7 Must Haves for Every Writer

By Elaine Baldwin| @elainehbaldwin

#1 Every Writer Must Have a Clear View! In other words every writer should know their worldview and stick with it. No one likes a writer who straddles the fence and is noncommittal.  Even if we disagree with an author’s premise, we can at least respect their writing if they remain consistent with that premise. We may enjoy following someone on their journey to discovering their worldview, but eventually…and sooner than later…we really want them to make up their minds.

#2 Every Writer Must Have a Well! In other words every writer must have more words than they will ever use in print stored in their repertoire. This might seem like a “Dah” statement, but I’ve met individuals who say they want to write, but when asked what they read their answers are limited and one dimensional.

The best of the best writers; the ones we want to emulate, are ravenous readers. If they aren’t writing, they are reading…everything and they don’t just read within their genre. For the Christian writer, their number one book resource needs to be the Bible which helps us keep the main thing, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the main thing.

#3 Every Writer Must Have a Target! In other words every writer should have a specific individual they are writing to. I’m not necessarily saying you should write to your Auntie Em, but if she fits the target audience you want to write to then she’s a good place to start. An objective of writing to the masses just doesn’t work. You cannot appeal to everyone, unless you are God and writing the Holy Scriptures.You’re not, so don’t go there.

Christian writers do well to remember they are always writing to an audience of One, God, as well as to their target audience. (link)

#4 Every Writer Must Have Designated Drivers! In other words every writer, novice and seasoned, needs at least one someone who will be the voice of reason when they are intoxicated with their own words. This was a hard must have for me to accept. I am a “Do it myself” kind of gal and wrote that way for a long time. It showed. When I took the plunge to write a novel series and spiritual growth series I quickly learned a one woman show just wasn’t going to cut it.

There are still individual people I need to find, with God’s leading, to guide and coach me on this road called publication. But I have been blessed with those willing to edit and critique my work. They’ve been priceless in this process. I’ve also relied heavily on the numerous contacts I’ve made at conferences and through the World Wide Web. I am amazed how freely others are willing to share their knowledge and expertise and even their mistakes. I am no longer an army of one!

#5 Every Writer Must Have Office Hours! In other words every writer should have a daily allotted time for writing. One of the biggest differences between a hobby writer and a professional writer is the hours they keep. Back in the day when I was doing it myself I was also doing it only when I was inspired. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just not very professional and certainly not what it takes to finish and publish a book.

This was also a tough lesson for me to learn because I wasn’t used to taming my muse. I let the muse control me. Not a good idea. Of course we all have writer’s block, but the professional writer/author sits down at her designated time and writes. It may be a piece of junk for a few lines or even pages, but it doesn’t take long for her muse to catch up with her office hours and the words do become a work of art.

Solomon so eloquently stated there is a time for everything and that includes writing.

#6 Every Writer Must Have a Location! In other words every writer should have a place, a spot where they write. They may and often do have several spots. J. K. Rowling’s story of writing in the laundry mat while her little one slept in a stroller is one example of having a place to write. Was it ideal? Well, it wasn’t a seven foot cherry mahogany desk, but it obviously did the job. I’ve read about authors who write best on planes (it is quiet and away from phones) or on the bedroom floor with the door closed.

Many authors do have a designated office either in their home or in their business. On the cover of his well-known book, On Writing, Stephen King is pictured writing in his office with pooch under foot. King states when it is time for him to write, he goes to his office, shuts the door and writes. I don’t have an office, but I do have a desk that sits next to our L-shaped windows. Sometimes I move to the couch or to the family room, but I find I get a lot more words down when I am sitting at this specific location. The key is to find that magic location and determine to be there every day.

#7 Every Writer Must Have a Vessel! In other words every writer needs a pen and paper or computer, or iPad or voice recorder…some way to record the words gathered in our brain, heart and soul. This also seems like a “Dah” must have, but I don’t want to skim over the obvious. Paper and pen are not as obsolete as you think. I still use them especially when I need to brainstorm. I have notebooks full of one-liners, potential projects and story lines, character sketches and outlines for blog posts like this one.

When I use my laptop for brainstorming I worry too much about spelling and grammar and fragmented sentences. My wonderful MS Word program won’t let me stop worrying about these issues that can wait until I get the story out of my head.

When I have to figure out how to get my heroin out of the jam she is in and nothing has worked so far, I pull out my favorite pen and just write. I also keep pen and paper in my purse, on my nightstand and on the coffee table. Great plot twists and solutions have come to the front of my brain in the dark of night and at the Kroger check out line. If I don’t write them down immediately, the perfect words are gone and I’m the loser.

But, in this marvelous age of iClouds and flash drives some authors may not even own a pen. Each of us has to figure out what works best for us to deliver our very best writing.

So there you have them in a nutshell. Seven must haves for every writer. We will un-crack these shells in the weeks to come. I would love to hear your insights to these or maybe you have additional must haves you would like to share.

Write or the Rocks Will Cry Out

By Elaine Baldwin| @elainehbaldwin

I propose the ultimate goal for any Christian writer is not to have millions of books sold for millions of dollars or to acquire millions of social media fans, but rather to write for an audience of One and for His honor and praise and thereby keep the stones silent.

I am not just talking about Christian non-fiction like Bible studies, theology books or inspirational poetry. Whether a writer composes lyrics, writes greeting cards, pens novels or creates screenplays he or she should write with the persistent purpose of using their God-given talent to bring honor and glory to Jesus Christ.

 If we don’t write with that kind of consistent objective Jesus tells us in Luke the stones will cry out in place of our silence.

As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:37-40 (NASB)

The context here is Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. The disciples were making such a raucous the religious leaders told Jesus to make them be quiet. I don’t think it was the volume that really bothered them. It was the message the disciples were shouting that disturbed them. If they simply shouted, “Here is Jesus a good teacher with some good ideas.” I don’t think the Pharisees would’ve given it another thought.

But, that wasn’t the disciples persistent purpose. Their purpose was to shout praises to Jesus and to the Lord God of Heaven and Earth. They could’ve just shown up to see who was coming into town and remained silent. But they would’ve missed their purpose for being there in the first place. The objective of that time and place was to shout praises to the King who came in the name of the Lord. If they were not persistent in that purpose, Jesus said the stones would have cried out.

And so it should be for the person who puts the name of Christ before the title “Author/Writer”. For every project we undertake, it should be done with the persistent purpose of shouting praise to our Savior and King.

That doesn’t necessarily mean we put Jesus in every phrase and quote Scripture on every page. It does mean we dedicate our craft to the One who endowed us with so great a gift…words. It means we offer every project, large and small, as a living sacrifice to God and allow Him to do with it as He pleases.

It means we don’t just show up to write and aimlessly place one word in front of another. Instead we answer our calling, we know our persistent purpose and we fulfill our objective as Christian authors and writers.

Are your writing historical romance or a cozy mystery? Write with the persistent purpose of godly principles throughout your pages.

Do you write space fantasy or science fiction? Write so your story gives honor to Jesus.

Are you called to write ABA? Write so that others know you are in the world and yet not of it.

Are you writing textbooks; history, English, math, science? Write so the world will know Him.

Do you have a love song or poem to write? Write so His love is exalted.

So what are you writing? Whatever it is…make sure the rocks remain silent!

One Block Down Failure Street, Then Turn Write

The other day I was taking my usual walk when a car slowed. A sixtyish woman with perfectly coiffed hair and impeccable makeup rolled down her window and motioned for me to approach her vehicle. She seemed harmless though somewhat intimidating in my current state of sweats, pony-tailed hair and pale skin. I walked across the street to her mini-van anyway.

“I’m new to the area and all turned around,” she began.

Immediately I panicked. She didn’t have to go any further for me to know she was going to ask me directions. In my mind I was the worst possible person to ask because I had only lived here for a few months and knew the names of  three streets. Instinctively I looked around to see if anyone was walking or driving by to assist this woman. Nada. Not a soul.

She continued, “The police officer told me to head up this road to …”

At this point I should explain why a police officer was involved. A portion of  the main boulevard into our neighborhood was blocked off due to a house fire. I had just walked from there and I don’t think it was a huge fire. No smoke billowing or flames leaping through the roof, although I would suspect that to the home occupants it was a big fire. Anyway, there were  twenty-four emergency vehicles (I counted them) dutifully taking up road space. Thus the police officer was diverting traffic off the boulevard onto my street to go around.

This lady was confused by the “go around” part. When she mentioned what street she was trying to get to, I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to be any help. It wasn’t one of the three street names I knew. I was about to tell her I didn’t think I could help, but thankfully she didn’t stop talking long enough for me to share this bit of information. Not waiting to inhale, she continued to tell me the officer had directed her to a L’Fennel Street or something like that and she just couldn’t find such a street.

I scratched my head. No, literally, I scratched my head. I was hoping it would knock some gray matter together and generate a useful answer. Besides it made me look contemplative. And, I might add, it worked! The street she was really looking for was L’Feil and this is one of the three street names I knew. I was able to direct her and she joyfully waved her thanks as she made a u-turn and drove out of sight.

That incident reminded me of another street I know. One I am way too familiar with and travel up and down way too often. I have plenty of opportunities to get off this street leading nowhere. But, I stay on this same old street dodging the same old pot holes, digging up the same old drudgery and making the same old excuses.

It’s called Failure Street. Maybe you’ve heard of it or have been on it a time or two in your life. Or maybe you’re like me and you find yourself hopelessly wondering up and down this street of futility more often than you would ever admit.

The problem is when we stay on Failure Street too long, we run out of gas with no where to fuel back up and eventually we have no energy left to even wonder through the street anymore. We are paralyzed between blocks and caught in the heavy stream of traffic aimlessly barreling up and down. Horns are blaring at us. Maybe even a few nasty words are hurled our way. But we can’t make sense of our surroundings let alone do anything about our situation

If you are on Failure Street right now and need directions to get off, allow me to assist. You see, I know the name of this street and, more importantly, I can give you directions to your next turn. I have been and are, traveling right along with you.

First  it’s important for us to realize that it is inevitable that we find ourselves on this street from time to time. It’s just a part of life.We are going to fail. Worse yet, people are jsut waiting for us to fail. And even worse yet, some people are going to be glad we failed and even hope we fail again. Our problem is that we forget that the reason these people are watching us fail and applauding our failures is that they are on Failure Street themselves and they like having company.

We also forget that the most prominent resident of Failure Street is Satan himself and he certainly doesn’t want a decrease in his traffic reports. The more people he can keep on Failure, the more he can sit back and watch the bad times roll.

What we need to remember is that not everyone wants us to fail. In fact all of us have personal cheering sections encouraging us throughout our lives. And, as disciples of Jesus, we always have His applause reassuring us. We need to drown out the naysayers and focus on our boosters

Second, we must remember that though it is inevitable that we will have to travel onto Failure Street once in awhile, it is NOT inevitable that we stay on that road. It is our choice as to how long we continue to drive the strip of “Would’ve”, “Should’ve” and “Could’ve”. God provides numerous and continuous exits throughout Failure Street, but He will not force us to make any turn. We must flip on our blinker, put hand over hand on the steering wheel and then FLOOR IT!

Well, maybe you don’t feel like you can floor it, but don’t be too much of a slow poke making your turn off Failure or you will be pulled right back into the rush of traffic

Third, we must all remember that the correct turn for one person off Failure may not the the right one for someone else. Or that even the correct turn for one individual in one situation may not be the same turn in another situation for that same individual.

Take me for example. My most recent trip on Failure Street has lasted much too long, mainly because I was hanging onto what I call pseudo failures. These are failures that may or may not happen in the future and they are especially crippling. My next move is to “turn write”. I just need to write. There are some particulars to this, but the basic exit is “turn write”. The last time I was on Failure Street, my exit was “turn healthy”. I needed to make some healthy decisions. Often times my exit is “turn forgiveness” or “turn the other cheek.”

Your exits may be, “turn family” or “turn sing” or “turn schooling”, etc… What happens is we see the exit. We know we should turn, but we just can’t see ourselves off of Failure Street. We come to believe the lie of the street’s chief resident (remember who that is)…”You are a failure.” “You belong on Failure Street.”

And that brings me to direction number four. Denounce this totally “false lie” (as the King of Siam would say) and knock Satan back where he belongs. Behind You! I was reminded by Charles Stanley in his book, “How to Reach Your Full Potential for God” that when we resist the devil he must flee from us. James 4:7 says, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

The truth is, we are not failures. We are created in God’s image and for His purposes. We will fail and find ourselves on Failure Street, but God in His mercy always and I mean always provides an exit for us.

It is the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3: 22-2

All we have to do is submit and make the turn.

So don’t stay too long. Just one block down Failure Street, then turn …!