blog memoir

You should write a book!

Have you ever thought of publishing your story?

Wow, other people should really hear what you’ve been through.

Have you heard these words? Perhaps you’ve survived cancer, divorce, or the death of a child. Or maybe you’ve stepped out of poverty into prosperity. Out of depression into a life of happiness. If so, then someone has likely insisted that you write a book.

But should you? Should you really?

Yes.

And no.

Allow us to offer some advice from established authors who know a thing or two about the world of publishing:

1. Don’t write because you think it is the only way to tell your story

Christian author Nancy Guthrie offers this counsel in her post People say I should write a book. Should I?

I think the biggest question is this: Is writing a book the only, the best, or the most natural way for you to be a good steward of this experience so that God might use it in the lives of others?   It is for a few people. For others, there are other ways that are a far better fit with their personality, their strengths, and the opportunities presented to them.

2. Don’t write your story if the rejection will deepen your pain

Again we look to Ms. Guthrie:

When the book is about loved ones who have died, we want to extend their lives and give meaning to their deaths by seeing their story in print, so when a publisher isn’t interested, it can feel like another death, and certainly another deep disappointment, a sense that we have failed in extending their impact.

3. Do write your story once you are a proficient memoir writer

Simply having a story to tell does not mean that you are equipped to tell it through the written word. Writing is a gift and talent that is separate from your life-changing experience. Only those who have become proficient as memoir writers should attempt to get their story published.

Literary agent Rachel Gardner offers this advice in her post Telling Your Personal Story:

Create a reading plan for yourself. Set a goal for the next year or so of reading at least 20 good memoirs and 5 books about writing memoir.

Begin to craft your book. After you’ve spent months (or years) writing down the stories of your life and learning about the craft of memoir, you’ll be ready to start putting those stories together and creating a cohesive manuscript — your memoir. That may take many more months. You’ll want to get feedback on it from some readers, perhaps join a critique group, and do as many revisions as necessary to make your memoir shine.

4. Do write your story once you are in a healthy place

While it may be cathartic to write a memoir as a form of therapy, doing so will not produce the caliber of writing needed to get published.

Ange de Lumiere, who works as a book coach, advises:

When I wrote the book about my father dying, I did expect to be taken back to the emotions that I felt when he was given one month to live. But I was grateful that I had done a lot of work on myself so that it was not too painful.

I wasn’t writing for the sake of sharing my pain; I had a message to share, which is that death is not the end. My book’s purpose is to show that there is another way to see death and to start a revolution in the way we approach it. So it is very important to be clear about the purpose of your memoir and to allow yourself to be vulnerable and authentic.

The truth is that there is much more to writing a memoir than many would imagine. At Certa Publishing, we endeavor to prepare our authors to navigate the unique struggles of each genre. If you are considering putting your story on paper, we would be happy to come alongside you in the process. Contact us today.

Why you should (and should not) write a memoir

blog 9 resoutions

So, have you made any New Year’s Resolutions?

For some of you, this is a dreaded question. While those around you seem to have carved out time and brain space to ponder and reflect on the new year, you may still be digging out from wrapping paper, house guests and mysterious leftovers.

New Year’s Resolutions? I guess mine is just to have time to make some!

If this is you, never fear. Alex Weiss at Bustle has curated the resolutions of writers from years past that you will find inspiring. As you read through these, pick a few that jump out at you. There’s no shame in piggy-backing on someone else’s inspiration until you find your own.

Gain some new ideas from these 13 author resolutions to make your New Year the best year yet:

“I’m going to begin writing my third novel in 2016 so my new year’s resolutions center around self discipline. I need to carve out the time and the space to write and to stick to a strict writing schedule. In order to help myself do so, I intend to re-read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. I have found her writing tools (such as Morning Pages and Artist’s Dates) to be invaluable.”

— Louise O’Neill

“Stress less, and daydream more. This year, I realized I’d switched all my daydreaming time to stressing-about-things-I-can’t-control time. I plan on reversing that, pronto! Write books! I need to write the second half of one book, and I want to write another one, too. One and a half books is totally doable. Read books! This year I read 79 books. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to read more next year.”

— Jodi Meadows

“My resolution is simple, and I’ve already started it. More time reading, less time online. I’ve been trying to read for four hours a day and it makes my brain feel good.”

— Meg Rosoff

“As always I hope to make more time to read. I try to start every day by reading for half an hour and end it the same way, ‘bookending’ each day. What I need to really take on board is how this is ‘professional development’. And I want to spend less time on screen in the world of social media. More time painting. Yes. More books in translation. More poetry.”

— Jackie Morris

“My writing resolution for 2014 is to take my laptop to new and exciting places. I always get the best ideas and most inspiration when I force myself out of the house and into a new park or coffee shop!”

— Madeleine Roux

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language snd next year’s words await another voice. And to make an end is to make a beginning.”

— T.S. Eliot

“One resolution I have made, and try always to keep, is this: To rise above the little things.”

— John Burroughs

“The object of a New Year is not that we should have a new year. It is that we should have a new soul and a new nose; new feet, a new backbone, new ears, and new eyes. Unless a particular man made New Year resolutions, he would make no resolutions. Unless a man starts afresh about things, he will certainly do nothing effective.”

— G.K. Chesterton

“Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”

– Benjamin Franklin

At Certa Publishing, we love the freshness and newness of a new year. Few people appreciate the beauty of a blank page like writers do. We look forward to reading what will fill the pages of your manuscripts and your life in 2019.

9 Resolutions to claim as your own (We won’t tell!)

Blog Luke (1)

How many of these sentences from Luke 2 can you finish from memory?

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from…

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him…

Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping…

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you…

Chances are that you easily finished them all. Why? Because Luke 2 contains one of the most beloved stories of all time. The words of this story have filled our Christmas carols, children’s lessons and December sermons for centuries. Luke’s pen documented the story that heralded not only the beginning but also the end of our Messiah’s time among us.

So who was Luke?

A famed author?

No.

A renowned speaker?

No.

An educated rabbi?

No.

He was a physician. We know this from the only Biblical reference to him by another:

Luke the beloved physician and Demas greet you. (Colossians 4:14)

Perhaps he was the man who would have made house calls to your feverish child or sent bandages and salves to the leper’s colony. His days were likely full of infections, broken bones, and newborn babies.

We also know one more thing about Luke. He was a Gentile, not a Jew.  (John Macarthur lays out the case for this supposition here).

So how did a Gentile physician become the author of one-third of the New Testament? Why was he the one to write down perhaps the most well-known story of all time―the birth of Jesus―and so much more?

We don’t know how or why it happened. But we know that it did. And 2000 years later, many of us will open our Bibles on Christmas morning to the words of this Gentile physician.

You have to wonder if Luke would laugh at his legacy. Surely his life plan didn’t go quite as he imagined. His days were meant to be filled with examinations and incisions, not afternoons on the hillside as Jesus taught. His lifework was supposed to be wellness and cures, not screeching demons and calmed storms. Perhaps he recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah:

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. (Isaiah 55:8)

And when those three unplanned years were over, Luke could have easily said his goodbyes and returned to the lifestyle of a doctor. But he didn’t do that. He labored along with Paul and the early church until the end of Paul’s life.

And somewhere in the midst of it all, he decided to write. And write. And write. As the author of the books of Luke and Acts, he wrote 52 chapters of the New Testament.

Do you resonate with the story of Luke? Perhaps writing was never in your life plan. When your high school guidance counselor asked that dreaded question, “What do you want to do with your life?” you likely mentioned something different, perhaps with a more predictable path and definitely a more guaranteed pay structure!

Yet here you find yourself in a similar position as Luke. You’ve seen something. Experience something. Walked through something that simply must be told. No, this wasn’t your planned path, but you sense that it is the one the Lord has firmly planted you on. That you must see it to the end. You feel compelled and driven, even if unsure and wary of the end result.

Luke died never knowing of his presence in our homes on Christmas morning. He never witnessed the cute nativity plays full of children reciting his famed lines. And so it may be with your writing. It may not become a bestseller or be quoted all over Twitter. And yet that is not why God has asked you to write.

Write as Luke did. Because the story compels you to do so. And leave the results in the hands of the One who put the pen in your hand.

 So many others have tried their hand at putting together a story of the wonderful harvest of Scripture and history that took place among us, using reports handed down by the original eyewitnesses who served this Word with their very lives. Since I have investigated all the reports in close detail, starting from the story’s beginning, I decided to write it all out for you, most honorable Theophilus, so you can know beyond the shadow of a doubt the reliability of what you were taught. (The Message, Luke 1:1-4)

At Certa Publishing, we firmly believe that our authors each have a unique story to tell and our aim is to smooth the publishing path in order to bring your story to the most readers possible. Whether you need a partner from rough draft to book tour, or simply a la carte editing and marketing services, we stand ready to join you. Contact us today.

 

From Physician to Prolific Writer: Luke’s unlikely path

Blog Just the Basics

You’ll find plenty of “secrets to success” on the internet geared toward writers. But the truth is that there are a few fundamental principles that most successful authors stick to. Writer Jeff Goins recently shared his 3 Important Lessons on Writing, which are simple on the surface, but really do form the foundation of an enduring writing career. Enjoy this excerpt:

Great writing requires great ideas

All great ideas start out as terrible ideas. The job of a writer is to constantly capture ideas, refine them, and deciding which ones will see the light of day.

Someone recently asked me how much of my writing sees the light of day. At one point, it was probably close to 100%. These days, it’s more like 20%. The older you get, the more critical you get—of yourself, of others, of everything.

Writing is a process of searching for the right idea and not stopping until you find it. Ira Glass once said of his show This American Life that the hardest part of telling a good story is finding one. Why is This American Life one of the most popular podcasts in the world? Because they are relentlessly seeking the best ideas and throwing out the average ones.

Malcolm Gladwell has said something similar about his own writing and how he tirelessly searches for the right story or the perfect piece of research to illustrate the point he’s trying to make.

Don’t settle for average ideas. Great books and articles and blog posts come from great ideas.

Writing is manual labor

Recently, while coaching a client who’s working on a book, she shared that she was behind her word count goal, clocking in at 17,000 words when she should really be closer to 25,000. I told her no problem. This is how it goes.

Inspiration tends to happen in fits and starts. It’s a bit of a crap shoot sometimes. One day, you turn on the faucet and all that comes out is a steady drip. The next day, it’s like a fire hydrant exploded. Your job is to go to the sink every day and turn the handle.

That’s writing. It’s an effort. It’s a job. We don’t control the inspiration.

At the end of the day, writing is just good old-fashioned blue-collar work. You sit down and you write until you’re done. You show up at the factory in your coveralls, punch your clock, and stand at the assembly line doing your work until the day is done.

Some days, you may write only a few hundred words. Other days, you may write thousands. It doesn’t matter. Don’t try to figure out the mystery of the process. Don’t try to squeeze all the productivity you can get out of a single writing moment. It won’t work.

Those efforts tend to do more harm than good on creative work. Just trust the process. Show up, do the work, and trust that something good is emerging.

So when you do show up, what does that look like?

I don’t know a serious professional writer who doesn’t have some kind of routine, at least when they’re on deadline—which, for a serious professional writer is almost always.

What is a routine?

It’s simple:

  • Pick a place to write in every day
  • Pick a time to write every day
  • Pick an amount of time to write every day

That’s it. It could be your kitchen table at 9:00 a.m. for thirty minutes. Do that every day—or at least more often than not—and you’ve got yourself a writing routine.

Everything is marketing

As a writer, everything you do is marketing.

Marketing is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the professional writing life. Marketing is not the mere promotion of your work. As Ryan Holiday says, you should constantly be sharing your message wherever you can, and ever so often come out with a new book. That’s marketing. It’s constantly talking about the work you’re doing and occasionally selling something.

People should never wonder what you’re about. They should never not know what you’re up to, creatively. That doesn’t mean there can’t be mystery. It just means your job is to live your message, to embody it.

Your message is your best marketing asset. Talk about it with anyone and everyone as often as possible without being annoying.

Get feedback wherever you can, because the best way to validate your message is by sharing it. People will naturally tell you what they think. And if they don’t, their silence is a message in itself.

As you are working on a book, you should constantly be talking about that topic, getting feedback, testing ideas, and so forth.

At Certa Publishing, we couldn’t agree more with these simple rules for writing. Do you have any to add? We’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Just the Basics: 3 simple rules about writing

Blog 5 quick holiday

It’s not too late to do some quick holiday marketing! Here are five easy tips to get you selling more books this Christmas season:

1. Tailor your message to the timeframe

During the weeks leading up to Christmas

The time for persistent browsing and highly-personal shopping is over. It’s crunch time and everyone is just desperate to get a gift to their family or friends before the 25th. Through your newsletters and social media posts, direct consumers to your Amazon link. As it gets closer to Christmas, remind them that an ebook is available to gift immediately.

After Christmas

Many of your consumers likely unwrapped an Amazon gift card for Christmas. Although they might be thinking of buying tools or music, it’s your job to remind them that your book would be a great purchase. Schedule an email blast for the morning of December 26th with “redeem gift cards” and “Amazon” in the subject line.

At the New Year

Now is the time to develop a marketing pitch related to the New Year. Finance writers should focus on financial New Year resolutions. Health and fitness writers… well, you have it easy! Religious and self-help writers can easily craft a message as well. This would be a great time to write up a short 500-word blog post pulling out parts from your book that will inspire your readers to want more as they plan their 2019.

2. Send more emails than usual

Many consumers will go most of the year overlooking marketing emails and avoiding the “promotions” tab in Gmail. But during the holidays, those same buyers will intentionally search through their inbox looking for deals. So, go ahead and send more emails than usual. Be sure to run a promotion that can be easily summarized in your subject line. We suggest doubling the number of marketing emails from now until the first week of January.

3. Set the mood on social media

People want to feel “Christmasy” at this time of year. So set a festive mood on your social media accounts. Take photos of your book surrounded by Christmas lights or next to a cup of cocoa… even if it’s not a holiday-themed book.

Does your book contain anecdotes about the holidays? Financial tips for gift-giving? Holiday-themed nutrition ideas? Now is the time to highlight those portions on your feed.

4. Do a 12 Days of Christmas promotion

You may think it’s too late to run a promotion, but this one is simple to do. Choose a 12-day period in December. Ahead of time, tell your followers that you will be offering a different promotion each day. Then (this is key!) schedule your posts ahead of time. You’ll need one for each day. Here are some examples of promotions:

  • Buy one book, get one free
  • Percentage discount on different books for different days
  • Free shipping
  • Free upgrade to Priority or Overnight shipping as it gets closer to Christmas
  • Free gift wrapping
  • Bonus gift included, such as any personalized merchandise you have (pens, mugs, tote bags, etc)
  • 99 cent ebooks

Be sure to use a custom hashtag, such as #12daysof[booktitle], so your followers can follow the hashtag and receive reminders.

No matter the sales, this type of promotion really ramps up your name recognition in consumers minds. If they don’t purchase your book right away, they will be more likely to remember it when the need arises in the future.

5. Involve the reader

This is a great opportunity to ask your readers to post photos of themselves with your book.  A recent post on Author Marketing Experts offered this idea:

Involve people on a more personal level as their favorite author! Encourage these opportunities!

Do a call on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and ask fans to share images of your book in their cozy holiday reading nooks, or your book with a backdrop of their fantastic tree.

Prepare to comment back because this is how these book marketing efforts make their biggest impact.

Simple, right? Even if you just pick one idea, you’ll see more clicks, traffic, and purchases. Although quick ideas like these can be very effective, at Certa Publishing we recommend a comprehensive marketing strategy that plans ahead for times like the holidays, and we have the resources and services to help you pull it off. Contact us when you’re ready to discuss a long-term marketing plan. We would love to partner with you.

5 Quick Holiday Marketing Ideas

Blog crisis

This week we are excerpting an article with a topic you may rather not focus on: crisis. But like it or not, all authors will face a professional crisis at one point or another. Having a response in place ahead of time is invaluable, as described in the following post on The Creative Penn:

The disappearance of reviews, a change in the algorithm, a drop in book sales, a trademark filed on a common word. These are all forms of crisis that indie authors have been concerned about in the last year. 

But change is the only constant, and there will always be more to navigate. In today’s article, Chris Syme explains how we can manage crisis in a more effective way. 

When we hear the term crisis management, we think of newsworthy events and scandals. Something everyone hears about. Something that makes a splash in the news.

But in reality, a crisis is any event that has the potential for negative impact. And when we use this definition, it’s much easier to separate out events that need to be ignored. Yes, ignoring is a viable response to a negative event.

But how do we know what to ignore and what to respond to?

Indie authors encounter potential crises regularly.

When you run your own business, you are responsible for dealing with whatever comes along to threaten your hard work. Authors can implement four simple steps to deal with this unpleasant side of being a solo entrepreneur: listen, engage, evaluate and respond.

Listen and engage are the pieces that help prevent a crisis. Evaluate and respond help you handle any potential problems.

The most challenging piece of crisis management for most authors is the evaluation process. How do I know if I should respond or ignore what’s going on?

The first and most important step in the process of evaluation is learning to evaluate the threat level. What is the potential of the event to disrupt my business?

To keep it simple, I use three threat levels: one, two and three with one being the least threatening.

Level One Threat

Most level one threats can be handled in the context of normal daily operations and resources such as email, social media channels, and blogs.

Examples of a level one threat might include: reviews vanishing from Amazon, another author giving you a bad review on Goodreads, a reviewer leaving a bad review on your Facebook page, a reader calling you out for grammar or editing errors in your book.

Level Two Threat

Requires you to contact a company or entity about information that is threatening to your business platform and requires an action such as filing a complaint, filling out a form, or contacting someone directly via Messenger or email.

Examples of a level two threat include: Someone has set up a Twitter profile pretending to be you, receiving an email from Amazon asking you to validate the ownership of one of your books someone else is claiming ownership to, books disappearing from an online bookstore, or losing access to your Facebook page. All these require action on your part.

Level Three Threat

Has the potential to impact your whole platform or business and may require outside help from a lawyer or PR specialist.

This also includes any crisis that involves a “swarm.” A swarm is an angry mob on social media that has been activated by an individual or organization designed to ruin someone’s reputation or business, or is designed to pressure the target to perform an action the mob deems important.

Examples of a level three threat include: “swarm attacks” on social media either instigated by another author, disgruntled readers, a political group, or an unknown source.

Level three may also include illegal actions you are accused of, either rightfully or wrongfully. It may also include something on the level of losing all your books on Amazon due to an algorithm irregularity that identifies you as a scammer.

Identifying the threat level is the first step toward gaining peace of mind in any crisis. If you are at level one, that’s something you can easily handle or just ignore.

Level two may require some research and time, so you’ll need to set aside time to do the work.

Level three means you may have to get some help.

But before you take any action, there is one more critical step to take:

Separate Fact From Fiction

A crisis can become like a game of operator. You remember that game we played as kids where we sit in a circle and somebody whispers something to the first person that has a couple specific things they need to remember? Everybody keeps whispering down the line and by the time the message gets to the last one in the circle, it never resembles the original. That is what can happen in a crisis.

Your first task after recognizing the level is to gird your loins and find out what’s really going on. In order to do this well, you need to adopt a bulldog attitude. Although bulldogs are friendly dogs, they are willful and tenacious when you try and take something away from them. They never let go.

You need to put aside your golden retriever personality and become a bulldog. Focused, tenacious, wise. Treat each incident as a business task. Never let your personal emotions play into the evaluation.

Just the Facts Ma’am

Let’s take a bad review as an elementary example. What is the truth in this scenario? Is it a bad review or is it a complaint about Amazon, the genre, a mistaken category? What is the reader calling out?

You need to run through a quick checklist and put the complaint in the proper setting.

  • Is the reviewer being mean-spirited? Then leave it and forget about it. Mean people are not worth your time.
  • Do they just not like the way you write or the book’s plot? No big deal—every book isn’t for everybody.

You get the idea. Put the complaint in the context of truth.

I do not coach authors to pay attention to bad reviews unless there is a pattern. The truth is, book reviews are not your property—they belong to the writer and the online bookstore.

I do coach writers to mine snippets from positive reviews for marketing purposes, but I encourage you to adopt a business attitude toward all your book reviews.

These two truths have helped me put book reviews in the proper perspective:

  • Every book isn’t for everybody; I didn’t write a book for everybody.
  • Everybody gets bad reviews—it goes with the territory. My books are no different from anyone else’s in that regard.

No matter what level of crisis you see coming, this is step one — find the facts, ditch the rest. Whether your crisis needs a response or needs to be ignored, you need to know how to evaluate the threat level before you can make that decision.

Fortunately for you, crisis management doesn’t have to fall completely on your shoulders. Here at Certa Publishing, our years of experience positions us to help our authors navigate the issues mentioned above. Should you encounter a similar situation, please reach out so we can partner with you to resolve the problem.

 

An Author’s Guide to Dealing with Crisis

Blog 5 things

We can hardly over-emphasize the benefit you will receive from a productive, understanding relationship with a quality editor. And yet many writers struggle to achieve this partnership. Imagine you sat down with an editor for an honest conversation. Here are a few things you might hear:

1. I’m on your side

It’s human nature. When someone criticizes your work, you recoil. Get defensive. Push them away. And yet you asked me for this criticism. You even paid me to do it! So please keep in mind that I am on your side. As I mark the text, strikeout sentences and even question entire chapters of your manuscript, I only do so for your best interest. The sooner you can adopt this perspective, the sooner we can move forward as a team toward the best version of your work.

In a recent article, Alexandra Samuel of the Harvard Business Review Press wrote,

Think of your editor as a therapist for your writing — someone who is actually going to help you think, argue and write better. You wouldn’t go to a therapist hoping to hold onto all your crazy issues…so bring the same attitude to your editor, and get excited about the idea that someone is going to pay real attention to your writing, and help make it better.

2. Be on time

If you’ve agreed to send me something by next Thursday, chances are that I’ve scheduled time that day or the next to review the submission. So when you’re late, it’s as if you’ve missed an appointment. Please extend the same courtesy to your editor that you would any colleague with whom you’ve made an appointment. Be on time as often as possible and give ample notice when you will be late.

3. I know my stuff

If I say you need a comma there… you need a comma there. If I critique your constant use of passive voice, it’s because… you’ve over-used the passive voice. Let’s decide early on that you are the expert at your topic, content, and narrative, and that I am the expert at grammar, structure, and voice. Can there be give and take? Of course. But if you are going to question every em dash and semicolon, this is going to be a long road.

Again, refer to my first point. I am on your side, even if my edits seem strict and numerous. Blake Atwood of the Write Life speaks of editors this way:

Their edits may be short, direct and bereft of personality, but that concision and clarity prove their expertise. In most cases, they can make a definitive edit because they know it’s correct, or, at least, they’ve verified that it’s correct.

4. I can only work with facts

Editors are used to finding grammar, structure, and flow errors. What we don’t like to find are factual mistakes. Please fact-check your work before you send it to me. Once I find these types of errors, I can’t go on and the process comes to a halt.

In a recent article for Media Bistro, Amanda Layman Low spoke to several editors and recounted the following:

Chandra Turner, executive editor of Parents magazine, says that nothing drives an editor crazier than reading a wonderful piece and having it fall apart in fact checking. Writers, she says, “should source all their content. Have your backup for everything that you’ve written.”

Trust me. It’s better to find these mistakes in the writing process than for a reader to find them and tell everyone in their Amazon review. Be vigilant about accuracy and we will both benefit.

5. I’m your first reader

“You know what you mean.” I don’t. I come at your work with fresh eyes, just like your readers will. If you sound self-important, I’ll notice. If you get awkwardly personal, I’ll squirm. If you assume I know more than I do about your field of expertise, I will sense that.

Let me offer that perspective and ways to fix what’s off. Remember, I’m here for you. It’s my job to protect you from what you may not see, and to help you remedy the problem.

Did you know that Certa Publishing has professional, expert editors on staff? We would love to take a look at your manuscript and discuss how we can partner with you to bring your work to fruition. Contact us today.

 

5 Things Your Editor Wishes You Knew

Blog Stop beating yourself up

Self-criticism will sabotage your writing career at every turn. You simply must get it under control. This is especially true for those of us who have put our faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ. Knowing we are sons and daughters of God requires us to silence the negative self-speak with the truth of His Word:

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!  (1 John 3:1)

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Author and communications consultant RiShawn Biddle wrote on this very subject in a recent post for Michael Hyatt’s blog, titled Stop Being Your Own Worst Critic, which we have excerpted here:

Does this one ring a bell? You, reader, are your own worst critic. Your penchant for nitpicking every detail and harshly critiquing your accomplishments makes it difficult for you to make progress or sometimes even get simple work done.

If it doesn’t apply to you or someone close to you, then you have a great day. If it does, then read on, Macduff.

What your inner self-critics needs to do is learn is that focusing on your strengths is a better pathway to success than fixating on weaknesses. Take these three steps and you will become your best critic and champion.

1. Realize you are more than enough

Self-criticism is normal and even healthy in small doses. But as the saying goes, the dose makes the poison. When you always approach your work with negativity, it’s paralyzing. It also makes you more susceptible to criticism from others who may not have your best interests at heart.

You need to know that much of the criticism in your head has no resemblance to what you are actually doing in real time. More often than not, you are more than enough to tackle the task at hand.

Realizing you are enough starts by applying Apple Founder Steve Jobs’s famed adage that “you can only connect [the dots] looking backward.” Often, it means looking at your past successes, as well as previous pitfalls, and how they can help you tackle the challenges ahead.

2. Stop with the negative talk

Self-criticism starts with negative words. It’s not just the I-can’ts and the not-good-enoughs. Every time you critique a meaningless detail, or nitpick a perfectly good presentation, you put yourself on the path to lifelong self-sabotage.

Simply ignoring the words of criticism isn’t enough. You must combat them with affirmations of your capacity to succeed. This starts at the end of the day by looking at the big picture of success as well as listing and reciting I cans, I ams, and even I wills — affirming your ability to achieve. By affirming these things before going to bed, you get ready for success the next day.

Another strategy is to embrace the concept of good enough. Along the lines of what Wired revealed about what consumers wanted, your colleagues expect your projects be successful, simple, economical, not perfect. Once you change your expectations of what you should do, you become less self-critical.

Finally, write down your past successes so you can reference them every now and then. Even the simplest signposted achievement can cause you to feel positive about your ability to succeed in the future. Those positive words can crowd out the negative words stuck on repeat in your head.

3. Keep building your strengths

One reason why we are so self-critical is that we become fixated on our shortcomings. It becomes easier to focus on what we lack rather on our considerable skills and successes.

This is a mistake. Fixating on weaknesses takes precious time needed from building upon the strengths you already have.

More often than not, your shortcomings are the flip sides of those very strengths you already possess. Lacking a master’s degree, for example, may be the reason why you put so much time mastering your work. Your blunt speaking is the result of your leadership skills. Your stumbles in public speaking are matched by your considerable rhetorical skills as a writer.

Put your energy into building up your strengths. That includes learning more about your strengths as well as the key tools you will need to get better. And learn to tout these strengths instead of talking about your shortcomings.

What you say will affect how you think about yourself. At some point it will probably dawn on you that you were more than enough, after all.

If you find yourself in the text of this article, we hope that you will take its advice to heart, as well as the truths of what God says about you.

At Certa Publishing, we hate the thought of any of our authors beating themselves up through self-criticism. We believe in you and what God has put within you! If you need encouragement today, please reach out.

Stop beating yourself up

Blog writer's block

Writer’s block happens to the best of writers. While there are plenty of traditional ways to deal with it, we thought we’d focus on a few you might not have thought of. In fact, we were inspired by Dennis Upper, a psychologist from the 1970’s, who managed his writer’s block by submitting a practically empty academic paper to the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, who then published it, if only for its comedic value. We appreciated the reviewer comments in the footnote, which read:

I have studied this manuscript very carefully with lemon juice and X-rays and have not detected a single flaw in either design or writing style. I suggest it be published without revision. Clearly it is the most concise manuscript I have ever seen.

Who knew that even learned psychologists suffered from writer’s block (or that academic publication editors had such a sense of humor?)

While we don’t advise that you submit an empty manuscript to your publisher, we have brought together a few ideas that might help.

1. Do something mindless

Paint a room. Mow the yard. Take a shower. Weed the garden. Pick any task that you can do without much mental focus. You’ll be amazed at how well your thoughts flow during this time. In fact, this is why “Shower Thoughts” has an entire subreddit, where members can post the epiphanies they have while bathing.

But there is one condition. This task mustn’t involve screens of any kind. Your brain needs the space to wander without the “blinging” of notifications or temptation to check the score of the game.

2. Read someone else’s writing

Stop writing and start reading. (Hey, that sounds a lot like the title of our recent blog post!) Yes, a great way to get past writer’s block is to stop writing and read someone else’s work. Which authors do you most want to emulate? Pick up a copy of their work. Read just enough that you are reminded of their style, syntax, flow, and timing. This exercise will inspire you and perhaps remind you of what you are working towards.

3. Call your mom

When you were first inspired to write your book, who did you tell? Was it your mom, a co-worker or best friend? Who did you sit down with and gush out your story idea to? Who did you first confide in that you were going to embark on this crazy journey of writing? Call that person. Ask them to remind you of what you said in those moments.

Ask:

  • Why did I want to write this book?
  • Who did I think it would help or delight?
  • What made me take the first step?
  • What was my inspiration?

Hearing your own words and thoughts from someone else can be very enlightening. You’ll be surprised how much the work of writing has caused you to forget the why of writing.

4. Read your own writing

Dig up your old journals. Find those ancient blog posts. Re-read emails you’ve sent (well, the long, letter-type ones). As you do this, pay attention to what you like about your writing. Perhaps it is your conversational style. Or maybe you’re witty in just the right places, or you have a way with a story.

Whatever it is that you like about your own writing, try it out in your current work. Look for ways to be more conversational or witty or narrative. Let your own strengths pull their weight.

5. Do some mind mapping

Sounds a bit painful, doesn’t it? Well, never fear. This one is simple. So simple that it works. Just take a piece of paper and write your topic in the center (the topic that you are struggling to write about). Then as fast as you can, surround that topic with everything you can think of about it, no matter how mundane or ridiculous.

For example, if the topic is childhood sleep habits, your surrounding words might include:

  • bed
  • bedtimes
  • stuffed animal
  • dark room
  • night terrors
  • bedwetting
  • bedtime stories
  • schedule
  • consistency
  • health concerns
  • REM
  • Circadian rhythm
  • Diet

Now that you have these sub-topics on the paper, you can begin surrounding each of them with their own associations, and so on and so forth.

While you may not write about everything you put on your mind map, it is a great way of quickly getting scattered ideas out of your head and onto paper.

Of course there are apps that do this as well. The Sweet Setup recently posted about several apps that might be helpful and they also have a great example on their page.

At Certa Publishing, we understand that writers get stuck. We love to talk on the phone, grab coffee, or Skype to help get your pen flowing or your keyboard clicking away again. Contact us today to see how we can help.

 

5 creative (and slightly ridiculous) ways to deal with writer’s block

Blog Should pastors be writers_

If we asked you why pastors should not write books, you could probably quickly rattle off some reasons. Distractions, temptation to seek fame, etc. However, have you considered why pastors should write? This was the very theme of a recent Gospel Coalition interview with pastor and author Anthony Carter, which we have excerpted here:

It’s no secret: pastors like books. We read them, we quote them, we give them away. After all, the foundation for our entire ministry is the written Word of God himself. Take away that book and we have no ministry.

But what about the writing of books? How should pastors think about putting words on paper for publication? Anthony Carter, lead pastor of East Point Church in Georgia, has written, co-authored, and contributed to a number of books, including most recently Blood Work.  Carter warns against the desire for attention and the distraction that writing can take away from pastoral ministry but also encourages pastors to pursue writing and publishing if they can.

Should a pastor write? Is writing a valid part of pastoral ministry, or does it distract us from the people we’re called to care for? 

Carter_PX_webAll pastors are writers. For me, writing is just an extension of preaching ministry. Every week I write a sermon. All preachers do. Whether you write a full manuscript during sermon preparation or not, writing is indispensable to good preaching. Therefore, it is not a distraction; it is what all preachers do. Nevertheless, if the pastor pursues it apart from the pastoral ministry, then it could be a distraction and become a source of pride.

A young pastor comes to you wanting to be a published writer. What advice do you give him? How should a pastor evaluate and pursue a call to write?

All pastors should seek to get published. The process of writing and being published is a great learning experience. It causes you to think about how you communicate outside of sermonic sound bites and gives you another venue through which you can communicate to the congregation. So I would encourage the young pastor to write.

However, I would caution him against thinking more highly of his writing than he should. As I said, consider writing as an extension of the pastoral calling, and be contented if no one but people in your local congregation read your book. After all, you have been called to the local flock, not the world. If my congregation reads and is encouraged by what I write, I should consider myself blessed.

Writing for publication brings a measure of national attention. How does a published pastor resist temptations to pride and cultivate humility?  

Actually, most books get published with little to no national attention. If you write for national attention, you are writing for the wrong reasons. I would encourage any pastor to remember and take to heart this sobering reality: Most people won’t even know that you have published a book, and the rest won’t care.

In his book Excellence: The Character of God and the Pursuit of Scholarly Virtue, Andreas Köstenberger says, “Writing never just happens. If you are called to write, you must actively plan for it and doggedly persevere in it.” Take us into your writing routine. How do you actively plan for and doggedly persevere in the writing task?  

I write sermons practically every week. This is the bulk of my writing, and where my writing is primarily concentrated. Writing books or blogs is more a fruit of the preaching ministry than anything else. Consequently, I plan my writing like I plan my sermons. First, I start with an idea that grabs my attention. If I am not interested in what I am writing, I doubt others will be either. Second, I outline my thoughts with the end in mind. What do I want people to take away from this article or book? Then I develop the outline seeking to get myself, and subsequently my readers, to that end. Third, I set aside time where I can spend on the deliberate exercise of writing. Like anything else, writing takes discipline. Discipline is time and effort.

Are there any practices or disciplines that have helped you develop skill as a writer?  

I don’t know how much skill I have as a writer. I am sure many would say not much, and I would tend to agree. However, I find that I write better when I read good writing. Good reading is the best discipline I know for being a good writer. In fact, when I read good writers, it does two things: one, I am reminded of how weak my writing is and, two, I am encouraged to try and write better.

What do you think? Do you agree with Pastor Carter’s thoughts on the subject? Comment below to let us know.

At Certa Publishing, we have helped many, many pastors become authors. In fact, we would consider this one of our specialties. Contact us today to find out how to get started on your writing journey.

Should Pastors be Writers?