Coronavirus: A familiar crisis

Certa blog - coronavirus a familiar

For many of us, the Coronavirus ranks as one of the most impactful events we have ever lived through. You may have even been reassured by a friend or pastor that, “None of us knows how to navigate a pandemic.” And while this is true in the literal sense, the truth is that history offers us many examples of those who’ve suffered great loss and upheaval.

Author Shirley Stahl has spent considerable time studying this subject and offers us these thoughts, as well as an exciting announcement:

“…..And he sat down among the ashes” (Job 2:8 KJV).

There was a man named Job. He lived a life with riches, fame and family. Job was a respected member of society; a counselor to those in need and most importantly Job was counted “perfect” and “upright” in God’s eyes. But suddenly, everything changed and Job’s possessions and positions were gone.

Job in his helplessness sat down in the ashes of all that was left of the life he had lived in the grandeur of yesterday and considered the emptiness of today.

There was a family named Shank who lived at the time of the ushering in of the twentieth century. The Shank Mennonite Family story tells of the sudden loss of all possessions and no means of obtaining everyday necessities. The family must find a way to pick up the pieces of their lives and locate a path into the future. Although Job lived thousands of years before the Shank family, the devastation of each was no less dramatic.

Today multitudes of people around the world are experiencing the unleashed power of the destroyer virus Corona-19. This unseen invader has penetrated the unprepared nations, bringing death and destruction with him. The Corona-19 virus story is similar to that of the death destroying angel that passed through Egypt in the time of Moses (Exodus 12) and relates to the stories of Job and the Shank family.

There is a common bond between Job, Corona-19 virus-infected people and the Shank family since the person or group suddenly tragically loses everything important. One might say each is experiencing sitting on the ash heap of their dreams.

The crises that came upon Job and those fighting in the war against Corona-19 virus and the Shank family disaster indicate a greater loss than possessions and a familiar way of living. Each crisis requires a response from those involved that will be decisive to the outcome of their story. A person can read the story of Job in God’s word. The story of the Corona 19 virus and people today has not ended but even now is being written.

I am proud to announce that my new book centered on the Shank family story, Finding the Good of the Day, is in the process of publication.

Who is this Shank family and what is their story? Three Shank women hold the family together after being met with devastating losses. The household includes four children who attend the Mennonite school system and Minerva who has recently graduated from school. She is almost fifteen. Finding the Good of the Day is a pledge Minerva makes to herself.

How do the Shank family members handle the challenges they face?

1. They meet daily and pray together.

2. Faith in God is their backbone, connecting them to God and each other.

3. They determine as a family unit to triumph over the demands of circumstances.

4. Family members show love for one another and speak of this love.

5. They daily share promises from God’s word and thoughts about these promises.

7. They know about and use the value of good work ethics.

8. They look toward the future without fear.

9. When opportunity is knocking at their door, they open the door.

10. They count their blessings.

Grandmother Mary, Mom and Minerva propel you through the good and the less-than-good days ahead. Will they Find the Good of the Day?


 

Shirley_Stahl_300x260_01Some of Shirley’s earliest remembrances are going to a small country church in Northwestern Ohio where she heard the stories about Jesus. The Word of God has been her constant companion ever since.

Peter_Got_Out_Of_The_Boat_265x400_01After completing Bible college courses over 35 years ago, Shirley began teaching in churches, retreats, prisons, home study groups and anywhere a door would open.

She and her husband make their home in Western Michigan where she continues to teach and write.

Shirley is the author of Peter Got Out of the Boatwhich challenges the believer to be an overcomer and participator with Jesus in extraordinary events.

Just the Basics: 3 simple rules about writing

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.

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

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.

 

Stop Writing & Start Reading

Stop writing

We don’t have to tell you that the digital world we live in doesn’t lend itself well to reading books. Especially good books. You know those. The type that you have to chew on slowly. That sometimes require a dictionary or even a concordance. The books that hold weight and substance. The books that make a lasting change in your life.

Instead, we consume tweets, Instagram quotes, 700-word blog posts (like this!), easy reading self-help books, and beguiling fiction that are offered to us in a limitless buffet.

Laura Miller of Slate describes the trend this way:

Books are the intellectual equivalent of slow food; you know it’s better for you and tastes better, too, but you’re too rushed and frantic to care as you white-knuckle it through an avalanche of push alerts.

If we aren’t proactive, we may find those “slow food” books harder and harder to read and easier and easier to neglect.

As you can imagine, we find this trend disturbing for the general population. However, we find it exceptionally disturbing when writers only consume that which is easy. There is a tremendous benefit in doing the work of reading well. And yes, it can be work. Choosing C.S. Lewis over Danielle Steele is tough. Picking up Chesterton instead of the latest Fox News host’s release is hard. However, we believe you will see the benefit—not only in the knowledge you will gain—but in your writing as well.

Karen Swallow Prior, an English professor at Liberty University in Virginia, recently authored On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books, a book extolling the virtues of… well… reading well.  In a recent interview with Christianity Today, Mrs. Prior explains how choosing good books can actually cultivate virtue in our lives:

Reading good literature well is in itself a practice of virtue. Literary art—as opposed to words strung together to communicate facts and information—requires the exercise of the imagination, the practice of patience, the delay of gratification, and the sustaining of attention and intellectual rigor.

These are all activities that build character in ways in which mindlessly scrolling through a Twitter or Facebook timeline cannot. So simply the way we read literature in contrast to other kinds of reading cultivates virtue. Additionally, what we read contributes to virtue when we read timeless works that convey universal human experiences that transcend time, place, and social position.

In the book, I show how we can learn about diligence from John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, patience from Jane Austen’s Persuasion, justice from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities—and much more.

So why does good reading create good writing? Here are 3 ways:

1. Imitation brings improvement

Raise your hand if you took music lessons as a kid. Now, thinking back to the early years of lessons, how often did your instructor ask you to compose your own piece of music? Probably never, right? Instead, you were given the great pieces of music to learn, practice, and eventually master. If you did reach the level of creating your own work, you were only able to do so because of the time you had spent with these great compositions.

Reading good writers has the same effect. We notice the vocabulary choices, the way the narrative is structured, how the emotions are evoked. And often these observations happen almost unconsciously (lest you think you must now read with a notebook and pen at the ready to take notes). No. As you ingest quality writing, your own work will naturally begin to imitate it.

2. Good books expand your perspective

No matter how hard you try, your book can only contain as much perspective as you possess as the author. It’s hard to write about public education if you were homeschooled or to write about the vegetarian lifestyle if bacon is your best friend. Good reading is a great way to broaden your horizons and “experience” life through the eyes of others. What is public education really like? How is it different than the stereotypes you may hold? What really motivates the vegetarian to choose that lifestyle? Reading opens the door on cultures, lifestyles, socio-economic situations, and upbringings, allowing you to write with confidence and clarity on these subjects.

3. A healthy diet is cleansing

Most of us have struggled through the first few weeks of a diet, as our body adjusts to healthier food and detoxes from the junk it is sorely missing. But then we reach the other side where we think, “I feel so much better! Why didn’t I do this a long time ago?”

Why do we feel better? Because our bodies are now being fueled instead of stymied. We are giving our system what it needs to perform at top efficiency.

Reading well does the same for our writing minds. It brings us back to what is true, virtuous and timeless. Karen Swallow Prior advises:

It is the challenge [of good books] that makes reading them so rewarding. They do more than kill time or amuse for a few moments. The best books linger in our minds and souls for days or even years.

For a while we may miss the hot takes and Facebook posts that used to occupy our reading time, but it won’t be long until we find our minds stimulated and our pens inspired.

At Certa Publishing, we want nothing more than to see our writers stimulated and inspired. How can we help you? Contact us today.

 

John Piper’s Tips for Personal Productivity: Part two

john piper pt 2

Recently DesiringGod.org posted the audio transcript of an interview with its founder, Pastor John Piper. He was asked the following question:

“Pastor John, thank you for your Christ-centered precision and for the tremendous volume of your ministry output. I’m curious how you produce so much content. What time do you wake up, or find time to read and write, or eat your cereal? You mention your aversion to TV in Don’t Waste Your Life, but what advice do you have for the daily schedule-making to make the most of life for Christ?”

John Piper responded with ten tips, five of which we shared in our previous post:

  1. Don’t copy me
  2. Focus on great goals
  3. Be seasonally minded
  4. Work from life goals
  5. Labor toward the account you will give to God

This week we are sharing the remainder of Pastor Piper’s tips for personal productivity:

6. Work Urgently

Add to your sense of accountability before God a sense of urgency. “We must work the works of him who sent [us] while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work” (John 9:4). Or Ephesians 5:15–16, “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise . . . ” — making, literally redeeming the time — “because the days are evil.” Or Colossians 4:5, “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time.” There is urgency in this. The days are evil and night is coming.

7. Kill Half-Heartedness

Do what you do with all your heart. Be done with half-heartedness. Oh, so many people limp through life doing what they do with a half heart, with half of their energy. If it is worth doing, it is worth doing with your whole soul. Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.” Jonathan Edwards’s resolution probably had more impact on me in the last 30 years than anything else he said — in his resolutions, at least — when he said, “Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live” (resolution #6). Those words took hold of me a long time ago. I thought: Oh, yes Lord.

The opposite of this — fourteen times in the book of Proverbs the word “sluggard” is used. Isn’t that an ugly word? “Sluggard,” 14 times. And what is a sluggard? Proverbs 20:4, “The sluggard does not plow in the autumn; he will seek at harvest and have nothing.” You don’t want to be a sluggard.

8. Persist, Persist, Persist

Many chops fell a huge tree. Man, this is so crucial because of how quickly we get discouraged after a thousand chops and the tree is not down yet. I just finished listening to Robinson Crusoe. You might say: What in the world? Why is John Piper listening to a teenage novel? I had never heard some of these classics, so I am listening to them. Robinson Crusoe, marooned on an island, all by himself, wants to escape, and he needs a boat. Mainland is 45 miles away. There might be cannibals over there. He is not sure he wants to go, but he needs a boat. He has got nothing else to do, so he is going to make a boat. He finds a tree. This tree is five feet, ten inches, across at the bottom. He has an axe. It takes him 22 days to chop this tree down, 14 more days to chop the branches off, a year and a half to finish the boat with an axe. I’d chop on a tree for a day, two days. I say: This tree is not coming down. I am done with this tree. I am going to work on some little tree. So there is the key. Many chops fell a big tree. Do you want to do something great? Don’t quit. Keep chopping.

9. Joyfully Embrace Hard Tasks

Be willing to do many things in life cheerfully that at first you don’t want to do. They don’t come naturally to you. There is no worthwhile role in life that does not require you to do things you don’t at first feel like doing or that only let you do what comes naturally. So be cheerful in doing the parts of your life that you do not at first prefer to do.

10. Find Your Calling

Finally, find your niche, that is, find the thing you do love to do with all your weaknesses and all your strengths. Put most of your energies and your love there for Christ and his kingdom.

Which of these principles stood out to you? Do you find it difficult to embrace hard tasks? Or perhaps persistence doesn’t come naturally to you. Whatever your struggle with productivity, we hope that you can apply John Piper’s principles and achieve increased productivity in all that you set your hand to do.

How can Certa Publishing come alongside your writing journey? Contact us today to find out.

 

Don’t let fear steal your message

don't let fear

What if you wrote your entire book without saying that thing you really wanted to say… because of fear? Fear of being too “edgy,” fear of being theologically inaccurate, or fear of offending the reader?

In his article How to Stop Fear From Kicking Your Butt and Killing Your Writing, Frank McKinley gets in our face and admonishes us to write courageously. Enjoy this excerpt:

I used to want my writing to be perfect.

I wanted every word to go perfectly with every other word. My sentences had to sparkle. My wisdom had to astound and inspire. And my prose had to captivate people and take them to new heights of motivational ecstasy.

That’s a standard higher than Mount Everest.

I couldn’t reach it, so I gave up and traded my goal for something even better.

Effectiveness.

The Trouble With Perfection

Perfection is difficult to define.

In fact, it’s impossible.

Perfect compared to what?

Who says what is perfect and what isn’t?

Since you can’t please everyone, who should you please?

Focus, focus.

You can’t help everyone. But you can help some. Why not hone in with laser-like focus and apply your talent to a particular problem for which you have a fantastically effective solution?

Fear is Kicking Your Butt

The problem is you’re afraid.

You’re afraid your work won’t be perfect, so you edit each sentence as you write it.

You don’t do that?

Thank God.

Maybe you spend more time editing than writing, thinking you can capture perfection then.

Perfection is a wily devil, isn’t it?

When you spend too much time at the editing table, you’re like I was as an artist. When I worked on a portrait, I would fill, smudge, and erase. I’d work at it with the precision of a master craftsman.

The problem is paper is made of wood.

If you were a sculptor, you’d know you can only carve off so much. There is definitely a point where you can go too far – and totally ruin an otherwise excellent piece of art.

Mess with paper too long and it starts to deteriorate.

How do you know you’ve edited your writing too much?

All the edgy stuff is so smooth, it is sleep-inducing.

You’re so afraid you’ll ruffle someone’s feathers, you hold back the very thing that will stop a reader in her tracks – your audacity.

When that happens, fear has won.

It’s time to start kicking fear’s butt.

Are you ready?

Here are five ways you can write stuff that can change the world.

Write Your Headline First

What better way to develop laser-like focus than to use your headline as a writing prompt?

If you’re going to work really hard on one sentence, make it your headline.

Make it touch a pain point people feel.

Promise a ray of hope that will make people stand up and pay attention.

Take the headline for this article: How to Keep Fear From Kicking Your Butt and Killing Your Writing

Do you want fear to kick your butt?

Of course you don’t.

Do you want your writing to [be terrible]?

No way.

“How to Keep” promises you there’s a better way.

It also hints that your way isn’t working.

If you want the pain to go away, you’ll read the whole post to find out how to do it, won’t you?

That’s effective writing.

Write a Vomit Draft

Novelists know this term.

If you’re not familiar with the term, I’m not asking you to do something gross.

A vomit draft is what you write when you send your inner critic out for a nap. You let the words flow uninhibited. No stops. No backtracking. Just happy, carefree, rant-filled writing.

Don’t stop until you’ve got it all out.

Squash every attempt to change something until every possible word that comes to mind hits the page.

When you’re exhausted, you’re done.

Edit After a Break

If you want to write stuff that makes people stand up and cheer, you need to separate writing and editing.

And I don’t mean take a five minute break.

Take a nap and forget about it.

Go to lunch.

Maybe even climb a mountain.

Separate yourself from your work long enough that your fears don’t have their way with you.

Chances are if you really let yourself go, you’ve got some meaty stuff to work with.

Clean up the prose so it sings. Your voice is unique, special, and melodious. Let your reader hear it in all its glory.

Cut the typos, awkward sentences, and needless repetition.

Then let it go.

Set a Time Limit for Everything

Have you ever had to cram for a test?

You came up with some pretty creative ways to master the material, didn’t you?

Maybe you drew pictures because you’re a visual learner.

Perhaps you set your notes to music because you know you never forget the words to your favorite song.

Or maybe you created a story that covered all the important points you needed to remember.

Whatever you did, you dug deep into your well of creativity – because if you didn’t, you were sunk.

What if you could use that same creativity to bring your writing and editing to a higher level?

All it takes is a kitchen timer.

If you write 1000 words, edit for an hour, then stop.

When you know you have a time limit, you force yourself to do what matters. That’s the key to doing your best work day after day.

If you’re in the middle of something when the time runs out, give yourself 5 minutes – after a break – to finish it.

Then you’re done.

When in Doubt, Publish Anyway

One of the best lessons I ever learned came to me at church.

It was Saturday morning. I was with 100 other men at a seminar called Born Free.

The speaker was talking about the prison our fears build for us.

Then he said a sentence that changed my life forever.

“If you ever find yourself saying, ‘I’m not sure I should have said that,’ then that’s exactly what you need to say.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

If you know you shouldn’t say something, that’s one thing.

If you’re not sure, that’s where your genius might be hiding.

Go ahead and let it out.

That edgy statement could change someone’s future.

Do you want to risk missing out on such an opportunity to make a difference?

So what if your work’s not perfect?

Publish anyway.

So what if what you wrote scares you to death?

Share it with the world.

Some will cheer. Others may gripe. Either way, you’ve done something that matters!

Unleash Your Inner Genius

You’ve just learned five powerful ways to make your writing unforgettable.

If you’ll use these techniques, you’ll have more impact, change more lives, and find more open doors for your message.

And when you feel like a fraud, you’ll have written proof that you aren’t.

There’s no better reward for any writer who’s willing to take big risks to do great work.

At Certa Publishing, we never want fear to get in the way of an author’s message. If you need someone to bounce your courageous ideas off of, we are here for that! Contact us today.

Yes someone has already written your book. Yes you should still write it.

yes someone has already written your book.

Christian author Emily Freeman recounts a recent experience she had while listening to another author’s audio book:

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in my car as I drive around town this week… but as I listen to her read, I am pleased by this one thought: I’m so relieved I already wrote my own Big Magic. It’s called A Million Little Ways and it came out in 2013.

Why did she feel this way? She goes on to explain:

…while I listen to Big Magic, to Elizabeth Gilbert walk the same circles around creativity that so many of us have walked around and then written about, I realize I am deeply grateful.

Because while our perspective and world view are vastly different, while our personality and theology might not mix well, and while her book sits high up on bestseller lists while mine is mostly unknown by the majority of the population, I feel a certain kinship with Elizabeth Gilbert as I listen to her book.

And I am thankful that, at least this time, I do not feel threatened by the voice of another author who is saying similar things I’ve said.

You see, Ms. Freeman had a choice. She could have allowed this experience to demean her own work in her eyes. But instead, she chose to be grateful that she’d been able to contribute to the subject of creativity, yet also appreciate similar writing by another author.

The truth is that many writers and would-be writers are intimidated by the quantity of books already written on their subject, causing them to ask: Why should I write a book that has already been written? How can I possibly add to (or stand out from) the surplus of high caliber work that currently exists?

Perhaps we can find comfort in the words of King Solomon:

What has been is what will be,
    and what has been done is what will be done,
    and there is nothing new under the sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9)

While Ms. Freeman was able to appreciate that her subject (creativity) has been so extensively studied and explored, bestselling author Jon Acuff comes at the situation from a different angle, as he expressed in this tweet:

He makes the point that – yes your subject has been written about – but not by you. Your peculiar voice matters. It turns a rote topic into a unique and indispensable part of the subject’s greater lexicon.

Once we can accept these two truthsthat our theme or revelation is not particularly unique, but our voice isthere is freedom:

  • Freedom from the need to write an exhaustive dissertation
  • Freedom to narrow your writing to the areas where you have the most revelation, knowledge, and experience
  • Freedom from comparison with those who have greater academic or theological insight on the subject

Now we can begin to ask:

  • What is my contribution to this subject?
  • How can I use my individual experience, perspective, and voice to further the discussion and broaden the audience’s understanding?
  • How has God uniquely crafted me to speak on this topic?

This self-awareness allows us to avoid many of the traps writers fall into, such as writing for other authors and comparing our work unnecessarily. We are now free to write the book that is within us to write, and nothing more.

At Certa Publishing we believe that each of our authors possesses a unique and God-given voice, along with a high calling to use that voice to impact the Kingdom. Through our distinct “partner publishing” model, we come alongside writers to support them in their publishing process. Contact us today to find out more!

 

John Piper: Why I Write

04.29.17 why I write copy

John Piper may be best known to you as a writer, or perhaps a theologian. And he is surely among the greats in both categories. However, you may not know that he is also an accomplished poet. In fact, he annually creates story poems centering on Biblical characters for his congregation each year for Advent. Piper’s works were recently published in a 13-volume set titled The Collected Works of John Piper, of which 140 pages are poems.

In tribute to this momentous publication, Piper penned a beautiful commentary on his love for poetry and writing as a whole, named Secretary of Thy Praise, which we have excerpted here. Be sure to continue to the end for his lovely poem I Write.

 

To Gaze on His Glory

Since not everyone revels in poetry, here’s a brief bit of prose to answer the same question, Why do I write so much? It’s a combination of my bent and God’s beauty. At about age 17, something happened. Before that, I avoided reading. After that, I’ve never stopped writing. Does that make sense? The best I can make of it is that, at about 17, I discovered that writing was a way of seeing that more than compensated for reading so slowly.

Hence, the bent. Now add to that, at about age 22, a supernova season of seeing God. I entered a world where the bent and the beauty became a catalytic combination of joyful energy. I have lived in that world for almost fifty years. Here’s a taste of how it works:

  • There is a greatness in the beauty of God. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3). And all his works share in his greatness: “Great are the works of the Lord” (Psalm 111:2). I love to look at greatness. Since writing is a way of seeing, I write.
  • There is a wonder in the beauty of all God’s works and words. “Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well” (Psalm 139:14). Every heart craves wonder. Woe to me if I walk through a world of wonders and grumble about the humidity. Even the psalmist prays to see this: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law” (Psalm 119:18). God answers this prayer for me through writing. So, I write.
  • There is depth in the beauty of all God’s thoughts. “How great are your works, O Lord! Your thoughts are very deep!” (Psalm 92:5). God spare me from wading near the beach for fear of your depths. Few things have pushed me more regularly into the deeps than writing. So, I write.
  • There is a vast value in the beauty of God’s mind. “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them!” (Psalm 139:17). Life is a constant battle not to believe the devil’s portrait of this world as preferable to the preciousness of God. Writing about this treasure helps me see it. So, I write.
  • There is an endlessness in the beauty of God. It is inexhaustible, and will be, for all eternity. “You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us . . . they are more than can be told” (Psalm 40:5). For those who have the capacity to see, there will be no boredom in the endless ages of the world to come. Writing has delivered me from many a fearful season of threatened boredom with life. So, I write.
  • There is a gladness in the beauty of God. And a gladness in finding it out. “You, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy” (Psalm 92:4). “Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them” (Psalm 111:2). How can we not make this study the happy work of a lifetime — and beyond. Nothing aids my study of God’s works like writing. So, I write.
  • There is a legacy in the beauty of God. There is nothing better to bequeath. “One generation shall commend your works to another” (Psalm 145:4). “Even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation” (Psalm 71:18). Writing is a proclamation that will be heard beyond the grave. So, I write.

To Praise His Splendor

Taped in front of me on my computer monitor are these lines from George Herbert. They express my sense of calling:

Of all the creatures both in sea and land Onely to Man thou hast made known thy wayes, And put the penne alone into his hand, And made him Secretarie of thy praise.

Secretarie of thy praise. I only wish I could have done it better. Perhaps in whatever time remains, his grace will make a more ready scribe.

I Write

Some travel where they’ve never been,
    Some trace the paths within,
Some peer into the depths, and grope,
    Some scan the skies, and hope.
They long to see, 
    If faint or bright.
      Since I agree, 
         I write.

Some study, marking ev’ry page,
    Some probe the ancient sage,
Some perch cross-legg’d and chants rehearse,
    Some through the night converse
To understand 
   And seize the light.
      I set my hand 
         To write.

Some eat at gourmet restaurants,
   Some mortify their wants,
Some blitz along the Autobahn,
   Some plod the marathon
To feel the zest, 
   Enjoy the height.
      I share the quest, 
         And write.

Some paint, some build, some act the play,
   Some draw, some spin the clay.
Some cook, some sew, and some compose,
   Some dream, and some propose,
All to create. 
   Ah, such delight!
      I bear the trait, 
         And write.

Some heal, some shield, some educate,
   Some sway the magistrate,
Some feed, some serve to make shalom,
   Some bring the stranger home.
They seek to love. 
   I too invite
      The cordial Dove, 
         And write.

Some sing, some leap, some lift their hands,
   Some bow and keep commands,
Some kneel, some sway, some close their eyes,
   Some lie prostrate, some rise.
And all to praise. 
   Is this my flight?
      Oh, all my days! 
         I write.

And may it be that someday we,
   In heaven, sinlessly,
At last may see, and understand,
   And feel, and put our hand
And spirit to create, and love,
   And praise. Then to the Dove,
All-powerful and pure and high,
   My prayer will be: That I,
With crowning skill 
   And perfect sight,
      Be summoned still 
         To write.

Does Piper’s poem ring true with you? Leave us a comment below and share what motivates you to write.