Conversations with a Writing Coach by Susan May Warren

I heard about Susan May Warren at the 2019 American Fiction Christian Writers (ACFW) conference in San Antonio, Texas. The ACFW Colorado Springs chapter was planning a two-day workshop with Warren as the speaker. And it was to be held at Glen Eyrie, which I’ve been wanting to visit forever. As soon as registration opened, I signed up. Then I downloaded two of her writing books, Conversations with a Writing Coach and The Story Equation.

As the country responded to COVID-19 and slow-rolled into shutting, closing and canceling just about everything, I received the disappointing email that the workshop was also canceled, with hopes to reschedule it in the future.

While I hope to attend the workshop when it gets rescheduled, I decided to use my “social distancing” time (as an introvert, I suddenly have the freedom to do what I always prefer to do – work in the quiet) by doubling down on Conversations and my work in progress.

The book is packed with practical writing information packaged as a conversation between Warren and her mentee. Each one wraps up with “dares,” practical steps to apply in writing. Interspersed are “quick skills” sections that break down Warren’s information into acronyms and steps.

I just finished her conversation on NaNoWriMo, which is perfect timing, because April is another NaNoWriMo. So if April turns out to be canceled like March has been, grab a copy of Conversations (available on Amazon), sign up for NaNoWriMo and start working on that novel you’ve always thought about.

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If You Create the Space, God will Fill It

If my last post, Accept Whatever Shows up, felt incomplete, it’s because I planned to finish the thought this week. Which I will. But with some additional thoughts. Because the world can change drastically in two weeks. And it did.

The book launch party for Explore turned out different than what I expected. Which is sort of what I expected. Despite my limited advertising (Facebook event and invites, announced on the Created website, and a handful of fliers hanging in businesses and libraries around the area), only a few people showed up.

But it was good.

Because Jon had time to talk to a long time friend about the books we published and his photographs. Because I had time to get to know a new writer friend and chat with a friend’s daughter who also loves writing and photography. Because we had sweet, uninterrupted time to encourage our friend and owner of Created.

Different than what I expected. But so good.

Which brings me to the title of this blog. Jon and I have been listening to an amazing podcast called Bema Discipleship which is going through the entire Bible. He started in the Old Testament; I started in the New Testament. But when he heard episode 26, Creating a Space, he had me listen to it. I highly recommend it. In it, Marty Solomon makes the statement, “If you create the space, God will fill it.”

That’s what I feel like happened at the book launch party. I created a space. And God filled it.

Which brings us to today. The news, social media and everyone’s conversations are filled with the COVID-19, also known as the coronavirus. Everything that could be said, has probably been said. Some, like government officials, medical personnel, first responders, grocery stores and their suppliers, and others in critical positions/agencies are busy beyond belief as they react to the ever-changing situation. However, many suddenly find themselves with too much time on their hands as schools, entertainment institutions, and numerous businesses temporarily close.

Suddenly we’re forced off the hamster wheel. Told to stay home. Travel is suspended. Meetings and events are canceled. Calendars are suddenly clear. No rushing here and there.

So what do we do with this time?

Social media is filled with all kinds of suggestions. I won’t go into them here. But I will suggest the idea of creating space and allowing God to fill it. Create it physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually.

I know what it looks like for me. But it will be different for everyone. What will it look like for you? Please join this conversation and tell me how you’re using this time to create space in a way that God can fill it.

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The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Creative Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala

Lauren Sapala dives into what it means to be an INFJ writer in a world driven by goals and rewards. She shares her own personal journey that eventually led her to a vocation as a life coach. Her own self-discovery and discussions with clients revealed the patterns, obstructions, and capacity of INFJs and inspired her to share what she’s learned with the rest of us INFJs in the world.

I took the Myers-Briggs personality test years ago when I attended a leadership class in the military. If I remember correctly, I tested as an INFJ and have done so consistently over the years. But it’s only been the past decade that my understanding of who I am has led me to the freedom in being who I am.

As I transitioned from military life to civilian life, a friend introduced me to a program on dressing in a way that fits one’s predominant personality. The program delivered me from trying to “get out of my box,” as so many well-meaning friends and family members encouraged me to do, and gave me permission to dress in a way that reflected me.

When I dove into learning the craft of writing, I discovered personality-driven guides to help develop my characters and this further increased my interest in personality types. However, my studies also led me to conferences and workshops that, while giving me some gems and takeaways, unfortunately also left me with feelings of frustration. Why couldn’t I write two books a year? Why couldn’t I have a book in outline, a book in draft and a book in edit? Why was I so slow in my writing?

Then I saw the INFJ Writer and I scooped it up. With examples drawn from experience and end of chapter exercises, Sapala walks INFJ writers through who we are, where and why we struggle, how to overcome obstacles, and (best of all), what we have to bring to the world.

The INFJ Writer is a must for us and one of the books I’ll go back to again and again.

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Accept Whatever Shows Up

Apprehension and a little anxiety accosted me as I prepared for the (somewhat delayed) book launch party for our third book in the Be Still Series, Explore, Enjoying the Creation of God.

The idea popped into my head as I went through the editing process with some amazing moms (my husband and I designed Explore to be used as a family devotion and engage kids with the amazing world outside) but busyness, holidays, and travel distracted me.

I didn’t think about it again until after the new year when I received an email from a friend, encourager, and owner of a cute little art studio called Created. She wanted to meet and discuss ideas, goals, visions for the year ahead. As we talked, I confessed my book launch party, birthed the plan and set a date.

As the day rapidly approached, I swatted apprehension and anxiety away, trying not to give life to the question, “what were you thinking?” While mulling, praying, and reading one of the many books on my 2020 reading list, I came across the phrase, “accept whatever shows up.”

Exactly what I needed to hear.

The phrase came from the book, The INFJ Writer by Lauren Sapala (I’ll talk about the book in my upcoming Saturday book review) in her chapter Artistic Vision is Not the Same as Artistic Reality. She goes on to say, “Once we learn how to go with the flow and accept how life is unfolding in this moment, right now, we open ourselves up to experiencing a lot more joy just in being, without the need to prove anything through the act of doing.

That’s tough for the temperament of an INFJ. That’s tough for me. I’ve expended a lot of energy in my life lamenting unfulfilled expectations, disappointments, and frustrated plans. I desperately needed a new mindset. I grabbed it. I clung to it. I walked it out.

And that has made all the difference.

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For the Love by Jen Hatmaker

I didn’t even know who Jen Hatmaker was. Someone gave me her book, For the Love, and for the love of life of me, I can’t even remember who. The book has been on my nightstand for a while now. It was published in 2015, but I don’t think I’ve had it that long. And Jen. She’s been around for a while; her podcast, For the Love, goes back to 2017 and she’s hosted some amazing people on her show over the years.

I added For the Love to my reading list for 2020. It was one of the first I picked up (I still had a couple books I rolled over for 2019) and I always have at least three books going in my read pile.

Jen had me oohing, awing, laughing, crying and standing up to take notice, from one chapter to the next. I giggled so much during her Thank You Notes chapters that my husband asked me, “what are you reading?” I nodded throughout the Dear– chapters. I loved her chapter, Hope for Spicy Families, but I’m not sure where mine falls. I wouldn’t classify us sweet, but spicy seems a bit of a stretch. Maybe that’s just me. I’ve never had a “spicy” personality.

I love For the Love and I opened it at just the right time. I’ve started listening to her podcast as well. Life is too short and too hard sometimes to get all twisted up and bent out of shape. I enjoy those who can laugh and can make me laugh. I enjoy those who want to live life well and invite others to come along and live it well, too. Jen does that. Here’s to inviting people over and doing it together.

We’re saving a seat for you, Jen.

Quotes

  • You have permission to examine all the tricks and decide what should stay. What parts do you love? Whater are you good at? What brings you life? What has to stay during this season?
  • We need to quit trying to be awesome and instead be wise.
  • Throw out every should or should not and make ruthless cuts.
  • What does this season require of you? Unsure? Ask God.
  • Wise women know what to hold on to and what to release, and how to walk confidently in their choices–no regrets, no apologies, no guilt.
  • “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” Annie Dillard
  • I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense.
  • Worthy lives bloom under the nourishment of grace in every context, every country. Goodness, desire and implemented, is demonstrated by Christians wherever they’ve been set free.
  • A worthy life involves loving as loved folks do, sharing the ridiculous mercy God spoiled us with first.
  • A worthy life means showing up when showing up is the only thing to do.
  • God created an entire package. It all counts. There are no throwaway qualities. IN fact, those qualities might point you in just the right direction. Nothing is wasted: not a characteristic, preference, experience, tragedy, quirk, nothing. It is all you and it is all purposed and it can all be used for great and glorious good.
  • Do your thing.
  • Run your race.
  • Stop minimizing what you are good at throw yourself into it with no apologies.
  • God designed you this way, on purpose. It isn’t take or a fluke or small. These are the mind and heart and hands and voice you’ve been given, so use them.
  • It is okay for someone else to struggle. Furthermore, it is okay to not fix it/solve it/answer it/discredit it.
  • It is not our responsibility to fix every mess.
  • Pulling something difficult from its dark hiding place and into the light is innately healing.
  • We are watching the light win truth by truth, and when enough bright places are created, the dark has nowhere else to hide.
  • Self-criticism sometimes improves best practices, but it can also lie to you and probably has.
  • Condemnation is a trick of the enemy, not the language of the heavens. Shame is not God’s tool, so if we are slaves to it, we’re way off the beaten path.
  • God measures our entire existence by on ly two things: how we love Him and how we love people. If you get this right, you can get a million other things wrong.
  • …develop eyes for pain, which is exactly how Jesus walked around on this earth.
  • So those are my dreams for you: Be Kind. Be you. Love Jesus.
  • In the marriage rhythm, figure out your notes and play them well. This is your part of the song. Stop being mad that your guy is terrible at your notes. He has his.
  • Marriage is no place to be inordinately sensitive. We cannot price over every little thing.
  • Treating your husband like a good friend will preserve your marriage forever. Just act like someone you would want to live with instead of a difficult frenemy.
  • God isn’t a wedge between spouses; if you aren’t walking side by side, I believe God will wait for you both.
  • Grow together, learn together, seek together, serve together.
  • If you are trying to change the very way your husband is wired, take the nooses off both your necks. Set him free, and you may remember how much you like the rest of him.
  • If your husband knows you love and want him, you empower him in every other area. This is one place he is vulnerable, and your desire in the bedroom is more than loving; it is powerful.
  • Parents of littles think they are still in control of outcomes, but mamas of bigs know better.
  • Treat their questions an concerns with respect, because in my opinion, they have a decent pulse on cultural Christianity. Rather than starting with, “You are young and clueless,” maybe we say, “Tell me what you see and what concern you. What draws you to church? What pushes you away? What do your friends say?” Humility attracts the next generation as easily as arrogance alienates them. This is so crucial. If we dismiss this conversation, we dismiss them from the church.
  • The best we can do is give them Jesus.
  • If Jesus is the heart of the church, people are the lifeblood.
  • Online life is no substitute for practiced, physical presence.
  • If Jesus’ basic marching orders were 1.) to love God and 2.) to love people, then the fruit of that obedience includes being loved by God and loved by people.
  • We are not promised a pain-free life but are given the tools to survive: God and people.
  • It was terribly liberating, because I quit trying to overcome my personality. The ugly self-talk stopped and I gave myself permission for quiet and silence and privacy.
  • We recharge differently–they need more of everything and I need less of everything. this personality gap can be so defeating, because I feel like not enough and make my kids feel like too much.
  • You are not responsible for the spiritual health of everyone around you, nor must you weather the recalcitrant behavior of others.
  • We prioritize keeping the peace ofver confrontation, but the result is more suffering, not less.
  • Ironically, the more responsibility people take for their spiritual development and their neighbor, the healthier they become–also, less resentful of the church, less dependent on programming, and less reliant upon pastors.
  • (My checkpoints, in order: 1. humility; 2. transparency; 3. integrity.)
  • we overcomplicate the ways of Jesus. Love God, love people. Act justly, love mercy, walk humbly. Treat people as you want to be treated. If you want to be great, be a servant.
  • Find your little faith tribe (it exists) and learn to love it with all the grace and humility you can master.
  • We tend to formalize the mysterious, opting for a more manageable gospel than the wild, unpredictable one we have.
  • I also suspect “getting it all right” isn’t God’s highest order. The Bible constantly elevated love over knowledge, mercy over sacrifice.
  • Could the highest level of “right theology” involve loving God and people like Jesus suggested?
  • We are such a blessed generation. We don’t have to chose between gentleness and authority…We get the victories of past generations, plus the hope of ours.
  • We won’t let our own crazy stop us form affirming each other and banging the drum for our sisters.
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