April 01, 2016

Pathways of a Writer’s Apprenticeship by Sandi Somers

In his book, The Art of Work, Jeff Goins compared mastering writing skills to apprenticeships of the Middle Ages, a process that took ten years.

Our prompt this month asks our writers to share discoveries and turning points of their writing apprenticeship (past or present). What might they do differently? What advice do they have for a new writer?

Highlights from My Pathways

“…when we obey him, every path he guides us on is fragrant with his loving-kindness and his truth” (Psalm 25:10 TLB).

As I thought about this month’s topic, I realized that in one blog we can’t begin to cover everything about our apprenticeship.

We can, however, focus on several pathways where we have seen God at work—pathways that can encourage others in their journeys. .

The pathway of preparation

Preparation comes with life preparation. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you”, God said to the prophet (Jeremiah 1:5 ESV).

To know that God prepared me with life experiences and the desire to write was affirming.
When I consciously began my apprenticeship, I had several books in mind—my experiences with immigrant and refugee students, our family history back to Switzerland, for example. But over time, I discovered one memoir idea—my two years in Colombia—would be better as separate articles than a memoir.
I gave my writing plans to God.

The pathway of practice

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book, Outliers, said it takes 10,000 hours of deliberate practice to become an expert in any domain.

For me, “deliberate practice” first meant journaling, imitating strategies of the masters and conscious writing exercises. It meant taking courses and writing for critique groups.

However, “deliberate practice” now involves more revising and untangling questions that the work brings up--questions such as:

How do I structure this piece of work?  How do I add effective reflection? Where do metaphors come in?

My one major question I faced was how to develop confidence and the ability to judge my own work. In my early apprenticeship, I needed affirmation from others. However, over time as I’ve grappled with these questions myself, I’m developing better insight into my own writing processes. This has been a great confidence booster!

The pathway of persistence

          It has often been said that the greatest path to writing success is to sit at our desks and actually write. This takes determination and persistence.

Persistence also means keeping on with our writing until it is finished. Submitting for publication, revising and resubmitting when it is rejected.

I’ve found that persistence comes even when my pathway takes a detour. There have been times that I’ve had to set aside my writing because of illness, major family issues or other intervening circumstances. But in retrospect I could see how God was in these experiences to mature both my faith and writing.
The pathway of praise

We all go through periods of discouragement. At one point while feeling discouraged about my progress, I read a good comment from the author Louise DeSalvo: “If we understand what went well today, and why it went well, we’ll be more likely to engage in activities that will yield positive results in the future.” 

I began a journal of praise. Each day after writing, I reflected on one prompt, such as:

·        What went well with my writing today, and why?
·        When I wrote today, I felt God’s pleasure.
·        What have I learned today that has helped me grow as a person and as a writer?

I still treasure these insights, and have used a number of these ideas in my subsequent writing.

The pathway of possibilities

Apprenticeship means our progress is not static. I’ve found it helpful to keep one eye on my current writing and the other eye on possibilities beyond.

What new avenues will God direct me to? Public speaking? Editing? Teaching classes or giving workshops? Mentoring others?

Looking ahead has helped me to consciously prepare for the time God will open new doors for me.

The pathway of partnership

We have partnerships with others in our writing community. But our primary partnership is with God. We are co-creators with God.

Over and over I need to ask the Holy Spirit to infuse me with His thoughts and wisdom. It is God who will bring my work to readers who need encouragement and uplift. It is Jesus who will transform lives through my writing. It is to God I give honour.

* * *

Each person’s apprenticeship is unique. I look forward to your blog posts and comments this coming month as you share parts of your story.  


  1. Wow--so many pathways and so much great information. Thanks.

  2. Thanks, Connie. Yes, there are many pathways in apprenticeship--so challenging to encapsulate it all. Perhaps a key highlight of one's apprenticeship would have been easier to write.

  3. Great information/advice about writing pathways. Thanks so much, Sandi. Good job.

    1. Thanks, Glynis, for your encouragement! I look forward to your upcoming blog.

  4. The Art of Writing has been in my soon-to-be-read shelf since Fall Conference when I attended Jeff Goins pre-conference workshop. I set myself up to read his book before my blog on the 10th. I'm still reading and it's an interesting read, but I now know I can write this blog with or without finishing the book. I always appreciate, Sandi, the good start you give us for ideas and direction. Thanks.

    1. Thanks for your feedback on my blog post, Sharon. I know you'll have good thoughts in your blog.


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