Hey Writer—You Need an Editor


Hey Writer—You Need an Editor (Jennifer J Howe)Hey writer—you know publishers search for brilliant content, and you hope your pages float into the right inbox. Every writer imagines the words calling the editor’s name, connecting at the heart level, and practically casting a golden glow as they’re read. Maybe an orchestra score plays lightly in the office background. That’s every writer’s dream.

Writer, you need an editor.
Maybe you haven’t heard the editor’s a voice personally, but you know it’s an important one. If you work with a traditional publisher, you’re aware of the partnership and process. If you work with your choice of editors for self-publishing or polishing before sharing with a professional, you’ll establish a partnership on your own. Let’s focus on your personal editor selection process.

It might feel a little crazy to tell the editor anything other than “Yes, of course!” But content is personal. It may be specific to your skill or knowledge base, and that makes it tempting to say, “This is my content, and I’m stickin’ to it.” Your words may be crafted with creative purpose. You might want to cry at suggested revisions, or worse, take offense and defend every keystroke. Do all you can to respond well in the editing phase. Remembering a few things may ease the process.

You don’t know what you don’t know.
A number of things may escape your keen eye—from minor typos and grammatical errors to character and plot inconsistencies. Line editing and proofreading makes quick work of those. Repeated “offenses” indicate missing tools in the craft toolbox and point toward a need for new skills. Can you be open to someone offering guidance? She’s not a tutor, but use the editor’s skills to bolster yours.

Your editor wants you to be successful (especially when her professional reputation is on the line). If the working relationship is going to succeed, honesty and respect are not only expected but also welcomed. There are three keys to hearing and embracing honest feedback: maintaining a humble attitude, being genuinely curious, and keeping an open mind.

I can hear you asking with a bit of grit, “Jen, are you saying the editor is always right?” Let’s take always out of the equation. Consider the source (the editor’s skill set, experience, and position). Also consider your own.

Not all editors are the same.
Editors have varying skills and work-related passions. Professionals regularly invest time sharpening their skills. Beyond that, look for the following when choosing your editor:

  • The ethical editor partners with clients and content within her expertise. Hard-science dissertation material and poetry are different endeavors. Match the editor to the content. You may like someone, but her expertise may not fit the work.
  • The professional editor is clear on the requirements of the work: your needs, goals, and audience. She should clearly communicate the differences between developmental editing, line editing, and proofreading. The fees should reflect differences.
  • A skilled editor preserves your voice and style by minimizing influence in those areas if possible.
  • An honest editor is clear about two things: her ability to do the work and whether your deadline can be met. Look for documentation including a work proposal outlining the work agreement and payment options.

Know the professional you’re working with and any strengths or weaknesses in the partnership. Know the characters in the mix; hire the right person and personality for your needs. Keep the expectations clear and communication lines open.

Communication and feedback.
Communication should be honest, clear, and kind. When revisions are challenging, try a humble, truthful conversation with your editor. Questions go a long way here. Learn the whys behind suggestions and non-negotiables. You may need to improve your skills in order to write clean content. Be open to learning new things.

It’s a relationship.
Remember: relational connection between the writer and editor should precede correction. A good editor focuses on the person before the project. That wouldn’t alter the editorial skills, but it has to shape the dialogue and interpersonal skills. Find an editor who loves the people they serve, even when that involves truthful “tough love” in small doses.

The editor has a job to do.
A good editor balances the interests of the author and reader. The goal is quality content that accomplishes what it set out to do and delivers on its promises. Quality content is a win-win for the writer and reader. If you find the right editor, writer, you will meet or exceed your expectations for your work in progress.

As an editor, I help writers with their words. If my red pen “machete” has bushwhacking to do, it’s an effort to clear the way for a polished final draft. Sometimes suggestions are just that; other times, they aren’t. It’s helpful to know the difference. It’s best to highlight necessary revisions using truthful words with kindness and respect.

Writer, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do: share that message, tell that story, solve your reader’s problem, respond to the conviction that is misunderstood. When you’re ready to put your work out there, lean into the writer-editor relationship. The path to success is shared.

~Jennifer

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Hey Writer—Handle with Care

Hey Writer: Handle with Care (jjhowe)Hey, writer! Your wordsmithing skills are strengthening. (Remember when a blank page made you sigh and stare at the ceiling? That’s less frequent now. Or if you start counting holes in ceiling tiles, you can break the pattern. Celebrate little victories!) The writing life is a challenge, but it’s also exciting. You’re crafting sentences now, and you know it. Still—there are things to think about.

It’s time to write with care.
By now you’ve got a reader in mind when you write. You know all about her, even see her face. What does your relationship feel like? Are you friends? Now write with her in mind. Choose words that communicate and connect, rather than overwhelm or confuse. If the relationship to your reader is caretaking, you might reach her with words that encourage or soothe her soul. If banter is your connection, you can still respect her stage of life, knowledge of the world, and her worldview. If she’s your nemesis, you may be crafting word weapons. (This is a challenge for me, and I do well to borrow Shakespeare’s words like I did here. It could be the difference between nuclear devastation fueled by unchecked emotion and precise targeting through borrowed words.)

Talk to your real, imaginary friend.
You’re writing to a reader, having a conversation on the page with an imaginary friend of your own invention—a clearly identified, very real reader. Now you’ve got a job to do.  Think about your work in these terms.

  • Hold her attention. If you make writing decisions centered purely on your own preference, she’ll sense that. If you’re not inviting her into the conversation or honoring her presence, it will be obvious. Invite your reader into your world of words prepared for her before she ever cracked the cover. If you’ve been thinking of her, she’ll know. She’ll feel welcome, like she belongs.
  • Move her along in your work. When she enters your writing world, be sure to gift her with a page-turner. Use language that’s easily understood, phrasing that reads naturally, and descriptions that serve her. If you choose to bog her down in difficult language, sentences that require two or three attempts, and heavy-handed details that are overwhelming or overdone, she may be done (long before you’d like!).
  • Genuinely impact her life. Leave her with all the benefits of your words. Choose well what you share—make your work a gift that keeps giving long after the final words. Has she met new friends? Visited new places? Grown in her knowledge or wisdom? Is her quality of life better for reading your words? Those are some goals.

It’s not about you.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a hundred times (probably). A writer is an artist who births a beautiful “child” in the final draft, a child who might seem to be the darling who can do no wrong. A writer who never feels this way either has no genuine connection to the work or extreme insecurity in it (a topic for another day). The mature writer learns to love writing, wholeheartedly enjoying the process and avoiding self-indulgence for the sake of the reader. If a writer manages to balance the creativity and crafting with love for the reader, it’s a win-win. The writer writes, the reader reads, and the work’s fulfillment comes through the reader’s engagement.

Writer, handle your reader and words with care. Do that through skillful, thoughtful writing.

~Jennifer

Hey Writer—Highs, Lows, and the Everyday Flow

The Highs, Lows, and Everday Flows, jjhoweHey, Writer! I’ve got a question for you: What is big in your mind? When you answer the first time, just assume you need to ask several times to go deeper and mine the nugget of truth waiting for you. I tossed out casual answers the first two times, but found the revealing, transforming stuff when I gave the question the time it deserved.

Answering the Question
My first answer was words and word count—those were big in my mind. A writer writes, so words are artfully crafted and tallied. Without words to count I couldn’t call myself a writer. Writing must be about the words.

On the heels of that was readers and platform. It only made sense the words must have fifteen minutes of fame in front of a reader. A writer writes for an audience; that means readers, and publishers want lots of them. It’s all about the platform, or so I thought.

My third go-round landed at message. The message soars on wings of words with the wind of a reader supporting it. The words need a guiding message to hem them in and give them significance. The reader can only understand the words in a message that connects to their mind, heart, or story. The message is large and in charge.

Then Gut-level Honesty…
When I quietly leaned into vulnerability, I had different answers, answers that changed like the weather or depended on the day.

The highs and lows registered as big. A writer can find the highest highs and the lowest lows overwhelming.

This post went viral! Viral? That’s crazy-awesome. I wrote that. I’m crazy-awesome. I can’t wait to get the next installment published!

Four thousand words today? Amazing! I wrote every one of ’em. I’m so proud. I’m amazing!

Brian says my message matters. My message matters. My message matters. My message matters! My message matters! I’m on it!

The last post went viral.  *Checks stats for the 20th time.*  Zero views? Zero? I am nothing!

A negative word count? How does that happen? Another week of this, and I quit! I suck.

Who would read this? Nothing new under the sun, they say. Why bleed on the page if it’s already been said? This is pointless. It’ll never see the light of day.

Oof! Highs and lows could kill a writer. I know them because I’ve been there and done that. I can laugh (now) because I’ve seen the other side of every high and low. Neither lasts forever, and a writer does well to remember that. Enjoy the highs and know most of us don’t live in them. Guard your heart in the lows—and know most of us don’t live in them forever either.

Keep writing on the roller coaster of the writing life. Whatever you do, don’t let a snapshot along the way define your journey. I’ve found I’m not always applauded or amazing, and I’m not always a nobody writing nothing. Be encouraged! It’s a journey with lots of learning along the way.

The Everyday Flow
As a writer generates content, sometimes the words that flow reflect the big things in life. What’s big in your life? Is it the highlight reel of your everyday life (like most Facebook statuses)? Is it the lowlights that have been endlessly chasing you? When a writer captures the everyday flow of life, it can land in the carefully constructed positive perspective or the negative one.

Writer, may I challenge you? The highlight reel is fun. The lowlight reel is tough. If we major on one or the other, we have reel life, not real life. Life ebbs and flows; we move from one moment to another. We can write life authentically including ourselves in the scenes, but it takes some effort to avoid landing in a single reel of life. A reader may like reading about the ordinary, the mundane, the good-bad-and-ugly of it all. The same reader, sensing an unrealistic, plastic life, may decline to engage. Or, sensing there is no joy to be found, may choose to find some elsewhere.

What if a writer chose to describe real life, rather than reel life? It might be interesting for your reader to know there are highs, lows, and everyday flows. Keep things real and in proportion. Give it a shot!

Hey writer, what do you think? Do your emotions ride the highs and lows? Do you write about the reel life or real life? I’m curious. Share away!

~Jennifer

Hey Writer, Connect with Your Reader

Hey Writer, Connect!Writing has a purpose: to be read. Think of it like a time capsule containing ideas, instruction, and emotion. When written thoughts are master-crafted, the brilliance of the work shines when a reader’s eyes find it.

Can I suggest you’re not just smithing words? A writer establishes a relationship. That’s what writing really is. It’s a beautiful relationship—a dance if you like—transcending time and distance on paper or paperless. The work is choreographed movement, and we’d have a tough time deciding who takes the lead. It’s a chicken-egg question, for sure: which came first, the writer’s thoughts or the reader in mind?

Connection
Writing in this century allows for immediate sharing or time to pass. The distance can be down the street or anywhere on the globe with translation! Technology has moved writing and publishing to a whole different level. (Makes me glad I wasn’t born in Mesopotamia thousands of years ago. Cuneiform, anyone?) Still the relationship is a connection—the writer sends an intellectual or emotional message, and the reader receives and engages with those ideas on an intellectual or emotional level. You have to love a meeting of the minds and a connection of the hearts.

Relational responsibility
That’s an intellectual definition up there, but it works. I think the writer is responsible for connection, not the reader, and I have thoughts.

Know your audience. This isn’t new, and maybe it’s been over-done. It’s critical, though. A writer forms the message with a reader in mind. The particulars are sifted through. Will gender, age, vocabulary, or length of the work play in? The smart writer knows if those things are important to the message, and the key factors become part of the relational choreography on the page.

Share the real you. A reader will engage differently when writing is academic (read: cold) and when it is a story with personal details (read: warm). Often the scientific research paper isn’t the place for your personal details. We know that. Where the writer runs into trouble is with a piece that “writes the author out of it.” It’s the difference between “You should _______” and “Can I share my experience with _______?” Done well, the story is captivating and convincing. The second choice has “Engagement” written all over it. Telling coldly and sharing warmly will be received differently. Decide how you’d like to reveal your heart and mind and how you’d like your reader to receive the message.

Have integrity. This means a few things in non-fiction writing.

Write honestly. Create non-fiction works that are truthful and sound in argument or character portrayal. Do your research for non-fiction works that require it.

Have intellectual integrity. This can be difficult. As a rule, our American culture reasons poorly. Logic is rarely taught. A good writer accepts when the argument falls flat. Either that work is re-worked, or it reveals the problems openly (read: not in the fine print).

Presentation matters. Passion about the message is good and right, but incorporating spin, hype, or inciting an audience with fake news is unkind. Choose passionate words well within your style. Consider using the best words stated positively rather than negatively.

In fiction, integrity flows through the work’s message with some of the elements above, but I think there’s more. Create a solid and meaningful plot. The characters and details should be consistent (think: world building or personal description). When confusion sets in a reader notices a misstep in the dance.

Share your heART. Don’t miss this. Share from the heart to your reader even when you’re tempted to lean into the brain academically. When you care deeply about the message, the writing process feels different to both the author and the reader. Writing is an art, and it is art. Imagine what might happen if that ten-page paper had a little more heart behind it. Poetry and creative writing leans into the heart very naturally. Writing blog posts about writing might not. Unless—

Love makes the words go ’round. Want your words to connect meaningfully, to have a full dance card with reader after reader engaging? It’s about the love, baby. Think about your reader. Do you know what she needs? Do you know the air she breathes, the vital source of life she’s seeking? Do you know her pains and sorrows, her joys and thrills? Write to those things because you care.

Love your reader. She’s waiting to experience your choreography in the work. Whatever you offer her, make sure you gift artfully crafted words of truth and integrity (fiction or non-) from your authentic heart. Let the work be motivated by love, to enrich her life, whether for inspiration, education, or her deep, soulish joy. It’s for her.

Connect deeply. Go change the world with your good words, writer!

~Jennifer

Hey Writer, Mind the Margin

Speed. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? A drawn-out sigh escapes when the laptop takes longer than a few seconds to boot. Four minutes is forever when the microwave turntable holds a potato. Red lights are always too long as we hustle from one thing to another in our booked-solid schedule. Once upon a time the drive was precious thinking time—creative, playful, plot twist and storyline exploration time—it’s nothing like it was. Rush hour traffic stole it all away, then the rush hours’ intensity and anxiety bled into every part of the day.

Wait. No, really—wait.

The writer’s mind should be tended, cared for with gentleness and respect. Honestly, this is for writers, but it’s not just about writers. Don’t we all find our RPMs too high every so often, or too often? There’s noticeable wobble happening at a certain point. (Don’t make me out to be a liar. You experience this too, right?)

It starts innocently enough. Where did I leave that _______? Why am I in this room? (I was looking for something.) Ooops! I really meant to be there, but I never got the meeting into my calendar. The deadline is when? You get the picture. My though process gets loose and disorganized; and forgetfulness begins to sprawl, affecting more and more brain cells. When I notice these things, it’s time to take the early warning signs seriously.

Additionally, I find the important, scheduled things in my days are dismissed or overlooked altogether. I have a favorite morning practice that feeds my mind and soul. When I see I’m rushing off without some quiet, focused time in the morning, that’s a  serious sign that I’m living too fast.

Writers are mindful of the margin because there are guidelines for assignments, papers, projects, and contest and publishing submissions. The white space is not only necessary but also clearly directed. The reader’s eye and writer’s mind need white spacend the writer gives the margin a close look when red ink feedback is found there.10 2018 Margin jjhowe

Back to the white space in life. The mind needs margin rest. We like to think we can be high-capacity people with off-the-charts productivity. While hard work is necessary and even recommended six days of the week, rest is critical. I even press for something a little more gentle—white space within the day for your mental, physical, and spiritual well being.

The care and feeding of the mind and soul of a writer should include white space in life. That slow (read: boring) time in the schedule allows for creativity not found in frenetic activity. It feeds the mind, and that feeds the theme paper, creative project, or good words a writer hopes for.

More importantly, the writer’s soul needs tending. The good words flow from the soul that is rested, fed, and well-loved. The writer who leans into the emotional state to create needs a stable soul to share the vital message or story that resides deep inside. To share significant, meaningful content, the writer must have significant, meaningful “stuff” inside. That, my friend, comes from reading and thinking and precious relationships.

In my life that comes from reading life-changing, truth-filled words in my Bible, thinking about how I live my life differently because I read that, and talking about the truths with God and good friends. That fills my soul! I wonder what fills yours.

I hope this helps you begin to plan the margin, the beautiful white space, in your schedule. I’m betting, if it’s not planned, you’ll never fit it in. Nature and schedules abhor a vacuum.

Feeling bold? Share how you plan to adjust your margin below. This could be really helpful for those who struggle to know how to make a schedule that feeds and cares for the body, mind, and soul.

Thanks for reading!

~Jennifer

Believing God: Promises Kept

Blog Graphic_ Smoke (orange overlay)Hello, friends. I’m so glad you’ve stopped by to take a peek at what’s new in my little corner of cyberspace. This post is my attempt to share the speaking material I brought to a women’s event last week, though I’m not sure any of it exclusively pertains to women. I think you’ll see why.

The overarching theme for the night was settled: Becoming a Woman Who Walks with Jesus. When I began to think about “walking with Jesus,” I noodled what it might mean to walk with Him, and if there might be significance to the “what” and “how” of that.

My own story includes a sweet moment in time when a friend told me about the “relationship” part of Christianity. Through that conversation I knew Christianity was attending church, but I suspected it was also more than attending church. I knew it was knowing what the Bible said, but I secretly hoped it was also more than knowing what the Bible said.

Twenty-five years ago I didn’t know that being “saved” wasn’t the one-and-done prayer I prayed. I had no idea that life could still be hard after I prayed. And I really didn’t know how sweet that relationship with God could be.

Maybe that’s why, when I thought about this night, one word dominated my mind: Believe. The verses I trust Holy Spirit brought to mind almost immediately and very strongly were the ones about Abraham believing God.

Do you know those verses?

For what does the Scripture say? Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness. Romans 4:3 CSB

Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Romans 4:18 NIV

So the Scripture was fulfilled that says, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness , and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23 CSB

Believing God
What was Abraham believing? He must be believing in the existence of God—and His good, loving heart
. He must have trusted the words he heard—the promises from God
. And he believed in the truth and permanence of both
. Ultimately, he trusted in God’s power to keep the promises.

Let’s talk about Promises…
A promise’s value and worth lies somewhere within the promise itself. Some are better than others. In the Bible some are for specific people (in a place or time). The promises are still good and reveal something to us today about the character and power of God. Some of the promises are for us today, and I think we should pay special attention to those.

Most importantly, a promise is nearly completely dependent upon the one making it! When someone speaks a promise but never makes good on it, we question their integrity or sanity, or both. (Or we question our own for believing the lies so many times, don’t we?)

These aren’t ordinary promises; they are God’s.

Is God a Promise Maker…and Keeper?
For me to trust any of God’s promises, I would want to see what’s true of His character first. If even one was broken, then trust in any of them would be altogether foolish. If God is even a little wishy-washy, I don’t want to trust Him. Period. Who would? Any list of promises I could compile might be full of half-truths, lies, or bait-and-switch moves, right?

So what does the Bible say?

God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

Furthermore, the Eternal One of Israel does not lie or change His mind, for He is not man who changes his mind.” 1 Samuel 15:29

…in the hope of eternal life that God, who cannot lie, promised before time began, Titus 1:2

Joshua, who experienced the leadership of Moses, up-close-and-personal, testifies to the promises of God:

Not one good thing that ADONAI had spoken of to the household of Isra’el failed to happen; it all took place. Joshua 21:45 CJB

“Not one good thing.” Every one of the promises was fulfilled. Joshua would know (Numbers 11:28).

God was truthful in in Moses’ time, but what about now? Are the promises for a group of people in a land far away who are long dead and gone?

I’m thankful Paul writes

For however many promises God has made, they all find their “Yes” in connection with him; that is why it is through him that we say the “Amen” when we give glory to God. 21 Moreover, it is God who sets both us and you in firm union with the Messiah; he has anointed us, 22 put his seal on us, and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee for the future. 2 Corinthians 1:20-22 CJB

God’s promise to Abraham
God’s foundational promise to Abraham was made in sacrifice and covenant. In Genesis 15 we notice the “blood path” covenant made. I see that the LORD walked through, but not Abraham. Long story short, only God could keep the promise being made. Making this kind of promise was saying “May it be to me—may I be torn apart and killed as the animals lining the path—if this covenant is broken.” The LORD makes this covenant and is saying, “If you (Abraham) break this covenant, may it be to me, not you.”

God’s Promise to Us
God’s foundational promise of love to us was made on a hill outside Jerusalem on an execution stake. Jesus, the God-man, at the cross is our covenant with God fulfilled.

For it is clear that He [Jesus] does not reach out to help angels, but to help Abraham’s offspring. Therefore He had to be like His brothers in every way, so that He could become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:16-17

“May it be to Me…”
Jesus was beaten, torn apart, and killed. For us. That promise was kept.

God said, “I will…” We say, “I believe You” with our all our hearts when we give Him our lives!

We have been given an incredible gift at the cross. The payment for sin is death, and none of us could pay the debt to holy, perfect God. In His great love for us, God has given us a second gift.

The Promise to Help Us
Ultimately, God promised to rescue us, and He did at that execution stake. Yet we still live in this world, as messed up and distorted as it is. But it’s not the end. God promised those who love Jesus a “seal…a guarantee for the future,” Holy Spirit in us.

In our covenant with God, He waits for us ask the Father to show Himself and His love, to be near and present as our Daddy-God. He waits for us to choose Him, to ask Him to intervene, to ask Jesus to forgive and cover our sin, and to ask Holy Spirit to teach, lead, help us moment-by-moment. Out of that relationship with God, through Jesus—we live out of that and have the ability and desire to obey His wise and loving direction.

Friend, the promise of redemption is real, and it’s for everyone. Better yet, we can be sure it was made to us and kept! From Genesis to Revelation, the story is all about one single promise: our redemption.

That begins with an intimate moment with Jesus at the cross and continues every day until we see God face-to-face (when our redemption is complete).

“B-b-b-but, God…”
God makes and keeps promises. In faith on a good day, I can believe that. But I’m human and faith-challenged sometimes. Truthfully, I have a lot in common with “doubting Thomas” (John 20)
 and the desperate father of the boy controlled by a spirit (Mark 9). I can just hear my heart saying the same words—

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24

I ask myself, How would I, or anyone, know I believe His promises? I answer that question differently today than at other times.

Some time ago, I thought listening and repeating truth equaled belief. Now I know truth informs belief, but believing God’s promises is more than that.

Trusting the words I read to be true begins to get at it. But want to be very clear I’m not talking about blind or misplaced faith in the words. Thankfully, as we look closely at Scripture, we can see that studying the whole of the Bible informs the whole of it. Authors agree across the distances of time and space.

Now, living like it’s true—thinking, speaking, and acting according to the belief—that’s when believing the promises has legs!

I find it helpful to remember these things:

God’s promises are written down in the Bible.
God’s character is revealed in the promises He makes and keeps.
His promises to me show His love for me.

What are God’s promises to me?
I’ve been on the hunt for some of God’s individual promises (in addition to the foundational two I fleshed out: the cross and the Spirit). I think I found two kinds of promises.

Some are what I might call “blanket promises” that are gifts.

But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9a CSB

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 CSB

The grace and the good work are His to do. Blanket promises sound a little like these two, and they show the beautiful heart of God to us in the things we cannot earn or increase in any way. When you read Scripture, take a close look to see if there is a promise embedded in the passage you’re reading. Is it a gift to you from God?

Then there are the promises we participate in. These are some of my favorites because they speak to the relationship with Him that I desperately need and want to cultivate.

All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. Matthew 11:29 CSB

When I’m in relationship with God through Jesus, I can choose to learn God’s ways (and do them), as Jesus teaches and the Spirit empowers. Then I see there is the promise of rest. I don’t see striving or living up to some imagined expectation. I see relationship leading to a beautiful life.

For me, as one who often strives for so many things (including perfection), this promise of rest means more to me than many others. What does that rest mean to you? When you read, be on the lookout for opportunity to partner with God, knowing He infuses you with all you need.

One Final Thought…
What have we done to the Christianity and its Gospel? An old, broken, distorted view reigns until we understand the truth and reality of the Gospel (which is every redemptive promise God makes to us).

I’ve noticed a new theme when we discuss the Christian life: we do Christianity. We have an unspoken hope to attain some kind of spiritual maturity through the disciplines—all of which are beautiful gifts to cultivate our relationship with God, but are never the things by which we reach relationship with Him.

I’ve also seen a “one-and-done” mindset when it comes to being saved and

I might suggest that we believe God.

Is there a difference? What do you think?

Thanks for reading along. This is a good deal of my talk, with a few additions and minimal eliminations. I’d love to hear what you think!

Below you’ll find the discussion questions made available to the groups that night, too.

Enjoy!

Jennifer

 


Group Questions:

Do I believe God’s promises? Why or why not?

 

God, what are your promises? Which ones can I recall? (Make a list including promises you think you know and the ones you’ve found in Scripture.)

 

Which promises are for me? (List verses, so you can go back to them when you need to.)

 

Verses from tonight:
Abraham: Romans 4:3, 18; James 2:23
Truthful God: Numbers 23:19; Joshua 21:45; 1 Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2
Abrahamic Covenant: Genesis 15
God’s promises (Jesus and Holy Spirit): 2 Corinthians 1:20-22; Hebrews 2:16-17
“Blanket promises” or gifts: 2 Corinthians 12:9a; Philippians 1:6
Promises we participate in: Matthew 11:29

Hey Writer—What Exactly is Failure?

Snowflakes and Superpowers

I guess I’m coming out of my hidey hole a little behind the headlines these days. There’s some buzz about an author who determined that two rejected novels equals failure. Of course, that would be painful! And I can empathize.

My thoughts? This is a sign of the times.

In our culture, we tell our kids they are special snowflakes in a gentle flurry. They are perfectly brilliant crystals drifting in November flurry. We grant them superpowers and tell them they can do anything. Parents want to give children the time to discover themselves and their abilities. “Talk all the time you need—or want,” we say. There’s no deadline to this discovery, of course.

Part of the above is true. We may be leaving out important details, though. I think reality may be closer to a snowflake in a blizzard. The struggle to succeed can feel more like being up against gale-force winds to the point of burnout. The “grit” part is missing from our narrative, and that’s surprising given the grassroots Americans who have worked so hard for generations.

The truth is each of us is a unique and powerful individual! Without work or a solid work ethic, it’s likely to be a hard road that may just be easier to walk away from. Writing is hard under some of the best conditions. Pour your sweat on the page or bleed all over it, and it’s personal. I get that. Maybe technical manual writers can say there’s no emotional investment in their writing, I don’t know. We write for personal reasons, and we offer something of ourselves in every sculpted sentence on the page.

But there’s something that’s not so personal. The reality is there are a myriad of writers composing works. We can respect that, but when we start writing, we speak into a very large body of water. All our thoughts may be excellent, but there is competition for the readers’ eyeballs (mainly getting in front of them) and their wallets, honestly. If I write well, that’s awesome, but that isn’t the end of the story. There are so many other parts.

I’m learning so much about the Millennial generation. As a Gen X-er, I’m curious about what’s up and coming in the culture, but I’m also aware of what’s common to humanity. Learning the hard truth about hard work—timeliness, deadlines, and being one of many in a very large pool—is part of life. And life is a tough teacher. Dismissing the “rules” doesn’t make the efforts for naught, but it sure reinforces that the efforts and opinions of everyone else are a factor. Where best-selling authors collected and practically honored the hundreds of rejection letters in their early writing years, we’re dejected and depressed in the single digits.

I get it. I’ve balked or chosen to walk from the hard stuff in life many times. I won’t lie. I preferred ease, comfort, praise, and success (in that order). But the good things, things worth , are rarely gifted to us. Instead, they are hard-fought battles more often than not. If it’s worth having, it’s worth fighting for, isn’t it?

God willing, I’ll persist in the writing challenge that lies before me. If I really have a story, a message, and an audience that needs to hear my voice in the conversation, I can’t balk or walk. It’s my raison d’etre. Dare I say, it’s my calling? I think so.

And that’s when I decide to answer the 5 W Questions of writing, the biggest being my “Why.” I wrote about that here.

Regarding the parting shot in the original article: I’m working on something, and I probably won’t be quiet about it. You see, my “why” flame is bigger than something a publisher, editor, or critic will snuff out. If my God leads me to it, He’ll lead me through it, no doubt.

Thanks for reading along. I love to share thoughts and kick them around with others. What do you think about this article that’s getting some attention? Have you responded to the post on your blog? Share below, of course!

~j