image I have: you’re in a lifeboat on the ocean, and you are in this boat with friends who love you, and you get frustrated because you’re in the sun, and there’s no water. So you jump into the water because you think that’s going to be better, that you’re going to get what you want there. But there are sharks all around. People are looking at you saying, ‘Come back into the boat. Come back where we can keep you safe.’ But if you hold so fast to where you think you should be and what you think you should get, you can’t reach out to the hand that’s seeking to draw you back into safety, seeking to draw you back into love.” When we get so focused on ourselves, we miss what God wants to do in us and in those around us. Erin: It’s interesting to me that clearly Colleen Coble was a mentor to you. Now it sounds like you’re mentoring others. What put that on your heart? How did that come about? I love that you’re doing that. Cara: I think it’s just part of how God’s created me. In a lot of ways, I kind of have that shepherd personality where I’m always looking for people. There was a period of time, oh gosh, it must’ve been about… I’ve been writing a while now…yikes! Karen: Never mind how long ago it was. Cara: I was a baby when I started writing. A baby! There was this group of writers who had gotten their first contracts, and they were starting to get second contracts. I remember I was doing mentoring appointments at American Christian Fiction Writers, and Melissa Tagg sat down with me. I was like, “Why would you waste an appointment with me?” She was like, “Because you’re a few steps farther down the road. And I don’t know how to do this. I watch what you’re doing.” At that moment it was like God said, “I want you to be pouring into people and helping them.” That was when Sarah Ladd and Kristy Cambron and Beth Vogt and all these people had like one or two books out, and I pulled us all together in what we called The Grove, and we became this really tight knit group, just cheerleading for each other. Then I could answer questions when they had questions about the business side or the legal side. That was about three years. Then there was another group that got brought along at about that same level. It’s just part of my heart. There have been a couple of times when I’ve been like, “Okay, God, why do you have me here? Why am I still in this?” It’s a lot of work. I sell books, but I don’t think I’ve ever jumped quite out of mid-list, which is, in the writing world, that is the desert. It’s better to be debut or best-selling. But the fact that you write consistently and well, and like Flight Risk, the book that released during the pandemic, took second place in two very different awards. One was a mainstream thriller category and the other was the Faith Hope and Love Reader’s Choice for thriller. And it’s just two totally different types of words, but that’s what I do. So, I mean, I write these great books, but God was like, he just kind of dropped in my heart: what if I’m here to be that encouragement and to be that mentor for others? Maybe it won’t be until heaven that I see all the people who stuck with it and their books might’ve been on the bestsellers list all the time, but I helped get them through that point that might’ve derailed them. I was like, “I can be okay with that.” I may not ever be really like on fire excited about it, but I can be okay with it if that’s how God’s using me. Even as I continue to write books to the best of my ability. I hope that someday I might get to where I’m consistently on those bestseller lists. But it’s been incredible the people he’s connected me with and, you know, even being able to tell my friend who’s about to get the contract, and she’s in such a good place about it, but being able to tell her, “No, that means they’re…You’ve got a contract coming. That’s exactly what that means.” It’s just fun to be able to walk people through that. Or they’re like, “What does this mean that my agent said this?” I’m like, “Oh, this is what that means.” And just being a translator. I think my calling is to translate whether it’s for students in the law or authors and contracts. I’m just here to help on the journey. Karen: I love that about God. He takes what he knows we have as abilities because he put them inside of us, and then he lets our experiences refine us and shine us up, or rough us up so that we can speak from wisdom, and then we’re there to help others on the path. Then they get roughed up and shined up and they can help others on the path. Isn’t that what discipleship is about? Isn’t that what it is to just share our faith and our life with each other and be able to draw others into this amazing fellowship, not just of Christian writers, but this amazing fellowship of trusting in the Lord and being able to let go of control? Cara, thank you so much. I can’t believe our time is up already, but it’s gone so fast. We have just loved having you here. Thank you for the wisdom that you’ve shared. Cara: Thank you so much for having me. This is so fun and it’s always great to see you, ladies. Erin: You, too. Thanks, Cara! WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What has God been asking you to let go of lately? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. It’s the longest running book marketing podcast in the world. We don’t take a sponsorship like this lightly. We agreed because we know and trust Thomas, and his podcast is full of great information and advice. One of his recent episodes was about how to overcome the fear of book promotion. This is a relevant topic for you guys. The same episode also covers real questions such as: “How do I know if I’ve written what my readers want?” and “How do I decode beta reader feedback?” We encourage you to check this episode out and become a regular listener to Novel Marketing for more book promotion and platform help. Listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. Book by cara putman Mentioned in the podcast Flight Risk by Cara Putman We use affiliate book links. You can help support the podcast by using these links if you plan to purchase any of these books. Thanks! THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our August sponsor of the month, Bobbi Updegraff! You can find out more about another important cause she sponsors at friendsofrenacer.com. It’s a wonderful ministry of presence—of praying, visiting, listening, encouraging and helping financially—the orphaned children in Honduras! Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 147 – Letting Go of Control with Guest Cara Putman appeared first on Write from the Deep.
24 minutes | Jul 19, 2021
146 – 5 Things No One Told You About the Writing Journey
Being a writer is exciting and fun—and overflowing with the unexpected. There are things coming on your writing journey that no one told you about! But it’s okay. We’re here to share what some of those things are, and, more important, to help you develop tools to endure and be refined in the unexpected. But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! I love writers conferences, and I believe they’re a good thing. But they can also be hard because it’s often at writers’ conferences where writers learn for the first time something no one ever told them about the writing journey. Want to know what that is? Stay tuned. Because we’re not only going to tell you that, but several other things no one may have yet told you. Here’s what I read in a Facebook post by Shannon Brink, a writers’ conference attendee. She gave me permission to share this. “To be honest, I feel 30% encouraged by the content so far and 70% discouraged. With each bold step I take forward in writing, it feels like I learn the journey is ten steps farther than I thought! All of these lovely faculty are at such a further place in the journey and their journeys are all so inspiring, yet the whole ‘growing a platform’ piece feels so impossibly hard. Do any other authors struggle with this? I felt like I had achieved so much, getting my manuscript finished, branding my blog, gaining some steps in social media, finishing my proposal but then, woah…” So let’s clear this up for everyone. For new writers, and for those who’ve been at this even for several years now: The journey is much harder and longer and more convoluted and overwhelming than you know. As difficult as it may be to hear that the journey is longer, harder, and more convoluted that you ever thought, think about if you knew everything—and I mean EVERYTHING—that’s involved in all this upfront. Might you be tempted to run screaming away? It’d be too overwhelming. Sometimes the best thing God can do for you is leave you in the dark about all the challenges that lay ahead in your life. He knows what they are, and that’s enough. God not only knows what they are, he’s been there, seen that. A.W. Tozer puts it this way in a quote from his book The Knowledge of the Holy: “God dwells in eternity, but time dwells in God. He has already lived all our tomorrows as he has lived all our yesterdays.” Psalm 139 tells us: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.” 139:13;16 (NIV) What we want you to know is that there ARE challenges to this writing journey. And there will be MORE challenges. Much more than you’re picturing right now. So don’t let it surprise you when it happens. There isn’t some magical place you’re going to arrive at where there aren’t any more problems (except heaven!). There isn’t some magical place you’re going to arrive at where there aren’t any more problems (except heaven!). #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet What we encourage you to do is take each challenge in stride. Look back at how far God has brought you and how faithful he’s been. He’s not playing some trick on you by leading you along on your journey only to abandon you at the edge of some precipice. He’s building your faith and your skills, and he’s teaching you to rely on him. If you’re prepared for that, for the long haul, for surprises, for difficulties, for everything to take much longer and be much harder than you thought, then you won’t be caught quite so off guard. Oh, you’ll probably still FEEL overwhelmed. Frustrated. Annoyed. But hopefully for a much shorter time, because you’ll be trained to know that God is still with you. That he never promised you an easy path. That he wants to see you grow and that, most of all, he’s going to get the glory for enabling you to do what you couldn’t possibly do on your own. You Need a cohort of writers At YOUR LEVEL, moving with you The next thing no one may have told you is that you need a cohort, a group of writers, at the same level as you are, who are moving with you. You need peers. We’re not saying you don’t need mentors and teachers ahead of you to help you learn. And yes, there will be people behind you to whom you should be lending a hand. But many authors neglect or fail to understand the necessity of having a group they’re traveling with. These are the writers who all might be having their very first book release at the same time. You can help each other because you’re all in the same place, having the same experiences. Or maybe they’re all now finding out just what it takes to grow a platform from small to large, and you can help each other and encourage each other. You can share blessings and woes and new ideas. These are the people who, like you, will be the writers of the future, the established veterans one day. But today’s veterans, those people ahead of you, are dealing with different problems that you haven’t come upon yet. It’s too early for you to be worrying about them. And the people behind you don’t understand your new conflicts and problems that you’re finding at your level. They can’t walk with you through them, because they’re not there yet. So how do you find these people? Go to conferences, in person or online, and see who’s in the same classes as you. Join a writing group or start one. Or even consider a paid mastermind or a group that can help you connect with others. Again, it’s great that writers of all levels can gather together and help each other. You need that. But you also need people at your level who you can grow up in the industry with. So don’t feel shut out when you can’t get into what feels like an advanced writers’ clique or what seems to be a closed group. They’re simply focused on issues they’re dealing with at their level. Instead, focus on finding other folks like you looking for connections at your level. These are where you have the best chance of forming lasting relationships as you take on the learning curve together. Make this a frequent topic of prayer: that God would lead you to friendships of his making. Divine appointments he sets up for you. Proverbs 12:26 says: “The righteous choose their friends carefully, but the way of the wicked leads them astray.” (NIV) Proverbs 27:9 tells us: “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.” (NIV) Keep your eyes open, because you never know where and when and how God will bring new relationships about. Even Veteran writers produce flawed writing needing revision The next thing no one may have told you is that even veteran writers get really hard edits filled with red ink and flaws. They get long revision letters pointing out plot problems, character problems, POV issues, and you name it. Now, to be fair, we can’t say for sure no one told you this because if you listen to our podcast, our last episode was an interview with Robin Jones Gunn, and she talked about turning in manuscripts that got rejected as unacceptable by her editors. And this was when she was a bestselling author. What we want to focus on here is the difference between how veteran writers and new writers handle this. The veteran writers understand that writing is a process, and they roll up their sleeves and get to work. But first, they probably react just like you: with anger, frustration, annoyance, rebellion, you name it. But then they take a step back and look at their experience, and that experience gives them confidence that they can make the changes. But what we often see happen to newer writers is that a hard critique or edit confirms, in their mind, their worst fear: they have no talent and they shouldn’t be writing. It’s a mindset difference. The veteran writer says, “I have work to do.” The inexperienced writer says, “I can’t do the work.” But really, you just haven’t learned how to do the work yet. Trust God to equip you for whatever tasks he’s given you. He’s not going to abandon you. Ephesians 2:10 says: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (ESV) Hear this again: even the best of writers, gets harsh critiques and difficult edits. Don’t ever let that derail you. Be ready for it. It will happen. Ask God to help you process it. Bounce back, get better, and build your confidence in the writing—or should we say rewriting—process. Productive writers enlist help Have you seen writers who seem to be doing an impossible amount of work? You know the kind: they have books coming out regularly, they put perfect pictures on Instagram, thoughtful posts on FB, pithy tweets on Twitter, and probably every other social media outlet. They have a robust newsletter list with 25,000 email addresses, and they probably even have ten children they’re homeschooling, three obedient dogs, and nutritionally balanced dinners every night. Here’s the deal: if this writer truly exists, and that’s debatable, what you probably haven’t been told is that they have people to help them. They aren’t doing it alone. They delegate. They hire people. They enlist volunteers. They use services. They are a business, and they manage that business. They don’t, and can’t do every aspect of it themselves. And this business did not develop overnight. They grew into an enterprise over time. So, when you feel overwhelmed about all the things some established writers are able to find time to do, remember that’s a representation of an established business and you’re just one person. It’s like comparing yourself to Coca Cola. You can’t do that and you can’t be that. But what you can do is figure out what you’re good at and focus on that. You can lay the foundation for a future business if that’s where God is taking you. Learn to write the best books you can. Slowly grow your newsletter. Slowly engage people. Slowly make connections with assistants whose services you might want to use someday. Slowly learn about tools that can help you systematize your processes. Make mistakes. Change your mind. Remember that you’re sowing for a future harvest. Now, some of you listeners might be more established writers and you’re finding yourself in the middle of chaos. You’ve been trying to do all this on your own and you’re overwhelmed. It’s probably time to invest in help. Get to know yourself and what people like best from you. That’s how you learn what you can do yourself—what needs your personal touch—and what you can delegate. Set aside a portion of your writing income and reinvest it in finding help. Yes, we just told you that the small income you may be getting from writing is about to get smaller. This is something else nobody ever told you about the writing journey. Whatever you think writers make, it’s way less. So, consider investing in someone to mow your lawn, or answer your email, or write your newsletters. Or invest in someone to make dinner, or run your Amazon ads, or train your dogs, or whatever you need. If you don’t want to invest, if you feel God isn’t leading you to, then that’s okay, too. It is! But then be satisfied with where that decision puts you. Be satisfied with what type of writing journey that creates for you. Don’t look at those who are hiring and enlisting help and assume you can match that output with only one person doing the work. You need more healthy habits than you know The fifth thing no one may have told you is that you need more healthy habits than you realize. You want your writing commitments to fit in with your life, not take over it. Let me repeat that because it’s so important: you want writing to fit in with your life, not drown it out until there’s no room for anything else. You want your writing commitments to fit in with your life, not take it over. #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet We’re talking about healthy habits like: proper rest, proper sleep (rest and sleep are two different things), eating right, and personal care like exercising, nurturing creativity, and a good long soak in the bathtub when you need one. We’re talking about healthy habits for dealing with family or household obligations, church obligations, obligations of your day job, and obligations for your writing. And don’t forget the most important habits: the habits of seeking God, of revering him, praying, and just sitting in awe of him. The reason why we’re stressing the idea of habit is so that these are, or become, automatic. You automatically turn to God when something goes wrong, or when something goes amazingly right, and everything in between. You’re conditioning yourself to do what’s best for your life. Habits also become nonnegotiable. For example, you don’t sacrifice your family time or your prayer time in order to write another chapter. You understand what space you have in your life for writing, and you, by habit, keep writing within that boundary. Don’t hear us saying that your whole life must be regulated and rigid. We’re not talking about that. We’re encouraging habits because you do them without having to decide to do them, and that makes them take up less energy. As a metaphor, think of your brain’s decision making ability as a battery. Each decision, small or large, uses some of the battery’s charge. From deciding if you really want to go on that walk this morning, to whether you want to floss your teeth, to whether you’re going to have those donuts for breakfast or a healthy protein smoothie. These are all decisions, and they all take energy. Even the tiniest decisions take energy. Every decision you make on social media of whether to click like, click share, click on another post, click to respond, or whatever: they all use up energy. And guess what? The more your battery runs down, the less capacity you have for self-control to make good decisions. You can read more about this in this article on decision fatigue and also in a book called Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman. If you have healthy habits in place, it’s easier to maintain a life that reflects what you value, even when things get busy, like say, maybe you suddenly get a writing contract. You know whether you can meet the deadline they want to give you because you already know what your writing habits are and how that fits in with your life. And again, when things go wrong, or become far more difficult than you anticipated, or you’re blindsided by temptations, your habit will be to run to God. To trust in him, to lean on him. You’ve done, and keep doing, what Psalm 1:1-3 encourages: “Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers.” (NIV) Meditating on God’s word day and night is a healthy habit, and it will serve you well. Of course, no one is perfect, so don’t try to be. But look around for ways you can develop healthy habits to help you live the kind of life you want, and be the kind of person you want to be whether that’s a parent, writer, Christ-follower, friend, or whatever. We’ve told you five things no one may have told you about this writing journey, but of course, there’s certainly way more. The bottom line is this: No matter what you face, how wonderful, or how difficult it may be, God is with you, and he is for you, and he is working in you to fulfill his good purpose. We want to hear from you! What was something you learned about the writing journey that you wish you’d known much earlier? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST We’re excited to have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing Podcast, with host Thomas Umstattd Jr. He knows what he’s talking about, friends, and we highly recommend his podcast! You can find it at NovelMarketing.com or in your favorite podcast app. In this sponsorship we’ve been bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. This week we’re talking about Commandment #10: Thou shalt not be false to thine own brand. What Thomas means by this is: “Be true to who you are as an author. Your brand is not a photo, logo, genre, or collection of fonts. It is the story you tell about yourself. More importantly, it is the story others tell about you.” Your brand is what readers expect of you. It’s your promise to them. Readers who read your first book and love it want to buy your next book, because they expect it will be like the first book. And they already know they like it. Now they want the same experience from you over and over. Commandment #10 ensures you give it to them. So, think carefully about the type of book you want to publish before you ever publish anything, and make sure you’re willing to stay true to that brand. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our July sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. Not only is Wendy a writer, she also produces a weekly, short, inspirational podcast on Spotify called Hope Walking with Wendy. Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 146 – 5 Things No One Told You About the Writing Journey appeared first on Write from the Deep.
35 minutes | Jul 6, 2021
145 – Embrace God’s Mystery with Guest Robin Jones Gunn
Do things happen in your writing life that just don’t make sense? Do you sometimes wonder if you can take one more unexpected crisis or change? Are you tempted to wonder WHAT on earth is God thinking? Guest Robin Jones Gunn has faced those same kinds of things most of her writing career and shares with us the joy of embracing the mystery of this amazing God we follow. About Robin Jones Gunn Robin Jones Gunn is the bestselling, award-winning author of over 100 books with sales topping six million copies sold worldwide. Her timeless Christy Miller series for teens continues to endear her stories to moms and daughters, especially now that the characters appear in the Haven Makers series. Robin’s Father Christmas novels and one of her Glenbrooke novels were adapted by Hallmark and became record-breaking Christmas movies. Her passion for speaking and teaching has taken her around the world where she’s keynoted in Africa, Brazil, Europe, England and Australia as well as Canada and throughout the US. Robin and her husband recently moved from Hawaii to California. They have two grown and married children. Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast! Erin: Hello, listeners, and welcome to the deep. I hope you can hear my smile. I am just plain happy right now. We have a guest with us, and we’re all smiling. I’m going to let Karen introduce our mystery guest. Karen: I’ve been so excited about this interview. We are talking today with our guest Robin Jones Gunn, whom I have known since 1996 when I was two years old. When I came to what was then Questar Books but is now Multnomah Books to head up their fiction line, Robin was one of the authors I was working with, and God just bound our hearts together very much like he did with me and Erin. Robin is a treasured friend, has been a treasured friend. She is an unbelievably talented author. She loves kids. She loves teens. Her Christy Miller books have been made into movies. Her Father Christmas books have been made into Hallmark movies. She is a very gifted, talented, warm and loving person, and she makes my heart smile every time I see her. We are so happy to have you here, Robin. We are just delighted. Robin: Oh, Karen! that’s all I have right now as I’m trying to stall a few tears. I should probably jump in and say we are praying that Christy Miller will be made into movies. We’ve gotten close, it’s fallen apart, up and down, up and down. Maybe at one point when I was talking to you it was like, “It’s so close, it’s gonna happen.” But, not yet. But thank you for that very kind introduction. Karen: You are welcome. Erin: Robin, we are glad to have you here, so let’s dive in with the thing we ask everyone. What does the deep mean to you? Robin: I love that word: the deep. Because from when I was a teenager and stumbling onto that verse: “Deep calls to deep…” (Psalm 42:7) I felt like that’s what I want in my relationship with the Lord. To have that deeper level and to be in that place where it’s a communion. There’s this sweet relationship that’s growing and growing and growing. We lived in Hawaii as you know, Karen, for ten years. Recently we moved to Southern California. But I had a pet name for the Pacific Ocean. I started calling it Deep Blue. Because it’s deep and it’s blue. But I got to see it everyday and it’s mysterious and wide, so that deep called to deep. I always wanted to be walking along the ocean. I know, Karen, you love the coast, too. You love that call of the ocean on your creativity. It stirs up those waves like the rest of that verse, deep calls to deep and all your waves wash over me. Right? I have to tell you a story about going out into Deep Blue. Soon after we had moved to Maui, we had friends who had a little pontoon boat. Like a raft with a motor. He was a photographer, and David said, “Come on out. I’ll take you out.” We went out deep, deep. I mean further and further out in this little raft, and I felt so small. Then he stopped and said, “Slide over the edge of the boat and go down about 18 inches.” That was terrifying because we were out so far and it’s the big, big, deep ocean. But I did it. I slid over the edge and went down. I could hear the whales. It was a life altering moment of being in that reverberating deep. And hearing them. Then coming up for air and then going back down and just not really knowing what else was all around, because we were out in the deep. But that sense when I got back in the boat, I just felt like my life was in 3D and like light was shooting out of the ends of my fingernails. It was amazing. It was so amazing. That experience of going in the deep has brought me, during times when I’ve been journaling, just calling me to go and slide over the edge. Go ahead and be willing, even though it’s vast and terrifying. So for me, the deep is really, another word for it, is mystery. And that relationship with the Lord is such a mystery because we are so small. We cannot understand all that he is doing. All that he is accomplishing. All that is in motion in this universe around us. But that he would care for us. My favorite place where that word is used in scripture, besides the deep calls to deep, is Exodus 20. This is Moses. He’s going up to Mount Sinai. The mountain is smoking, and there’s thunder and lightening. And it says that all the people stood back, but Moses stepped into the deep darkness because God was there. I want that in my life. I want to step into that mystery. Step into all that is thundering and crazy, and where the human response is to pull back and just go, “I can’t understand it. I can’t touch it.” But Moses, this friend of God, stepped into that deep and the darkness, because of one reason: God was there. Moses, this friend of God, stepped into that deep and that darkness because of one reason: God was there. @robingunn #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet Erin: Wow. Robin: I want to give an alter call right now. Karen: I know! Robin: Come! Come into the deep. Erin: The thing is though, Robin, you’re absolutely right. If a writer doesn’t go there, what are they going to write about? What are they going to say to anybody, unless they’re going into that mystery and going into that deep? Getting called there by God to figure out what they have to say, what message is there. Robin: And if you don’t feel so humble and small, and at the same time, like the ends of your hair are on fire because of the mystery, then the passion you bring to the story will be pattern instead of passion. It’ll just be, “I know how to put paragraphs together. I know at this point of the book, it’s supposed to go like this, and it’s supposed to go like that. I studied it all. I’ve got the formula, I can plug it all in and there, I made a book.” But where’s the story? Where’s the mystery that propels us as readers to ponder? I love how you on your show here talk about the wonder and exploring that. How do you call it, Karen, exploring the wonder or…? Karen: Savor. Robin: Yes. Savoring the wonder. We have to do that as writers or else we are doing a disservice to this gift that was given to us. We’re just going through the motions and we’re not going deep. We’re not pulling out something that can change a heart. Karen: Well, there was a factor to that, too, when you were on that pontoon boat with that friend. It was clear, going that far out into Deep Blue, that you trusted your friend. He was your guide and you trusted him. When he told you to go over the edge 18 inches deep, you said that was scary. That was really scary. But you did it because of your trust in him. For us in our relationship with God as believers and as writers, we need to trust him, even when he’s saying to us, “Slide over the edge and go in 18 inches deep. Just far enough to hear. Go in there.” We look and all we see in our mind is Jaws. We hear that background music. Erin: That’s what I was thinking. I have to admit it. Karen: We know that if we go over the edge of what we perceive to be our safety, we will die. But indeed God is saying, “Come in here to live.” We have to trust him as the guide, because the wonder that comes from that then is, like you said, life altering—when you came up out of the water, the way that you felt. Years ago I was hospitalized because they said I had an aneurysm in my heart. I didn’t even know what an aneurysm in my heart was. I didn’t know. I’d never heard of such a thing. So they did all these tests. They did one really cool test where they run a thing across where your heart is, and you actually hear your heartbeat. The blood whooshing in and out. Whoosh, whoosh. The tech looked at me and said, “That’s your heart. That’s a good, strong heart.” And I’m like, “That is so cool. That’s my blood going through my heart.” But they found an aneurysm. An aneurysm, I know now, is a blockage that could burst at any moment, and if it did that, I would be dead. So I’m in the hospital, and I have a really good friend who was the lead nurse on the cardiac care unit. She came into my hospital room, and she looked at me and said, “Karen, this is really serious. You’re way too young to be experiencing this.” I looked at her and I just started laughing. I said, “I can’t explain it. I am not afraid. Normally I would be just consumed. But I’m not afraid. Something good is going to happen from this.” They went in. My mom and dad’s cardiologist did the procedure going in with the heart cath to see what they needed to do. I still remember the sound of his voice when he leaned next to my ear and said, “Karen, your heart is perfect. It’s beautiful.” I came back to the hospital room and came out of whatever slight anesthesia they had done. I looked at Don and I said, “There is sunshine coming out of me. There’s just sunshine. I have never felt this in my entire life.” So I experienced, even as I’m talking to you I’m getting chills, I experienced God’s touch and his healing. Robin: Yeah. Karen: Everybody else was saying, “This is dangerous. This is threatening your life.” And I was just like, “God is going to do something cool.” That’s not normal for me to react that way. Sliding into that deep and knowing who had hold of me every single step of the way, I saw wonders and savored them. That’s where it started to me. That’s where I looked at that and I thought the way I dealt with that life-threatening situation was so different from anything I’ve ever done. And that’s because God. God reached in, took hold of me, breathed his peace into my heart, and drew me out with sunshine that he breathed into me. It was the most amazing thing. Robin: It’s so connected to the surrender of our control. I didn’t know why David was saying slide over the boat. I didn’t know what was going on. Was it going to repair a leak? I didn’t know. It’s just that step of surrender. Like, “Okay. I’m not going to question. I’m not going to have to have control to understand it all. It’s a mystery. Okay. I trust you. I’ll do that.” And that’s exactly what you did. I remember a moment with a woman, whom I thought was wonderful, years ago, spent time with her. But it started to get to where everything you talked about, she had an answered for. She had an app for that. Oil for that. You know, like everything. Oh, you shouldn’t be eating this food or something. There was one moment where I remember we were a group of women together and someone asked her something and she paused and had an expression I hadn’t seen before. She said, “I don’t know.” And I thought, “Okay. Now we can be friends. Now we can walk together into the mystery and we may never know.” But it’s that I have let go of the control that I have to know everything and have it all figured out. Because we don’t. When we humble ourselves before Almighty God, that’s when he lifts us up. But I feel as writers we have to do that with every story. I feel like this sort of rhythm I’ve had for decades—I present myself to the Lord before every book I write and it’s over a hundred books now. I write out a prayer, a prayer of surrender, of dedication. I’ve kept them all. It’s that moment of saying, “I’m your handmaiden. I’m your servant, Lord. May I be able to communicate your personality, your love to others. If that’s something you desire for me to do through story, I want that. But I don’t know what I’m doing. I don’t control this. I just surrender this and make an offering of myself before you.” You know, the living sacrifice we’re called to be from Romans 12. That’s when he does this deeper work. That’s when deep calls to deep, because I’m not in complete control anymore. We have to do that as writers to have that sense that we are truly doing what we were created to do. Otherwise, the influence from outside takes over. If we aren’t so centered and anchored to get that audience of One, to get that understanding of why I’m doing this, even if no one ever reads it, even if it has to be rewritten. This is the process. It’s a mystery. I have to go into this. Karen: I think that he also, well I know that he also brings partners alongside once we’ve surrendered and we’ve said, “Yes, I do this however you want me to do this.” He brings people, the people that he’s brought to me in my life to assist me as a writer. To assist me in editing. To assist me…Erin. If Erin hadn’t come to me and out of the blue said, “You know, I feel that God is leading me to join you in a ministry.” I had shared with her that I longed to be a chaplain to writers because so many of my friends were so depressed and thinking about quitting and just beaten down. I said, “We need to lift them up. We need to give them hope.” And if she hadn’t said to me that God had led her to that. I just sat there and stared at her. I was like, “Well, I can tell you what I’ve been thinking lately.” Robin: Wow. Karen: It was such a shared passion. It was so clear that God brought us together. It was really amazing how that worked out. I remember, too, that those who are brought into our lives have to be willing to submit. When I came to what was then Questar Books and became Multnomah Books, you were the top author. You were one of the top authors, but I think you may have been the top author there. When I came, you turned in a new manuscript and I read it. I had read your other books and I thought, “This isn’t Robin. This just, this isn’t right.” I was terrified. How do I go to Robin Jones Gunn, who I adore, and say to her, “Yeah, I can’t accept this. This has to be rewritten.” I prayed and I prayed and I talked with people that I trusted in my family and asked them to pray for me. So, I went to Robin and I shared with her that it wasn’t acceptable. I thought to myself, “She’s going to hate me. She’s never going to want to work with me again.” So now you can tell your side of it. Robin: So that book was number eight, I think, in the Glenbrooke series. What was the title? Oh, it was Meadows. Meadows was never published. But to have written as much as I had and as fast as I had—about two or three books a year for a decade and a half—and then to get to the very last book in the series and to have turned in the story—again that story was surrendered to the Lord. I did the work. And then I received your advice, Karen. Again, it’s that trust. I knew you. I trusted you. I wanted you to be my editor. I wanted you to call me deeper in. I wanted to be a better writer. So I remember that phone call. I was actually feeling kind of sorry for you because you were in such agony. But it was to better the craft, and I trusted that part of it. But I did hang up the phone and cry and cry and cry and cry and cry. I’m like, “Maybe this is it. Maybe it’s the Wizard of Oz syndrome—pay no attention to the writer behind the curtain. Karen, you’re my Toto. You pulled back the curtain and now everybody knows I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just sort of trying here and it’s not working.” But what happened as a result is that you mentored me and walked me through the process of what that last book was going to be. Wildflowers was quite different from the first seven books. I had an older character and she’s struggling in her marriage. So I got to go into more issues, and I got to see this story develop in a way that it ended that series the way it needed to be ended. Then the next series I wrote was an entire series about women in mid-life, which I would not have been prepared to write the Sisterchicks series had I not gotten to know Genevieve, thanks to you, for challenging me to draw deeper and find a new character. Because I think in the other book, the character was twenty-two and like many other young flibbertigibbets, you know, but you challenged me to dig deeper. So that process was for good. And wow. If we could understand that as children of God and as writers and as those who are wanting to see our work make a difference, we have to be in that place of being teachable to that. But Karen, you’re such a good teacher. You made it a joy and look how it strengthened our friendship. Karen: Right. Robin: That was a gift, too. Karen: I can’t even begin to tell you what it meant to me when you contacted me after that phone call. I knew you would be in tears. You contacted me and you said, “I trust you. Let’s move forward with this.” One of the things that has always stayed with me, in our conversations afterwards, one of the realizations we had was that your voice was missing in that book. You had tried to do something a little different. You had been feeling that your stories were too fluffy and you wanted to write something more serious. And with Wildflowers you dealt with something more serious, but it was back to Robin’s voice. In Meadows you were missing from the story. So when you went back to that and you accepted who you were as a writer and you just moved forward joyfully in that, it was a delight to me because the final manuscript, when it came in was so, so good. I’ve told Erin before in my work as an editor, nothing gives me more joy—you know, it’s like the Scripture that says, was it Paul who says nothing gives me more joy than to know that my children in the Lord have grown? And when I saw the advances in your writing, and in your heart and your spirit and in our relationship, I just, I danced around my office. I was like, “Yes, yes, yes!” Robin: But what a gift that you gave me because that really could have been the end of my writing career if I had not been willing to receive instruction or had been so full of myself that I said, “Hey, look, I’ve written so many books, and you’re the new editor, you don’t know.” But the thing that prepped me for was I wrote a Christmas novella, Finding Father Christmas, and then the publisher asked me to write a second one. So I wrote Engaging Father Christmas. I got a new editor at that publishing house with that sequel and that editor also, when I turned it in said, “Nope, it’s not like the first one. We really wanted more of a love story. Though the first one wasn’t a love story, we need a love story. Can you redo it?” I was befuddled but I said, “You know, it was for my good, when Karen told me this, and this editor is saying the same thing. I want to learn. I want to grow.” I went back to work, wrote a second sequel, turned it in and she said, “Oh dear, this is worse than the first one.” She said it more kindly, but… Karen: I was gonna say who is it? I’ll beat her up. Robin: You know her. You love her. I do, too. I saw where I had gone as a writer, just sort of in that automatic place of, “I’ve got to get this deadline. I’ve got another project over here,” and just “Do the work, do the work,” without the heart in it. So it goes back to that deep. I just skimmed the surface, like, “All right, you want a book? Here’s the book. Done.” You know? And how cheap. How sad. So I turned it in the third time and, she’d given me lots of good suggestions to make it more of a love story. And I did and when I turned it in the third time, she said, “I think the first one was better than this.” I mean, it was just…. I wrote it a fourth time. I wrote Engaging Father Christmas four times and made it more of a love story than I had ever intended it to be. And it turned into, “I don’t want to ever talk about this book.” Then sure enough, what was it? Twelve years later is the phone call from my agent. Hallmark wants to make a love story Christmas movie out of your Father Christmas, because you wrote a love story. You see? You see how that works? If I had not been willing to surrender to the process and be stripped of all the arrogance that I had of thinking, “I know how to do this. Everybody stand back. I’ll do it. I’ll get it done.” But what is God doing? Calling us deeper. More. Bringing us closer to him in the whole process. What a joy that Hallmark did three Christmas movies out of the Father Christmas novella. Never would have happened if it hadn’t been a love story. Karen: That editor..well no, I won’t beat her up. Erin: You know what else I’m hearing about all of this, Robin, is that even veteran writers get difficult edits. I think sometimes the newer writers out there feel like all of the hard work ends once you get to the publishing phase. You know, once you get published, it’s all smooth sailing. That’s not true. It’s still a process. It’s still work, and it’s still humility, and it’s still growing, and it’s still watching what God does with each thing. And it’s a surprise. Robin: It’s the mystery. But if we are willing to step into the mystery because God is there, it’s thunder and lightning, and don’t stand back. But I think we all have. Those times in my life when I’ve stood back from a project and not entered in at that deeper level, that’s when graciously God has brought editors who called me. “No, no, no, come deeper. Come deeper.” Karen: You know, what I love about all this is that it speaks to us as writers and it speaks to us as those who follow Christ. Because life nowadays, it’s very difficult for those who claim Christ as their Savior and as their Lord. So many places, if you speak the name of Jesus, you know, you’re being left out and cut out. I just watched a news report this morning about a young woman who was valedictorian of her high school class. The principal put the kibosh on her valedictorian speech because she had the audacity to say that the purpose of life is to live serving Christ. How dare she do that? It was a public school. How dare she do that? Rather than honoring who she was and all that she had accomplished because of her faith in Christ, they told her, “No. You can’t give this speech. You have to write something else.” I listened to that and I thought, “Lord, we are in a world that is willingly walking into darkness without you. That is willingly saying, leave God behind and all the ills of the world will be fixed.” And that’s never going to happen without us going into the deep with him. Without us embracing the mystery. There’s a friend of mine who listens to prophecies, and the jury is still out for me on how I feel about some of that. But one of the things that she’s been saying is so many current day profits are talking about the fact that it’s just going to continue getting more difficult to follow God in this dark world. And we have to go deeper with him so that whatever comes, we can say, “Yea though, he slay me. I will serve the Lord.” We have to hold on to the deep. We have to swim in the deep. We have to embrace God’s mystery in every aspect of who we are and in every aspect of our writing, because only in doing that will we bring God’s truth, and only in bringing God’s truth, will we change the world.” Robin: Here’s the thing: We have to write. Karen: Yes. Robin: Those who are listening to this podcast. I want to tell you right now you have been stalling. Stop it. Get back to work. Come on! Mama Robin is telling you, get that book finished. Get that article written, get those words out on your blog. And be willing to be taught along the way, but to put in the work, because we need truth and light in this world more than ever. Erin: Right. Karen: Amen. And what a perfect word to end on. Robin, thank you so much. Robin: Oh, it was my delight. Thank you, Karen. Thank you, Erin. Erin: Thank you. WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Has God been calling you into his mystery? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., guru on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at novelmarketing.com. Today we’re covering Commandment Number 9: Thou shalt not publish thy first book first. This is the most controversial commandment, but think about an athlete. Your first race is never in the Olympics for a gold medal. You have a lot to learn before you can get to that level. So it is with writing. Your first book isn’t gold medal quality. It’s the training ground. Writers too often feel that any word they write is wasted if they’re not published. But you can’t get better at writing without writing. That means that lots of words are going to be practice, and that’s okay. We’re not saying it can never be published, but later after you’re better. Too many writers get overly focused on their first book and become discouraged when it doesn’t get published. Or they publish it themselves because they think it’s ready, and it’s not. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. Books by Robin Jones Gunn mentioned in the podcast Finding Father Christmas & Engaging Father Christmas Wildflowers by Robin Jones Gunn THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our July sponsor of the month, Wendy L. Macdonald. Not only is Wendy a writer, she also produces a weekly, short, inspirational podcast on Spotify called Hope Walking with Wendy. Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 145 – Embrace God’s Mystery with Guest Robin Jones Gunn appeared first on Write from the Deep.
26 minutes | Jun 21, 2021
144 – Don’t Let False Guilt Hinder Your Writing
Guilt, real guilt, serves a purpose in our faith and lives. But, as he often does, Satan has taken something God intended for good and warped it. Enter false guilt. We’ll share how to identify it—and escape it—so that you and your writing shine God’s light in this weary world. But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! In our last podcast, The Gift of Guilt, we explored what true guilt was and how God uses it in our lives. Today, we’re talking about something completely different: false guilt. The trouble is, it seems the same as true and healthy guilt. But it’s not. Far from it. Surprisingly, Webster’s doesn’t have a definition for the term false guilt. But here’s what it has to say about false: : not genuine : intentionally untrue; adjusted or made so as to deceive; intended or tending to mislead : treacherous : lacking naturalness or sincerity : based on mistaken ideas : inconsistent with the facts : threateningly deceptive It’s pretty clear that something false is all about misleading us, about treacherous deception. And that’s exactly what false guilt is: it’s a deception that leads us to create negative perspectives and feelings about ourselves. We’re not just at fault, false guilt tells us we’re bad or that there’s something wrong with us. And we don’t just deserve punishment, we don’t deserve forgiveness or restored relationships, not with others and not with God. We all know how guilt feels, because we know when we’ve done something we shouldn’t, or haven’t done something we should. But there are other times…times when there’s that vague sense that something is wrong. You’re not sure what or why, but deep inside is the certainty that whatever is wrong, it’s your fault. Maybe you set a daily writing goal for yourself, but, you know, life. Things happened that made it perfectly reasonable that you couldn’t meet the goal. But you still feel…guilty. Even bad. You’re letting everyone down. You’re letting God down. Your mind starts down the “I’ll never finish this book, I can’t even meet my daily goals!” track, and that leads you merrily along the path of “Why on earth did I think God could use someone like me? I’m useless.” And so it goes. Or maybe you haven’t heard from a friend for awhile. A friend who usually gets in touch with you on a regular basis. When you realize that person hasn’t done so for quite some time, the false guilt starts trying to slip in. And darned if you don’t let it. Suddenly you’re thinking, “So what did I do wrong? Did I make her mad? Did I offend her when she told me she wanted to go see a depressing movie and I said I like happy movies instead of depressing ones?” And off you go! If you two were really friends, she wouldn’t mind that you don’t like the same things! Why do you always mess things up? And on and on, until you reach the firm conclusion that you’re a terrible friend and you don’t deserve her. Or she’s a terrible friend and you’re done with her. Either way, it leads to destruction. Or a teacher calls you and says, “Hey, your daughter came to school without lunch today.” Your response? “I’m so sorry!” Followed by the thought, “I’m a terrible mother.” Or you put a LOT of time and effort into a class on writing. When you teach it, 99% of the students come up afterward and tell you how great it was. But then that one person leaves the class without saying anything. And he looked…disgruntled. False guilt whispers, “Did he not like the class? Did it not meet his needs?” And you pick up the baton and fly with it. “Dang it! I knew I should have taught something different. I didn’t even include (fill in the blank). How could I forget that? I’m useless!” Sure, some of these examples seem extreme. But are they really? The truth is, Satan is always waiting to send false guilt into your heart and spirit so it can put down roots and, like an evil weed, push out your confidence in God’s love and provision. When you let yourself buy into false guilt, when you fall into the pit of false guilt, it becomes self-fulfilling. Because you’re bad or there’s something inherently wrong with you, and because you don’t deserve healthy relationships with people or God, you end up isolating yourself, growing more and more antisocial. Soon you’re wondering why no one wants to be around you. Which only affirms that you’re no good and no one wants to be around someone as awful as you. Nor would they ever want to read anything you’ve written! Look how terrible you are. How could God possibly use your writing to express His love and grace? In his article, “Why Shame and Guilt Are Functional For Mental Health,” psychologist Joaquin Selve points to a study done in 2016 focusing on guilt and shame. One aspect of that study looked at the experience of both guilt and shame. Two conclusions from that study seem especially telling. The first affirms what we said in our podcast on the Gift of Guilt. “People who feel guilt are more likely to want to repair the damage they may have caused than people who felt shame.” Guilt is a true and healthy motivator that God uses to draw us to repentance and restoration. So YAY for guilt! True guilt, that is. Then there’s false guilt, which almost always instills in us a sense of shame. When it comes to shame, the study concluded that “people who feel shame are more likely to avoid eye contact than people who feel guilty.” How telling is that? Eye contact is a vital part of being in relationship with each other. It’s a sign of connection, of vulnerability, of care for one another. When someone intentionally avoids eye contact, that can be an early sign that this person is starting to isolate herself, or that he doesn’t feel worthy of the connection, or that she is afraid if she makes eye contact, you’ll see right through her to the core of the terrible person she is. Likewise, being authentic and vulnerable are vital aspects of writing God’s truths. We can’t move people’s hearts or minds if we’re writing from behind the curtain. Like the Wizard of Oz, we have to pull back the curtain of our real selves, letting our readers see the good, the bad, AND the ugly. But if you’re steeped in shame because of false guilt, doing that doesn’t just seem impossible, it seems dangerous. Dr. Mary Lamia, in her article “Shame: A Concealed and Dangerous Emotion,” had this to say about shame: “As a self-conscious emotion, shame informs us of an internal state of inadequacy, unworthiness, dishonor, regret, or disconnection….Shame can lead us to feel as though our whole self is flawed, bad, or subject to exclusion, it motivates us to hide or to do something to save face. So it is no wonder that shame avoidance can lead to withdrawal or to addictions that attempt to mask its impact.” No wonder false guilt seems to be one of Satan’s favorite tools to use against believers. Sadly, false guilt is especially effective when used to demoralize or sideline writers seeking to serve God in their work. Think about it. We’ve talked before about how so many Christians writers struggle with feeling like imposters. The whole, “If they knew who I really was, they’d never read my books” routine. Or, “Someday someone is going to realize I haven’t a clue what I’m doing! It’s all an act. I don’t have any talent at all!” It only makes sense, then, that the same minds and spirits that can be detoured by imposter syndrome are also painfully susceptible to false guilt. And you know what? False guilt doesn’t just focus on making us feel shame when we think, or feel like, we’ve done something wrong. It dredges up wrongs from the past to substantiate just how awful we are. GotQuestions.org says this about the way Satan uses false guilt against us: “He brings to mind our most horrible sin—sometimes imagined, but also those God or others have forgiven—and causes us to focus on our terrible selves rather than on God’s forgiveness.” I mean, of course God forgave me, but how could I have done that? I’m so awful. God has to forgive me, He’s GOD. But I just can’t forgive myself. And on it goes… If you’ve ever said or thought something like that, about God forgiving you but you can’t forgive yourself, you need to stop, RIGHT NOW, and repent of that attitude. Because what you’re doing when you let yourself think or believe that is putting yourself above God. You’re saying God’s forgiveness isn’t sufficient. That your forgiveness is harder to come by and more important than God’s. What’s more, you’re saying God is a liar. Scripture tells us in Psalms 103:12, “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (NIV) The Barnes Commentary on this Scripture brings the point home: “As far as the east is from the west – As far as possible; as far as we can imagine. These are the points in our [understanding] that are most distant from each other. We can conceive nothing beyond them, so the meaning is, that we cannot imagine any way our sins could be more effectively removed than what God does in removing them… He has…put our sins entirely away. They are so removed that they cannot affect us any more. We are safe from all condemnation for our sins, as if they had not been committed at all.” Friends, when God forgives, it’s over. The sin is gone, erased. There is no, “I can’t forgive myself.” There is only “Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25) All of which brings us back to why false guilt is so insidious and dangerous. It whispers to us, “Has God really forgiven you? Then why do you still feel guilty?” Remember, false guilt is about deceptions, about keeping you deep in the darkness of unnecessary feelings of guilt and not being worth anything. Satan doesn’t want you to figure out the cause of those feelings, to actually know why you feel so full of shame, because if you knew that, you could take it to God. That’s the last thing Satan wants. He does everything he can, unleashes every foul tactic, to keep you from going to God and being truly forgiven. Because you know what God’s forgiveness brings: freedom! So the enemy uses false guilt to convince you, through untrue “facts,” that you can’t be forgiven. But he’s not the only one who uses false guilt against us. Sometimes, fellow believers do so. And sometimes we do it all on our own. An InTouch Ministries devotional titled, “The Burden of False Guilt,” shares the three bridges—actions or attitudes or behaviors—that often lead us deep into false guilt: legalism, perfectionism, and trying to please people. Legalism Legalism focuses on man-made rules rather than on what Scripture says is right and wrong. And we all know how easy it is for man’s rules to become the measuring stick of faith and witness. Legalism leads to judgmentalism and pride, and to a faith based on works. None of which “has power for salvation or transformation but instead enslaves us to false guilt” because we can never, in our own power, keep the rules. Heck, we can’t even know what the rules are because they keep changing! Perfectionism There’s an old saying: “The perfect is the enemy of the good.” In other words, good is never good enough. In fact, nothing is ever good enough. You can’t turn that manuscript in on time because you know you can do better with it. Your sales aren’t what you’d hoped, so this whole writing thing was obviously a waste of time. Whatever made you think you could do it in the first place? Jon Bloom, in his article “Lay Aside the Weight of Perfection,” describes it this way: “Perfectionism is a pride- or fear-based compulsion that either fuels our obsessive fixation on doing something perfectly or paralyzes us from acting at all—both of which often result in the harmful neglect of other necessary or good things.” For those who take on the bondage of perfectionism, they have to perform to their self-imposed standards, which are seldom reasonable or necessary, or they’ve failed. And failure is the unforgivable sin. Perfectionism is definitely something I (Erin) struggle with. My dad always used to say, “Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Somewhere along the way, my little mind turned that into, “Anything worth doing must be done perfectly.” But those aren’t the words he used, and it’s certainly not what he meant. Still, I became overly critical of myself. It doesn’t help that I’m a detail oriented person. So I see lots of flaws in everything I do. That’s a recipe for a boatload of dissatisfaction if I let things carry on in that direction. But worse, it’s ridiculous and prideful to think I can do anything perfectly. Perfection is for God alone. I need to remember my place. It’s not just okay, but human, to be imperfect. Sure, I should always do my best, but I need to define and accept that as always, in some way shape or form, in varying degrees, less than perfect and in need of grace. Furthermore, perfectionism can cause us to focus too much attention on ourselves, rather than on God, where it belongs. As the InTouch devotional states: “Christians are commanded to live for Christ, not for themselves and their own expectations.” Trying to Please People Of course, as writers, we work to make our stories pleasing to our readers. But this is something different. This is when we make pleasing everyone, no matter what we have to do to accomplish it, our focus. And if everyone isn’t happy with us, we’ve failed. This kind of people pleasing is not just debilitating—because you really can’t please all the people all the time—it’s crazy-making. It’s looking to other fallible, sinful humans to define you and tell you whether or not you’re worthwhile. Or whether or not your writing is worthwhile. It’s reading reviews religiously to see what people think. But you know what that does? You are elated at the good reviews, and demolished by the bad ones. Doesn’t matter how many good ones there are, the bad ones are the ones that stick with you. Focusing on pleasing anyone but God is not just foolish, it’s crazy-making. Think about it. Say you’re working a full-time job, taking care of your family, AND doing the task of writing that God has given you. Then you get a call from someone who wants you to come teach a workshop on writing to his writing group. You know you can’t. You know you’ll have to short something else to do it. As if this guy can tell you’re about to decline, he says, “You know, God has given you a gift and you need to share it.” Oh yeah. He pulled the “God wants you to do this” card. Which wasn’t his to pull in the first place. But now your people pleasing side kicks in because what if he tells his group that you refused because you think you’re too big now to speak to small groups, or that you don’t listen to God? And boom! Just like that, false guilt steps in and you’re not fulfilling an already-accepted responsibility to take on something God never intended you to take on. False Guilt from Childhood Trauma There’s another powerful source of false guilt, and that’s a painful or traumatic childhood. If you grow up being taught that every word, every action is unacceptable. Not good enough, you end up believing that. And feeling shame and false guilt. You carry them into adulthood as your constant companions and critics. But false guilt doesn’t just hurt us, especially where legalism is concerned. We don’t just end up in bondage ourselves, but we try to put others in bondage as well. We judge their actions, words, faith, and so on, based on what we feel is right, regardless of what Scripture says. We hear about a fellow writer receiving some award or accolade, and we think how unworthy that person is: “If those in charge knew what that writer did/said/or whatever,” sometimes based on what we ourselves have witnessed, but more often than not based on hearsay, “there’s no way they’d have given that unworthy person an award/contract/whatever.” It’s a vicious cycle and Satan delights when you get caught in it. What to Do About False Guilt So what can we do about false guilt when we realize it’s rearing it’s oh-so-ugly head? The moment you have a sense of guilt and shame, ask God to reveal to you what it’s about. Pray and read Scripture with the purpose of revealing the true source of your feelings. Share what you’re feeling with trusted friends and advisors. Ask them to pray with you that God will reveal the source of what you’re feeling. Wait. On God, on His truth and revelation. And be at peace. You’ve done what you need to. If it’s true guilt, God will make that clear to you. What’s more, if it’s true guilt, He will show you how to resolve it. If no revelation is forthcoming, and the feelings just won’t leave you alone, you can be pretty sure false guilt is at play. In that case, the solution is seemingly easy, but for those predisposed to buying into false guilt, it can be tough. Here are three steps to freedom from shame and false guilt: Accept God’s forgiveness and restoration. 1 John 1:9 tells us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” Embrace with both arms the truth of Christ’s atonement, that it covers us completely. 1 Corinthians 1:30 tells us, “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” Know that in Christ, you are free from ANY condemnation. Even your own. Romans 8:1-2 says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Friends, God knows our hearts! His forgiveness is forever. No feeling or deception can change that truth. We can rest assured before Him and we can agree with Jesus, in full confidence when He says in John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” If you’ve taken your sense of guilt and shame to God, if you’ve surrendered to Him, even if you have no idea why you’re feeling the way you are, and you’ve asked His forgiveness, then… Your. Sins. Are. Forgiven. Now, forever. What is false guilt and how does it affect your writing? #amwriting #Christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! What helps you discern the difference between true and false guilt? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at novelmarketing.com. Today we’re covering commandment number 8: Thou shalt surround thyself with savvy authors. Thomas says, “There are some things you can only learn from other authors. The savvier your friends are, the more you will learn.” My experience makes me agree with this. I’ve had a number of wonderful author friends throughout my career who’ve taught me plenty. But I’ve also been blessed to be part of a mastermind group, and that’s the one thing I wish I’d done 5 years sooner in my career. For any of you out there interested in mastermind groups, Thomas Umstattd hosts a handful of mastermind groups. Each group is limited to 10 authors, and they meet monthly over Zoom. They also share a Slack Workspace where they answer each other’s questions throughout the month, cheer progress, and keep up. If you are looking for a place to connect with savvy authors and with Thomas, you can learn more about Thomas’s masterminds here. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out. K.D. Aster, thanks, and keep writing! Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 144 – Don’t Let False Guilt Hinder Your Writing appeared first on Write from the Deep.
26 minutes | Jun 7, 2021
143 – The Gift of Guilt
No one likes feeling guilty. Knowing they’ve done something wrong or hurt someone by their actions, or by their spoken or written words. Even believers too often seem steeped in guilt, held back from doing what God has asked them to do, like write His truths to people. But the reality is that guilt is a gift that God uses to make you a better person—and writer—than you ever imagined. Come see how! But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Guilt. Most people feel it. And hate it. It’s one of those emotions you never want to experience, and yet it tends to invade our lives all the time. But why? After all, those of us who follow Christ shouldn’t feel guilty about anything, should we? All our sins are covered by Christ’s sacrificial, restoring act on the cross. We’re forgiven, now and forever. So what place does guilt have in the life of a believer… and the life of a writer? I (Karen) confess, I wondered about that myself. Are we, as God’s children, who’ve been restored to Him by the blood of Christ, struggling with emotions God doesn’t want us to feel? If that’s the case, is it bad? Are we hindering our relationships with God and others, or damaging our witness? Are we letting that unnecessary emotion keep us from doing what God has asked us to do on our writing journey? After all, if we’re guilty, who are we to write about life and faith? How can we inspire others when we’re caught in guilt ourselves? And if we’re doing all that, engaging in something we shouldn’t be, how do we stop? And if we are supposed to feel guilt, how could we ever consider it a gift? All good questions, which we’ll tackle today. So let’s start by figuring out what the word guilt really means by going to our favorite resource for such things, Webster’s. The definitions are: : the fact of having committed a breach of conduct especially violating law and involving a penalty broadly: guilty conduct : the state of one who has committed an offense especially consciously : culpability : feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy : morbid self-reproach often manifest in marked preoccupation with the moral correctness of one’s behavior : self-accusation : the state of being liable to penalty for offense against law—used in respect to persons and sometimes property that by reason of illegal usage has become liable to forfeiture or other burden Okay, so now that we have the definitions, let’s consider the question of whether or not we believers should be feeling guilty. In 1 John 1:8, John delivers this bit of “encouragement” to Christ’s followers: “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” Ouch. Okay, we still sin. Then there’s Romans 8:23: “And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering.” Groaning, longing for release from sin! So, if we still sin, then surely we have things to feel guilty about? James certainly seemed to think so. Consider James 4:7-10: “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” Wow. We need to wash our hands, to purify our hearts, to not divide our loyalty. As for sorrow and deep grief…sadness and gloom…that all sounds like the consequences of guilt. Paul talks about his own struggle with his sinful self in Romans 7:14-15. How many of us can relate to this: “…The trouble is with me, for I am all too human, a slave to sin. I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.” Then he writes this powerful truth in Romans 7:24-8:4 (ESV): “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” These are just a few of the Scriptures that show that those of us who are restored to God our Father through Jesus’s death and resurrection are far from sinless. And if we sin, you know we’re gonna feel guilt. More important, be in a factual state of guilt. The truth is that guilt, or feeling guilt, doesn’t damage our witness or hinder our obedience in whatever tasks God gives us, including our writing. I can hear you now: How can we write for others, to inspire and uplift them, if we’re guilty? Well, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 5:31: “It is not the well who need a physician, but the sick.” Guilty or not, OF COURSE we can inspire others in our writing because we’re not writing from some “holy” point above what our readers struggle with. We’re right there with them, in the struggle. Those who haven’t faced what our readers have are the ones who have little to say. So yes, we do—and should—feel guilt. But why, exactly? What’s the purpose of guilt? Is it just emotions or is it something else entirely? John I. Snyder wrote in his blog post, “A State of Being: Guilt and Shame”: “From the Bible’s point of view, guilt, real guilt, is first and foremost not a feeling. It’s a state of being. It’s the position of being out of line with our God by virtue of our sin. It can be fixed only by being placed into a right relationship with him, a solution that’s brought about only by God himself, not by us. It is his specialty to fix this problem. Resorting to our own measures only makes things worse…[When God fixes our guilt] nothing more can be—or needs to be—added to it. We can’t make it better or earn it.” So guilt, true guilt (yes, there’s false guilt out there, but we’ll talk about that another time), is a twofold proposition. It’s a state or condition. When we do what we know is wrong—or when we don’t do what we know to be right—basically, when we sin, we are guilty. Our emotions have little or nothing to do with our guilt. We are, factually, in a state of being guilty. Guilt is also the emotional response we feel when we’re in a state of guilt. Whether our wrongdoing is in violation of God’s laws, civil laws (that don’t break God’s laws), or our own personally held values, the result is the same. True guilt. We sin, and we feel guilt. I’m betting we all know that terrible feeling. The heaviness inside. The regret. The restlessness and even sadness or grief. The awareness that we’ve damaged something—whether that’s our integrity, our relationship with God or people, or our witness as believers—and the holy nagging to put things right. How does this affect writers? Writers seeking to honor Christ are constantly presented with opportunities to violate what we know to be right. Temptations for writers are out there. For example: Publishers want to contract you if you’ll just take out the Jesus stuff. You include something in the book that’s “true to life,” but doesn’t honor God. You fudge the truth about your sales or career to make yourself look better. You make getting published your goal rather than obedience. You ignore agreed upon responsibilities to family and friends because you have to write. You put off writing even though you know it will make you miss a contracted deadline. Those kinds of things, and so much more, leave us with uncomfortable, nagging, even devastating guilt. As they should, because we are guilty when we’ve sinned. 1 John 1:8-10 makes that pretty clear: “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” Now there’s some guilt I wouldn’t want. So yes, we’re created in God’s image, and we’re commanded to be holy as He is holy. We’re given clear guidelines in Scripture as to what’s right and what’s wrong. When we go against those truths, of course we’ll feel guilty. It’s only natural. And it’s natural that true guilt negatively affects everything—keeping us from moving forward in our relationships, career, and faith—until we make things right. Let’s repeat that: true guilt affects everything…until we make things right. That, friends, is a vital aspect of true guilt. And that’s what makes true and healthy guilt a gift in our lives and writing. God never intended for believers to live wracked by guilt. To feel guilt every day, in every way, and never get away from it. Let me put in a side note here: For unbelievers, guilt is absolutely intended to be there, to draw people to Christ. But for believers, God never intended us to live incapacitated by guilt and overwhelmed by how terrible we are. Isn’t that where guilt hits writers the hardest? In that place where we look at the task in front of us, a task God has given us, and let guilt tell us we’re not worthy to do it? If we live with unresolved guilt, it festers and becomes a barrier to our belief that God can use us. Which is why it’s such good news that God doesn’t want us to live with guilt! Grant Agler, a pastor, wrote this in his article “Guilt – Is it from God?“: “God is for you. Remember that, he is not against you, he is for you. He has gone to great length just to demonstrate how much he is for you.” Agler then points us to Romans 8:31-33: “If God is for us, then who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies.” This amazing God who is for us, ALWAYS for us, knows what living in guilt would do to us. As Agler writes: “[Our] loving father…would never heap guilt on you that has no clear resolution. God will give you something better than just guilt, he will give you a ‘path to repentance.'” God wants to erase our guilt. To remove it so we no longer feel it. He uses true guilt, a good—although terrible—thing to move us to repentance and reconciliation. Again, that’s the purpose of true guilt: reconciliation, restoration, and freedom through forgiveness. That, without a doubt, is a gift. I (Karen) have never had a problem with confessing my sin to God, but oh, how I hated having to go through the humiliation of confessing my sin to those I’d wronged. But God, in His mercy, showed me the wonder of forgiveness and erased guilt when I was seventeen years old. I’d deliberately disobeyed my dad. He’d told me I could go out to dinner with my friends, but I was not to go cruising with my friends afterwards because it was dangerous. If they wanted to go cruising, he told me to ask to be brought home first. As much as I adored my dad, well, I was seventeen! So when my friends decided to go cruising, I went along. When I came home, I was consumed with guilt. This was the first time I’d flat gone against my dad. I went up to my room and lay on my bed crying and suffering. I pulled out my Bible and God led me to Psalm 32, which is a wonderful testimony of the effect of feeling guilt when we sin. In verses 3-4, it was clear David had an intimate knowledge of feeling guilt: “When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat.” That, my friends, is a terrible place to be even temporarily. I can’t imagine living there. Which is why it’s so wonderful that we who believe in God never have to stay in a state of guilt. The very millisecond we surrender to the Spirit’s leading and confess our sins, God’s forgiveness washes us clean. When we follow the Spirit’s leading to make things right, freedom is restored. Best-selling author Tamera Alexandar shared with us in podcast episode #130 about a devastating time in her career when she sinned. If you haven’t listened to that podcast episode, do so. You’ll see how God wouldn’t let her live in that sin. How, as humiliating as it felt, she confessed to those she’d wronged. And how God not only set her free, but made her so much stronger in her faith and obedience. Her experience is the perfect example of the gift of true guilt. So that then, is the grand news for all of us. Yes, we sin. Yes, we put ourselves in a state of true guilt. And yes we feel the emotion of guilt. But it doesn’t end there! Thanks be to God, as Paul said, true guilt isn’t permanent! In fact, it serves God’s purposes for our life, faith, and writing. True guilt: is natural and healthy in the life of a believer wrecks us when we sin and makes us admit our weakness and sinfulness permeates our spirits until we go to God and repent is TEMPORARY! Once we’ve taken our guilt to God, once we’ve done as He leads to make things right, it’s done. Gone. It evaporates in the warmth of holy restoration. We are free and able to rejoice in God’s and others’ forgiveness. Now, as much as true guilt is healthy for us, there is something else at work where guilt is concerned. Remember how we mentioned false guilt earlier? Well, sometimes we feel guilty but we’re not sure why. We can’t tell if what we’re feeling is true guilt, or false guilt. False guilt is devastating, and it’s an effective tool the enemy uses against believers. It’s especially effective against writers seeking to honor God because writers are already so vulnerable to something we’ve talked about before in episode 81: Imposter Syndrome. Which is why we’re devoting our entire next podcast to understanding, exploring, and erasing false guilt. Until then, here’s a handy list from the article “How to Tell the Difference Between True and False Guilt” on Lifecoachingonthego.com to help you determine if what you’re feeling is true guilt. Well…their list with a few tweaks from us. When you feel true guilt: You know exactly why you feel this way. It’s clear you did something wrong and are responsible. You can’t ignore it and it doesn’t just go away over time. It leads to learning, forgiveness from God and others and yourself. It’s resolved by: facing and stopping the sin confessing the wrongdoing to God and those you’ve wronged taking steps according to God’s word and wisdom to make it right. It ends. If those things resonate, then yes, what you’re feeling is true and healthy guilt. And yes, it’s a gift. We’re not saying it’s easy. Or fun. It’s going to take courage to deal with. And humility. But remember, God already knows your sin. Nothing you can do will surprise him or make him take his love from you, because God IS love. It’s his nature, and it doesn’t depend on you. Thank God, right? When God has used good guilt to work His purpose in your life, you will be able to walk and write in the freedom of forgiveness. And your stories, be they fiction or nonfiction, will resonate with the authenticity of one who is forgiven and restored. Then you’ll be able to sing with David the rest of Psalm 32. You didn’t think we’d forget to share that, did you? Well buckle up, friends, because the following verses are why this Psalm was so powerful to my (Karen’s) seventeen-year-old sinner’s self, and why I wept when I read it. I’d just confessed my wrong to my dad, and his forgiveness was swift and complete, and ended with the assurance, “Karen, you could never do anything that would make me not love you.” Trust me, those are the same words you’ll hear from God when your guilt is forgiven. So, here are the words God gave me that night so long ago: “Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!… Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, ‘I will confess my rebellion to the Lord.’ And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone.” Psalm 32:1-2; 5 Amen! Do you feel guilty? Find out when it’s a gift...and when it’s not! #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1Click To Tweet WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! How has God used guilt in your life? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at novelmarketing.com. Today we’re covering commandment number 7: Thou shalt weigh thine options before investing in marketing. Investing in marketing is a given. Every successful author does so. But how much of which resources do you invest? For example, one resource is time, and another is money. They’re both valuable. But how much do you have of each? And how do you allocate them? You can’t spend the same marketing dollar on two different things. You’ve got to choose. Nor can you spend the same hour of time on two different things. There is always going to be a cost, a thing you chose and a thing you didn’t choose. The best thing you can do for yourself is understand and weigh your options so you can make the best decisions you can. You also need to be asking the right question when it comes to marketing. Don’t ask: will this tactic or thing I want to try help me sell more books? Lots of things can help you sell more books. Ask instead: Will this help me sell more books than the next best alternative? For that, again, you need to know what those alternatives are. Listening to the Novel Marketing Podcast is a great way to be informed about those options, which is why we recommend that show. You can find more book promotion and platform help by listening to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com. THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our June sponsor of the month, K.D. Aster. She’s hard at work on her novel: Kingdom of Azur, and we’re excited to see how it turns out. K.D. Aster, thanks, and keep writing! Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 143 – The Gift of Guilt appeared first on Write from the Deep.
26 minutes | May 17, 2021
142 – Seeing Through God’s Eyes with Guest Tim Shoemaker
It’s hard to let go of our expectations when we embark on this journey of writing God’s truth. Whether the path we’re on is to write fiction or nonfiction, we think we have an idea of how it will go. Then reality smacks us between the eyes. Guest Tim Shoemaker reveals how it all makes sense when we look through God’s eyes. About Tim Shoemaker Tim Shoemaker has authored sixteen books, is a popular conference speaker, and serves at his local church. His latest book, Easy Target, released in March, 2021, with Focus on the Family, and Escape From the Everglades releases in July. Tim has been happily married for over forty years to Cheryl, his high school sweetheart. Thanks to our sponsors on Patreon, we’re able to offer an edited transcript of the podcast! Karen: Hey guys, it’s time to enter into the deep and we are so glad that you’re here with us today. And with our guest, Tim Shoemaker. Erin will introduce him. Erin: I will. Tim Shoemaker is the author of sixteen books, and he writes both fiction and nonfiction. His latest book, Easy Target, is a middle grade thriller that just released with Focus on the Family. For all you people looking for middle grade stories out there, that’s a thriller that your kids might like. Tim also speaks at schools, churches, conferences, and para-church organizations like Focus on the Family. He’s happily married to the love of his life, and he has three grown sons. On his website he lists several of the things he’s passionate about, but I think this one is my favorite. He says he’s passionate about being a man of integrity who loves God and others with all his heart. Tim, we are so glad to have you here with us. Thank you and welcome! Tim: Erin, Karen, thank you so much for having me. Happy to be here. Erin: Tim, let’s just jump in with our first question that we always give. What does the deep mean to you? Tim: Well, I think, we were talking just a moment before we got on the air, and here in the Chicago roots, I would have to say deep dish pizza is certainly a big one there. And I would be a Giordano’s guy. Erin: Me too! We all have Chicago roots here. Now we’re all wanting pizza. Karen: Yeah, that’s right! Tim: No, but really I think the deep to me is about those deep places in your heart. When you’re writing, it comes from those strong passions that we have that are deep down. Our deepest convictions. It’s these core things, these foundational beliefs that we’ve got. To me, I think that’s what the deep is about it. I feel like—you’ve seen this too, right?—when you’re reading fiction, can’t you tell about an author you’ve never met before just by reading their fiction? Because if they’re writing from their heart, you’re going to find out what they’re really about and what makes them tick. To me, that’s it. It’s definitely about those deep places of our heart. Erin: I love that. Tim, you’ve been a full-time author and a speaker for quite a few years, more than fifteen years now, I think. But tell me, how did your writing career start? Tim: Well, it started by just telling stories to nieces and nephews and my own three sons. I love telling stories. Seeing their eyes get wide, you know? And if you think, “Okay, maybe I’m going a little bit too far here, we’ll tone it down.” That type of thing. I love doing that. But I would keep hearing, “Dad, you’ve got to write these stories down.” I will tell you, I had zero interest in that. None. You know, you’re just sort of making things up. I figured I’m never going to remember what I just talked about anyway. But one time I tried, and I found out I loved it. I could not believe it because that had never happened to me in school. Maybe because everything was so regimented, it was so formulaic in school. But just to be able to write like this? I loved it. I was actually in the photo business. I had a one hour mini lab. Erin: Oh, cool. Way back when those existed. Tim: Yeah, exactly. I had that mini lab and studio, and I was starting to write on the side then. My dream was that someday that business would do well enough where I could hire somebody to do part of what I was doing so I could have more time to write. But that was not God’s plan. But that’s how it started with me. Just telling stories to kids, and kids encouraged me to put it on paper. Erin: What happened then with the photo shop? Tim: In 2004, we had to close. Digital was taking over where people weren’t making the prints. That’s how we made our living. Making pictures. We just saw I was losing my shirt, for one. My wife and I were in it together. So we just felt this was it. That God was making it so clear that we had to close the store. We closed it in June of 2004, and that was it. I felt that was God’s nudge to try writing full-time. I had some books out at that point, but it was all nonfiction. It was that elusive fiction that I was trying so hard for. Karen: What kind of struggles did you face at that point? Did you struggle with feeling like a failure? And don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying you were. Or were you excited because you felt as though God was saying this activity is done, now I’m asking you to go down this path? Tim: I think there was a little of both. But there was a lot of that when I was there at the store, you know, working late into the night and things like that, there was very much a feeling of failure. I would say that was an attack of the enemy in so many ways. You know, everybody ended up losing their stores. For the most part, all the independents, they went. Everything was changing, but there was this sense of supreme failure. “Wow, I couldn’t even do this right. And you’re going to go into something different?” Erin: And risky! Tim: Yeah. We left on, oh, it was June, I want to say 25th. I may be a day off on that. But we closed the store, and I took the money from the register, you know, like our change, the backup change you have. $300 in change in singles and fives, and all this. We took our $300. We drove from Chicago down to Atlanta where the Christian booksellers convention was. We left right from there, from closing the store. Because I had a book that was going to be coming out at that point. It was a devotional for boys. So we were going to be there and do whatever we could to publicize it. The crazy thing was there was a little glitch and the book didn’t even make it to the convention. You know, these are great times. Erin: Wait, I’m seeing what people might be tempted, in your shoes, to think: failure upon failure upon failure. How did you react to that? Tim: I think in a very real way, my faith was strong. Fantastic wife. Incredibly encouraging and supportive of this. Which, I mean, as big of a step as it was for me, look at what a step that was for her, right? So I was surrounded by family who were very supportive, which was huge. Strong connections in our church, so we had all of that. But I will still say the enemy, you know, he did his best. There were times there was this thought. Not a voice, but a thought. It did come to my mind. “You know, you need to do it. You failed. It’s over. Put your house in order. You’re done.” It scared me. It’s like, “Oh my goodness, I don’t love that.” It was this attack from the enemy. I took it as that. He kept saying, “You failed. You’ve blown it. You’ve let everybody down.” It was like one of those Jimmy Stewart things, right? It’s a Wonderful Life. You’re worth more dead than alive. You’ve got a good insurance policy. Karen: You’re looking around for Clarence. Tim: I don’t think I was at risk, but it was a thought that was like the enemy was trying it out. “Let’s see if this works on him.” I think that all stopped when we actually closed the store and left. That was it. It was done. From that point on it was the new career. Karen: God took you off the cliff, and you just sailed on from there. Tim: Well, it was not all flying. There was still a lot of bumps. But it was good. Erin: I know you said that first book was nonfiction, but you wanted to get into fiction. How did that become a passion and how did that lead you into wanting to write that kind of fiction for your kids? Tim: I think again going back to that storytelling, and I’ve got a love for kids. I’m trying to think where that started. I’ve got two older sisters, two younger brothers. But my two younger brothers, one is nine years younger, one is twelve years younger, so it was like a whole different family. I did a lot of babysitting and stuff for them, and we had so much fun. I mean, there were broken bones and stitches and stuff, so, uh, we just had a ride. That’s where my love for kids grew. Then of course, I had kids. But in the meantime, I taught junior high and Sunday school and all kinds of things. I really loved the power of a story and wanted to get through to them that way. I was also trying to connect with my kids, like in family devotions and all that. So some of those early books, they were family devotion type books. By the time we closed the store, I probably had four or five books at that point. But everything’s nonfiction. I wanted to write fiction. The short stories were beginning to go. They were starting to get picked up by Focus on the Family Clubhouse magazine, things like that. But I just couldn’t get that fiction. And that’s where I was just living for that fiction. Erin: Well then how did that happen? How did you end up sticking with it? Tim: I guess I just always thought it was to happen and was going to happen. I had some great encouragers that felt I should. They’d point out it’s just a bad time in the market. Your writing’s good. Keep going. You know, all that type of stuff. But it was years of that. I also heard from some very wise people that it takes a lot of time for fiction to break in for traditional publishing. But I didn’t always have good advice, either. I can remember I was at a Christian writers’ conference, and I was teaching by this time. Another faculty member came up to me and said, “You know, you really need to stop writing for kids. You need to write for adults. You can write that good. You should be writing for them.” And their closing comment is what sort of sealed it for me. They said, “That’s where the money is.” Right at that point, I’m not thinking that this is necessarily a word from the Lord. I ended up rejecting that. My passion was this: My heart is for kids. There’s a bazillion things written for broken adults. I want to write for the kids. I want to write to them. I want a chance before they’re broken. Let me try to inspire them there. I want to bring friends to kids that don’t have friends in the characters of these stories. I want to help show a path to these kids who are smart, but they lack experience, so they’re going to make dumb mistakes. How can we show them traps that are out there, but all wrapped into a good story that they can be involved in? Because we learn from experiences, right? So I kept with it. Again, God’s grace, just God’s grace that he kept me knowing I was to do this. And finally it broke open. Erin: What’s so interesting about this to me is that here you are needing to help support your family and the money temptation would be super strong. I love that you recognized that that was simply just a temptation, simply just not suited to your passion. I love that. You and I had talked a little bit before and you talked to me about some waiting times in your career, and you were telling me about the sled. I love that story. Share that so our listeners can hear how waiting can sometimes come to fruition. Or often, or always, in God’s plan. Tim: When the fiction finally broke, it ended up being first a one book contract, and that turned into a three book contract. So that was great. That was with Zondervan. We completed that contract in June of 2014. Now my editor had left, so I’m a bit of an orphan author here. So, I’m gonna pitch another idea, and they really wanted to see how the series would do. That was going to take time, right? As it turned out, things changed in the publishing industry. Sometimes people are more into one target market, or not, depending on where things are going. Suddenly here I am with no contract. I wasn’t so worried at first, but as time goes on, I did get some nonfiction things going, and God had led me to speaking. Oh my goodness, that was another whole thing where when you are so dependent on God, you are so desperate to do it right. I learned to say yes to just about anything if I felt it was out of my comfort zone, but I felt this was an opportunity God was putting there. That opened up so many things. I never saw the speaking. That was a huge thing. But yeah, I’m waiting and that goes into two years. And then three years. June of 2017, it had been three years. I had a complete novel done. I had started another one. I had four proposals out with our agents. Let’s see, two were nonfiction. One was the standalone fiction I just finished. And one was another book that I’d hoped would start into a series. So I’ve got four proposals out there. Karen: You’re definitely doing the work. Tim: But nothing’s happening. So, it’s a June day. Picture Chicago, June. It’s 80 degrees, and I’m walking a couple of miles, which is my practice to walk a couple miles and think and pray and different things like that. So I’m walking and I’m kind of at the place where I make my turnaround. It’s garbage day in this neighborhood that I was walking through, and I see these four sleds by the curb. Now, they were in terrific shape and they all had ropes. I mean, they’re great. Obviously somebody is cleaning out their garage and they’re saying, this is it. No more. The kids are grown. But they were good sleds. I thought to myself, “You know what? My sons would like these. They’re starting families themselves. They’ve got young families. They’d like these, but in winter, not right now.” Well, you know, I could walk home, I could get the car and pick these up, but I knew the garbage truck would be there. They’d be gone, and I would be kicking myself, come winter, that I didn’t get these sleds when they were available. I thought, “Okay, I’m going to look like an idiot.” But I picked up these four sleds, slung them over my back, and started my walk home. I was, I don’t know, maybe a half a mile from home. I’m walking, and I hear this voice, and here’s this guy on this porch. I don’t know who he is, but he says, “Mighty fine collection of sleds ya got there.” Just real sarcastic. We’re joking around a little bit because obviously I look like this complete idiot. As we break up that conversation he says, “Hey, I’m going in to get my skates. You know, you’re probably right. The weather’s going to change. I’m going to be ready, too.” As I left there, I don’t think I’d walked ten steps before this thought popped to my mind that this was representing my life. I felt as out of place right then, an 80 degree day, carrying sleds, something that was definitely not needed now, but it would definitely be needed in the future. And here I was with four proposals just weighing on me. Just weighing on me daily that I’ve got four proposals and nothing’s happening. But in that moment, I thought, “They are going to be needed. When that time comes, you’re going to be ready. Just keep on the course.” It was a huge moment. And you know what? Erin, when we were talking about this, I pulled up my journal and I was looking at that just a little bit. In my journal, before I went on that walk, one of the verses that day, in my journal, I’ll just read it here from Psalm 71. It goes, “Since my youth, oh God, you have taught me, and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds. Even when I’m old and gray do not forsake me, oh God, until I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.” That’s my deep. That’s what I want. I want to impact this next generation. So that’s what I was praying that morning that I ended up walking with four sleds. And God gave me the encouragement to keep walking. So that was three years I’d been without a contract for fiction. Now, as it turned out, I don’t know, in the next six months or a year, I think one of the nonfiction ones did get picked up, and that did very well, so that was terrific. But it was two and a half years after the sleds that the fiction all went. Easy Target was one of those books. Escape from the Everglades, which comes out in July, was the one that starts the series. Those were those other two proposals. So three of the four proposals have gone. In fact, one of them, they expanded from a one book deal to a three book contract. God gave all that. But it was a long haul. But I’ve got to say this: I changed in five and a half years. My writing deepened in five and a half years. I mean, by deepen, I don’t know if I would say, you know, it got better. I mean, we all want to say that it got better. But it was deeper. There were things that were more important that I wanted to get out. I think even the publisher, that was Focus on the Family, I think they went through things. So it all came together at the right time. But yeah, five and a half years. I mean, talk about doubts. I’m teaching fiction writing, but I don’t have a contract. What is this? Karen: I absolutely love what you’ve shared because my life verse is Habakkuk 2:3 but I’m going to read Habakkuk 2:1-3 because your life and all that you’ve been through, and in what you’re saying, it is the perfect example of this. Habakkuk says, “I will climb my watchtower now and wait to see what answer God will give to my complaint. And the Lord said to me, ‘Write my answer on a billboard, large and clear, so that anyone can read it at a glance and rush to tell others. But these things I plan won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair for these things will surely come to pass, just be patient. They will not be overdue a single day.'” And we see, you know, as you were telling the sled story, I’m thinking, well, surely the week or two weeks after he got the contract… No. Two and a half years! But they weren’t overdue a single day. God knew exactly how long it needed to take. God knew exactly what he needed to do in you. For those of you listening, God knows. He knows exactly what his vision is for you. Nothing will keep that from being fulfilled. We don’t know what God’s plans are for you in what you’re writing. Maybe for publication, maybe not. But whatever it is, if you’re obedient to the task that God has given you, slowly, steadily, surely the time will approach when the vision will be fulfilled. Do not despair, friends. These things will surely come to pass. Just be patient. They won’t be overdue a single day. Tim: That’s good. Erin: Amen. Guest Tim Shoemaker helps you see your writing journey through God’s eyes. #amwriting #christianwriter @karenball1 @TimShoemaker1Click To Tweet WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU! Are you waiting for God to bring something to pass? What helps you be patient as you wait? THE NOVEL MARKETING PODCAST For the next few months, we have a sponsorship from the Novel Marketing podcast, and we’re bringing you Novel Marketing’s 10 Commandments of Book Marketing. We highly recommend this podcast with host Thomas Umstattd Jr., a genius on marketing and all things publishing! You can find the podcast at novelmarketing.com. Today we’re covering commandment number six: Thou shalt own thine own platform. You only need to look around at what’s happening in the world today, where a social media platform can cancel you in a heartbeat, and you lose access to the readers you may have spent years growing. Or those platforms can make you pay, anytime they want, for anyone to see your posts. And this has happened. That makes growing your platform on those types of ground an unwise investment. Own. Your. Platform. The two most important things for you to own is your website and your newsletter list. This is what you should be spending time and money developing. Your website is your home base. It’s a place readers can find you and connect with you. A place you own, so it can never be taken away from you. Your newsletter is how you communicate directly with your readers. Again, those email addresses can never be taken away from you by some company that decides to cancel you. For more book promotion and platform help listen to Novel Marketing in your favorite podcast app or at NovelMarketing.com BOOKS MENTIONED IN THE PODCAST Easy Target by Tim Shoemaker Escape from the Everglades by Tim Shoemaker THANK YOU! Thanks to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible! Thanks so much to our May sponsor of the month, Stacy McLain! We’re praying for you on your writing journey, Stacy! Many thanks also to the folks at Podcast P.S. 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. The post 142 – Seeing Through God’s Eyes with Guest Tim Shoemaker appeared first on Write from the Deep.
29 minutes | May 3, 2021
141 – Writing with a Full-Time Job
Writing is never easy, but it can be especially challenging when you have a full-time job. It can seem so hard to find writing time on top of everything else! But we’ve got some great tips and strategies, shared by those facing the same challenges, to help you in this seemingly impossible task. But first, … The post 141 – Writing with a Full-Time Job appeared first on Write from the Deep.
23 minutes | Apr 20, 2021
140 – Overcoming Health Obstacles with Guest Lindsay A. Franklin
So many writers deal with not just one health issue, but multiple issues. It can feel like our bodies are attacking us or even sabotaging our efforts to write. Guest Lindsay A. Franklin understands, and she’s here to share how God is bringing her through her own health struggles and enabling her to meet deadlines … The post 140 – Overcoming Health Obstacles with Guest Lindsay A. Franklin appeared first on Write from the Deep.
28 minutes | Apr 6, 2021
139 – Waiting for Answers with Guest Lindsay A. Franklin
So many times on our writing journey, and in our lives, we find ourselves waiting…and waiting…and waiting for answers we need. It can even feel as though God has forgotten us. Guest Lindsay Franklin shares her experiences with waiting for answers and what amazing insights God taught her as she waited. About Lindsay A. Franklin … The post 139 – Waiting for Answers with Guest Lindsay A. Franklin appeared first on Write from the Deep.
28 minutes | Mar 22, 2021
138 – Compelled by God with Guest Paul Hastings
Guest Paul Hastings brings his podcast listeners tales of people compelled to live for God, no matter the opposition. From facing assassins, to refusing to renounce faith in God to save a career-building opportunity, to everyday moments of standing strong for God, these stories inspire and challenge us to step up in our lives—and in … The post 138 – Compelled by God with Guest Paul Hastings appeared first on Write from the Deep.
25 minutes | Mar 8, 2021
137 – Writing from the Heart with Guest Nadine Brandes
Does it feel like every word you write lately is a challenge? When guest Nadine Brandes wrote her award-winning Out of Time series, her writing flowed from her heart and passion. Then came a book that she wrote mostly from the head. She shares that difficult part of her writing journey and how God used … The post 137 – Writing from the Heart with Guest Nadine Brandes appeared first on Write from the Deep.
24 minutes | Feb 22, 2021
136 – How Do You Listen to God?
Listening to God is vital for our writing and our faith, but HOW do you listen to Him? Many of us wish we could do it better! We’ve asked some of the writers we know to share their thoughts and tips on ways to listen to God—REALLY listen. Come join in and learn! But first, … The post 136 – How Do You Listen to God? appeared first on Write from the Deep.
27 minutes | Feb 8, 2021
135 – Developing Courage as a Writer with Guest Thomas Umstattd Jr.
There are a number of things you have to do to be a writer, and a number of attributes you need to develop. Chief among them? Courage. Without it, your writing will never touch hearts. Let guest Thomas Umstattd Jr. help you develop this essential attribute in your life. About Thomas Umstattd Jr. Thomas Umstattd … The post 135 – Developing Courage as a Writer with Guest Thomas Umstattd Jr. appeared first on Write from the Deep.
24 minutes | Jan 25, 2021
134 – When God Opens Doors with Guest Mary DeMuth
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. … The post 134 – When God Opens Doors with Guest Mary DeMuth appeared first on Write from the Deep.
28 minutes | Jan 11, 2021
133 – Detours on Your Writing Journey
We’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 … The post 133 – Detours on Your Writing Journey appeared first on Write from the Deep.
19 minutes | Dec 28, 2020
132 – How to Avoid Writer’s Burnout, Part 3
Why 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 … The post 132 – How to Avoid Writer’s Burnout, Part 3 appeared first on Write from the Deep.
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