Saturday, June 10, 2017

Scary Words in Social Media Waters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Publish. Send. Post. These can be scary words for writers who use social media, especially if they choose to share some of their creative work there.

Everyone knows I’m a writer. What if what I wrote is boring, meaningless, or (my favorite) stupid? What if I didn’t see a (horrors!) typo? What if I “forgot” to make sense?

Well, so what? Not everything we write is great. Not everything we write goes through a professional editing process (but I highly recommend routine self-editing to protect the writing reputation you have or hope to build).

We all make writing mistakes, especially if we’re typing on our phones with those tiny keyboards. But writing is meant to be read. And anything we write that can be accessed through social media will be read, even if only by our moms, third cousins on our dads’ sides, and people who in high school seemed kind of like stalkers, but we’ve connected with them on Facebook anyway.

Besides, look at the benefits. In brief posts, you can practice making even a single sentence beautiful with elegance and clarity. Twitter is a great challenge for that because of its character limit. You can dive into the social media waters with an effort to be brilliantly funny or inspiringly serious and see what floats—or doesn’t! You can encourage your friends and acquaintances with a new insight. If you share a link to a lengthy piece—a blog post, a short story, an essay—you might be able to test the waters with a new genre, a new audience, or a brand-new concept you’d like to develop. You can even devise a concise, to-the-point survey to learn what might help you propel your writing career in some way.

Or you can just have some fun and make your mom proud.

Sure, you must be prepared for no “likes” or “shares” or “comments.” But writers gotta write, and social media like Facebook and Twitter and easy access to blog platforms like WordPress and Blogger make it easier than ever to gain the benefits of putting your writing out there.

All you have to do is get past the scary words and dive in.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

photo credit:

Saturday, June 3, 2017

A Pill for Writer's Block

In last month’s issue of The Smithsonian Magazine, Robert Anthony Siegel told how he overcame his chronic writer’s block with a pill. Not just any pill, but a custom-designed placebo. A researcher prepared the medication for Siegel, who knew full well that the pill contained nothing more than cellulose.
He took the medication for two weeks before he noticed any change in his behavior. When he felt a strong urge to quit, he took a couple of extra pills instead. (“I was way, way over my dosage,” he confided.)
Gradually, his episodes of writer’s block became less frequent and debilitating. So did his panic attacks and insomnia. His experiment contributed to our knowledge of the placebo effect.
A few insights into the placebo effect may help you overcome writer’s block, even if you don’t use a placebo:
1. Your expectations shape your experience. Robert’s researcher did everything to make the prescription look like a real pharmaceutical: He gave Robert a written prescription for his druggist, who then gave him a labeled medicine bottle with the pills, a disclosure sheet about the medicine, and a hefty bill of $405. (“The price increases the sense of value,” the researcher told him. “It will make them work better.”)
You could do several things to heighten expectancy when you sit down to write. Draft a cover letter to accompany your submission to the editor or critique partner who’ll read it. If you’re going to meet that person to discuss your manuscript, make the appointment before you start to write. And so on. What if I don’t finish? you may be thinking. But if you anticipate failure, guess what happens.
2. Find an empathetic caregiver. The researcher filled that role in Robert’s case. He listened attentively to the consequences of writer’s block, helped Robert imagine how his life would change without it, and checked on his progress throughout the trial.
If you keep getting “stuck” with your writing, find a critique partner or mentor to help you. Your conversations with that person tell your subconscious mind: I am not well, but I’m taking steps to get well. This condition is not normal, but I have a capable friend who’ll help me return to normal.
3. Continue therapy when you see no results. At first, Siegel's writing remained “stuck” and his anxiety began to build. He emailed his lab worker one night to pour out his frustration, and got the reply: “As with any other medicine, it may take time to reach a therapeutic dose.” So he kept on taking the placebos as directed--and he began to write.

Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Writing Bug

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Do you remember when the writing bug got you?

My grandchildren are victims, and I'm thrilled.

I was with three of them a couple of weeks ago while their parents were out on a date. The two boys were eager for me to read their most recent creations. The five-year-old, Benjamin, had dictated his fifty-word story about a hero and a monster as the seven-year-old, James, typed it for him. (Now, that’s writer support.) Then James typed his debut novel's chapter 1 for himself.

“What’s your book about?” I asked him.

“It’s a mystery.”

“What’s the mystery?”

“The family is going camping, but the kids don’t know where they’re going camping.”

As I read it out loud, I could see the first chapter had a lot of packing and camping paraphernalia in it. But sure enough, the kids in the family didn’t know their destination.

“What’s going to happen next?” I asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t know.”

Ah, a panster! Meanwhile, his ten-year-old sister, Connie, writes about horses, her current passion. They are all writing "what they know," but if their interest in writing continues, I imagine they will incorporate what they learn about life as they experience it. Most writers do. Or maybe they'll incorporate what they think is someone else’s experience.

“What do you think your parents do when they go on a date?” I asked the three of them as they munched popcorn.

“They go to movies and eat all the chocolate they want."

“And they kiss!

Today I read a story my other granddaughter wrote on a tiny piece of paper and left behind in her parents' van. Ellie's imagination, it seems, had been in full play.

"I live in texas," her first-person story began. She lives in Indiana. "The texas flag looks like this." She'd inserted a drawing, which for all I know may be accurate. She finished with, "I am part of the rocking rangers. I am 13." She's seven, and I'm not sure what the rocking rangers are. But as far as I'm concerned, she's rocking with the writing bug and I love it! Meanwhile, her brother, Simon, almost five, is impressed with printed books because they "don't have scribbles" like the ones he sees in his own handwritten creations.

Scribble away, my boy. Scribble away!

When did the writing bug get you?

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.
photo credits:;

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Sense of Awe

My wife Maribeth and I sat on the balcony of our hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, sipping our morning coffee and watching waves break on the beach.  Our day’s devotional text was Psalm 27:13, “I believe I will enjoy the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living,” so the scene prompted a prayer of praise and gratitude that God had placed us in such a beautiful world.
I believe a distinguishing characteristic of Christian fiction is this sense of awe at the natural world. Not a moralizing commentary on the weather, scenery, or other physical phenomena, but an awareness that the environment of our story demonstrates the presence of a creative, compassionate God.
   Perhaps the heroine is riding in an ambulance with her husband, who’s struggling to hang onto life after a heart attack. When a paramedic tries to jolt him back into a regular cardiac rhythm, she looks away and sees the majestic Cascade Mountains illuminated by the first rays of dawn.
   A teenage boy waits for the bus that will transport him to another state where he hopes to escape the abusive scorn of his alcoholic father. A Canadian goose crosses the highway with a single adolescent gosling behind it—not a pair of parents but one, not a brood of goslings but one.
   It’s not necessary to tell a reader what conclusions to draw; in fact, spelling out conclusions would betray a distrust of the reader’s spiritual sensitivity and limit his ability to draw more transformative conclusions than you have imagined. Simply note what’s happening in the natural world and let the reader discover God in it.
   “The heavens are telling the glory of God,” the psalmist said. Like the poet, a Christian novelist doesn’t tell readers what to see in her imaginary world, but she renders such a world so faithfully that readers feel a sense of reverent wonder.

Joe Allison is a retired Christian editor living in Anderson, Indiana.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

They Had Me at “Jane Eyre”—To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Did you see the recent PBS presentation To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters? Perhaps British television is not your “cuppa” tea, but this one had me at “Jane Eyre.” If you’ve ever read that book by Charlotte Brontë or Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, for instance, you might have been drawn in too. (I confess I’ve never read Anne Brontë’s work, but now I think I must.) 

Here’s more of what I loved about the nineteenth-century Brontë family as portrayed in To Walk Invisible and how I think we, as writers, can be inspired by them:

·       In this drama, one of the sisters says something like, “I feel most alive when I write.” For twenty-first century writers who express a similar passion, her proclaim produces a stir of kinship across the centuries, doesn’t it?

·       The sisters wrote even when they thought they, especially as women, had little hope of publication. When, however, they saw an opportunity to be published (as well as to earn some much-needed funds), they went for it—although at some cost to them, and in Emily’s case, with great reticence. The lesson? If you feel led to publication, you must try if you hope to ever see it a reality.

·       In one scene, Emily, finally on board with the secret plan to pursue publication, is shopping with Anne. As they walk, she tells her sister a compelling story someone relayed to her. Then she halts at a shop and says, “If I’m going to write novels, I’ll need more paper.” I can’t quite explain all the reasons that scene inspires me, but her willingness to invest is one of them.

·       The women’s beloved brother, Branwell, destroying his life with drugs and alcohol, was central to how these sisters thought and felt and lived. Branwell never realized his artistic dreams, but his sisters were so aware of his misery that they hid their success from everyone so as not to hurt him. This, I believe, took extraordinary compassion and humility. They could have let their accomplishments come between them and their brother, but they made another choice. If and when writers are successful, sensitivity to others who might be struggling is a good choice.

·       Currer Bell, Ellis Bell, and Acton Bell were the pseudonyms the sisters chose, retaining their own initials despite their choice for absolute anonymity. They had poured their hearts and souls into those handwritten words, and I think this was one way they chose to hang on to that truth in a harsh world. This, perhaps, is one reason seeing his or her name on the cover of a book can be so meaningful to an author. There’s the heart. Right on the cover.

·       When Charlotte, Emily, and Anne at last told their father they were the authors of published books after Jane Eyre’s phenomenal success, they held the printed volumes before him as though they were an offering. He told them he was extraordinarily proud of them, and had always been. May every writer have supportive family and friends! But if not, finding someone or group of someones who will offer support can make a difference.

·       Charlotte had been afraid to tell their father about their books. As she’d told her sisters, “He’ll read them.” Most writers can relate to feeling some apprehension before letting those whose opinions they most value read their creative work. But Charlotte decided to be brave, and every writer can be too—at least eventually.

·       The sisters told their father their novels were different because they showed what the world was really like. You’d have to be the judge on whether, as some critics said at the time, their novels are “coarse” (I don’t believe they are), but truth is a worthy goal for any writer.

·       Anne and Emily died before they reached thirty, never having known public acknowledgment of their work under their own names. Charlotte died at thirty-nine. What we call early death today wasn’t uncommon then. What if they had given up on their dreams, waited too long? The lesson? It’s never too early or too late to start writing, especially if writing is a calling. The time is now.

Thank you, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, for sharing your God-given talent with us, even here in the twenty-first century. But also for your courage, your compassion, your tenacity, your inspiration.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries

(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

Monday, April 3, 2017

ACFW-Indiana Explodes with Creativity!

On March 18, 2017, ACFW-Indiana authors gathered at Manchester University's new School of Pharmacy for a day of writing and creativity. We had a great time collaborating, discussing our works in progress, and getting to know one another better. The support we found there was priceless. So much talent in one room -- it's a wonder the walls didn't explode!

I was delighted to meet and get to know new members, Kathy Thompson and Abbey Downey! Welcome to the family, ladies!

Manchester University's facility was fantastic: comfortable and roomy, not to mention sound absorbent! (We needed that during our "Would You Rather" game!)

We did a lot of work in the area of first lines and plotting. No matter how long you write, there's always more to learn.

For those who couldn't come: you were missed. Please don't forget to save the dates for our upcoming event in Indianapolis on June 17! You won't want to miss hearing Colleen Coble and Cara Putman share their writing wisdom with us!

Karla Akins first novel, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots was published in August, 2013.  A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith and Determined Parenting is due out in summer/fall of 2017 from Kregel.  She writes interactive, biographical narratives and content for iPad applications and has an on-going contract for her World Explorers Every Child Should Know series. Jacques Cartier hit #1 on Amazon in its category. Her hobbies are book-hoarding, swimming, and riding her motorcycle. She is represented by Linda Glaz of Hartline Literary Agency. She has a BA in Special Education and a Doctorate in Christian Education.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Self-editing by Editing Level

by Jean Kavich Bloom

Authors can possess an effective tool for warding off indifference, criticism, or even outright rejection of their writing: self-editing.

Not all writers enjoy self-editing, but I think we should all try to develop some skills for it. Search engines reveal a plethora of articles, blog posts, and books on the subject, and I recommend that approach for all the advice and tips and tricks you can gain. I've even shared some on this blog. But I also propose considering self-editing along the lines of others-editing, before you hand off your work to an editor. Especially to an acquisition editor with the authority to decide whether to publish you or at least to encourage others to do so. Maybe even before you send your work to a beta reader team.

If your work is professionally published, it will most likely go through several levels of editing (and yes, the many different labels used among professional editors is confusing):

·         Macro, substantive, developmental, or content editing: This is the view from 50,000 feet when an editor is looking at the substance of the whole work. Does it speak to the intended target audience? Does it make sense; hold together; present a logical flow-of-thought (or plot)? Is each chapter strong enough, or do some need work? Will the opening chapter or paragraph give the reader the most incentive to keep going, or is that incentive buried later—or even missing? In fiction, does the plot have gaps; are the main characters well-developed? Is the pace good? This is the editing level that can result in the author being asked to do some rewriting, maybe some reorganizing.

·         Line editing: This level is my sweet spot as a professional editor. Paragraph by paragraph, line by line, word by word, the line editor works to tighten up writing to maximize the reader’s experience and reduce reader distractions. He or she addresses repetition, awkward phrasing, wordiness, lack of continuity or sense, gaps that need to be mended, points that need to be fleshed out, and so on. Often, he or she discovers problems created by rewrites. But that’s okay; those can still be fixed.

·         Copy editing: I combine line editing and copy editing for my clients, but some houses separate the two. At its most basic, copy editing ensures consistency, that the chosen style guide has been followed, and that grammar, spelling, and punctuation are correct. Note: Proofreading is not editing, but a final task to try to ensure no error has been missed.

My advice is to wait until after you’ve written a draft that satisfies you before self-editing by level—and then wait some more. Hopefully you aren’t so close to a submission or posting deadline that you don’t have time to step away at least a couple of days, if not more. You need to gain perspective with fresh eyes and brain cells.

Then try self-editing level by level, one at a time. Ask yourself the same kinds of questions an editor will.

·         Macro, substantive, or content editing: Does your content hang together? Are all the elements what they need to be to tell your story well?

·         Line editing: Is your writing as strong as it can be? What needs to be reworked or addressed? What problem (such as a contradiction) might you have inadvertently created when you wrote your last draft?

·         Copy editing: This level might not be your bailiwick, but you’ll be surprised what you find if you read with the intention of spotting errors. And do run a spell check!

As I said, you can find many helps online and in books to develop self-editing skills. And no matter what we do, every writer needs an editor. (You can probably find a problem with this post because I, uh, didn't have an editor or a proofreader!) But consider how employing each editing level—just as professional editors will—could take your self-editing to a new level of expertise and success.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries
(Bloom in Words Editorial Services), with nearly thirty years' experience in the book publishing world. Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

photo credit:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Confessions of a tenacious writer

I love to read. And lately I've been reading a lot of YA and middle grade books because my work-in-progress is for that demographic. There really is no rhyme or reason to the books I choose. If I like the premise, or the author is award-winning, that's usually what I read.

When I'm reading good fiction something almost always happens. And a couple of days ago it happened again. I opened a book, read the first sentence, and threw the book aside in despair.

"That's it. I'm never writing another word. That author just wrote the most perfect first sentence and paragraph in the existence of the universe. I quit."

Silly, I know, but I really did do that!

When I stumble on excellent writing like this, I have the strangest sense of euphoria and doom. Rockets fire off in my belly at the joy of reading something glorious. Those rockets are immediately extinguished by my angst. Will I ever be able to write as beautifully? Ever?

Wrong attitude, I know. I know. But admit it, you've done it, too. If you're a real writer, you've mourned over finely crafted sentences that failed to spill from your pen. And that's fine. We're entitled to feel a longing to be brilliant. The trick is to be challenged by great writing, not discouraged by it.

It may take years for me to craft sentences that match the brilliance of Kate DiCamillo or Natalie Babbitt. Maybe I will and maybe I won't. One thing's for sure: I won't if I quit. I'm convinced it's not always the most talented that succeed but the most persistent. I'm going to cling to that hunger to write sparkling, crystal prose the same way my Boston Terrier bull dog latches on to his rubber tire:

I'm not going to quit because I have this tiny ember of hope inside that someday I will write an award-winning story. Sometimes the ember is flaming and large. And then, sometimes, when I read the most perfect sentence ever written, it settles to a small cinder.

But what roasts the best marshmallows? Embers. These deceptively-small crumbs of fire can be fanned into flames. If we keep writing, those little flames have the potential to become great bonfires crackling with hope. Quit writing and they go completely out. That is just too sad for me to think about. Without fire there is no light or warmth  in the darkness.

This writing dream isn't all about me. (How many times I remind myself of this!) It's not about winning awards or even about writing better than someone else. It's about conveying the good news. It's about heralding truth.

Even if I never win a Newberry or Carol, if I've reached one soul and changed their mind toward Jesus? The reward is enough. And if I can do it with as well-crafted a story as those I read, that's all the better.

I hear too often (from the secular publishing community) that Christian writers aren't as good at their craft as secular writers. I don't agree, of course, but this reminds me that we should be striving even more for excellence. We don't write for just any audience. We write for a King to His children. We are writing for royalty. And they deserve the best story-tellers of all.

What are some of your favorite first lines and paragraphs? What sentences have your favorite writers written that are good enough to be framed?  I'd love to know. Weigh in below! I'll include them in our workshop notes on March 18 in Fort Wayne at our chapter meeting.

Karla Akins first novel, The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots was published in August, 2013.  A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith and Determined Parenting is due out in summer/fall of 2017 from Kregel.  She currently serves as President of ACFW-Indiana Chapter. 

Photo credits: 
Bonfire by Trzypiece - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Embers by by Jens Buurgaard Nielsen

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Touchy, Touchy, Touchy!

Anthony Trollope (1815-82) is best known to American readers for the "Barchester Chronicles," a series of novels about church life in a nineteenth-century parish. Although Trollope did not call himself a Christian author, he often dealt with moral and spiritual themes. One of his attempts aroused the ire of a well-known churchman, and illustrates the kind of trouble we can encounter when we deal with touchy subjects.

Trollope wrote about a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage in his novel, Can You Forgive Her? He later commented:
It must ever be wrong to force a girl into marriage with a man she does not love--and certainly the more so when there is another whom she does love. In my endeavor to each this lesson I subjected the young wife to the terrible danger of overtures from the man to whom her heart had been given...leaving for a while a doubt on the question of whether the lover might or might not succeed (Trollope, An Autobiography, chap. 10).
He received a letter from a distinguished Anglican minister who said he usually enjoyed having one of his daughters read Trollope's latest novel to him, but this story had gone over the top. The disgusted clergyman had told his daughter to put it away, and he scolded Trollope for writing a sensational book to gin up sales. Surely the author didn't think a wife contemplating adultery was a fit subject for his readers!

"I asked him in return whether from his pulpit, or at any rate from his communion table, he did not denounce adultery to his audience," Trollope wrote, "and if so, why it should not be open to me to preach the same doctrine to mine."

His critic invited Trollope to spend a week as a guest in his home, where they could "have it out," but the author never accepted this invitation. The novel ended with Lady Glencora staying true to her marriage vows, yet the churchman never learned how the story turned out. He might have forgiven a woman of adultery, but he couldn't forgive someone for having the temerity to write about it!

My crit group is now reading a young adult novel in which the teenage protagonist gets pregnant out of wedlock. It's skillfully written and portrays the girl's quandary in a most authentic way, but I've cautioned the author to expect a cool reception from Christian publishers, because the subject itself will draw a lot of flack.

What are some of the most touchy subjects for your fiction genre? Have you tackled them anyway? How did prospective agents and publishers respond?


Joe Allison has been a member of the Indiana Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers since 2010. He lives in Anderson, IN. His non-fiction books include Setting Goals That Count and Swords and Whetstones.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Once Upon a Time There Was Expletive Construction

By Jean Kavich Bloom 
"Once upon a time there was an average-looking prince who was imprisoned in a castle (no doubt hoping for an average-looking princess to save him)."   
I'm messing with storybook tradition in more ways than one, but my point is about expletive constructions. Expletive constructions are phrases such as “There is / There was,” “There are / There were,” and “It is / It was.” As the Writing Center of the University of Wisconsin says, “Try to avoid using them, since these constructions merely obscure the main subject and action of a sentence.” I'll add that expletive constructions also tend to invite wordiness. In the example above, not only is "there was" in use, but "who was" then seems to be required.   
Perhaps that prince's dilemma could be better described like this: "Once upon a time a handsome prince was imprisoned in a castle . . ." (I'll leave determining the probability of his hoping for that princess to you.)  
Avoiding expletive constructions is difficult because they're so common in everyday speech. That’s okay; people talk the way they talk, and employing these constructions in dialogue is appropriate because characters must sound like real people. They should sound like us!  
Not only that, but we've all heard that famous first line in A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times . . ." Sometimes narrative expletive constructions work quite well!   
Authors can, however, train themselves to avoid expletive constructions when writing narrative, at least most of the time, and for the reason given above: so as not to "obscure the main subject and action of a sentence." Readers will appreciate such an accomplishment even if they don’t know they are!    
Here are some simple sentences with expletive constructions that can be easily "flipped," in most cases with fewer words:  

There are several drama series on Netflix I especially like.

I especially like several drama series on Netflix.

There was so much on Megan's plate she hardly had time to think.
Megan's plate was so full she hardly had time to think. 

It’s the way Martin speaks to Ellen that frustrates Cynthia the most.

What frustrates Cynthia the most is the way Martin speaks to Ellen.

Try this exercise: For the next few days, note how many expletive constructions you see (1) in the book you’re currently reading, (2) on a blog you regularly follow, or (3) in memes on a social media site. Making yourself more aware of expletive constructions is an easy first step toward addressing them in your own writing.

Jean Kavich Bloom is a freelance editor and writer (see
Bloom in Words Editorial Services). Her personal blog is Bloom in Words too, where she sometimes posts articles about the writing life. She is also a contributor to The Glorious Table, a blog for women of all ages. Her published books are Bible Promises for God's Precious Princess and Bible Promises for God's Treasured Boy. She and her husband, Cal, have three children and five grandchildren.

Monday, February 6, 2017

An open letter to friends and family from a writer

Dear Friends and Family:

(Note: This letter is not in any way a reference to my darling Mr. Himself!)

There have been some rumbles lately about the time I spend writing. To help us all get on the same page about this wordsmith-ing gig I'm into, I thought I'd write this letter to set a few things straight.

Few people understand the sacrifices a writer makes other than other writers. Especially writers with full-time jobs outside of writing. The perception most of the public has of people who write books, is that their work is easy and effortless. Authors sit down and *POOF* out pops a book.

When you're a writer, people assume you don't have a "real" job with "real" hours. Deadlines, to them, are just excuses to say no to things you don't want to do, when the opposite is true. People also assume writers who are published get big royalty checks each month. Um, no. Not unless you're a national/international best-seller. So far, no one is banging down my door offering me movie contracts or begging me to publish with them. And if a big royalty check arrived in the mail, someone stole it.

Some of you wonder how I juggle so many things and wear so many hats. It boils down to three basic things:
  1. I don't watch TV. Think of how many hours you watch TV each week and add it up. That's probably several whole days of writing for me. I get several whole extra days a week others don't because I spend my spare time writing and researching instead of passively frying my brain on drivel. (As you can see, I have a high opinion of television these days.)
  2. Writing for me is as much a part of me as breathing. I must write. It's been such a part of me, from such a young age, I simply can't imagine not doing it. Ducks swim. I write. You hunt. I write. You are a car enthusiast, I'm a writer. I'm different from you. Different isn't wrong, it's just different.
  3. I've learned to say no. It upsets people. They call me names. They hurt my feelings by saying things like, "I'll be sure they put 'I have a deadline' on your tombstone.'" (More about that in a minute.) But I've learned that no one will respect and protect my writing time but me. No one understands it, or wants it, as badly as I do.

I've learned that there's no way to please everyone, so I've stopped trying. My aim is to please God and God alone. This has taken me far too long to learn. I wish I'd have done so many years ago. I'm thankful I've finally arrived at a place of self-respect and self-care.

You see, I really don't mind having the epitaph of "I have a deadline" on my tombstone, because that's exactly what I'm working for: that final deadline.

We will all stand before God one day. Alone. No one will stand there with us. The enemy will accuse us and Jesus will defend us. But we stand that day without any of our earthly friends and family with us.
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad" 2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV.
"...And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" 1 John 2:1, KJV.
Heaven is the deadline I'm working toward. And that is why I must write. Far too many people don't understand the outrageous love God has for them. Far too many live in deception and recklessly dance on the precipice of hell. I'm called to share the Good News with them. I'm called to rescue the perishing with my words.

I might not have the glamorous social life some of my friends have, or I might not be up on the latest pop culture, but I'm okay with that because I'm doing what I was born to do. Friends and family may reject me because of this writing passion. That's a sacrifice I'm willing to make. I don't live to please them.

I live to please my God. The One True God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. I look to the heavens every single day wondering if this is the day my Jesus returns for me. I look to those heavens with a mix of anticipation and excitement for myself, but sorrow for those I've not yet reached with His Words.

(Let me be clear. This does not make me more righteous or better than anyone else. My righteousness comes from my Messiah, Jesus, alone. In myself, I am nothing.)

My sacrifice is nothing compared to His. My sorrows nothing compared to what He endured on the cross. I don't care if you call me addled or crazy. I know that I know Who He is, and Whom I serve. I serve a living God. I serve the God who created all those who call themselves gods. I serve the most powerful, most glorious, most merciful YHWH. I can no more stop writing to spread His message, than I can stop breathing.

So the next time you try to shame me into stopping this writing thing? I'll hand you a copy of this post. Maybe you'll understand. Maybe you won't. But at least it is written. And like my father always said, "People believe if it is written, it is so."

In this case, yes, it is indeed so. I will say no sometimes to fun, to something someone else wants me to do at the spur of the moment, when I've already carved out that time in my week to work (i.e., write). I won't always be able to drop what I'm doing and get someone out of a bind because of something they failed to plan for. I am called to write, not fix someone else's poor time management foibles.

That may sound harsh. But it's what we writers must do in this day of rapid-fire-time-guzzlers. Someone is always going to misunderstand a writer's need for space and time to create. Contrary to what people think, great words don't simply magically appear at the end of our finger tips or pens and morph themselves into books, articles or blog posts.

If this writing thing was easy, everyone would publish a book. Newsflash to friends and family: this writing thing can be grueling. Yes, I love it. Yes, it's what I'm made to do. That doesn't mean that it's not just plain hard work sometimes. There are times when people are asleep all snuggled up in their warm, comfy beds that I wish I was, too. Instead, I'm up earlier than the birds or later than the stars. I sacrifice sleep, family meals and going to the movies, just as you do at your own jobs. Writing is what I love, but writing is also time-consuming work.

If you love me, you'll try to respect and understand this singular, unconventional path I walk. You won't hold it against me when I can't come running because I'm at work, just as you can't rescue me when you're at work. Instead of knocking me down, you'll build me up and give me wings. It's amazing what a little encouragement will do. I can go for hours, nay, weeks, on just one "atta girl!"

Finally, I love you. I love you with all your quirks, bad habits, and bad choices. I love you with all I have in me. Just because I'm writing doesn't mean I stopped loving you. It just means I'm busy answering the call. And I promise. I promise. In between projects, I'll emerge from my writing cave, and we'll party and dance and eat and celebrate with outrageous abandon like a fat, sassy robin in springtime.

But there will come a day, when the cave will beckon me in again, and I will hibernate. Some hibernation times last longer than others. But never fear. They don't last forever. When I emerge, like a moth from a chrysalis, I will fly back into the real world and do all I can to make it up to you.

Just please try to understand. This writing thing can be hard. The path is often lonely. And it's made all the worse when I don't have the sustenance of your blessing. I may not live to please you, but that doesn't mean I don't want your support.

And maybe, just maybe, a movie-maker will knock down my door. And when that happens? You'll be right there with me on that red carpet.

I guarantee it.

Karla Akins is a best-selling author of five books including The Pastor's Wife Wears Biker Boots. Her latest book, A Pair of Miracles: A Story of Autism, Faith, and Determined Parenting will be released in the fall of 2017 by Kregel Publishing. She resides in North Manchester, Indiana and is currently serving as President of ACFW-Indiana.