by Judith Couchman

New York, New York. As a young woman, that’s all I wanted. In New York City, I would morph into a valued editor and writer. I would create a stylish lifestyle. I would prove my talent and worthiness. I would become who I longed to be–patterned after female writers in the biographies on my bookshelves–but of course, not addicted and less screwed up.

But even with those lavish dreams, I didn’t move to New York to work and write. Although in my late twenties a reliable NYC company offered me a job, I turned it down. Not long before that offer, I’d returned to a walk with God after an eight-year spiritual defection. At that juncture, I felt an unyielding call to work in Christian publishing. Within a year, I joined a Christian publishing house, but not without bits of doubt.

Through the years I wondered about my road less taken in Christian publishing, versus the tantalizing road to New York. Did I chose the right path? What would have transpired if I’d lived in Manhattan? And through the decades, I watched a few friends, one at a time, accept jobs in the City but in a year or two, leave feeling demolished.

Eventually, I privately admitted that with my ADD and emotionality, I might have fled New York with similar wounds. It can be an unrelenting place to work. I can’t know for sure, but crumpling felt like a high probability. Christian publishing suited me better, and in that industry, God allowed me to spiritually affect lives. Although many Christians migrate to that city and meet success, I’m not certain I would have fulfilled my dreams. They were selfish and uppity. They didn’t reflect God’s way.

Gratitude for Unanswered Prayer

Yesterday, as a nation we celebrated Thanksgiving Day. Rightly so, during this holiday we focus on fulfilled desires, unexpected blessings, and answered prayers shouting God’s love. We feel thankful. At the same time, we can also express gratitude for certain unanswered dreams and prayers. The pathways God blocked with a better plan, more fashioned for you.

What if I’d married my high school sweetheart? What if I’d taken that assignment or trip? What if I’d spent large sums of money on that program? With time, we might feel grateful for “the things that didn’t work out the way we wanted them to.” We can feel relieved.

Think back on your writing and speaking ministry. Your family and personal life. What desires and prayers remained unanswered? Can you say “thanks be to God” for these blocked pathways? Tell Him. And gladly anticipate what’s next.

About Judith Couchman

Judith Couchman has traditionally published more than forty books, Bible studies, and compilations. She’s also worked as an editor, speaker, and writing coach. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com.

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Important Questions for Seasoned Authors
by Judith Couchman

In the early stages of a writing life, every publishing opportunity thrills us. We accept almost anything we can authentically create, and hope for much more. We’re excited to exercise our writing gift, and sense we’re stepping in the impressions of God’s footsteps. Anything seems possible.

A decade or so later, if we’re still writing, we can effuse these same joys. Or not.

As circumstances morph, we do, too. When we explore and transform spiritually, we might uncover fresh ways of thinking and serving. Or we could lose enthusiasm for our publishing persona, subjects, and audience. At the same time, we keep trodding the same publishing path, although our interest might have waned or even flatlined. We don’t know how to change, muster the courage to change, or even realize we need to change.

However we feel about our publishing place, periodic checkups–maybe every five or ten years–can clarify purpose, direction, and enthusiasm. We could discover we’re satisfied with our writing path. Or we might pinpoint a few tweaks or major alterations for the future.

To evaluate, it helps to get away, get with God, and look with physical and spiritual eyes. These topics can help with this analysis. There are no right or wrong answers.

  1. Purpose. What was your original call from God and purpose for writing? Do you still resonate with this purpose? Why, or why not? Does your purpose need to change?
  2. Audience. Who was your original audience? Do you still serve that group? Why, or why not? Do you want to keep serving that readership? Why, or why not?
  3. Brand. What is your brand as a writer? Are you comfortable with this, or could it shift? In other words, are you comfortable in your skin as a writer? Your public image? Why, or why not?
  4. Success. How have you succeeded in fulfilling your publishing purpose? How do you feel about this?
  5. Failure. How have your writing endeavors failed in your eyes? How do you feel about that?
  6. God. Have you sensed God speaking to you about a new direction, topics, or audience for your writing? If so, what do you think He’s saying? Do you pray about your writing?
  7. Questions. Do you harbor nagging questions or disappointments about your writing life? What are they? How can you find answers and healing?
  8. Feeling. At a gut level and feeling–without input from anyone else–where do you want to take your writing? Why? What would this require?
  9. Improvement. Do you consciously work to improve your writing? How so, or why not? How can you commit to becoming a better writer, and not rely on past techniques?
  10. Marketing. Are you spending more time social networking and marketing than actually writing? How can you better balance these two?
  11. Fears. What fears emerge about your writing and publishing? How can you address and move through them?
  12. Direction. What new direction do you want to pursue for your writing, if any? How can you prepare?
  13. Scripture. Can you identify a Bible verse to express your call as a writer now? If so, write it out. How do you identify with it?
  14. More. What other questions can you pursue?

Best wishes as you move ahead!

Judith Couchman is an author with 42 traditionally published works, including articles, books, Bible studies, and compilations. She is also a university professor who sets aside time for missions work. Currently, she’s on sabbatical from coaching writers.

 

 

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by Judith Couchman

Recently I ate lunch with Heather, a former coaching client who became a friend. She talked about an app that helps her learn to write better, catching mistakes and suggesting ways to improve. I recognized Heather’s sincere desire to write well, and that impressed me. Many writers new to the craft want to skip over writing principles and dart straight to publishing and social networking.

Heather felt so excited about this method for improving her manuscript, I couldn’t help but absorb her enthusiasm. Later at home, online I researched writing apps. After typing “Writing Apps” into my browser, the results surprised me. Although apps exist for brainstorming, collaborating, planning, organizing, outlining, reading, and timing writing, not many help an aspiring author actually write well.

As a result, below I’ve listed some apps that help with writing and editing your work. Most likely, more apps exist because I didn’t research deeply. Consider this a “starter list” for apps that might meet your needs. I’ve provided website links so you can learn more. Most are free. Check whether an app operates on your phone, tablet, or desktop.

  • EditMinion. Edits a manuscript a few pages at a time, checking for mistakes, including clichés. Free. http://editminion.com
  • Grammarly. This app does what the name implies: it checks a manuscript for grammar, suggesting the correct wording. Free. grammarly.com
  • Hemingway App. Heather enthused about this app. It aims to simplify, tighten, and strengthen prose in the tradition of the famous writer. $19.99 hemingwayapp.com/desktop
  • Merriam-Webster. Every writer needs a dictionary. This one includes voice searches. Free. https://www.merriam-webster.com/apps
  • ProWriting Aid. ProWriting Aid not only identifies and corrects problems, but it also explains, in detail, why you need to change something. And how to do it. Free for basic; $40 for premium. prowritingaid.com
  • Scrivener. A versatile writing app that helps with many formats: articles, books, blogs, podcasts, speeches and more. $40-45. writersstore.com/scrivener

If you’ve found another app that improves writing, please inform us in the comments section below. Thanks!

Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, university professor, and occasional writing coach. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com

 

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On a Sunday afternoon, I moaned about my writing career to my best friend Nancy. While we washed dishes, I complained, “I’ve worked hard and published a lot, but I’m not well-known and am financially challenged. I love what I do, but sometimes I feel like a failure.”
      Nancy turned to me, a dish in hand, and said, “That’s totally beside the point. You’re using your gifting. It’s not about the fame or money. It’s about doing the work.”
      Nancy knows. She’s a lifetime pianist and her husband works as a composer. To keep afloat, they both teach part time, but the couple’s chief passion is their own musicianship. They live among creatives in their city: actors, dancers, musicians, writers, and others. Most of them work in obscurity, compared to our culture’s definition of success.
      From that conversation I evaluated: As a writer, what is my definition of success? How do I look at failure? Should I keep taking risks?
Typically, during January we dream dreams, create goals, and plan schedules. We hope for, pray for, and expect success. It’s natural to want our best efforts to succeed. But what if we don’t reach those goals? Keep those schedules? Fail to publish a manuscript? Or market a book that doesn’t sell? What if our writing career doesn’t progress as planned?
      Maybe Nancy’s insistent belief can help. A writing ministry is about the work God gifted us to do. For Christians, success is following His calling, not the world’s definition of accomplishment. Whatever happens, we’re successful if we follow God’s path for us. Failure doesn’t exist. How much income we earn isn’t a measure of obedience. Risk isn’t as scary as it seems. We’re in the hands of a Father who delights in our desire to serve Him, to gratefully enjoy the gifts He gave us.
       The teacher Oswald Chambers wrote, “Our spiritual life cannot be measured by success as the world measures it, but only by what God pours through usand we cannot measure that at all.” That includes our writing, too.
 
As a writer, Judith Couchman has traditionally published 44 works. She also works as a writing coach and an adjunct university professor, teaching art history. Learn more about her at www.judithcouchman.com.

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This time of year we’re consumed with purchasing, wrapping, and giving gifts. We stretch our budgets, schedules, and sanity to position piles of colorful boxes and bags underneath glittery trees. And if we’re honest, we wonder about gifts we’ll receive. Will they be anything we want and like?

As writers, in between we struggle to put words on paper and meet deadlines, wondering and worrying if we’ll finish everything on time. Why did we agree to write during Christmastime, anyway? Why push ourselves through this?

Because we’ve been handed a remarkable gift. A gift from God.

Midst the stress, we can calm our souls and reflect on what these writers say about His gift of writing.

  • Writing is a gift from God. “I write because writing is the gift God has given me to help people in the world.”—Anne Lamott
  • Writing is a privileged gift. “And what, do you ask, does writing teach us? First and foremost, it reminds us that we are alive and that it is a gift and a privilege, not a right.”—Ray Bradbury
  • Writing is a gift to yourself. “Writing is an extreme privilege, but it’s also a gift. It’s a gift to yourself and it’s a gift of giving a story to someone.”—Amy Tan
  • Writing is a gift to others. “View your work as a gift to the world—as a bridge built to create connection or a door opened wide through which others might pass. Pour your heart into it, knowing you might make a difference in someone’s life.”—Ann Kroeker
  • Writing is a gift back to God. “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.”—Leo Buscaglia

We can pause with gratitude for the gift of writing because “every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.”—James 1:17

Judith Couchman is a writer, writing coach, and professor who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’s traditionally published more than 42 books, Bible studies, and compilations. Learn more about her writing at www.judithcouchman.com.

 

 

 

 

 

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