A while back I wrote about falling in love with audiobooks and how listening to books is a great way to fit in more reading in your life. At the time I had just discovered the app Hoopla Digital—a resource my library lets me use for free—and I had no idea how life-changing this app would be.
You can sign up for Hoopla with your library card, and then you have access to thousands and thousands of titles. Hoopla has ebooks, comics, movies, music, and—my favorite—audiobooks. And the best part is that you don’t need to wait for books like a traditional library or even some digital libraries. There is a limit to how many you can titles you can borrow per month, but you can download and enjoy right away!
As writers we’re supposed to read as much as we write. This lets you know what’s out there so you can keep current in your genre. Reading also inspires you and shows you how to write.
But it’s hard to find time to read that much. And when I do sit down and read, I sometimes feel guilty I’m not using that time to write.
Even though it’s difficult to fit in all of my reading hours, Hoopla makes it so much easier with their vast library of audiobooks. I can read books by listening to them so much quicker than if I sat down and read print copies. And Hoopla lets me fit in reading easily throughout my day. Some of my favorite times to listen to audiobooks are when I’m:
getting ready in the morning
getting ready for bed
I’ve been able to read so much more and I love it.
This is a writing resource you should definitely be taking advantage of if your library provides it.
Writers are always asked how they come up with their ideas, but it’s often hard to know exactly where a story idea comes from. Ideas seem to come from anywhere and everywhere, and they sometimes come when you’re not even trying. But for those who are newer to writing and for those who are having trouble figuring out what to write next, ideas can be hard to find and you might have to force yourself to come up with them.
That’s what this blog series is all about—how to get ideas and how to develop stories from those ideas. So far I’ve written about what if questions, titles, prompts, and first lines. Today I’m going to take a look at sermons.
The Bible is full of so many incredible stories, and many writers have drawn inspiration from it. Some of my favorite books inspired by the Bible have been C. S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia series and Kiera Cass’s The Selection series. The Bible can be an amazing resource to find inspiration for your writing.
But I’m also inspired every week by the sermons I hear in church.
If you go to church regularly (and if your pastor is as awesome as mine), every week you get to hear amazing sermons that explain the Bible and share incredible stories. Sermons expand on different stories in the Bible, then connect them to your life and something you can be doing to follow Christ.
I don’t want to be a Christian fiction writer, but I do want my faith to infuse everything I do and I want to use my writing as a way to serve the Lord. To serve God with my writing without making my stories overtly about God or Christianity, I like to take themes from the Bible or sermons and infuse them into my stories in a more subtle way.
For example, the book I had been working on for the past couple of years was a science fiction book set in a world without written language. The whole book stemmed from my what if question of What if there was no written language? I was really intrigued by this question. However, the story just lacked passion for me because, while I was growing in my faith every day, I couldn’t find God in my story.
That changed when I heard a sermon about making your life about God, not you. My pastor talked about how we live to serve God, nothing more. And it’s not about you but it starts with you. And suddenly it clicked: my two very selfish narrators who only wanted to help themselves and not their world were going to learn this lesson in my book. And by doing that, even without mentioning God, my book was going to share my faith.
I’m always going to infuse my faith into everything I write because I want to serve God with my writing. And the sermons I hear every week in church are a well of ideas to draw from.
You can use things you hear in sermons to supplement your ideas and help you show God in your writing, like I did, or you can use the things you hear to spark new ideas. The best part is that you get to hear a new sermon each week, and so there will always be something new to draw from.
How do you infuse your faith into your writing? Do you get ideas from the sermons you hear?
I’m so excited for this chance to write devotionals, which I’ve felt God calling me to write in addition to my fiction. The theme for We Are Beautiful’s posts this month is vulnerability with references from Psalms.
Vulnerability is something that I struggle with, as I naturally try to control all aspects of my life. Check out my post on their website to learn how I’m working on giving up control and being vulnerable before God. I’d love to know what you think!
I’m burnt out from struggling to reach my goals for this year. I felt like I should be a lot further than I was, and I was beating myself up because I wasn’t. So this week I’m resting. I’m taking a step back from my writing work to give myself a reset.
Breaks like these are necessary to keep going with writing. Writing is hard and lonely work, and it’s so easy to get burnt out. It’s especially easy to get burnt out if you’re struggling to reach goals that maybe aren’t the right goals for you or if something happens in life that gets you off track, like dealing with a medical issue.
I switched writing projects recently, and so am only starting to begin the research on this new book. So of course I’m not going to reach the goal of writing a draft of my book this year. And that’s okay.
Taking this week off has helped me to reset my mind. It’s helped me to relax and refocus, which is exactly what I need to do if I want to write this new book.
However, just because I’m taking a break from most of my work, it doesn’t mean I’m not working at all. I’m just doing relaxed work. Some things I did this week are:
Build a 1000 piece puzzle while listening to audiobooks, both fiction and research books for my work-in-progress.
Kept up on social media, but only spent half as long online as usual.
Had coffee with a writer friend and discussed the themes in my work-in-progress.
Not write out my normal daily to do lists on my white board.
I still managed to work this week, but I did so in a completely relaxed, no-pressure-to-get-things-done way.
And because I did this, I feel ready to get back at is next week and refocus.
Are you feeling burnt out too? Give yourself a break. Keep your mind active, but rest. Build a puzzle. Go for a walk. Talk over ideas with a friend. Relax. And get back at it next week.
This is the first week of July, which means we’re at the halfway point of 2018, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my goals for this year and see how I’m doing.
Instead of making new year’s resolutions, I choose one word to guide me for the year. 2018’s word is focus, but so far I feel like I’ve done everything but focus.
I started this year off by wanting to focus on writing and on God, which would help me accomplish my writing goals of writing a draft of my work-in-progress, writing a query for that book, and reading 45 books.
While I’m right on track with my reading goals—having just finished my 24th book this year (53% of 45 books), I still haven’t written much this year.
The main reason for being behind on my goals is that I switched novel projects. I shared why I switched book projects in my post Write Through It. Doubts about my work-in-progress and medical issues had been keeping me from working, but then God finally answered my prayers by both telling me what to write and by finally healing my eye.
I’m so unbelievably thankful both that my eye works again and for this beautiful story God has asked me to write. And focusing on God by praying for these things is what eventually brought me healing and this new idea. But I feel like I need to take a step back at this halfway point in the year to take a deep breath and refocus.
That’s what 2018 is supposed to be about for me—focusing.
I need to put my past behind me. All of the pain and suffering. All of the self-doubt. All of the unfocused and lazy days. I need to focus on what is ahead.
Even though I feel like I’ve wasted half of a year by not producing anything, I haven’t. I’ve learned and grown. I’ve prayed more and trusted God with more of my life. I’m doing research for my new book project. I’m getting ready to write this book that I have a feeling will change my life.
So this is me refocusing:
I’m taking a deep breath.
I’m telling myself it’s okay to not write an entire book this year.
I’m reminding myself that I have to focus on God before I can focus on anything else, because without him our lives don’t mean anything.
I’m reminding myself that like my book project I am a work in progress. But that’s okay. I’ll get there.
I have some exciting news that I wanted to share with you all—I’m going to be writing for the wonderful Christian blog We Are Beautiful!
For a long time I never wanted to write nonfiction. I thought that truths were better shared through fiction, and so I made that my focus as I grew as a writer. Writing this blog over the past two years has been fun though, and it opened my mind to nonfiction.
And a few months ago I felt God stirring a new dream and calling in me—to write for him directly. Not just through my fiction, but through Christian nonfiction and devotions.
The thought of doing this one day made me both excited and scared. I had no idea what I was doing with nonfiction. And I wasn’t sure if I had something important to say with my own life and with my own stories. Before, if I wanted to say something, I would create a story and a character to tell it. Now God was asking me to write about me, and that was terrifying.
But I could feel him stirring me to keep growing and learn how to do it. I started paying more attention to the devotions and Christian nonfiction I was reading. Like I do when studying fiction, I had to learn how to look past the story to see how the piece is constructed and what makes it work. And after a few months of studying, God has opened a door for me.
And that door is We Are Beautiful. WAB is a community of women that inspires one another and celebrates true beauty. With events, groups, and the blog I’ll be writing for, WAB helps women of all kinds find their true beauty in Christ.
I’m so excited to be writing for them. You can check out their website here, and I’ll let you know when my first post is published to their site!
God has shown up in my life in a very big way recently, and so today I want to share more of a personal story with you.
I’ve been dealing with eye issues for ten years now. It started with just dry eyes in high school, but for the last several years, in the fall through the winter my left eye has been giving me trouble. Each year it got worse, with pain and blurriness and light sensitivity. I’ve been seeing a cornea specialist, but we were never able to pinpoint what exactly was causing the pain, and thus never came up with a longterm solution.
These past several months have been some of the worst physical pain I’ve experienced. I’ve had to sit in the dark at home with most of the lights turned off and the brightness turned down on every screen. I’ve had to take a nap every day or my eye wouldn’t make it through the evening. It was nearly impossible to write.
A few weeks ago I went to Disney World with my mom and sister, and I’ll never forget watching the fireworks the first night of our visit. I was tempted to not even go on the trip because of how bad my eye had been, but with a hat and two pairs of sunglasses, I managed to get by even though it was extremely painful. But as we watched the fireworks, I just started crying. Not because of how amazing the show was, but because even with two pairs of sunglasses on I couldn’t keep my eyes open to watch the show. And I love fireworks. I think they’re so beautiful and they’re one of my favorite things to look at. But that night I was crying because I thought this was just going to be my life from now on. The pain had gotten worse every year, and multiple doctors couldn’t figure out what to do about it.
Just before I left for my trip to Disney, God had answered my prayers about what to write. I know I told you I was outlining a dystopian trilogy, but that story never felt like the right story to write right now. And so I prayed for months until God gave me a new story to tell. And he finally did, with a story I am unbelievable exited about.
A few days after my eye got worse than it ever had before.
And then we left on our trip, and I cried all through the fireworks.
A visit to my eye doctor just after we got back left me with no answers, again. And that weekend I had to skip a concert I was really looking forward to because I was in so much pain.
I had another concert to go to that following week. A worship concert that I would be attending with my fellow lead team ladies from my church. My favorite worship bands were going to be there, along with a speaker I was dying to hear. I prayed each day that my eye would get better. I asked God to take away the pain. And I complained that I couldn’t work on this amazing story he gave me to tell because my eye hurt too much.
I spent the morning of the concert crying. I wanted to go, but I remembered how bad the fireworks had felt just a week before. I didn’t want it to hurt. I couldn’t even drive to meet up with the other ladies who were going. But I felt a little nudge, like I just had to go, and I asked if someone could pick me up.
This concert changed my life.
A woman from Bethel Music shared a testimony that I will never forget. She told a story of dealing with chronic pain for twenty years. She said she kept asking God to lift the pain because she didn’t want it. But then he told her she had to sing through it.
As I stood there in the tenth row with my two pairs of sunglasses on and tears stinging at my already burning eyes, I heard God speak to me.
“That’s why you needed to come tonight. I know it hurts, but you needed to hear this. She had to sing through it. You have to write through it.”
Bethel Music then performed the song “Catch the Wind” and I knew what I had to do.
My whole life I’ve dealt with pain. If it wasn’t the crushing weight of depression and anxiety, then it was various forms of physical pain: a broken jaw, bad knees, a bad foot arch, asthma, horrible colds, allergies, stomach pain, mono which lasted half a year, and now incredible eye pain.
I kept complaining to God and asking him to lift this pain because I didn’t want it. I was done. I was tired of hurting.
But I have to write through it. I have a story to tell, a story of finding hope despite pain. God needs me to tell it. I have to write through it.
That was two weeks ago.
I had another doctors appointment one week ago. And instead of switching between trying to read in the waiting room and rubbing my painful eye, I decided to pray. I prayed that we’d finally find an answer because though I was determined to write anyway, it sure would be nice for my eye to get a little better.
And then my doctor suggested that I try a new eye drop. Doctors have told me over the years that preservatives in my eye drops could build up over time, but they never said they thought that was what was causing my problem. I’d avoided using the preservative-free drops because I’ve sampled every eye drop there was and this one bottled drop always felt the best to me. Plus preservative-free drops cost a ton more. But my eye doctor suggested I use them instead, and I listened this time and bought a box even though they cost a lot.
My eye was better the next day.
It’s been a week now, I’ve been able to work all day without naps, keep the curtains open, and turn the brightness up on my screens. I can even write this very long blog post without putting in a single eye drop.
God just keeps showing up when I need him most. He gave me a story, and now he healed my eye. And I’m going to write through whatever pain I face in the future, because that’s what God put me here to do.