By Guest Blogger Karen Ball
|Erin Taylor Young and Karen Ball|
Photo Credit: Angela Hunt
If there’s anything we’ve learned from this whole writing gig, it’s that writers FEEL.
We revel in the joys and successes—even to the point, for some of us, of doing our own version of the Snoopy Dance. (Um…tell me I’m not the only one…) We celebrate the completion of a writing project, singing out to the world that we’ve typed the two most wondrous words in creation: “The End.” We laugh, we cry, we fall in love along with our characters. No doubt about it, writers know how to feel. Which is wonderful.
Until it’s not.
Until we hit…those places. The rough spots. A bad or unfair review. A reader letter calling us heretical. An edit that demolishes our voice. A contract that offers less than half of what we were given in the past. Deadlines so far gone that we will never catch up. And then there are the personal struggles with family, friends, and faith. For so long, when I hit those deep places, I found myself listening to the insecurities and fears rumbling inside me. Which then allows my oh-so-powerful feelings to become weapons that undermine and decimate. And I’m left crying out, asking WHY. Begging for release. Wondering if I heard God wrong…or at all.
Have you been in a place like this? Are you there now? With all the changes in publishing, it seems more and more of us are. But that’s not the worst of it. Because there’s someone out there working against us, whispering to our spirit and mind that we’re the only ones…that everyone else is doing great, all the other writers are selling books like crazy, no one else has been at this for so long and yet has so little to show for it…
Writing friends, let me just say this: BALONEY!
You’re not alone. Not by a long shot. But the deceiver wants you to believe you are. After all, what better way to incapacitate those called to write God’s truth than to isolate them? Erin Taylor Young and I were talking about that truth one day, about that tactic that’s used so well against so many of us, and we discovered something. A shared spark deep inside that was fanned into life as we talked. A powerful desire to shine the light on the lies writers are too prone to believe. To let fellow writers know we all, at some point, end up in the deep places. But here’s the thing: It’s often in those very places that we find the greatest truths God has planted inside us.
As Erin and I talked, Write from the Deep was born. A place of podcasts, resources, even, one day, retreats all focusing on…well, you. On helping, refreshing, and equipping you for writing from the deep places.
As we’ve talked with those who’ve been in the deep, as we’ve shared about our own experiences in the deep, and as we considered what to share with all of you, we found four keys to not just enduring, but thriving in, the deep.
Key One: Expect the Deep
Face it, deep places are part and parcel of the writing life. But don’t fear them. Don’t dread them. Rather, expect them. As the cliché goes, “Forewarned is forearmed.” And, in this case, that cliché can work in your favor. Know they are coming…and move on to step two.
Key Two: Equip Yourself for the Deep
This is the forearmed part. Since you expect that, at some point, you’ll be in the deep places, prepare yourself ahead of time. I live in Oregon, a state overflowing with wilderness. When I was involved in Search & Rescue (SAR) here, I was taught to put together a “go” bag—a bag containing anything I might need in said wilderness. Water. Food. Emergency whistle. Waterproof matches. And so on. In the same way, you can prepare a “go” bag for being in the deep. What should you include? Anything you might need:
· Scripture verses, sayings…any truths that encourage and uplift you
· Books, music, movies… whatever soothes and encourages
· A list of friends, family, or advisors you can call. Don’t try to go through it alone. Seek God in prayer, ask friends for prayer and counsel, let your family know where you’re at and what you need. For those you will ask to be with you in the deep, talk to them ahead of time, telling them what you’ll need from them if you have to call. Some of us need people who can just sit and listen to us. Some need those who speak truth in the face of lies. Some just need a warm hug. Or chocolate. Lots of chocolate. Ask those you trust for the specific things you need.
Another way to equip yourself is to learn from those who’ve been there before you. Talk with other writers. Ask them what helped. What to avoid. (And, of course, come visit, www.writefromthedeep.com.)
Do realize, though, that all the training in the world just can’t fully prepare you for the reality of being in the deep. So the best way to learn how to survive it is to be there. And, for as long as you need to, stay there. Which leads us to…
Key Three: Embrace the Deep
We’re so programmed in our culture to try and escape the hard places in life. The minute we’re in them, we want to know the way out. But what if those places are meant for our good? What if they work to prove our faith genuine and bring glory to God? When we stop trying to escape, when we focus on the Master and His purposes, we find that the deep places are where we get to know God best, where He refines us into a purer reflection of His son. That doesn’t mean you’re going to like being in the deep, but I promise if you can learn to embrace these times in your writing life, you—and your writing—will be richer for it.
Key Four: Encourage Others in the Deep
Let’s face it, one of the best things you can do when you’re struggling is to get your focus off of your struggle and onto encouraging others who are in their own deep places. Speak the truth of your struggle. Write about it, even if it’s only in a journal, then take what you’ve written and use it to encourage others. Because those around us don’t need some false sense of bravado or the empty assurances that everything’s okay when it isn’t. They need our honesty. Our authenticity. Our vulnerability. Those are the things that change and help others. And if nothing comes from our deep places but that…
It’s worth it.
When Karen Ball and Erin Taylor Young discovered a shared passion for encouraging writers, they developed the Write from the Deep podcast and website (www.writefromthedeep.com). They designed these helps with fellow writers in mind, crafting messages, podcasts, videos, craft tips, and more to encourage, refresh, and equip you in your writing journey.
If you’d like to know when new podcasts are released, sign up for their newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/brRM5b and receive the free, exclusive audio download: 5 Crucial Ways to Safeguard Your Writer’s Heart in the Deep.
A publishing professional for over 30 years, Karen Ball has overseen fiction for Tyndale, Multnomah, Zondervan, and B&H Publishing Group. She’s worked with such notable authors as Francine Rivers, Karen Kingsbury, Robin Jones Gunn, and many others. Karen is currently the owner of Karen Ball Publishing Services, LLC, a literary agent with the prestigious Steve Laube Agency, and an award-winning, best-selling author.
Erin Taylor Young is passionate about helping others embrace deep places with God. She’s an acquisitions editor and author liaison for Redbud Press, a publishing company she helped to found. She's also an award-winning humor writer. Her recent book, Surviving Henry: Adventures inLoving a Canine Catastrophe, has been repeatedly accused of making readers laugh until they cry.