Tuesday, September 18, 2018

A Writer’s Best Baggage

by Lucinda Secrest McDowell @LucindaSMcDowel

Mike and I had arrived at the New Hampshire retreat center as speakers for the week’s Family Camp. While settling into the Lodge I glanced over at a bookshelf full of bound volumes of… what was it? Old copies of InterVarsity’s HIS Magazine from the 70’s and 80’s. 

Thumbing through the pages I quickly discovered my very first freelance article on short-term missions “What to Take and What to Leave Behind!”

A rush of memories came over me—serving as a mission pastor in San Francisco, selling that first article to a magazine I respected and subscribed to. And how that one open door in publishing eventually led to many more. 

After a heavy sigh, it was time for a prayer of gratitude. That HIS editor Linda Doll took a chance on me and used my article. That God gave me gifts and then the perseverance to work hard to get better at writing. That (miracle of miracles) today I am still writing.

I’m knee-deep in working on books number 14 and 15. Only by God’s grace. By steadfastness. By faith that the One who called me into this perilous profession will continue to use me as long as I listen to His voice and write His words.

What about you? As you envision your own writing (and speaking) journey what should you be packing? 

It occurred to me that What to Take and What to Leave Behind might make great lists for those of us struggling on the vocational path of communicating in this fractured, fragile world today:

What to Take
  • Story: What’s your story? We need to understand and be able to creatively communicate the unique story we are living, offering both grit and grace in the process.
  • Vision: So what? We must know how our message and God’s intersect with meaning. Holding tight to the foundational truth that we seek to share with others.
  • Gratitude:Let us never bring the baggage of entitlement into our writing and speaking opportunities, but approach each one/person in a spirit of being thankful to serve.
  • Perseverance: There will be plenty of times when we question our call, feel ineffective and are tempted to give up entirely. Don’t do it. God will give us strength to journey forth.

What to Leave Behind
  • It’s All About Me: There is a delicate dance between being the spokesperson in authority and acting like we’re the only one in the room. Don’t push yourself or your book; share your wisdom and people will want you and your book.
  • Gratuitous Sensationalism: We can be authentic without trying to shock our audiences through inappropriate sharing of details best left purposefully vague.
  • Messy Writing and Sloppy Speaking: God’s work deserves our 100% best efforts so don’t go out there unprepared or thinking you can totally ‘wing it’ just to get words on paper or fill air space.
  • Need for Instant Results: Yes, some will give you immediate feedback (hopefully good) but it’s much more important to let your efforts sink in for awhile and trust that God will eventually bring the fruit.

Depending on where you are today, how will you begin packing or unpacking?


Lucinda Secrest McDowell, M.T.S., is passionate about embracing life—both through deep soul care as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she delights in “Helping you Choose a Life of Serenity & Strength.” A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, McDowell is the author of 13 books and contributing author to 30+ books. Her books include the award-winning Dwelling Places (2017 Christian Retailing BEST Award for Devotional), Ordinary Graces (2018 SELAH finalist), Live These Words, Refresh! and Role of a Lifetime. A member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA), Lucinda received Mt. Hermon “Writer of the Year” award and guest blogs monthly for The Write Conversation and Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference Blog. Whether co-directing  "reNEW ~ retreat for New England Writing," pouring into young mamas, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Lucinda’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. Known for her ability to convey deep truth in practical and winsome ways, she writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at http://www.EncouragingWords.net/


  1. Loved it! Thank you so much Ms. Lucinda. God's blessings ma'am.

  2. Lucinda,

    Thanks for these great insights. I loved your mention of HIS. Years ago I worked with Verne Becker who was editor of HIS on my personal testimony which is still on my website at: Two Words That Changed My Life

    Straight Talk From the Editor

  3. My takeaway? There is good and bad baggage. Pick the right one.
    Great post, Lucinda.

  4. How fun to find your first article. Thank you for the advice.

  5. Very good advice. I am trying to begin speaking as part of my writing ministry. These are excellent points to remember.