by Judith Couchman

At some point in a writing career, most authors entertain the idea of getting away to write. We think about peace, quiet, focus, solitude. No interruptions. And the beauty of working in a seaside condo or a woodland cabin.

Sounds wonderful, right?

It can be. Or it can balloon into disappointment. It depends on how we prepare for it. Yes, prepare. Prepare by setting guidelines for an enjoyable writing venture.

Guidelines can sound like knocking the romance out of a get-away dream. However, if we adopt a laissez faire approach to a writing trip, we can wind up spending too much time watching television, calling up friends, taking long naps, or living at the beach. None of these activities need to be eliminated, but kept in balance related to getting the work done.

 

  1. Truly change your location.
  2. Go alone.
  3. Prepare your family and friends.
  4. Clear internal conflicts.
  5. Create media and phone boundaries.
  6. Set goals.
  7. Make  a schedule.
  8. Don’t take “just in case” work.
  9. Get outside the room.
  10. Eat healthy food.
  11. Rest and take breaks.
  12. Pray.

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by Judith Couchman

It’s a few days before Christmas and honestly, we’re caught in the activities, expectations, and last-minute details before ribbons and wrapping paper decorate our floors.

But eventually, after gathering the torn and discarded, we sometimes participate in a quieter post-holiday ritual. How will we spend that gift card, cash, or check? If you’re blessed with plastic or money, I’ve a writerly suggestion. Purchase items to usher you into a new writing year. Items that affirm your calling and confidently usher you into the new writing year. How about these ideas?

A book that inspires your call and upcoming work. For over twenty years, one of my New Year’s goals has included, “Reading an inspirational book about writing.” Hopefully, in January. Not a book that improves technique, but rather, a title to reaffirm and inspire my identity as a writer. A book that says Yes, writing is an honorable profession. Yes, you are a writer. Yes, time spent writing is never wasted. Yes, readers want your work. The book might not declare these affirmations directly, but when I finish reading, I’ve absorbed the value, dignity, and pleasure of writing. I’m ready to roll. With a book about writing, you’ll hand yourself the gift of inspiration–a present that influences you throughout the year.

A journal for thoughts and plans. Also in January, I look forward to selecting a new journal for the year. I’m not frugal about this. The material, color, image, paper, and closure matter to me. I choose a journal unlike one I’ve previously owned. I use the journal to record ideas, plans, quotes, outlines, brainstorming, and anything related to my writing. This includes sketchy ideas and specific details for projects. I call it y DaVinci Journal, after the artist who left behind many pages of ideas and sketches. Each year I buy a new journal, even though I didn’t fill up the previous year’s book. For me, this assigns a dignity and importance to the journal. At this point, I’ve more than twenty writing-related journals in a wicker chest. At times I refer to them for ideas, clarification, inspiration, and reminiscence. Overall, each journal reaffirms my writing life.

An image or object to inspire you. An author friend hung a painting on her wall that represents her call to write for and help people who need hope. She draws inspiration from the peaceful work of art when beginning a project, and occasionally refers to it in conversations. It assists in explaining her passion. I keep a wooden sculpture of Frances de Sales (1567-1632), the patron saint of writers, on my desk. My mother gave it to me. It’s special because in my childhood, Mom believed in my call to write. The rustic statue encourages me to continue, and that I’ve an advocate cheering me on from heaven.

What could you purchase to inspire you in 2018? Even without a gift card or cash, I heartily recommend owning at least one item that represents your call to write and inspires you to passionately continue.

Judith Couchman is an author, speaker, and professor who lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado. She’s traditionally published more than 42 books, Bible studies, and compilations. Her current work in progress focuses on writers: How to Keep Writing & Loving It. Learn more about her writing and ministry at www.judithcouchman.com.

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Thankful… Years Later 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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