Monday, January 22, 2018

Writer, Don't Despise Small Beginnings

By Andrea Merrell

The writing and publishing industry is a wonderful, exciting, terrifying place. Can I get an amen?

When attending my first writers’ conference, I was overwhelmed … the proverbial fish out of water. What in the world am I doing here? I asked myself for days. I was completely outside my comfort zone, not to mention my element. Observing and speaking with others who had achieved varying levels of success almost convinced me I would never make it. But I hung in there and persevered.

Fast forward ten years. Since that first encounter with the industry, I now have three nonfiction books published (LPC Books), have contributed to numerous anthologies, and even won a few awards. I have written hundreds of devotions, articles, short stories, and blog posts, and am currently working on three novels. For the past few years, it has been my privilege to teach at a variety of writers’ conferences—something I never dreamed possible. But will all these "accomplishments," the greatest blessing of all would have to be the countless number of amazing people that have crossed my path over the years, many of whom have become close friends.

Why do I say all this? Those of you who know me well understand that I’m definitely not one to toot my own horn (that’s why marketing is my Achilles heel). The reason for sharing these achievements is to show you what God can do in your life when you obediently step into your calling and trust Him to lead the way.

And it all happens with small beginnings. Zechariah 4:10 says Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord  rejoices to see the work begin …

Moving toward my God-given destiny began with someone handing me a business card. My connection with that writer and speaker led to a small writer’s retreat, my first conference, and several life-long friendships. As I continued to move forward—one tentative baby step at a time—God opened doors of opportunity I never even knew existed. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that God has a plan and purpose for our lives. That’s a promise you can take to the bank.

When something small happens to you, especially in your writing career, you may tend to overlook it or think it unimportant. But look at the life and ministry of Jesus. He could have chosen hundreds of disciples, but He carefully selected twelve. He could have called down manna from heaven, but He fed thousands of hungry people on a hillside with a small boy’s lunch. Jesus shows us how a mustard seed—the tiniest of seeds—can grow into a massive tree and how a pinch of yeast raises a lump of dough to be made into bread. These are all kingdom principles that teach us valuable lessons.

What drives you as a writer? Do you have a heart to write for God or simply desire to see your name on the cover of a book? Are you willing to do what it takes to learn the craft and perfect your gift, or are you trying to advance by skipping important—and necessary—steps? Do you want to be bigger or better?

Pastor and author Bob Gass says, “All the prayers in the world won’t pressure Him (God) into giving you what you are not ready to handle.”

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Most people would succeed in small things if they weren’t troubled with blind ambition.”

Jesus said, “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much (Luke 16:10 NIV).

Nobody wants to be a flash in the pan—well-known and successful today and gone tomorrow. Bigger may be easier to measure, but gradual success is a solid foundation that is valuable, lasting, and fulfilling.

Writer, if God has called you and given you the gift of words, commit that gift to Him, take one baby step at a time, and watch what He’ll do. Don’t allow yourself to get discouraged, and never compare yourself with others. God has great blessings in store for you, and His timing is always perfect. Don’t ever despise small beginnings. Be thankful for each step forward and believe that God will open amazing doors of opportunity made just for you. With Him, all things are possible.

Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/markuso, nenetus, and Andrea Merrell.)


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Monday, January 8, 2018

Writer, Make 2018 Your Most Productive Year

By Linda Gilden

My favorite Christmas gift this year was a big whiteboard for my office. In some ways it feels old school but in others, it feels like a brand new start. I am going to keep up with my deadlines and writing goals better than ever.

Every year in January I vow this year will be more productive than the last. I will write on a better schedule. I will try a new genre. I will keep all my projects on a calendar and meet my word count for each one every day. I will get endorsements before I am done writing my book. I will query for at least five articles a month. I will do my best not to miss my quiet time each day. The list goes on and on. And, of course, the last one on the list every year—I will exercise more.

All these things are well-intended but rarely come to fruition. This year, I said to myself, is going to be different!

How can I possibly make so many changes in the way I work? How can I be more productive in 2018?

Don’t Overcommit
Why is it so hard to say no? Every year there are many writing opportunities. Figure out which ones best fit the purpose and mission of your writing and stick to them.

Make Use of all the Digital Assistance Available
This year I am going to learn more about how to make my devices work for me.

Keep a Visual Plan in Front of You
Here is where my new whiteboard comes in. I need to be able to see where I am and how each project fits into my schedule with the others. I can post deadlines and submission dates. And if I need to adjust a bit to make it all work, it is easily done.

Plan Times of Rest and Refreshment into Your Days
As a fairly busy writer, I have found if I don’t plan for “play” time, it doesn’t always happen. Schedule time with your family and children to make sure you are making plenty of memories. Unplanned interruptions as well lead to precious family times. Don’t overlook them as bonus opportunities with your family. You can finish your article later.

Whether you use a whiteboard, keep a written calendar, or schedule your goals digitally, won’t you join me in my efforts to make 2018 the most productive and organized writing year yet?

(Photo courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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Linda Gilden is an award-winning author, speaker, editor, ghostwriter, and writing coach. Author of twelve books and over a thousand magazine articles, Linda loves helping others discover the joy of writing. Her twelfth book, Articles, Articles, Articles will be released early this year. Linda lives in SC with family and loves every minute spent with her six grandchildren (great writing material). Visit www.lindagilden.com.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Take a Risk in 2018

By Andrea Merrell
Are you a risk-taker? I’m not talking about being a daredevil or doing dangerous stunts, simply someone who has the courage and ambition to try new endeavors.
I’ll have to admit, I’m not very adventurous. I like to play it safe, staying well inside my comfort zone. But one morning during my quiet time with the Lord, I was reading my daily devotional from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young and it addressed this very subject:
Be willing to go out on a limb with Me. If that is where I am leading you, it is the safest place to be. Your desire to live a risk-free life is a form of unbelief. Your longing to live close to me is at odds with your attempt to minimize risk. You are approaching a crossroads in your journey. In order to follow me wholeheartedly, you must relinquish your tendency to play it safe.
Going out on that proverbial limb can be scary but as Sarah Young so aptly puts it, if that’s where God is leading, it’s the “safest place to be.”

Everyone has that dreaded fear of the unknown to some degree. Some push past it easily and take the plunge, while those of us who want to know exactly what’s ahead tend to hold back and wait for a clear signal.

I can tell you that the times I have moved out of my comfort zone and taken that leap of faith, God has been right there, holding my hand and guiding my steps. There is no greater satisfaction or fulfillment than being obedient and walking in our calling.

So, my question for you on this first day of the New Year is are you ready to take a risk? Are you willing to make a commitment to move forward in 2018 and do those things you’ve been shying away from?

Attend a Writers’ Conference
Maybe you’ve never attended a writers’ conference. My first one was a bit overwhelming because I didn’t know exactly what to expect. But it was the catalyst that God used to propel me into the writing career He had planned for me. This is where you begin to learn the basics, grow in the craft, build your network and platform, and meet the most amazing people you will ever meet.

Join a Critique Group
Perhaps you’re hesitant to get involved in a critique group. Putting your words—your baby—out there for feedback from others can be very intimidating. This is where we have to develop what some call a writer’s rhino skin. Accept your critique with grace and don’t take it personally. It will only make you a better writer.

Blogging
How about that blog you’ve been meaning to launch? Maybe you’re blogging but need to be more consistent. Could it be that your website needs a face lift?

Contests
Is there a contest you’d like to enter? Don’t put it off. Go for it.

Follow-through
Has an editor or publisher requested material from you? You’d be surprised how many times we ask for a proposal or chapters from a writer and never get them. If you’re given that open door, walk through it.

Social Media
Afraid of social media? I was at one time, but it’s a necessary tool for writers. Just remember it’s not all about promoting yourself or your books—it’s about building relationships. Use what you have, and build as you go. Promote others whenever you can. Use the law of sowing and reaping.

Just Do It
Write that devotion or article. Contact other bloggers and ask if you can be a guest on their blog, or invite them to be a guest on your blog. Inquire about speaking engagements. Finish your manuscript. Whatever you’ve been putting off, now is the time to do it.

It’s a New Year. Instead of dwelling on the past, look to the future. As you make your to-do list for 2018, pray for guidance and creative ideas. Add a few items that will require you to climb out on that limb, knowing God will be right there with you.

But what if it doesn’t work? you might be thinking. But what if it does? We never know until we try. I’ve always heard it said that we will end up regretting the things we didn’t do more than the things we did. Pastor and author Bob Gass puts it this way: "The only way to know you've discovered your niche is to try things, take risks, learn from your failures and successes, and discover what God has gifted you to do."

Are you willing to take a risk?

What can you add to the list? Is there something in particular you’ve been struggling with but want to step out in faith? We would love to hear from you.

Alycia and I would like to wish you 
a blessed and prosperous New Year!

(Photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net and Stuart Miles.)

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