Anyone committed to building a career in writing should spend a good deal of time with others who have a similar desire. Physical proximity to one another is a good thing; but these days, communication and connection can happen using a myriad of tools.
Knowing others experience the same things you do is a core benefit of attending gatherings of writers, either aspiring or experienced, at retreats and conferences. But a cup of coffee or FaceTime once in a while is a good way to keep momentum going.
While one of the purposes of community is for mutual encouragement and support, I fear the true meaning of encouragement is lost if we consider it simply cheering from the sidelines, “You can do this!”
True encouragement is far more than simple cheerleading. The actual meaning of encouragement is to give someone else courage.
The apostle Paul, writing in First Thessalonians 5, verses 8-11, elevates encouragement to a core function of the body of Christ. Comparing Christ followers with those who aren’t, he writes this:
But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (NIV, emphasis mine).
While writing is a public expression of your heart and mind, it starts in private. It is in this writing “aloneness” the enemy of the Christian writer’s soul takes aim. Through discouragement, Satan attempts to remove courage from the writer through whatever means necessary. Any writer knows what this is like.
“This is pointless.”
“I don’t have what it takes.”
“I’ll never get this done right.”
Just so you know, the above phrases do not come from the Creator God who made you and sent his Son to die for you. They come from the enemy of your soul and are examples of his prowling about and devouring, seeking to take away whatever courage you have left.
So how do you get courage to continue writing? By giving it to another. It’s one of the many counterintuitive aspects of living the Christian life.
You don’t give courage from your overflowing abundance of it. You encourage from your weakness and hurt. And in return, you are strengthened and encouraged.
I’ll suggest a few actions I believe are consistent with Scripture and mirror how God encourages us as his children:
- The first and best way to get courage as a writer is to encourage (give-courage) another writer. The “cord of multiple strands” principle still works. This is the driving purpose behind every writers conference or group that gathers regularly. Go to a conference with the express purpose to locate and give courage to a struggling writer.
- Remind others (and yourself) how God has been faithful in the past and how his promises are always kept. He never fails to follow through.
- If you find out something has gone badly for a writer you know, either personally or professionally, tell them you will be there for them. (The “I will never leave you or forsake you” principle still works in every human relationship.)
- Without prompting, send a note or communicate with another author for no other reason than to let them know you are praying for them—and actually do pray for them.
- Read something another writer wrote and affirm how this is an example of how God is working in their life. Let them know this.
Notice how these suggestions have nothing to do with you being encouraged?
When you focus on others, you will find yourself with a reservoir of courage so vast you will be an unstoppable force for God’s kingdom.
Courage is contagious. You get it by giving it.
Dan, thank you for this post. As a leader to a writing community and a writer who recently faced a tough rejection, your words are timely.
As I process the latest news, the enemy is ever present and his lies are just icky. He is the source of words I am fighting today by stilling my soul. I am choosing to listen for His voice instead.
It’s hard work, but I strongly believe it’s worth it and necessary. Writers tend to grow immensely as they persevere and God shapes their character.
Your suggestions are clear and doable. I appreciate the way you displayed how writers, including myself, can continue with courage and encouragement. I’ll be sharing this piece with my community.
Today, I needed it.
Thank you so much for this message. Yes, let’s encourage each other. As writers, we need encouragement and love. I am blessed with several writer friends who encourage me everyday with their words and actions.
Wise words, Dan. This same encouragement applies to non-writers as well. The critique process–putting your work out to others for honest assessment–goes where many good people don’t want to tread. Because it’s been essential to my writing, I can gently share first how it’s helped me, then how it can be a huge help to someone feeling crushed by criticism. My own testimony of how a hard thing (a critique comment that I had the wrong audience for my book) was the best thing (I rewrote the book, and it’s much better now) can encourage someone else.
I just took a deep breath. Your words in this post are oxygen to the system right now. Thanks for sharing them. Thanks for sharing courage.
Dan, your post is both thoughtful and thought provoking. May it lead to much action in our writers community. I’ve been blessed with people who encourage, ask pointed questions, and criticize with love. My writing is stronger for it. I hope your post is shared copiously. Grace, peace, and gratitude.
A great reminder with practical tips!
Stephen King writes about a time when his life got out of whack and he pushed everyone away to have time to write. Then an accident gave him perspective, and he made himself stop writing by 1 every day so he could walk and see his people.
I’ve adopted and adapted this idea, and it really helps me stay balanced and connected.
Ah, the joy and strength of living as God calls us to live—connected.
There’s an anecdote in Solzhenitsyn’s “The Gulag Archipelago’ about his time sharing a cell with two other men.
One of his cellmates was constantly encouraging, and worked tirelessly to keep up the spirits of the others. He set an example of discipline and order, keeping the cell tidy in the face of squalor, and exercising as he could in that tiny space.
This man, an army officer, had already been sentenced to death.
For me, this blog ties in with Luke 6:38 NIV, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” We can never go wrong encouraging one another, even when we don’t feel like it. Thank you for this post, Dan.
Thanks, Dan! Your message is so appropriate. May I suggest keeping a daily prayer calendar for another writer friend and giving it to them as a Christmas gift? I have been doing this and my friend reads the calendar the next year and says how much each day dovetails for exactly what she is going through in her current writing and speaking engagements. It is one of the best encouragements we can give…daily prayer!
What a beautiful idea!
Encouraging other writers is my favorite thing about what I do. The actual publishing of books feels like icing on the cake.
Thank you for writing this, Dan. It’s way too easy for me to lose sight of others as I scrape my way up the hill. I can forget to give others a boost when they encounter the same hurdles I’ve faced or am facing. I’ll share this to fb, because it applies to every aspect of our lives.
Marilyn A Turk
Dan, What a wonderful post! For those writers who wonder why they should attend a writers conference or join a critique group, this post gives the answer. I have been plagued by those same negative messages you listed and have been tempted to give up (as the enemy would have me do), but thank God, I have Christian writer-friends who encourage me and pull me out of the quagmire I get stuck in. Thank you to all of you who have encouraged me. And thank you Dan, for reminding me of my purpose as an “experienced” conference attendee to seek and help the newbies at the next conference I attend.
In my old day job, there was nothing more satisfying than introducing a new person to people I knew who could help them and helping the newbie get over or around hurdles that I’d learned to cross. Plus, it was fun having them become my friends.
This blog is a place where those same things happen. Many of the people who participate here really care about each other, and it’s a pleasure to be part of a writer community that encourages each other. Thanks so much to all of you at your agency for encouraging us and giving us a welcoming place to encourage each other.
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D
Dan, those are some outstanding ideas. Thanks so much for sharing!
Dan, thank you so much for sharing this encouragement today.
For any writer who may be skeptical about attending writer’s conferences … please don’t be intimidated. Sure, it’s nerve-wracking attending the very first one because it’s something you haven’t done before and don’t know what to expect, but the second one only gets easier and easier. Everyone is in the same place as you are—always keep that in mind. 🙂
In this last year, I made it a point to travel at least once a month to a writer’s conference or meet someone new. And while I was trembling in my boots the first few times, by the end of my year journey, I was so encouraged from meeting so many writers just like me. That face-to-face encouragement made all the difference—for everyone.
And now? I’m thrilled to attend Breathe Writer’s Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan, next month and would love to meet you there!
Lisa Anne Tindal
Our writing is such a personal undertaking, especially if driven by the desire to share the hope you’ve come to know. It’s close to impossible (and unauthentic) not to give pieces of your heart. Thank you for this reminder that others give their own heart pieces as well and we have more in common than we believe thru comparison.
Beautiful and wise words. Thank you for this testimony.
Rebekah Love Dorris
Dan, I experienced your words while attending a Christian writer’s conference recently. It was only the second one I ever attended, but I was impressed by the positive tone of encouragement there was all around. Complete strangers seemed to care and encourage one another. Thanks for your timely advice.
Spot on. Discouragement has been a recurring theme in my online and real life writing groups. And it rears up most when the writer is moving ahead with a big project. The enemy is tenacious. This is just what I’ve been learning — that along with prayer and the word, I can proactively fight the enemy’s lies by encouraging others.