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.