As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend. Proverbs 27:17
Purposeful gatherings beget purposeful growth.
Have you noticed this to be true in your life and writing? Not that casual gatherings do not offer opportunities for growth – who doesn’t like an impromptu party? We have fun, get to know one another, share food, and may learn a new dance step.
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However, purposeful gatherings are the places where we choose to be, rubbing shoulders with like-minded people who have also chosen to be there, where iron can sharpen iron. We gather desiring to grow in our common interest. Church is one such purposeful gathering, and for writers, conferences are also a place for personal, purposeful growth.
I believe the following guidelines for growing in our faith at church also apply to advancing our writing when attending conferences.
Know why we are gathering. Church is not just a social event and the same is true of a writing conference. The purpose of a Sunday church service is to focus on God alongside others who also worship God, and the purpose of attending a writing conference or taking a writing course is to focus on… writing.
Of course, there are many aspects to our time at the service or conference. We meet our friends, and we learn to get along with those who we may not choose as a friend, finding common ground in our shared interest. We join together in voicing our excitement to be gathering for this purpose. We plan other activities for fun and service so we can meet again or share our interests with others. And we usually share refreshments. But in order to personally grow, our main focus needs to be on the purpose of being there.
Showing up at a gathering is the best way to get something out of the time. We need to make attending a priority, not because we have to but because we want to. Even though church may be important to us, it is easy to miss a service and then find we have missed two or three because other things intrude on that time. It’s not that we don’t want to be there, but good intentions and other priorities don’t get us there.
For writing conferences, time and money can certainly be roadblocks, however at some point we may need to “put our money where our pen is” in order to discover how a conference will help our writing. Our attendance also supports those who have spent time organizing the event. Purposeful gatherings don’t just happen; they take effort on the part of people who want to help us grow our gift.
A speaker or presenter who has been chosen to share some wisdom has prepared a message. He may not be entertaining or an accomplished orator, but he is willing to offer a small nugget to those who gather. Perhaps, at times, we feel we know more on a subject than the speaker, but by listening, by paying attention, we are still guaranteed to learn something new, if only because the style of presenting or way of thinking is slightly different than ours. We know this to be true because we are still learning from children.
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There is only one way to carry home what we have heard at a gathering, and that is by being able to recall it later. Let’s be honest, our memories fail, so we need to make notes. Many people have problems listening and writing at the same time, but even if just the highlights are noted, there is something to take home to reference later. I think that’s why the three-point sermon method became popular in churches; most people may be able to remember or write down three main ideas even if they do not retain the rest. Yet if we want to grow in our writing ability, we may need to know more than the main points.
Joining in the singing, giving a tithe, reading along with the Scripture, and perhaps, if you attend that kind of church, calling out an “Amen” in response to a speaker’s point are all ways to participate in a church service. At a writer’s conference, we can also sing, support, read, and respond to what we are hearing. Questions are encouraged. Participation helps keep us united and focused.
To grow in our personal Christian faith, we need to do more than listen to a message at a Sunday service. We need to study the Word for ourselves, and practice living what we learn. Christian faith is dependent on our personal walk with God. No one else can journey in our place. The same is true for writing. Attending a conference or course will not help us develop in our personal writing endeavours if we do not also study and practice between conferences. Writing is a solitary journey. We are the ones who need to make the time, take the time, do the time, to learn and grow.
We are never really invested in our church if we only show up. Taking on a responsibility is how we truly join in and belong. We can take turns or build teams to serve alongside others. We can do simple things like make coffee, or watch over the children, or more time-consuming things like counting and depositing the offerings or sit on committees. Church and conferences are not all about our own personal growth. There is a place for serving others, and we usually find that in serving we are also growing.
There are many opportunities to purposely gather with other Christians and other writers, from regular small meetings to occasional large conferences. Be purposeful in your attending. Make the gathering a priority in your life. Pay attention, pen notes, participate, prepare, and even help provide so there continues to be a gathering for like-minded people.
We support our own writing by supporting other writers. Inscribe Christian Writers Fellowship helps us do this. We can help with a local writing group. We can encourage others, perhaps through the Inscribe list-serve or the Inscribe blogs. We can become familiar with the workings of Inscribe and offer to help in some small (or large) way. Writing is probably not our only gift.
Purposeful gathering begets personal growth because iron sharpens iron