Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So You Want to Be a Writer

A guest post by Jennifer Slattery

First of all, run now, while you still have a chance. Just kidding. But seriously, writing is not for the thin-skinned. And it isn’t nearly as glamorous as it might seem. In fact, most days you’ll be glued to your computer, still in PJ’s at two in the afternoon, ball cap by your side in case one of your normal, presentable neighbors happen by. Although truth be told, you probably won’t answer the door anyway. Or the phone. Until the tips of your fingers throb from pounding your keyboard and your eyes cross from hours upon hours of edits.

Then you’ll stand up to force blood into your numbed legs and glance out the window as you try to reconnect with reality. You’d love to have someone to chat with, only all your neighbors are at work. You call a friend and leave a message. You hop on Facebook and make a few random posts. You pace the room and argue with yourself (only because your dog won’t join the debate). Then you toss all thoughts of socialization aside and bunker down. But hey, you’ve always got the heroine in your latest novel. She’s your friend, right?

Actually, I totally love what I do. I can’t envision myself doing anything else. (And believe me, I’ve tried. When I’ve noticed a fatal plot error requiring a total re-write or my computer crashes halfway through a 90,000 word document.) But I’m still here, plugging away, day after day, word after word. Only now, I’ve learned to do things differently.  
  • I find ways to stay connected. When I first started writing, I did it alone. It wasn’t long before I fell into a pattern of discouragement. We all experience that once in awhile, when our negative self-talk runs amuck and those fears, insecurities and frustrations bite away at our resolve. Now I’m a part of three writer’s groups and I cherish the support they offer. I’ve also taken the time to nurture deeper relationships with a few ladies I’ve met along the way. Yeah, they’re largely internet and phone relationships, but they work. My greatest resource has been the American Christian Fiction Writers network. They have an amazing online loop, numerous mature Christian authors who love pouring into the lives of newbies, and a phenomenal critique group.
  • I choose my close friends wisely. The other day I listened to a writer friend talk about how someone had totally slammed on both her and her work. Not in your normal, “I think this would be stronger if…” This was all-out brutality. As she talked, I was reminded of the story of Joseph and how his brothers and father responded when he shared his God-given dream with them. They scoffed. They were so focused on who Joseph was–a runt–they overlooked the power standing behind him.
  • Writing is tough. You’re going to face rejection. A lot. You’re going to have to make tough decisions and you’re going to have to overcome a lot of inner demons that threaten to keep you stagnant. You certainly don’t need naysayers dragging you down. To the contrary. You need strong Christian friends who will encourage you to keep on keeping on, with your eyes focused on the goal with unwavering determination.
  • I learned to abide. (John 15:1-4) If you want to write more than mindless drivel, you’re gonna need to learn to rest. To trust. To listen. To fight the urge to do things in your own strength and wisdom as you continually lay yourself on the alter. This is a toughy, especially when you’ve got deadlines coming your way or writer’s block dragging you down. Our first tendency is to try harder and in doing so, we fail to connect with our true source of wisdom and power. 
The other day I had the task of turning nine Bible chapters into an eight hundred word leaflet. Not an easy thing to do, especially for a word lover like me. And I really didn’t have the time to fret over it. Fretting is the biggest time sapper there is! So instead of forcing a bunch of drivel onto the screen, I closed my computer, walked into the bedroom and turned on some praise music. Basically, I passed the buck. I knew God had brought me this assignment. I knew He had a plan for it. I just needed to wait for Him to share His plan with me.

After spending a few moments in prayer and quiet, I returned to my computer with clarity and finished the leaflet in a relatively short period of time. 
  • Take time to get away. Those momentary refreshers are great, but they’re not enough. At least not for me. I can only rely on shout-out prayers for so long before my creativity begins to shrivel. Every once in a while I need to create my own little spiritual retreat. Normally I don’t go far. Maybe I’ll visit a hiking trail nearby or spend a few hours in a nearby park with my Pandora radio (on my iPhone), a Bible and a notebook. Sometimes the getting there is hard, especially when my tasks are mounting, but I’ve learned those are the times when I most need to get away. And once I do, once I spend those cherished moments connecting with God, I come back twice as productive as before.
  • Let it go. God’s already got the whole journey figured out. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Try not to look at the day-to-day. Learn as you go, walking forward with an eyes-wide-open approach as God guides you towards the finish line.
  • Take your thoughts captive. Negativity breeds negativity. And quite frankly, it’s a waste of time–time you don’t have. Make a decision, right now, not to allow discouragement to linger in your brain. If God’s got it covered, what is there to be discouraged about? So you’ve got a 60,000 word rewrite, or realized your eighth edit wasn’t enough. And? I’m not joining your pity party here. I’m waiting at the finish line with my camera ready to catch your victorious smile when you break through the tape.

Jennifer Slattery
Jennifer Slattery is a novelist, publicist, and freelance writer living in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their thirteen year old daughter. She works for Tiffany Colter, the Writing Career Coach, as an assistant publicist and is the marketing manager for the literary website Clash of the Titles. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, the Christian Pulse, and Samie Sisters and has written for numerous other publications and websites. In 2009 she placed first in the Heart of American Christian Writers’ contest and in 2010 she was an Operation First Novel finalist, placed second in the Dixie Kane and fourth in the Golden Pen. You can find out more about her and her writing at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com

If you’d like to know more about her affordable marketing and ghost writing services, contact her at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com.


  1. Thanks for making it real--and weaving in the truth, encouragement, and practical tips on how to thrive in the writing life!

  2. So true, Jennifer, so true. Thanks for the reality check!

  3. Just what I needed to hear this morning ... thank you for allowing the Holy Spirit to speak through you.

  4. You're ALWAYS a good on one for encouragement, Jennifer. Is that your doorbell ringing? Better grab that ball cap!

  5. Beth, Vonda, Emily and April, I'm so glad you found it encouraging. April, I've got a ball-cap handy in each room...just in case. :-)

  6. Jennifer, we are always encouraged when you visit! Thank you so much for sharing your time with us.
    Blessings All - E

  7. Thank you so much. This helps a lot!
    God bless!

  8. Hi Jennifer, I know we've never met, but how'd you know I am in my pj's at 2 in the afternoon? I know I have been neglecting my quiet time. Too preoccupied with getting the kids ready for school and such. You know the drill all too well. Instead of a ball cap for me, it's a hair claw to put my hair up! Thanks for the encouragement, and reminder of what is really important today.

  9. Edie, I'm always blessed to be on your site! Thanks for having me!

    Ashley, I'm so glad!

    And Laurie--a hair clip. I'll have to try that. Probably way more feminine than the cap. :-) And I'm glad to hear you're determined to draw close to God again. Life can get crazy, but wow, it's so much crazier when we try to go it alone! Imagine what more we'd get done every day if we stayed tapped into our Divine Powerhouse! Just look at all the writing Paul got done--while in and out of prison, tent-making, teaching in the synagogues on Saturday, and training believers and starting churches on Sunday. Not because he was any greater than you or I, but because he surrenedered fully, moment by moment, to the Author of his faith.