October 31, 2014

Facing Our Giant Fears by Craig Funston


We are pleased to welcome Craig Funston, long time InScribe member, as our Guest Blogger today.

I say “David,” and you think “Sweet Psalmist of Israel,” or Israel's best king—maybe even something as unkind (but true) as a Royal Philanderer. But how about “David the Writer”? Take the melody out of the few Psalms he wrote, and they're words without a tune—a hymn without the hum, if you will.

David the shepherd-cum-warrior-cum-king is a good metaphor for all writers. I don't want to take away from the veracity of Scriptures because it is a bona fide historical story, that of David and Goliath: There was a battle, David was there, and God was with him. If one word could sum up the many experiences in I Samuel 17, it would be the word “fear.”

David had enough fears to stop him at any stage of the battle: those of leaving his sheep, stars, and surroundings; of his brothers' nasty comments; finally, of King Saul's awkward weaponry.

I'm sure all writers have these same fears, namely, leaving their comfort zone, tolerating the opinions of others, and just an overall sense of feeling their ill-preparedness for the task at hand.

But the biggest fear (literally) was that of overwhelming odds, the unwanted thrust into the public eye, that sense of now-or-never. You might call it,“Facing the Giant.” Not only did he face Goliath, but he actually challenged him and honoured God at the same time—and putting aside his fears in the process.

He faced his fears because he had the full confidence that God was motivating and moving him. He knew that if he had his way, he would still be killing ticks in the hills, not giants in the valley.

Are there any Goliaths in your life? Any people or experiences that assault your faith, convictions, or well-being, looming larger than life itself? God had taken David from the friendly climes of those Judean hills to the ugly battlefield. He could no longer stand by and see the honour of his God and devastation of His people unfold because of one huge hunk of humanity. The occasion had presented itself, and David rose to it.

My fears as a writer follow this same pattern: Called to write, but afraid of so many things, just like David. He moved out of the pastures of his comfort zone, past his brothers of malicious opinions, then in and out of unfit preparation.

David's strength of character wasn't because he was a character of strength. It was God Who had called him and empowered him to do this great deed. Likewise, if God has called you to write, you need to leave your comfort zone, get beyond what others say, get ready or prepared (“fit”) for each good work that He has called you to.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear that if God calls you, He will equip you (I Thessalonians 5.24).

You may have many giants that you fear but must face. Here's an encouragement: You're not alone, and you can't lose. Not when God is behind, within, and ahead of you.

I think David would agree. In fact, he himself chronicled his musings, both defeats and victories—we could almost call them a blog today. They're called the Psalms.

Craig Funston has had a call on his life to write for many decades. This has been expressed in newspaper columns, Gospel tracts, magazine editorship, and editing--among other things. He is always looking for more regular opportunities to write. The newspaper column in particular has been a wonderful outlet for his witty, direct, and current events approach. By passion, he is a writer and an actor; by profession, he is a classroom teacher and a homeschool supervisor. He lives south of Lethbridge, Alberta, with his wife, Gwynne.

October 30, 2014

Undaunted - by Susan Barclay

This month we've been asked to share and confront our fears. As a writer, what am I afraid of?

I've pondered this question and concluded that I have two basic fears: 1) that I won't finish (and therefore, my stories will never gain a readership), and 2) that what I have to say has no real value.

You may remember from a previous post that I've been working on my novel for quite a few years. I was hoping that this would be the year I'd finish it so I could move on to the next stage of getting it ready for publication, but a couple of major things have happened to make that improbable. Even for the pieces I have finished (i.e. picture books), it's been a while since I've submitted, and you can't get published if you don't send stuff out. Is it fear of rejection that forestalls me? No, I can handle rejection - each one brings me closer to success - it's finding the time to do the task. At the moment, time for myself is a commodity of which I don't have much.

As to the value of what I have to say, I mean eternal value. For sure, there's no real lasting value in the books I've written for preschoolers; they're cute stories, intended purely for entertainment. Nor is there lasting value in two of the three romancey short stories or one of the two Chicken Soup for the Soul stories I've had published so far. While there is something to be said for giving the reader a momentary escape from the daily grind, or in bringing a smile to her face, as a writer who is also Christian, God is the audience I wish to please most. Is He pleased with my more frivolous pieces?



There is a popular phrase today. You see it often on the back of pick-up trucks:
No Fear
I think of the reason I need not fear:

I look up to the mountains—does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lordwho made heaven and earth! (Psalm 121:1-2, NLT)
I know I've taken this out of context, but it still applies. I don't need to worry about whether or not I finish the work. If the Lord wants my words to go forth, He will equip me to make it happen. He will give me the time I need; He will give me life and breath and skill. Yes, I need to use all that wisely, to steward it to the best of my ability. And if I don't complete my novels and stories, I still need not concern myself. God has other spokespeople He can use; no doubt many of them are more competent than I. Why should I care if He uses them instead of me? It's not about me. It's about glorifying Him.

Aha. When we fear, we are focused on ourselves, not on the One we claim to serve.

As for worrying that my work has no eternal value: when I think about it, my novel and other short stories (in other words, my works in progress), do have important (though I hope non-pedagogical) messages for the reader. A writer and teacher of writing once noted - "you have something to say." So perhaps this 'fear' is largely unfounded. And if God is the giver of stories, as He is the "maker of noses" and "giver of dreams" (Rich Mullins references), won't He ensure that, as a writer who seeks to honour Him, I write accordingly?

There's another well-known phrase we read on bumper stickers:

No Jesus, no peace/ Know Jesus, know peace
Whether we're writers or from any other walk of life, we cannot fear when we have the 'peace that passes understanding' (Philippians 4:7), the peace of Christ.  His perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).

I recently watched the movie Divergent with my family. If you haven't seen it, perhaps it will be a spoiler to learn that, in order not to be found out, the main character, Tris, has to face her fears by thinking like someone who is Dauntless. A person who is fearless, intrepid, and bold, according to the definition at Dictionary.com. Tris has to learn to use the tools that are around her instead of depending on her own 'divergent' thinking.

This is true for us as writers as well. When we feel fear, we need to overcome it, using the tools at our disposal. We need to remember that Christ lives in us, and as such, we have access to peace. We need to remember what God says about who we are in Him. We need to know Scripture, so we can face our accuser and our doubts. We need to trust God, who is our provider.

There are two songs that speak especially well to me on these subjects, one is contemporary, the other an oldie but a goodie. I leave them with you and hope they help free you from today's fears, and tomorrow's as well. 

God bless.

For more of my writing, please visit me at www.susan-barclay.ca

October 29, 2014

Showing up and being obedient - Ruth L. Snyder

Greg McKitrick and Marcia Laycock at Words in the Park
After getting up at 5:15 on weekday mornings, I look forward to sleeping in on Saturday mornings. But not this Saturday. My husband didn't look pleased when I informed him I would be away the whole day. My children are never happy when I leave, but they were excited about going to spend the day at Grandma's farm. We all had breakfast together and were out the door by 8:30.

I was supposed to meet Bobbi Junior at 11:30 at Words in the Park. "Lord," I prayed, "You know I feel like I'd rather be home today. Go before me. Give me the strength and wisdom I need." Before I left, I made sure I printed out driving directions. Everything went well until I arrived where the driving instructions told me to exit onto Sherwood Drive - it was closed due to construction. I drove to the next exit, praying that God would guide me. I don't drive in Sherwood Park very often and only know a couple of the main roadways. I knew that I had to go south-east, so I found a road that looked like a main thoroughfare and turned east. At the next stop light I scanned through the driving directions again and noted the venue was just north of Wye road. I needed to go further south. A couple turns later, I was delighted to see a sign that read "Sherwood Drive" - I was back on track. "Thank you, Lord!" A few minutes later I pulled into a parking lot and looked around. The Strathcona County Library sat directly to the left of the parking lot; I was right where I needed to be. Bobbi already had most of the display set up when I arrived at our reserved table at 11:35.

Greg McKitrick, a member of InScribe, was assigned to the table next to ours, even though we had not requested being together. A young fellow was at the table on the other side. Marcia Laycock arrived half an hour later and added her books to the display. As she was setting up her books, the young fellow's parents dropped by.

"This is my swear at the world," the young fellow said, holding up his book.

His parents nodded and smiled.

I bit my lip. Obviously our world views were vastly different."Lord, calm my fears and give me the words you want me to say to this young man."

The fellow's mother handed him a large poster to put on the wall. He was having difficulty getting it straight.

"I can help if you want," I said.

Soon the poster was hung. He offered Marcia and I chocolate bars as a thank you. We made small talk. I discovered he works as a luggage handler at the local airport. I shared a funny story I'd heard about a GPS system guiding a sleep-deprived woman onto the tarmac. Marcia continued the conversation by sharing what she was learning from her play-writing course.

People dropped by. Several mentioned they had heard about InScribe and they wanted more information. We handed out copies of FellowScript along with membership brochures. Some avid readers asked about our books. In the process of talking with them, I shared about The San Francisco Wedding Planner books I'm writing with four other writers. Later, the young fellow asked me more about what it was like to write with so many other people. He was fascinated by the possibility, but said he didn't think he could work with so many other authors. He left to fulfill his appointed reading from his book and his mother took his place at the table. I shared that her son had been interested in the wedding planner project. She asked a couple questions and then purchased both of the books in the series. After she purchased them she told her friends about them. I teased her about being my marketer.

"I can't wait to read your books. I'll let you know what I think."

"I look forward to your input."

As I thought about the event later, I realized that in other settings I would never have started up a conversation with the young man or his mother. I know that God had a special appointment for me on Saturday. All I had to do was show up and be obedient.

October 28, 2014

... But Deliver Me From Bureaucrats by Bruce Atchison

In spite of my being almost blind, I consider myself wondrously blessed. Thanks to the heavenly Father, I have a beautiful house in a tiny hamlet. It's so peaceful here that I feel like I'm on a permanent writing retreat. Furthermore, I get up when I feel like it, eat when I want to, and I have no physical boss breathing down my neck.

So what's wrong with all that? When I was laid off from the federal government in 1995, the personnel worker placed me on unpaid leave for two years. I received disability pension cheques each month from Sun Life and the government. The reason for the unpaid leave was so that I could have two extra years of pensionable income.

Since I'm still permanently disabled, having lost my left eye to a hemorrhage in 1988, Sun Life sends me a letter each year to confirm that I'm still disabled. Canada Pension Plan, on the other hand, audited me in 2003. My case worker wasn't happy with my doctor's note and the tax forms I had to send in. I never did find out why that was. After ten months, my case worker said in a letter that I was approved to remain on CPP disability BUT warned that I could be audited again at any time without prior notice.

The sword of being investigated hangs over me, even though I haven't received that dreaded telephone call again in more than eleven years. As a result, I worry that I could be cut off from half my pension money at the whim of a distant, dispassionate bureaucrat.

I'd love to be free of that worry but it's the price I pay for being on disability. When I was laid off, a job skills counselor suggested that I should take up freelance writing after I showed him tear sheets of fan magazines which published my music reviews. I also showed him the government newsletters in which my articles about recycling appeared. This seemed to me a golden opportunity. I could write at home while doing what I loved.

Freelance writing and being an author hasn't paid well. Nevertheless, I'm glad I have the freedom to create without the pressure of making a living. Even so, I still live with the haunting suspicion that the next phone call will be my case worker in Ottawa with bad news about my pension.

While I can, I'll spend the next seven years and two months searching for writing work, writing short stories, and promoting my books. I shouldn't worry but I do. Even so, I know intellectually that the heavenly Father will work something out for me. Now that knowledge needs to work its way into my heart.

October 27, 2014

What To Do When Our Writing Goes Up In Flames? by Melanie Fischer

What do you do if your hard work goes up in flames?

Be thankful for smoke signals.

It is better for ones writing piece to go up in flames and give off a smoke signal, than for it not to give off anything at all. It is easy to get wrapped up in the pain of rejections and miss the blessings which lay within them.

We writers tend to fear criticism and rejection, yet it is through this that we have the greatest opportunities for growth. When we pay attention to the signal that rejection is giving off, our skills develop in ways they could not otherwise do so. "Mistakes" give us chances for "retakes". Life's speed-bumps allow us to slow down when we may be spinning out of control. And, the long routes are the most scenic ones.

Maybe it was not God's timing. We certainly do not want to go against the Lord's time, which would cause greater grief than a rejection letter.

Maybe the words which were penned needs to go deeper. There is a tendency to keep our message shallow when we are digging into sensitive topics--depth has much greater impact on the reader.

Maybe the words that you thought you wrote for others, was instead, a message that you needed to hear.

No matter the reason why a piece is turned down, pay attention to what signal it is giving off. This is the way to learn, grow, stretch, strengthen and become who the Lord has created you to be. If you receive a rejection letter, you can crumple it up and use it to wipe away your tears. Or, you can fan the flames and receive clear smoke signals in order to understand how to be the best steward of this gift of writing that you can possibly be.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you" declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

October 26, 2014

Second Hand News by Marnie Pohlmann

In our first world society, we readily buy what we do not need and throw away what we do not want. Our garbage dumps fill with things that still have life, or that someone can re-purpose to a new life. We send our trash far across the sea to be disposed of where people do not have the ability to say, "Not in my back yard!" Yet these same people in third world countries scour those piles of refuse for useful pieces they can keep, trade, or sell.

Antique stores have always been fascinating to those who could afford them, but second-hand stores, thrift shops, garage sales, and charity depots have become lifesavers for those who struggle to make ends meet, and hobbies for those who like the challenge to refurbish what others do not want. Truly, as the popular saying goes, "one man's junk is another man's treasure."

Writing seems to follow this same desire of discovery. What can I write that has not already been written and shared in a clearer or more entertaining way? What can I teach that others do not already know, and what can I share that others would find of value? The answer has always been - probably nothing. Yet, I now realize writing what is not new should not stop me from offering it as treasure.

“Nothing under the sun is truly new.” (Eccl 1:9b NLT) As I write, teach or share from my own perspective, I in effect take what I experience and discover in my life and throw it out to let others look at it. Some may look past what I offer and not be interested. Some may read yet not find it valuable enough to add to their life collection of learning. Nevertheless, perhaps someone may find a nugget in what I offer, or be able to take a piece and re-purpose it to fit the needs of their own circumstances.

No, I have nothing to say that others have not already said. I have nothing to teach that others have not already discovered. I have nothing to share from my life that others have not already shared. Yet I have a calling by God to use His gift to me, a love of words, to write through the lens of my own life, to teach what I learn from His Word, to share how He walks beside me in life. Even if all I write ends up in the garbage dump, God can place my garbage where it can benefit someone, somewhere, somehow.

So I will write about how God walks with me through hurts, forgiveness, and healing. I will teach what God teaches me through His Word. I will share how God is merciful, loving, and has a sense of humour. I will write these pieces in a way that is uniquely me, and even though what I write, discover, and share may not be new under the sun, I can toss out the words, offering my second-hand news to the world around me. Perhaps my junk will be someone's treasure.

Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
Phil 4:9 (NLT)

October 25, 2014

You Know You Can By Vickie Stam

I can remember a time when I had a strong desire to watch a 'spine-chiller' on the big screen. As soon as one was advertised on television; I was hooked. I wanted to go. No matter how long the line up, I refused to leave until I was certain the tickets were sold out. But I wasn't alone. Being with someone made it easy to persevere. Nasty rain pellets couldn't dampen our spirits nor shivering in the blistering cold. Nothing could keep us away.

It was the experience of terror that I enjoyed. Sitting in the dark with my popcorn in hand I could feel my heart racing long before the opening credits started to roll and when they did I knew I was in for a chilling ride.

The eerie background music almost always set the tone that something frightening was about to happen. I quickly set my popcorn down and waited; not with eyes wide open but with eyes shut and hands shielding them so not even a trickle of horror could seep through. Other moments I cupped my hands over my ears hoping to drown out the blood curdling screams. I saw what I needed to see and heard what I needed to hear. The entire time my heart was leaping inside my chest but when I was caught off guard I jumped sending pebbles of popcorn everywhere. Afterwards, I laughed. I loved every minute of it!

So, why did I rush to see something that raised the hair on my arms? Why did I choose to witness something that left me clutching the sides of my seat in terror? Because I loved being caught in the grip of fear. I enjoyed the element of surprise. Imagine if all these years later I could say the same thing when I'm faced with the fears of writing.

"I love every minute of it." "I love being afraid."

Too bad that watching a scary flick and putting words down on paper do not bring about the same fears. The techniques I used while watching a 'spine-chiller' are not the most affective tools to use when it comes time to writing. Covering my eyes and ears simply isn't productive.

What I do know is that all those years ago I embraced something I enjoyed. I didn't care what anyone thought. I was having a good time. If I apply that same strategy to my writing I'm bound to produce something incredible simply because "I love every minute of it!"

Sure, I need to remind myself why it is that I write, especially when my fears are trying to convince me that I'm not good enough, that no one will like what I've written and no one will want to read it. The list could go on.

I realize that not all fear is bad. It teaches me to persevere. It tests me; calling on me to do my best. So when I feel my fears creeping up on me.... I'm glad that I'm not alone. I'm glad that I have friends and family who encourage my pleasure for writing. "Keep writing! they say...Don't stop! Don't be afraid! You can do it! You know you can!"

Psalm 118:6 "The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?"

October 24, 2014

If I Weren't Afraid by Tandy Balson

Several years ago I had a picture over my desk that said, “What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?” It’s a question I have often contemplated. Fear has been my companion for a very long time. I’m learning to fight through it but it’s still a struggle.

Volunteering to write this blog is part of my fight. I’m fairly new to writing and the thought of writing to theme terrifies me. For that very reason I chose to do this.

When I told my husband about my plans to contribute to the blog site and how I was feeling, he didn’t give me traditional words of encouragement. Instead he said, “Fear is the opportunity to be courageous.”

Looking back to when I felt God calling me to write, I remember my fear and feelings of inadequacy. God directed me to write down the lessons He’d been teaching me. Words had never flown as freely as they did the day I obeyed. I realized then that the words did not come from me, but through me.

When He asked me to share these lessons with others the fear flared up. How could I share something so close to my heart? I prayed for courage to overcome this fear.

God was patient as I shared with only a few people. Encouragement from them gave me the courage to share with others. One told me if I truly believed these words were given to me by God, I should have no fear in sharing them. What a revelation for me. I wasn’t sharing my words, I was sharing His.

Tears streamed down my cheeks and fear paralyzed me the day a friend suggested I write a regular blog and share what God was teaching me. She then encouraged me by saying, “What if God wants to bless you through this?” Her words went straight to my heart. After praying about it, God gave me the courage to proceed.

My fears and inadequacies surface on a regular basis. When I need courage and confidence I repeat a verse from Philippians 4:13. For I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength.

Rejection was something that took me by surprise. If I was letting God’s words flow through me, then why didn’t everyone think they were as wonderful as I did? It made me question whether I had really listened to God. Maybe I had misinterpreted his message to me and was doing the wrong thing.

My first major experience with rejection was at a writer’s conference. On day one the comments about my writing were not positive. Discouraged, I felt I had no right to be there. Who did I think I was, calling myself a writer? I prayed that night asking God to let me be open to the feedback of more experienced writers. If I was on the wrong track, could he please let me know?

The appointment I had with an editor the next morning gave me the positive reinforcement I needed. She even gave me a contact to send my work to.

The lesson for me was that everyone doesn’t have to agree with my style of writing. I need to be true to the calling that God has placed on my heart.

Rejection still stings and fears still arise. When I face those fears I can move forward. With God’s help I will be courageous as I share the words He has given me.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4 NIV



October 23, 2014

FEAR - To Run or To Rise by Terrie Lynne

Recently, I came upon a quote by Zig Ziglar:

" F-E-A-R has two meanings:

'Forget Everything And Run' or
'Face Everything And Rise.'

The choice is yours".

I have to admit I've acted upon this quote at different times in my life. I know there have been times in the past when I have felt afraid to write what was really on my heart because of fear - real or imagined - of other peoples' opinions, backlashes or facing my own pain. But then there have been times I have trusted my heart, rising instead of running. 

When I write I try to balance having compassion and respect for others’ beliefs and opinions while not losing my own convictions. When I finish writing something, I'll set it aside then go back later to read what I've written, giving myself a chance to think and to see if what I am writing is from my head or from my heart. If I still feel a conviction in my heart and believe it's going to be beneficial, either to someone out there or even just for my own personal growth, I will post it.
I believe that there is healing in our writing and that it is a way for our voices to be heard.  The pen is our “microphone" and the paper our “stage”. Our audience is the readers. I heard it said that what we do, we do for an audience of One, the Author and Finisher of our faith. Which is the most important voice of all! So whenever I write, I try not to let my fears get the best of me or keep me from being true to my Savior and to myself. I hope you too will be encouraged to do the same. 
photo courtesy of photopin.com

October 21, 2014

The Mountains Look Smaller in the Rear-View Mirror Jocelyn Faire

I can honestly say I am not afraid of ebola.
I am not afraid that I will be blown up by a terrorist.
I am not afraid that I will contract Aids.
I have only had my cholesterol levels checked once.
But, every now and then, when the elevator door opens, I fear there might be a dead body in there.

On the writing journey, I have come to realize that it's the stones in the shoes that continually irritate, and slow the pen down. It's the nagging doubts about the call to be a writer, the value of my words.
And time and time again God provides reassurance and confirmation. He knows that I am made of mud.
About two years ago I went skiing in the mountains, after a lengthy time of not skiing. At the time, I was close to completing my book on the grief journey, and was experiencing a case of Capital-D Doubt. What was I thinking to let people in on my personal sorrow? How was this all going to play out? I knew I was afraid ... the fear of vulnerability.

Nature nourishes my soul and this day I had planned to ski the mountains. In order to go down a mountain, on two skinny pieces of fibreglass you have to focus on the immediate. The slopes of Mount Norquay intimidated me when I was younger, but I had almost forgotten. This day the chair lift took me to the top, I could see the valley of ten peaks to my right, absolute beauty all around, a sense of majesty, the bigger picture; and then, there was little old me. And I felt that recurring fear, what was I thinking to get on this lift? Now I'm at the top of a mountain, and somehow I have to get down. 
At that moment, I had a flashback to when I learned to ski ... the taste of fear in my throat because I could not see ahead of me, unable to make my legs move because all I could see was that the mountain dropped away. I had been sure I would fall off the edge. A good friend came alongside and said to me ... “Jocelyn, the mountain will unfold.” And it did back then and this day again. As I got to the edge, it was not so steep, there was a way down to the next edge, and the next. That day on the mountain, God reminded me with a personal object lesson ... all these things going on ... they will unfold in their due time.

                                                     Trust in me.
It's a process. I did not get chair-lifted down the mountain, No, I still had to ski, but as I did, my legs regained their strength,  I stopped to catch my breath, take a moment to appreciate the incredible beauty, the sense of freedom, and most importantly God's presence making me feel very much alive!
Too often the fear of the future steals my hope of the day ...

When I reread my journals, I wonder why I seem to have to go over this doubting business again and again. And then again. And praise God, he keeps answering.

“For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, 'Do not fear; I will help you.'” Isaiah 41:13 NIV
When the doubts return, I raise my right hand and picture God taking hold of it, the help comes.

And I wonder if all writers are doubters, or do only doubters write? 

Jocelyn blogs at:  http://whoistalking.wordpress.com

October 20, 2014

Self-Talk by Joylene M. Bailey

As I thought about the theme for this month, two stories from my past came to mind.

1.  Back in my childhood I did a Royal Conservatory of Music piano exam every other year.  They were terrifying for me, but eventually I figured out a way to power through the fear.  I would tell myself, “It’s only 20 minutes out of my WHOLE LIFE.”  It made the experience less daunting somehow.

2.  Years ago at a little country school, I got into conversation with 5 year old Ryan.  He told me that one day when the bus had dropped him off at his home, there was nobody there.  It scared him and he wanted to cry.  “But I thought, there’s no use crying,” he said, “So I decided to sit on the step and wait.”  I marveled at his thought process.

When facing fear, I do a lot of self-talk.
You can do this.   
It’s a learning process and it’s okay to make mistakes.
God gifted you to write so WRITE! and let Him worry about what to do with it.

Eventually my self-talk becomes prayer talk.  I tell God what’s got me worked up, ask Him for help and direction and that I would know He is present.  Scripture often comes to mind that encourages me on.   

I was nervous sitting down to write my first blog post for Inscribe Writers Online.  After all, who am I?  Why would anybody be interested in anything I had to write?

Then I read some of the other blog posts for this month and was comforted to see I wasn’t the only one. You all encouraged me.  Thank you!  I will use some of your comments for my self-talk next time I need to push through my fears.

If you’re looking for some inspiration for your own self-talk, here are a few great quotes to get you started:

“The best way out is always through.”  Robert Frost

“Each of us must confront our own fears, must come face to face with them. How we handle our fears will determine where we go with the rest of our lives. To experience adventure or to be limited by the fear of it.”  Judy Blume

“Fear doesn’t go away.  The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”  Steven Pressfield

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts.”  Winston Churchill

“People who don’t take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year.”  Peter Drucker

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”  Thomas Edison

“I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Phil. 4:13 (HCSB)

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and of love and of calm and well-balanced mind and discipline and self-control.”
2 Tim. 1:7 (AMP)

“As Christian writers we have no excuse for letting fear stifle the words we are called to write.”  Sheila Webster

October 18, 2014

Running Towards Fear by Gloria Guest

I have run smack, head on into the obstacle called fear many times in my life and I have to admit that a lot of those times I chose flight over fight. It has been no different when it has come to writing. Fear has been a barrier to me in my writing ever since I first realized that I had the ability because with that ability, came the realization that other people could read what I wrote and criticize or judge me. In my years working as a reporter I dealt with it on a daily basis and did learn to take a deep breath and get it done. However, in my own personal writing the fear has been harder to get over.
Team Work

When I think about how to deal with that fear I think about an obstacle course that my son participated in when he was going through training at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario. Each trooper was placed on a team that trained for weeks in preparation for the competition. The course was gruelling with many challenging, timed obstacles. However the pièce de résistance was the twelve foot wall that the troops had to climb over without the use of a rope. There is even a sculpture on the grounds of the College dedicated to this obstacle entitled, ‘to overcome.’ My son’s troop practiced this particular obstacle diligently.

Pulling the last man up and over!
On the day of the event my husband and I followed our son’s team around the course, cheering them on. Finally they came to the Wall. I stared at its formidable height not sure that they were up for the challenge. I was about to be amazed.  The first two troopers climbed up on others shoulders and hoisted themselves atop the wall. Then they leaned down and gave a hand up to the next ones climbing up off of other’s shoulders. The last person had to take a mighty run, jump at the wall and grab onto a hand offered by someone who was himself hanging onto another. It was quite the feat but within a short time they were over. Their team didn't win the obstacle course, but they were proclaimed the fastest troop over the wall! They were true over-comers and it was all due to practice and diligence.

In military training they are taught to run towards fear; to choose to run towards the very obstacle standing in the path between them and victory. And the only way that lesson is learnt is through repetitive training and discipline.

There are so many analogies from that obstacle course that can be applied to my own fears when I write. I face obstacles. I want to get over them and be victorious whether it’s posting a blog or publishing an article or book. I can only do so with diligence and repetitive training. And sometimes, as in the case of the wall, it takes team work and a hand up. It could be from an editor, a mentor or friend.

Ultimately though, it is the hand of God that reaches down from that obstacle and offers me His hand. He encourages me to run towards my fear and take a leap of faith that He will be there for me.

I will overcome.

October 16, 2014

Facing Down Our Fears - Loretta Bouillon

What an appropriate topic for me this month! Being relatively new in the writing industry, I have had to face a few fears this year.

Starting a blog, joining a writer’s group, making a Facebook page; even CALLING myself a writer was a big one for me! One of my giants is still awaiting me in October, at the Surrey International Writer’s Conference. I am thrilled to be able to go. I am even more thrilled to be going with my seventeen year old daughter,Carlee. She is also a writer and very gifted one--says her English teacher. Her Christian online school has agreed to pay her registration fee for this conference, so the bonus is being able to do this together! We will fly there, stay in a hotel, and enjoy eating our meals at the banquets that are included with the price. It will be girl time!
Carlee and I

Back in the Spring of this year, I had to make a decision between, taking a couple of online university writing courses through UBC, the cost of self-publishing a book OR choosing to go to this conference. I chose the conference as I thought it would serve as a crash course in writing, publishing and everything that goes with it. Some of the workshops include topics such as Writing Picture Books, How to Spot Rookie Mistakes, Self-Publishing, Online Promotion and Social Media, Tools for Great Dialogue, and Finding Your Voice.

Anyway, back to the giant. With this conference, there is an opportunity to have a 10 minute “pitch” with an editor or agent. I have chosen to “pitch” my children’s picture book. To be completely honest, I AM TERRIFIED! However, I am a fairly good actor when I want to be. I am still terrified. The fear of the unknown. The fear of rejection. Being completely inexperienced, I expect rejection and I think I am okay with it. I tell myself that the experience will be invaluable; a great learning tool. It will be good for me.

What sold this conference to me was the sweet conference co-coordinator, who I met online while I was checking out the possibility of attending. She commented, “When I attended this conference for the first time, I felt like I had come home. I am very excited for you!” Although never having attended a writer’s conference, I still could relate to that statement.  I have been to several homeschooling conferences and Christian women’s conferences and there is something wonderfully uplifting about being together with hundreds of like-minded people in the same venue. It is a recharge, it is networking and it is feeling understood.

Attending this conference, I will definitely be walking through and overcoming some fears, however I see the opportunity as an incredible blessing. What a wonderful chance to learn and grow in this craft with my daughter. This is a gift in which I accept gratefully.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)

October 15, 2014

The Best Cure for Fear - Tracy Krauss

I started writing seriously back in 1985. That is almost thirty years ago. My biggest fear back then is probably still the thing that nags at me on occasion. What if people think what I've written is stupid?

Fear of rejection is arguably the most common fear among writers. I've got news, folks. Get used to it.

It took me sixteen years and several works in progress to finally get up the nerve to let someone read what I'd written. By that time I had a finished novel and three more in various stages. I knew that eventually I would have to let someone take a peek - after all, my dream was to see my work published. Therein lies the irony. I wanted people to read what I had so painstakingly set to paper, but at the same time I was afraid. Writing is so personal. It's a little bit like exposing oneself in public.

I decided to take a baby step, which was still monumental considering my mental state at the time. I let my fourteen year old daughter, who was (and is) a voracious reader, be the first to read my masterpiece. Her reaction was, shall we say, polite. She 'liked' it, but she wasn't engrossed. In hindsight, I know now that the story was very expository. There was too much 'telling'. (Funny how I didn't catch that the first time around...) I went back to the computer and made some major revisions.

After a thorough overhaul, I took another giant leap and sent a submission off to the 'Writer's Edge', a service that reviews manuscripts for a small fee. If they think it has merit they will recommend it to agents and publishers on their list. (Sort of a pre-screening service.) This time I was sure I was golden. My career as an author was about to begin!

No so. That first rejection letter was devastating. I wish now that I had kept it. Instead I threw it away, discouraged and disheartened. But writers - real writers - can't stop writing.

The good news is this. I persevered. Each and every rejection was actually a gift. While most were form letters, many were not. I took to heart each and every piece of advice given to me in those rejections. A good writing class might have been an easier route, but having already started down the school of hard knocks, I carried on. Submission. Rejection. Submission. Rejection. Along the way I learned a ton about what good writing looks like, and I also got rather thick skinned. Rejection, it turns out, is the best cure for fear of rejection.

Over a six year period, I estimate I sent out between 120 and 130 submissions. I didn't receive quite as many rejections (some agents and publishers don't bother to respond at all) but the old saying that some writers could paper a wall with their rejection letters is actually true in my case. Through it all, I also got some 'requests for more' (a very thrilling response given the barrage of bad news) and eventually several contracts. It was not an easy road, I assure you.

What is the point of this story? Don't let the fear of rejection stop you from sharing your work. Take a deep breath and send that query! Read aloud at your next writers' group! Do something - anything - to force your fears into submission. The worst that anyone can say is, "That's really not that good," to which you can respond, "Thanks for the feedback. I'll do better next time."

Tracy Krauss is a multi-published, award winning, and Amazon best selling novelist and playwright. After years of rejection she feels she has earned the right to blow her own horn among friends. http://tracykrauss.com

October 13, 2014

Catching the Details By T. L. Wiens

Last week, I discovered the bandages I’d bought made my lips numb when I used my mouth to remove the packaging. Over the weekend, I spent time with my husband’s family observing how people react to similar situations. It’s a habit I developed long before I ever thought about writing.

Writers need to be very observant. Life around you will provide the meat for the bones of the story. Those details will bring your story to life. I find it helpful to jot down these observations and store them in a file just in case my memory fails me. Other times I jot them down at the beginning of the manuscript where I think they’ll fit in so I have them to refer to when the time comes to use them.

We have an abundance of material all around us—make sure your watching and listening even when the keyboard is far from your fingers. Writers don’t get ever get a day off—those days away from the office need to be devoted to research.

October 12, 2014

Identifying The Two Camps by Dayna E. Mazzuca

Identifying the Two Camps:
What conference planners and attendees need to know

As a writer, I attend as many conferences, retreats, readings and writers’ groups’ meetings as I can. I love being around other writers, and people struggling to call themselves writers, and writers who want to be paid more for being a writer. I like them all, but it’s as if there’s this self-generated gamut writers love to run. Personally, I think it’s helpful to clearly identify the dividing point of this long line of ability, talent, confidence and desire. The half-way point. The distinction that defines us, as writers, into two camps, each with its own needs.

On the one side, there is the writer looking for encouragement, affirmation and know-how. On the other side, there is the writer looking for business cards, goal setting and a bigger pay cheque. It’s the difference between the writer who writes to tell a story (their own or someone elses), and the writer who wants to have their work appear in a venue that monetarily values the craft, as a professional who feels called to write.

This distinction, between writers looking to connect with other writers, and writers looking to develop their network of editors and publishers, is important. It’s important as a writer, so you can wisely choose what events to hit (and miss). And it’s important if you’re the person planning the writing event.

I’ve been part of writer’s organizations long enough to know how the conversation goes: What workshops should we offer? How much should we charge? Who can we get to come and speak who will draw a crowd and bless our membership? Good questions, but a better one might be: “Since we have two camps of writers, which one are we going to serve, or how are we going to serve the needs of both?”

This is a good starting point, because the two camps have (very) different needs. The “encourage me” camp needs some practical “how-to” sessions; a chance to read their own work; a social hour or two to connect over coffee and goodies; and an inspiring speaker. They like hand-outs and lists of writers’ resources and freebie samples of markets.

By comparison, the “prosper me” camp needs an editors’ panel with a stack of business cards on each table; a session geared towards the business side of publishing; and a chance to take their writing to the next level. They like fill-in-the-blank worksheets they can apply to their own area of expertise; cross-cultivating between editors, agents and booksellers; and a chance to promote their own work.

These are called “take-aways” and they are the litmus test of whether or not a writing event (of any size or scope) has real value for its participants.

When an organizer is aware there are two distinct camps of writers, they plan that much better. They don’t schedule all the workshops geared towards new writers at the same time and don’t let the professional development sessions pile up either. Ideally, these two streams are formally identified in the marketing of the event, to help writers know which camp they belong to, and better reach their own goals (even the ones they haven’t articulated, yet).

For me, as a writer who can only belong to one stream at a time, I find this distinction most helpful. As a former organizer, I know the value of such a clear-cut approach. As a future participant, knowing which camp I’m currently in helps me choose which events meet my needs.

I enjoy writers of all stripes, but I don’t think we have anything to gain in moving as an indistinct herd aimlessly towards ill-defined goals. I love to see writers of all kinds reach their destination. Whether it’s to tell a story well, or sell a story for a good price, it’s worth celebrating — and working towards. In the end, the good news is our camps do not compete, because they are not working against each other, but alongside. So, here’s to getting ourselves sorted out, and moving forward towards our rather different destinations!

This post was 'lost' in the unpublished drafts. It fits well here after the recent ICWF fall conference. 

October 11, 2014

A Love Story by Connie Inglis

What strategies do you use to get past your fears? In answering that question I immediately thought of the main trait that makes me fearful. You see, I am a perfectionist. The scientific term is atelophobia i.e. the fear of not being good enough or imperfection. There have been times when I have been stuck in that state with my writing but I am learning that I don't have to stay there, that I have a choice.

My choice is not based on me or anything I have done. My choice is based on the knowledge that God loves me.  I recently re-read Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You are. One of her comments about fear resonated with me. She said, "All fear is but the notion that God's love ends." It is true. Fear, any kind of fear, is looking at things with the wrong perspective--it's about not trusting God and God's love. So, when I fear, I find that focusing on God's love dispels the fear. There are many ways I do that.

Reading Scripture passages and meditating over Scripture is a good place to start. A verse that jumped out at me a few years ago is Song of Solomon 7:10: "I belong to my Beloved and His desire is for me." Every time I think of that verse I am reminded that I am in a love story, that I am a recipient of Jesus' love.

I have also found strength in reading certain authors. Books by Brennan Manning keep me focused on how much God loves me, all of me, weaknesses and all. The Furious Longing of God is one of my favourites. Francis Chan and John Eldredge are also two authors that speak to my heart, along with Ann Voskamp. And just recently I discovered Phil Vischer's book, Sidney & Norman. It's a children's book, I know, and yet the theme of the book is for all. In fact, I was so moved by the profound simplicity of it, that it brought me to tears. The message is: "First of all, I love you. Secondly, I love you. And thirdly, I love you. Messes and all." Yes, Jesus loves me. Wow!

Good worship music also keeps me grounded in God's love  and His ultimate sacrifice in sending His Son to die for ME! There are so many inspirational artists that I listen to regularly but one song that I find speaks to my heart every time is John Mark McMillan's song, "How He Loves." When listening to this song, the Spirit moves me to simply worship my loving God.

There is so much to write about the topic of God's love. His creation on a brisk walk reminds me of His love. The encouragement and love of others reminds me of God's love. Reading of the faithfulness of God in the past entries of my journal reminds me of God's love. Answered prayer reminds me of His love. Even His presence and strength during difficult times reminds me of His love. In fact, it's ALL meant to remind us of God's love.

I may not be perfect but God's love for me is perfect and "perfect Love casts out fear." (1 John 4:18, ESV) If I focus on that with my writing then there is no need to fear. EVER! Psalm 27:1.