I sprawled on the grass under a tree, defacing a legal pad with scribbles and arguing with myself about the character I had created that morning. “I know — her bully of an ex-husband can have her framed for something… maybe embezzlement…? But where could she work…?” I checked the time and groaned. Just 45 minutes to go before the next session, and this plot structure exercise was fighting me every step of the way.
As I mentioned last week, I just attended the 2011 Christian Writers’ Workshop at Glen Eyrie Conference Center in Colorado Springs. I learned from Dictionary.com that the word glen means “narrow, secluded valley” and an eyrie is “the nest of an eagle or other bird of prey, built in a high, inaccessible place.” If you look at the photos… well, let’s just say that the name fits the setting. In this secluded place of shelter and nurturing, how did I grow? What new ideas did I learn? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here, in simplified/paraphrased form and filtered by my attempts at processing, are my Top Seven Things that Hatched in the Eagle’s Nest…
1. Find out Who You Are – as an author, or in any other endeavor, authenticity goes much further toward genuine success than trying to catch onto the latest trend or gimmick.
2. Show Up Every Day – Whether you are writing, shopkeeping, ranching or parenting, consistency is essential. Set a schedule and some measurable productivity goals. If you write, remember that (as Kathy Mackel eloquently put it) what you are writing has no life until you build it, word by word.
3. Trash-talk Your Discouragement – Doubts plague even the most successful and established professionals. If you find doubt hindering you from working, try asking yourself exactly what you’re afraid of. Write it down and laugh at it. Or set a match to the paper and watch your discouragement go up in smoke. Then get back to work.
4. Don’t Micro-Manage Yourself – When I write, I’m prone to look back every other sentence and try to revise as I go. Every time I do that, I lose my train of thought and forget where the piece was going. But things will run more smoothly if I can get in the habit of writing a draft all the way through before going back to make changes. Or at least, write a large chunk and then read it back, flagging any obvious trouble spots with marginal notes so I won’t forget to fix them later. In other kinds of work, it helps to have a plan or checklist, so I don’t ricochet from task to task and end up leaving them all unfinished.
5. Embrace Who You Are, and Where, and When – Whether you write or not, don’t cocoon yourself to avoid those whose lives are different from yours. If you are trying to influence your world, you’ll have to use some of its cultural reference points to gain a hearing. On the other hand, remember your purpose… don’t try to be just like your culture, and don’t be afraid to stand out. As Angela Hunt encouraged us, “God chose this time out of all history for you to be writing, for His holy purpose.”
6. Share Yourself and Don’t Give Up, Because You Never Know Whom You’ll Touch – Building on the earlier comments about authenticity, Nancy Rue admonished us to write what we live, to share ourselves rather than just our “work.” On the flip side is the need to live what we write. That is, hypocrisy can only hinder your influence.
7. Be the Book – Bill Myers closed the Workshop with a memorable talk, not so much about writing a book as about being a book. God is not done writing stories, he pointed out, and each of our lives is like a book. It is my function and privilege to glorify the Author of my life, who loves me far more than I can imagine.
Today I am linking up with my Soli Deo Gloria friends AND my Company Girls over at Home Sanctuary. Many of these ladies are amazing writers. I do hope these snippets of my notes will benefit you … maybe even give you wings!
Thanks for reading!