Write without Crushing Your Soul Preview: What Sets Healthy Writers Apart

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In order to write sustainably, you need to relentlessly be yourself. That isn’t necessarily the same thing as following a calling or your dreams. The difference is essential, in fact.

The writers who lead the most sustainable careers, at least in my circles, are the ones who recognize how they’re wired and have a sense of how God has gifted them. They know what kind of writing is their own true north, but they also recognize when they need to take on work in order to make ends meet. They also have a clear sense of what drains them and what their limits are.

We all have our parts to play, but we’ll only find contentment if we invest in seeking our own roles and joyfully carrying them out.

Sustainability means you can keep writing for the long haul even after receiving bad news from an editor, failing to land a client, or making a huge mistake on your website.

If you’re truly drawn to something and you know your role in the grand scheme of things, how can you stop yourself, let alone let anyone stop you?

 

Today’s post was adapted from my new book, Write without Crushing Your Soul: Sustainable Publishing and Freelancing. Regular eBook price is $3.99

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Deliver Us from the Quick Fix

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When I started to pursue writing full time, the first three years were filled with one punch to the gut after another. I genuinely wanted to know why in the world God would give me such a drive to write and then place nothing but disappointment and frustration in my path.

I wanted the quick fix.

I wanted immediate success.

I share in my latest book Write without Crushing Your Soul that writers have to embrace the process of writing drafts, editing, revising, and enduring rejection. There is no other way.

Even the writers who rise in the charts with a sensational first book release either spent many, many years working on their writing out of the public eye or faced a lot of rejection before finally breaking in.

The process doesn’t have a quick fix or a fast way to hack the system and win.

I have been obsessed with the quick fix.

The quick fix isn’t just tempting when it comes to a career or personal finances. The allure of the quick fix slips into our marriages, our friendships, our spirituality, and our health. In each case I am drawn to the glossy book, revolutionary app, or the sharp pen and journal set promising INSTANT RESULTS.

It’s true that an app or a journal or a book can play a small part in setting you on the right course, but I have hit nothing but frustration when I’ve expected a ten-year process to unfold within a year or two, a year-long process to unfold in a few months, or a life-long process to take shape within a week.

Perhaps my quick fix fantasy is fueled by the supposed success stories and exceptions to the rule—especially when they write books promising to unveil the secrets of a meteoric rise to the top.

And here is the worst part, the absolute worst part, of slow, imperceptible, almost stalling growth: you have to fail a lot along the way. In fact, sometimes truly growing means you have to classify a failure as a step forward nonetheless.

I can’t tell you how many times I have struggled to pray and wondered if anything happened before I started to find a sense of peace and connection with God. It’s not that I had to do anything special or please God in a certain way. I just needed to learn how to quiet my mind in order to listen.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to cut a run short because I ran out of energy or a snack at the café beckoned, only to leave me with regret and guilt ten minutes later. In each case, these small steps forward, struggles, and failures are signs that we are changing and evolving.

There will be epiphanies, “lucky” breaks, or unexpected windfalls, but I run into trouble when I expect them to be the norm.

Most importantly, if we have to really fight and claw our way toward strength and health in our relationships, work, or spiritual life, we’ll actually have a strong foundation in place in order to maintain the change. We’ll have to make all of the tough choices and make all of the day-to-day changes that will make them sustainable.

I didn’t enjoy my first three years as a freelance writer when I struggled mightily to earn a stable income and have to constantly battle insecurity.

I didn’t love a crisis of faith where I felt like prayer didn’t work, and I didn’t know where to turn.

I don’t crave conflict in my relationships where deep problems and insecurities are forced to rise to the surface.

In each case I had to work through my low points before I could take steady steps forward. The seasons of struggle unearthed so many parts of myself that I continue to deal with and need to deal with if I want to be a follower of Jesus, committed husband, and writer who remains faithful to his calling.

I don’t think I would have chosen the tough seasons of life. I certainly wouldn’t have wanted to hit so many low points in my writing career. However, each experience, good and bad, has laid a foundation I find invaluable today.

I used to “theologize” about my career.

Maybe God wanted me to do something else with my life?

Maybe I needed to give up on the supposed call to write?

Was writing or publishing just a self-serving desire on my part?

Was God really in this if I was struggling?

I don’t ever want to speak for God, but the place where I’ve found the most peace today has been acknowledging that “struggling to write” is just plain and simple writing. It is what it is. If I hit a low point, it wasn’t necessarily because I hadn’t prayed properly or God wanted to crush my supposed calling.

A struggle could very well be caused by the simple fact that life is hard. Writing is hard. You can’t build anything of value in life without some struggle, failure, and missteps. You can’t make progress without hard work, discouragement, and more hard work.

I don’t know if there is an actual “quick fix” for a career or a marriage or spiritual growth. I used to believe in the quick fix, and now I’m agnostic about it. I can’t say for sure, but it’s not likely—at least for the majority of us.

In the midst of the failures and dark valleys, I am learning to see that God is with us in each one. I am trying to stop asking God to solve all of my perceived problems and to simply be present with me.

I need God to be present to give me wisdom and strength to stop thinking about my needs above those of my family and friends.

I need God to be present to save me from the traps of envy, resentment, and discouragement in my work.

I need God to be present to save me from the running leap of the quick fix so that I can be fully present for the small steps I need to take today.

 

Read a bit more about a building a healthy writing career in Write without Crushing Your Soul.

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The print version will be live very soon on Amazon! (Or order now via CreateSpace)

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An Interview with Tara Owens on How Writers Care for Their Souls

What does soul care look like for writers?

What is the most important aspect of a writer’s career?

These are just a few of the questions I was fortunate enough to ask author and spiritual director Tara Owens when our paths crossed. We sat down for a 40-minute chat in a Barnes and Noble  (Note: the background music is loud but not overpowering, and I’ll happily send the file to anyone who can help remove it!). We also spent a little time discussing my new book, Write, Without Crushing Your Soul: Sustainable Publishing and Freelancing, which releases November 10th and is available for a $1.99 pre-order until then.

Enjoy the interview!

Listen on SoundCloud or the direct file

Order the eBook version of
Write without Crushing Your Soul for just $3.99 today.

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About Tara Owens
Tara is a spiritual director and founder of Anam Cara Ministries, which is dedicated to the practice of soul friendship, of coming alongside in order to facilitate healing, wholeness, holiness and spiritual formation.  Check out her highly acclaimed book Embracing the Body. Reviewer Kristine Morris writes, “Through a gentle, compassionate exploration of our thoughts and feelings about our bodies, enhanced with exercises for reflection, Owens helps us to learn what it means to be at home in our own skin and sensitive to the body’s innate wisdom.”

Household Projects Are Like Dipping Your Hand in Boiling Water

 

First Draft FatherI should have known that starting a wood working project at 5:30 pm would end with me sticking my hand in boiling water. It was inevitable really. It all started with a terrible, terrible idea.

 

The Descent to Project Hell

15 minutes: that’s all I thought it would take to make a minor change to Ethan’s crib.

Earlier in the day I’d lowered Ethan’s crib to the bottom setting. Everything lined up perfectly. The crib looked quite safe until I looked under it. I noticed that wooden based holding the mattress buckled a little in the middle. A glance at floor level helped me see that the mattress platform of the crib had a serious dip in it.

I didn’t like the look of it, but I thought there was no way it could fall apart. It was all too tight. I went back to work.

But was it alright? The thought of it nagged me the rest of the afternoon.

By 5:30 I had wrapped up my work. My wife was due home in 15 minutes with Ethan after a full day visiting her friend who had just had a baby. I had 15 minutes. 15 minutes would give me plenty of time to cobble together a block of wood, cut some notches in it, and install it underneath the crib.

 

The Man Who Didn’t Measure

This was not a difficult job. Screw two pieces of wood together and cut two notches in it to hold up the crib platform. Simple, right?

I thought 15 minutes would be way more time than I needed. I would even be able to share on Facebook that I finally got a project done in the projected amount of time. Unfortunately, there were problems.

For starters, I honestly have no idea how to cut a “U” in a piece of wood. I started out chopping and hacking at odd angles. That took way longer than anticipated. Even so, I got it together. I shoved it under the crib, and then I noticed my first problem: the crib was now elevated on one side!

I didn’t cut my notches into the wood far enough. Or perhaps the floor in our old house was crooked. As I wandered down with my sad piece of wood, my wife walked in with Ethan.

 

Welcome Home! I’m Destroying Stuff!

As I talk about my plans here, it bears mentioning that my “15 minute” plan was intended to get this project done BEFORE she arrived home. I wanted to help her unload the car or snuggle Ethan. At the very least, I wanted to give her a short break before making dinner.

Instead she came home to me blabbering about crib safety and just needing a few more minutes to “fix” the crib with this chunk of wood that would provide support in the middle. I just needed to cut the notches down a bit.

Opting for the chisel, I pounded away at the wood while Julie made dinner. Ethan flopped around on the kitchen floor, unaware that I was slowly coming undone in the basement.

After the first chisel session, I learned that still further chiseling would be required. Back to the basement I returned to pound away at the chunk of wood.

Each swing of the hammer made me a little more frantic and worried. This was NOT the plan. I wanted to help. I wanted to keep my child safe. I wanted to finish this in 15 minutes.

I finally got the wood in place, and then I realized that my problem wasn’t just the chiseling in the two notches. I had to cut the entire piece of wood down a size.

Most intelligent people would stop a project at this point and wave the white flag. But I kept thinking about the safety of the crib. What if something happened?

 

Boiling Over

Besides quitting, the other thing I should have done was fetch the extension cord for the jig saw. It didn’t quite reach the wood at a favorable angle for the cuts I needed to do, but I just kept hacking away. I was rushing and trying to get this thing done. I could hear Ethan whining upstairs as my wife tried to wrap up dinner before his bed time.

With chunks of wood and sawdust creating a ring of madness in the basement, I emerged with my prized block of wood. I finally got it lodged into place, and entered the kitchen, ready to help.

She had Ethan in her arms, so she gave me the easy job.

“Can you dump the spaghetti into the pot?”

I’ve made spaghetti plenty of times. This was not hard. She even had the water rolling at a full boil.

As I dumped the pasta box over the water, it didn’t come out. Instead of turning the box upside down and shaking it into the pot, I gave it a sideways flick with my wrist. The spaghetti zipped across the pot of boiling water, sending about half of it on top of our (thankfully closed) trash can.

Seeing our dinner cascading toward the trash, my reflexes kicked in and I swiped at the pasta with my free right hand. I missed the pasta but not the pot. I stuck my entire hand in boiling water. With pasta all over the floor, I screamed and cursed and shoved my hand under cold water at the sink.

 

Cooling Down

Things didn’t go much better after that. Ethan had a rough evening, gagging on a teething biscuit before spitting up everything in his stomach. I had to leave story time to put another ice pack on my throbbing hand.

I traced it all back to my flawed project plans.

How many times have I ruined my day by trying to get a household project done “real quick”? (I’m not going to answer that question!)

The insanity of the moment burns, but the stress and worry that continues after the fact can also linger.

Thankfully my hand healed up overnight. I can write. I can do the dishes. And I assure you that I won’t attempt any household projects this week if I only have 15 minutes.

 

I’m celebrating the release of my book First Draft Father this week by sharing select chapters. It’s a compilation of an online journal that I kept after the birth of our first child, and it documents my journey from insecure, overworking writer to over-tired but over-joyed father.

 

Read more in First Draft Father.

 Order Your Copy:

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When I Thought I’d Failed and Never Really Lost a Thing

 

First Draft Father

About two years ago I had one of those moments where I realized that weeks of hard work and planning had been undermined by a single click.

One click and everything would have been different, with all of my hard work humming like a finely tuned machine.

The plan was to give away my latest eBook, Creating Space, for free in the Kindle store on Cyber Monday and Tuesday. It was intended to be a kind of subversive, anti-consumption alternative to all of the technology deals out there–us Christians LOVE to be subversive. I wanted to give something away that wasn’t just a product to be consumed. It’s a product that encourages individual creativity, removing people from the consumerism cycle.

That was the plan at least.

I had sent hundreds of emails, lined up guest posts, and created graphics and banners all over the place advertising the free eBook download.

When the time came, the offer wasn’t live.

I’d apparently clicked on the wrong days because of the calendar layout that stuck Monday at the start of the week instead of Sunday.

Those Amazon heathens…

I vented, I huffed, I despaired. What should I do?

I usually take care of Ethan in the morning, but my wife graciously intervened and took him so that I could tend to damage control.

I sent emails apologizing and explaining the error.

I posted updates on Facebook, Twitter, and my blog about the mistake.

I contacted Amazon to try to salvage things, but it was too late.

I felt like the most unprofessional writer in the world.

I was venting just the other day in my journal that I love writing, but the marketing part annoys the heck out of me. It’s hard to know how to market a book that you love and believe in without pestering readers.

I see the general tweets and Facebook posts where folks vent about authors being so pushy with their books, and while I cringe at the thought that they’re talking about me, I do feel like my hands are tied.

There’s this chasm between authors who write books and people who want to read good books, and it’s hard to find the right people to read your books. So you try stuff like free eBook giveaways to see if you can reach people a little bit easier without asking for their money.

I had tried to innovate a little, and right out of the gate, I fell on my face. How humiliating.

After fixing what I could and resigning myself to the release going live on Tuesday, I walked upstairs and found Julie sitting down with Ethan to read him a book before his nap. It suddenly hit me that I really missed my morning time with Ethan.

I usually read him The Foot Book, so I settled in next to Julie and Ethan to read with the same voices and inflections I usually do. Everything was perfect, just as it should be. I took Ethan and rocked him to sleep as usual.

Once I was immersed in the rhymes: “Left foot, left foot, right foot, fight:” I came back down to reality from my funk.

Sure, I’d made a mistake. It wasn’t pleasant. It may have hurt my downloads.

But then again, I hadn’t really lost anything. Ethan got to whack the book as usual and protest being rocked to sleep. Everything most important was just how it should be, and that mattered far more than what wasn’t.

Best yet, when I emailed everyone to apologize, I made a huge spelling mistake in the subject line.

 

I’m celebrating the release of my book First Draft Father this week by sharing select chapters. It’s a compilation of an online journal that I kept after the birth of our first child, and it documents my journey from insecure, overworking writer to over-tired but over-joyed father.

 

Read more in First Draft Father.

Order Your Copy:

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Print via Amazon

 

First Draft Father: When You Doubt, Just Start Singing

 

First Draft Father

I’m not quite sure when I started singing to Ethan on a regular basis. Perhaps it was the time I saw my wife Julie sing a high-pitched silly song to him and watched his face light up with a smile.

Now I sing for him all of the time. When I’m changing him. When I’m dressing him. When I’m bathing him.

When we knew that we were going to have a baby, I thought it would be great to sing for him. Then my mind came up completely blank with appropriate songs.

I used to lead worship in church. I’m a creative guy. I can do this: right?

Nothing.

With my mind empty and nothing planned, I just look Ethan in the eyes and start singing whatever comes to mind. Sometimes I make up my own lyrics to popular songs. Sometimes I make up lyrics to songs that aren’t so popular, with the chicken dance tune coming in handy for “lyric creation” on the fly.

Other times I’m rocking him to sleep, singing a little song I made up for him around the time he was born.

When he won’t fall asleep and wiggles in my arms in the still of the night, I sing one of the few hymns I’ve held onto. The last verse of Come Thou Fount is particularly moving for me.

Don’t we all feel that pull to wander, to put ourselves first, and to forget that we have a God who loves us dearly and who longs to hold us close?

I snuggle Ethan close to me, wrapping him around me so he can’t plank.

Prone to plank, Ethan, I feel it…

When I’m singing a made up song, such as my own version of a Johnny Cash chorus “You’re gonna cry, cry, cry,” or a hymn, I remember that anxious father who didn’t think he’d have anything to sing. How we underestimate ourselves.

And that underestimating makes so much sense to me as a writer, as a creative, as a father. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at my estimating abilities since I’m terrible at math to begin with. Toss in a dose of self-doubt and insecurity, and you’ll spend your evenings wandering dark hallways bored and lonely with frustration bristling off your lips.

Start singing. That’s the only rule.

Whether your faith is cold and struggling or you can’t figure out what the next sentence will be for your blog post.

You can get there, but you need to start singing.

Doubt only has power so long as you’re silent and immobile.

Faith is that leap into the dark uncertainty where we start singing not because we believe we can make a beautiful song when we start but that something beautiful will eventually come if we leap in.

Sing to God, and he just may show up.

Sing while you hammer out that draft and you might write a few sentences that strike you silent.

Sing to your child, and he may drift off to sleep with a faint smile that creeps out behind his gently pulsing pacifier.

 

I’m celebrating the release of my book First Draft Father this week by sharing select chapters. It’s a compilation of an online journal that I kept after the birth of our first child, and it documents my journey from insecure, overworking writer to over-tired but over-joyed father.

 

Read more in First Draft Father.

Order Your Copy:

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Print via Amazon

Why We Have to Do Things the Wrong Way

 

First Draft Father

Every week there’s something new that Ethan can do. And some weeks he does things that I never saw coming. Take the train for instance:

One of his Nanas gave him a cool train set that is made of wood and has layers of wooden rectangles stacked up on each train frame. He’s at a place right now where he can hold small things or push things away from himself, but there’s no way he can line up a train and push it along the floor.

If anything, he knocks the train over and sends the stacked blocks flying all over the place.

That’s when something interesting happened.

One day I gave Ethan one of the trains to throw around while he sat next to me on the couch. Propped up in a corner, he dumped the blocks into his lap. With the lighter train platform in his hand, he started to fiercely whack the blocks with it. Over and over and over.

The new train game was enthralling. He could hold the blocks, throw the blocks, chew on the blocks, chew on the train, throw the train, hit things with the train, or hit things with the blocks.

What else would a baby do all day?

We have since turned him loose on his train a couple of days in a row now, and each time he’s completely delighted to bang around with his blocks.

I find it striking that I almost didn’t give him the train in the first place. I’d thought that he would just get frustrated with it. Perhaps I imagined him looking up at me with his eyes wide and his palms upturned, as if to say, “What am I supposed to do with this?”

He knew exactly what to do with it, even if my imagination was limited to the original intent of his toy: child pushing a carefully constructed train around on the floor.

There’s something in this story about parenting that I want to savor, but it’s really something that applies to so many other things in life. How many things are we afraid to try because we don’t think we’ll do them right or well?

Take writing for instance: I live in fear of the old book proposals and magazine articles from three, four, or five years ago lurking on my computer. They’re just so terrible. I worked hard on them, but whenever I accidentally open one, I catch myself cringing at my clunky openings, the meandering points, and the low quality ideas I once considered profound.

Mind you, I didn’t always write duds. I have gotten things published; I’ll have you know. The difference is that writing anything worthy of being published took so much time, so many drafts, and a parade of false starts and scrapped ideas.

I haven’t arrived at some magical place where I can hammer out a single draft and mail it in to a publisher, but I’ve learned so much about stringing words together and how to make them run on their tracks. I started out babbling my words, dumping them onto my page, and banging them together for a few hours.

The results at that time weren’t very orderly or helpful for anyone but myself. Over time the banging and clunking gave way to order. At a certain point, the words clicked together and started to hum along.

The only way to learn is to play with something new, even if you’re playing with it wrong. You just may end up enjoying yourself and picking up a new skill along the way.

 

I’m celebrating the release of my book First Draft Father this week by sharing select chapters. It’s a compilation of an online journal that I kept after the birth of our first child, and it documents my journey from insecure, overworking writer to over-tired but over-joyed father.

 

Read more in First Draft Father.

 Order Your Copy:

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Print via Amazon

 

A Present God Is Missed by People Who Live in the Future

 

 

First Draft Father

There’s always a next thing you have to do whether you’re a writer or a stay at home parent.

For writers:

You can’t just write a book proposal. You need to show that you have other ideas for future books. You need to think of blog posts, articles for magazines, and additional places to build awareness around your work.

You can’t just publish a book and wait. You have to beg and beg and beg people for reviews, make endless asks for social media mentions, and seek out any place where you can sell your book to a group of people in your intended audience.

For parents:

You need to start the diaper washing and folding cycle early in the day if you want to have enough by the time evening rolls around.

You need to think about how much milk has been pumped into the bottle just in case you need it.

You need to watch for signs of sleepiness because heaven knows he’ll be a hellion if you wait too long to put him down for his nap.

I’m always thinking of the next thing, trying to anticipate the next moment. And when I grow weary, I just stop thinking and sort of flip my brain into neutral, not really thinking about anything all that much.

I catch myself moving, thinking, and worrying, and I realize that I’m not relaxed or calm or in the moment.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Anne Lamott about a moment like this, it’s that I need to breathe. So I suck in a deep breath and let it go. I can feel my shoulders relax. I force my brow to loosen up. I pay attention to my hands, making sure they’re not clenched.

I stop myself mentally, even if I still need to keep moving. I’m now in the moment–at least for a little while. Of course I’ll need to plan ahead all of the time, but always planning is a terribly stressful way to live with a child or to write.

Worst of all, living for the future alienates me from God, who desires to be with me in the moment and to provide for me today.

God can’t provide for the future because it isn’t here, and I think that obsession with the future is one of the ways we are unhinged and distanced from God.

I take my breath, say a pray from the Liturgy of the Hours, and I thank God that he’s given us breath, peace, and joy right now in this moment.

 

I’m celebrating the release of my book First Draft Father this week by sharing select chapters. It’s a compilation of an online journal that I kept after the birth of our first child, and it documents my journey from insecure, overworking writer to over-tired but over-joyed father.

 

Read more in First Draft Father.

Order Your Copy:

Kindle | Nook | iBooks | Kobo | Print via Amazon

 

Less Platform, More Sanity

notebook-pen

I’m posting less on my blog these days, but I may be writing just as much compared to times past. The difference is that over half of my posts stay on my computer where no one else will ever read them.

I don’t feel bad about these unread posts. I needed to write them. Otherwise they would continue to buzz around in my head, demanding my attention and trumpeting their worth and, at times, “genius.”

In truth, I suspect that I would have posted almost all of them in the past. Such has been the pressure to pump up my blog numbers, to keep people engaged on social media, and to, let’s be honest, stir the post just a bit from time to time.

Now that I’ve stepped out of the traditional publishing platform rat race for the foreseeable future, I’m letting posts develop at their own pace and evaluating them with a far more critical eye. Some need a few weeks to settle into themselves. Others are ready to go after a bit of tweaking. And still far many more are done after the writing. The latter is a good thing.

I didn’t realize how badly I needed to just write things down and end it there. I often have an idea or the kernel of an idea bouncing around in my brain, and it can be such a relief to finally see it appear on a page. Once it lands there, I can make a sound judgment about its merits.

This has come into focus for me as I started praying with the Examen. Just writing out the good and the bad parts of my day on the “Examine” app provided clarity and a simple chance to vent a little. I have a moment of bracing honesty each day where I can tell myself, “There, I said it!”

I found that processing my issues in a private way via the Examen provided just as much if not more relief than a more public processing on my blog.

I still believe that blog posts are an important first draft of my ideas. I still think that blogging can be a helpful way to process ideas in public. I still love the idea of writing the best piece of short form content possible and then immediately finding out what readers think. As an author who develops book ideas for years, this immediacy is a blessed relief.

Every person who leaves his twenties behind and starts to stare down middle age or “old” age, whatever that is now, likes to think that some wisdom and gentleness has been added to the mix over time. Whether you call that moving from the first half of life to the second half of life, mellowing with age, or simply realizing that you were a bit of a jerk in the past, a bit of evolution on our parts strikes me as appropriate. I hope that I write differently ten years, twenty years, and even, gasp, thirty years from now.

At this point in my life, sacrificing a bit of consistency for the sake of picking only my best thoughts, rather than sharing ALL of my thoughts, feels like either a wise or a “less dumb” shift. I truly do need to write a lot, but it doesn’t all necessarily need to be shared.

Removing myself from the race to keep growing my blogging platform in order to catch a publisher’s eye finally gave me permission to let up a bit. I still care deeply about reaching more readers with my writing, but my higher priority is letting my work evolve at its own pace and recognizing that oftentimes my writing is only for my own eyes.

Perhaps it would be easier to write for others if I could first learn to write for myself.

Rohr for Writers: Writers Are Driven from Within

Rohr forWriters

“The good news of incarnational religion, a Spirit-based mortality, is that you are not motivated by outside reward or punishment but actually by looking out from inside the Mystery yourself. So carrots are neither needed nor helpful. ‘It is God, who for his own loving purpose, puts both the will and the action into you’ (Philippians 2:13). It is not our rule-following behavior but our actual identity that needs to be radically changed… You do things because they are true, not because you have to or you are afraid of punishment.”
– Richard Rohr, Immortal Diamond pp. 85-86

It’s common for writers to talk about “finding” something to write about or “looking” for writing topics. We get the sense at times that we are chasing ideas that are hiding somewhere, and at times we can begin to despair that we’ll ever track them down.

Just as Richard Rohr suggests that our spirituality should originate within ourselves as we rest in God’s indwelling Spirit, I believe that writing can spring up in a similar way. As we ground ourselves in the present love of Christ and tune into what he’s saying to us, we’ll find wisdom and direction for our lives and even for our writing.

This changes us from religious people who strive and think our way to God and turns us into spiritual people who rest in God and allow God to guide us. You could say we’re cutting to the chase here, and that really is the beauty of the Gospel message after all. What we strive to accomplish on our own has already been done in us. We just need to receive it and live in it.

However, if anything takes work in the spiritual life, it’s clearing out space in our schedules and in our minds for this spiritual reality to take hold. The indwelling Spirit is all over the New Testament scriptures, and yet, how often have I tried to move forward with God’s work in my own strength and wisdom?

Perhaps you’re weary, uninspired, or just plain fearful about the direction of your life or your writing work in particular.

The Good News for you is that God is already in this with you. The Spirit is present. Your work is to rest in the Spirit of God, to trust that the words of Christ are true for YOU. There aren’t any footnotes in the words of Jesus with special clauses that rule you out.

If you can find peace in the presence of the Spirit here and now, you’ll be able to write from a healthier place of security and direction. You’ll know that first and foremost, God is in and with you, and you’ll find greater creative freedom to explore the directions that God places on your heart.

Criticism won’t sting in the same way if you’re writing out of God’s leading. Approval won’t carry the same weight. Anxiety and fear will gradually lose their power.

You’ll have freedom to seek the truth, and when you find it, you’ll have the freedom and peace you need to write about it. And when you are finished writing, you will have the comfort of knowing that writing is only a small part of the awesome mystery of God dwelling among us.

Read more about prayer and writing in my book:

Pray, Write, Grow: Cultivating Prayer and Writing Together