You Can’t Succeed as a Writer Until You Take the First Step

Episode 09 with Chad Allen

Chad R. Allen (@chadrallen) blogs about writing, publishing, life, and creativity at www.chadrallen.com. He is an editorial director for Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, and works with such authors as Mark Batterson, Larry Crabb, Kyle Idleman, Chip Ingram, Kyle Idleman, and N. T. Wright. Allen was featured in Christian Retailing’s “Forty under 40” report and has written articles for Conversations, Radix, Relevant, and PRISM. He holds a B.A. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and has an M.A. in Theology from the University of Notre Dame. He and his wife, Alyssa, live with their two children in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Chad R. Allen’s website

Book Proposal Acadamy

Brendon Burchard’s book, The Millionaire Messenger

Listen here, on iTunes or Stitcher

Transcript

Andrea: Chad it’s great to have you on the Voice of Influence Podcast.

Chad: Ah I love this! Thanks so much, Andrea, for having me. I appreciate it!

Andrea: Okay, so I can’t go any further without asking you about Nebraska. Did you grow up in Nebraska or did you just go to school here?

Chad: Well, I was an Air Force brat, so I move around quite a bit in my childhood. But I did both high school and undergrad college in Nebraska.

Andrea: Aha, and so I’m from Nebraska so that was definitely something that I wanted to ask you about. So how did you get from Nebraska? You’ve been all over and now you’re doing so many amazing things with Baker Books but then also on your own. So did you get from there to here?

Chad: Well, so I graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Cornhuskers in the spring of ’96, and from there, I wandered around a little bit trying to find my way. I ended up volunteering for Douglas Gresham in Ireland of all places. Doug is the general consultant for the C.S. Lewis Foundation, C.S. Lewis PTE Limited. He’s also the stepson of the late C.S. Lewis. And so some of your listeners might know C.S. Lewis, he wrote The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe and the whole Narnia chronicle series as well as many other books.

So I flew out there in ’97, and I volunteered at his ministry there in Ireland. But part of that was just assisting him with his C.S. Lewis work. With that ministry, I got to see anything related to C.S. Lewis. New books would come across his desk for review and approval. And so I was exposed to the world of publishing through that volunteer opportunity and was just blown away. Because what I saw was that there was this whole back end to publishing and that people had actually an influence on the final product, and I was really captivated with that.

So that led to an interesting publishing and eventually working at Baker in Grand Rapids. I started out as a copy editor or project editor and then eventually made my way to acquisitions and now have been editorial director for six years.

Andrea: I know that you write as well, but not just write your own books but have an influence on other people that are writing books. You and I share very similar interests in that. That’s really interesting. So how did you decide that that was something that you wanted to pursue instead of going right after writing or something else like that right away?

Chad: Yeah, so you know, I was immediately intrigued with the ability to make a book better than when I received it and to really help an author craft their manuscript in a way that would make it as compelling as possible. So that was what initially brought me into publishing and I continue to do that work today.

About six years ago, I did start to feel this kind of pull toward doing my own writing, and so I started my blog to write about writing and publishing and creativity. So I do both now. I write my own stuff. And by the way, my wife is a great editor who helps me refine my own content and then I also continue to do the editorial work.

For me, it’s all about bringing what’s inside out. It’s about helping people do their art and get their content into the world. There’s just nothing that brings me more joy than that work.

Andrea: Why do you feel like it’s that important that people are able to bring that inside out?

Chad: Well, I think that we each have a unique voice. I was just talking to a coaching client earlier this morning and she was really struggling with…I think a lot of people struggle with this. You know, what I have to offer unique and to other people who talk about these things.

And I said, there’s nobody who’s going to do it the way that you do it. What you have to offer is unique. What comes easy to you does not come easy to others. The expertise you have in your particular area, you know, other people don’t have that and they need you to the extent you’d feel called to offer it. They need you to do that.

So, so much of work, Andrea, and probably this is why you have your podcast is to encourage people that their voice is valuable and it’s not going to happen unless they take the risk of getting it out there.

Andrea: With me, when it comes to this podcast and the passion that sort of drives it, it does have a lot to do with my own struggle in that area and then finding my voice and overcoming and that sort of thing. I’m curious if that is a similar thing that you found for yourself. Do you think that’s part of the reason why you’re so interested in helping other people find their voice in writing and creativity and drawing that inside out? Is that something that you struggle with personally?

Chad: Absolutely. I remember reading Brendon Burchard’s book, The Millionaire Messenger, not because I wanted to become a millionaire but because my friend, Andy Traub recommended it to me. He was the first person I heard say, “People really want what you have to offer if you just have the guts to offer it.” You know, there’s something here about trust and taking a risk and maybe a little bit of faith. And I just sort of trusted him and I went for it and that was six years ago when I launched the blog and I’ve been pleased to help a lot of people.

So I think that’s the other thing about this Andrea, as you do it, you know, we’ll make the road by walking it, right? As you do it, you get more and more confidence because you do see people reading your stuff and interacting with it. Yeah, sometimes I’ve seen a blog post in the world that doesn’t get much activity. That happens but then the next one I write does get some activity.

And so a little bit of success can be a big encouragement. You don’t have the opportunity for that success if you don’t get the first blog post out there, you know what I mean? Or the first article or the first podcast or whatever it is.

Andrea: Or the first 10 to see that all of them sort of matter and not everyone of them like you said will end up being that important or that popular. Yeah, I’ve certainly struggled with that in trying to figure out with what is the thing that resonates with the audience, who is the audience and that sort of thing. Is this something that you help people figure out?

Chad: Yeah. So I created this course called Book Proposal Academy. And again, this comes out of just putting myself out there and seeing what might happened. I was in a little Mastermind group when we’re talking about whatever we’re up to. And one of the people in the group said “You know, Chad, if you could show me how to write a book proposal that would be awesome.” I was like “Well, I’ve reviewed a few thousands in my career. I think I could help with that.”

So I created this course called, Book Proposal Academy. And what it’s specifically helps non-fiction writers do is write their book proposals and book proposals are how you eventually get published in the traditional publishing world. But what I found is that book proposals are also just a great way to develop your concept, to build out the structure of your book, to learn how to talk about your book, to make your concepts stronger, to think about the marketing of your book, and to begin actually writing your book because any book proposal that’s worth it. So includes a writing sample of the actual book.

So it’s been this great sort of tool for helping writers break through the barrier of getting started on their book projects. So that’s one way that I’ve helped people do that. The course is called Book Proposal Academy. Your listeners can find it at bookproposalacademy.com and that’s been a wonderful tool to help people. A lot of people have these scattered thoughts about a book they want to write. They struggle with getting started and I found that writing a book proposal is great way to break through that barrier and actually get your book into the world.

Andrea: Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and I can only imagine how valuable that is to people who are longing to write a book but they’re not sure where to begin and to develop their concepts. This idea of developing a concept I think is really interesting. What kind of things do you suggest when people are thinking about that maybe they have a book in their mind that they’d like to write? How do they turn that idea into a concept that’s really, really powerful and could get the attention of an editor or publisher but also would actually sell?

Chad: Yeah that’s such a great question. So the first thing to know is that the formula for publishing success is platform, big platform, plus great concepts, plus great writing equals publishing success. So you wouldn’t want to leverage a platform and service to a concept that’s weak because it’s just a waste of influence. You don’t have to spend all the time and energy into writing a great book if it’s not in service to a great concept because then you just invested a lot of time and energy that’s not going to go anywhere and that sort of wasteful.

So a great concept is really important. What I encourage writers to do is to first think about the need that their book is addressing, the itch that their book is scratching, and to really brainstorm what that is. What is the need that your book is responding to? And then even talk to people, would you buy a book that helps you do so and so, and even go to your Facebook tribe or just friends and family and ask that questions to get really clear your mind what’s the pinpoint that my book is going to relieve.

Once you have that firmly in place then I encouraged writers to brainstorm possible book titles and subtitles. When we talk about concept that can sound really amorphous and hard to get your mind around but titles are concept labels, they make concepts concrete. So as you play with different titles, you’re playing with different concepts. So with the need that your book is addressing in mind, you brainstorm working titles and subtitles for your book.

What I encourage people do, and I have folks who have actually done this through a pizza party, they’ll invite over all their most creative friends. You describe the need that your book is addressing and then you get them brainstorming titles and subtitles.

Andrea: What a great idea!

Chad: Yeah, so you just keep doing that until you have three or four strong titles, subtitles combinations and then you go to your Facebook tribe wherever you go for feedback and you say “Here are my top three or four titles, subtitle ideas, which of these would you been most likely to purchase?” And that’s the process that I encourage writers to use to develop a great concept.

Andrea: Yeah, those are great tips and great suggestions so one thing that you mentioned that you start with the need. And I think that a lot of times as somebody who really cares about making a difference and wants to get a message out into the world, sometimes we start with our own desire to share something instead of starting where other people are at, which sounds like you’re suggesting. Start where people actually feel the need.

So yeah, I just find that really interesting. How do you bridge that gap? How do you go from having an idea that’s inside of you and a passion that’s inside of you and turning it into something that’s actually going to meet a need?

Chad: Yeah, that’s the kind of million dollar question because we have these passions. We have these desires, this internal pull to write about something or to get some sort of message into the world and that’s really, really important. It’s important to know what that passion is to have a sense of that, but the real magic is when you can find the intersection between your passion and the world’s need.

You know, Buechner has this great quote about the place you’re called to is the place where your deep gladness meets the world deep need. And so I think both are really important, but definitely making a priority of determining what the need is and using your passion to meet that specific need. That’s the place where you are going to find the hearing and you’re going to be able to have increasingly more influence.

Andrea: There are a lot of people I think who might say “Well, I don’t need other people to read what I write.” I hear this a lot. “I’m just doing it even if it’s just for one person,” and that sort of thing. I can see why they would say that and I can say why I may have said that in the past at the same time I think that’s almost like cut out to finding this intersection that you’re talking about and it’s really hard work to find that.

Chad: Yeah. I mean, I do write just for myself sometimes. That’s called my journal.

Andrea: Right.

Chad: That’s really valuable, you know, there’s definitely a place for that. And there are things that I share my journal. I certainly wouldn’t share with the world. But I’m doing my blog, I want to serve people and yes that’s good for me. It helps me kind of untangle my thoughts and help me figure out what I wanted to say.

There’s a great quote about “How do I know what I think until I see what I say.” So am I getting something out of it? Absolutely, I’m getting something out of it, but I also want to help people and I just find that I get more readers when I’m speaking to issues that they’re really facing, that they’re really struggling with. And so I get a much better response when I’m zeroed in on serving people that I do when I’m focused on, you know, what do I have to say?

So it’s finding the intersection. And it’s a dance and it is difficult work. It’s also really energizing work when things go well. And like you said, sometimes you got to do this for 10 posts. Sometimes you got to do this for five years before you really see the results of your efforts, but the journey is worthwhile. So I hope that’s helpful.

Andrea: Yeah. Well, what’s the journey been like for you? So you already have a job, a really good job and doing something that’s really important and that’s your calling then you started to blog and what not. Did you immediately find a readership or has it taken a while to kind of get going?

Chad: It has taken a while for sure. Yeah, I mean what I did and what I encourage beginning bloggers to do is to get your first 10 articles written, and you know save on your hard drive before you even publish the first one, just so that you start getting into the rhythm of writing and sending your work into the world. So that you have 10 posts in the queue and then you can tweak them before you actually hit publish. That was how I started.

And you know, Andrea, those are some very fun memories for me of waking up early in the morning. Like you said, I have a fulltime job, but I would wake up and still wake up early in the morning most days of the week, and I often go to a coffee shop. And those are some of my best moments, right? Just me and my keyboard making something happen. I still love it. I get goose bumps even thinking about it now.

But yeah, it does take a while and it takes savvy you know. You learn ways of getting more and more eyeballs on your contents. I think a lot of it begins with learning that it’s really okay for you to ask people to read your stuff. You know, “Hey, I just wrote this. You might find it interesting, check it out.” You know, getting past the initial hurdle of asking people to check out what you’ve done is an important stuff to take. So it does take time.

And definitely if you’re going to do this, it’s important to have the long view in mind. I mean, there are stories that people who have sort of overnight success, but they’re the exceptions that make the rule. So definitely, you have to be content with the journey and the satisfaction of just giving your stuff into the world. But recognize that as you do it overtime and as you learn more and more techniques for attracting readers to what you’re doing or listeners to the podcast that you’re broadcasting. The longer you’re out it, the more people will learn about you that’s been my experience.

Andrea: Hmm, so when people are going through this process of trying to find that voice in writing, whether it’d be through using a book proposal or blogging, do you have anything in particular that you suggest people do in terms of taking care of themselves or how that relates to finding their voice?

Chad: Ah, I think that is so important. I’ve always been fascinated with the interplay between sort of caring for ourselves and serving others. I travelled quite a bit for work and we’ve all heard…anybody has been in an airplane has heard the flight attendant talked about, you know, if the pressure in the cabin goes down and the oxygen masks fall off and you have a small child with you, please place the oxygen mask of yourself before helping others. And I think that’s a metaphor for how we should approach creative work. We have to be taking care of ourselves if we’re going to help people to the best extent possible.

So when I talk about self care, I think about things like getting enough sleep. I think about eating well. I think about being connected relationally with people who are supporting me. You know, who’s your team? Who’s helping you do your creative work and how are you interacting with them on a regular basis? I think about the stimuli that I put in front of my cerebral cortex. What books am I reading? What shows am I watching? What podcast am I listening to that are going to help me do my most creative work? What’s my calendar like?

What kind of time am I committing to my art and how do I do that in a way that honors the work that I’m doing but also the person I am and my need for sleep and taking care of myself. So I encourage people to think about, how are you going to take care of you as you do this creative work? Because it’s when you’re living a full healthy life that you’re going to be able to produce the best content and help the most people possible.

Andrea: That’s some great advice. I self published a book recently and in that time of me writing, everything was so focused on getting this message out of my body and my head. Like I didn’t know exactly what I was doing. I didn’t even attempt to be published because I didn’t have that platform yet, and I just have this message inside of me that I had to get out somehow.

So I think I got so focused on just getting it out that it was easy to let other things slide, and yet I think if I were to look back and talk to myself back then, I would say something along the lines of “You have time. Take a breath. Make sure that you are doing these self-care things that you just suggested.”

One thing that really stood out to me was this idea of having a team around you that you connect with relationally and talk about. Is it easy to find that or how do you develop? How do you know who belongs in that position in your life when you’re trying to develop a message?

Chad: Yeah, I think there are at least three ways you can go about that. One is to enlist a mentor, and just think about somebody who’s farther along than you in the journey that you want to be mentored in and whether it’s creativity, health, blogging, or podcasting. Think of somebody in your current circles who may have more experience than you do and it could be somebody who lives near you, or it could be somebody that you’re just connected to via the internet and ask them.

You know, “Could we get together once a quarter?” Say, once a month or once a quarter, whatever works. “And you don’t have to do anything but show up and I’m going to ask you questions. I would just like to spend that time with you.” If you’re going out to lunch, make sure that you pick up a tab for lunch. I’ve done that to really great effects.

Another way is just a 1 on 1 meeting, so maybe somebody who is a peer of yours. It may not make sense for them to be your mentor but they’re somebody who’s also on the journey. So you have a rhythm of going out with them for coffee or lunch once a month again, once a quarter, or once a week whatever makes sense and you commit showing up with say 15 minutes of content that you’ve picked and they commit to the same thing. And you take notes when they’re talking or at least mental notes so that you are learning from them and they’re learning from you and you’re on the journey together.

And the third way would be developing what Todd Henry calls a ‘creativity circle’ where a group of people get together and they talk about, you know, “What are we working on right now?” Why do we need some accountability? What do we want to have accomplished by the next time we get together? And I’ve done those once a month, and again, they’ve been extremely helpful to me and supportive to me as I move forward. There are of course paid opportunities out there; coach, different mastermind, coaching groups that you can pay to enter and those are also worth checking out.

Andrea: What do you think is the value difference or why would somebody choose to seek out somebody like you to be their coach, their writing coach instead of finding a friend to talk to? What’s the difference there do you think?

Chad: Well, I think it’s just a different kind of help and somebody maybe the help they need is the help that only a friend can offer. I think the value of a coach is that a coach has walked this path before and they’re going to help you save time and energy so that you can just be more efficient and see progress more quickly. A coach can also help you with the accountability piece.

A friend maybe able to help you with that but if you’re paying a coach to keep you accountable then it tends to… You know, what I’ve noticed, Andrea, I guess when I pay for something, I’m much more likely to be invested in it with my own time and energy than if I’m getting a service for free. So that’s just the reality of human nature but I think both are important. I would hate to pick one against the other, but coaching does offer some things that other relationships don’t tend to offer.

Andrea: Yeah, that’s a good point. What else do you think you would like to cover, anything else that we haven’t really talked about?

Chad: I think this had been a really good dialogue. Sometimes an interviewer will ask me, you know, they’ll think about the audience they have in mind and they’ll say the people who are listening this podcast are tat tada tada tada. If you could only offer one piece of advice, what would it be? Maybe, we could end like that if you wanted to.

Andrea: Yes, absolutely! And also I’ll ask you where to find you, where people can find you and that sort of thing too. But I want to make sure that we didn’t have anything else that we need to cover. So Chad for the Influencers that’s out there listening, thinking that maybe they have a book inside of them that they’re not really sure where to begin. We know that they can come to your Book Proposal Academy and potentially take that course from you, but what was be the first step that you would suggest that they do in order to get that book out there to explore that idea?

Chad: That’s so great and it brings to mind a story, Andrea, if’ you’ll indulge me.

Andrea: Of course!

Chad: I remember when my son was about 4 years old; we went to Chuck E. Cheese. And this is not something I recommend usually to anybody because it just a lot of noise and a bunch of consumerism. But one thing that he came away with from the trip was slinky. And I think slinkies are pretty awesome toys. And it wasn’t long before we got home and he was trying to do what they do in the commercials.

He was trying to get the slinky to walk down our stairs. He just kept trying and took the top front of the slinky and slams it down to the next step, and to be honest, it was not just going off. And I thought “Oh boy!” You know, I’m going to have to break it for him. He was 4 years old and I’m going to break it to him that what they’re doing in the commercials isn’t possible in real life.

But little Lucas, he just kept trying. He kept trying to put that top of the slinky on the next step. And all of a sudden, I don’t know what he did, but he did something just right because he did the same thing again. He put it down on the next step and off it went 17 steps all by itself and it was like an incredible moment.

I remember, he was at the top of the stairs and I was at the bottom of the stairs and we both looked at each “Well, it’s happening.” And I looked at his mouth, it was wide open and it jumps up in the air and his hair was all over the place.

Now, what I want your listeners to do is post that image in their minds that image of a little boy jumping into the air with his eyes wide open with his hair flying everywhere because that’s what is possible for them if they keep trying the first step. So the first step could be writing a blog post once a week. It could be writing 250 words every week. It could be writing that chapter every month. It could be posting their podcast once a week or once a day or whatever it is.

Whatever it is to take the first step and the key to taking it over and over again until something hits, until something happens that goes just right, that’s what they need to do. Focus in on that that first step. They need to take over and over again, and if they do that and they do it faithfully, they can’t go wrong.

Andrea: Wow that’s a great advice. Thank you so much for all of this advice about writing and publishing. So Chad, where can people find you if they’re wanting to learn more about you?

Chad: Yeah, I’m at chadrallen.com and the same both on Facebook and Twitter, chadrallen, and you can find me on those various places.

Andrea: I’ll be sure to link to your website and that show notes. And I would also mention to the Influencers listening that there are a lot of great resources there. So please go ahead and check them out and the things that are free. I love some of the things that I’ve seen on your website. So thank you for all of the things that you’re doing to help us, to help people like me and the Influencers out there to be able to develop their own Voice of Influence as you’re using yours.

Chad: Thanks, Andrea. It has been a lot of fun!

 

 

The Story Behind My Top 10 Articles of 2015

Did you know it’s sling-shot week? That’s what I heard from author Jon Acuff yesterday. The week after Christmas and before New Years is the time in which we have to review the past and look forward to the future. I love that picture. This week I’ve been pulling back the sling, analyzing the past year and strategizing where to aim for next year. Taking aim and firing is necessary – even if it lands me on a completely different target.

Pulling Back

Grandparent Magic Border

The most popular Facebook image of 2015

Do you have any year-end rituals? Do you create a picture book or even look through the ones on your phone? Do you run that year-in-review app on Facebook or go through your Instagram feed? The year-in-review I’m facinated with this time is the one that shares my website statistics. It’s interesting to look back at the posts of my first full year of blogging. Each post is a little piece of my heart and I remember something special about each one. Here is the story of my 10 most popular posts of the year (in no particular order).

To read an article, click on the title 

I sat trembling in the old Da Buzz coffee shop on the little couch by the electric fire while writing Behind Closed Doors. I was scared out of my mind and just wrote the truest thing that would flow through my fingertips. The morning of the first day of school for Grant, I went to the patio in our backyard to write  The 1 Thing I Hope Our Son Remembers About Our Fairy Tale, tears streaming down my cheeks. I am particularly proud of Your New SuperpowerIt represents a struggle Amelia and I have while demonstrating a moment of compassionate clarity. I don’t recall where I was when I wrote When It’s Not The End Of The World, After All, the story about our dog getting hit by a car, but I remember constantly refreshing the statistics page and laughing as the post was shared and viewed by more and more people. Aaron was concerned that I was becoming obsessed with the stats.

I wrote a couple of highly popular posts about my experience at Walmart: When The Walls Close In and Why I Wear Sunglasses In Walmart And Perhpas You Should Too. I do not hate the store, but shopping there brings out my struggles with sensory sensitivity. It is an issue that effects at least 20% of the population, yet very few of us have any idea of what we or our kids/loved ones are facing.

Be More Of Who You Are was a labor of love. I worked hard on that piece, the first one where I highlighted other people. It’s one of my favorites. I waited a long time to post Book Impact: Schema of a Soul because I love the author and wanted to get it right. I look forward to sharing about more special books that have an impact on me in the future.

I found out I needed to submit my trial article for Her View From Home the week my last living Grandparent died. This Too Shall Pass will forever be one of my favorites. Gospel singer and my childhood idol Sandi Patty announced her last tour and a few days later I shared An Open Letter To Sandi Patty, which she apparently read because she re-tweeted my tweet about it on Twitter. (Can I say tweet and Twitter any more in a sentence?!) It is my most-viewed article of the year and it reminded me of the power and accessibility of the Internet and that my voice matters.

Taking Aim

Where do I go from here? I do not write for myself. If I did, I would keep a journal instead of sending the message out. This is my job, and I take it very seriously. You have the potential of playing an intregal role in helping me know where to aim my offerings for 2016. My analysis is based on statistics (popularity of posts) and direct feedback. I’ve been paying attention to what you say in comments here and on Facebook and in person and I’ve noticed a few things.

WMe & Belleould you agree with the overall messages I’ve heard from readers this year?

  1. Stories of real-life and my internal response to it are the most interesting to you. They often give words to your own feelings.
  2. The idea of sensitivity is intriguing and you’re curious about it on some level.
  3. You really aren’t all that interested in my thoughts about my experience with writing (though you may read it because you want to support me.) 😉
  4. You aren’t looking for advice as much as you want to know you aren’t alone.

What would you add or change about those points? How can I best serve you in 2016? Please comment honestly here on this post, on Facebook, or send an email to me at awenburg@gmail.com. 

May your sling-shot week end with a clear target and may you fire with confidence into 2016!

Deeply,

Andrea

Christmas photo 2015

Some Live Like Tortoise, I Live Like Hare

About a year and a half ago I completed a half-marathon. I say I “completed” because I can’t say I ran the whole way, by any stretch of the imagination. Actually, I can’t ever say that I run anything! I jog. But I do put one foot in front of the other at a generally faster pace than walking, so it’s something.

Lincoln Half Marathon

I started the race with a lot of energy so I took off at the pace that accommodated my enthusiasm. Then at mile 6 I initiated the jog-walk cycle. I walked up hills and then jogged down them. I made it to the end and wasn’t the last one, so I counted it a win.

I started the race with a friend of mine. We didn’t plan to run together and she had a running buddy so when I had energy that first mile, I took off while they chatted. I didn’t see them again until later – when I found out they finished the race 15+ minutes ahead of me. They ran the same pace the entire way and didn’t walk. It was the classic case of the Tortoise and the Hare and I was the “lesson” we teach our kids: don’t be like me because slow and steady wins the race.

I think I run all of life like I ran that race.

I love new ideas and new projects. I love all of the energy and enthusiasm I have when I start something new, and I enjoy completing tasks. But I have never been slow and steady. I’m all over the place. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a strength and it’s a weakness.

It’s who I am.

I am super-excited that I started writing for my “job” a year ago. I love that I can write a blog post or article and have it out in front of people that very same day. It fits my all-over-the-place pace and my love for completing projects. A few months ago I started writing a book (that is currently with my editor). I hit the ground running – HARD – and finally made it to mile 6. Now I’ll probably walk-run to the end because I am excited, but my sprint pace only lasts for so long.

My goal is to post to this blog on Tuesdays and send out emails on Wednesdays, but here – at mile 6 – I can’t quite hit my own deadlines. In the past month or two I beat myself up for my lack of consistency and inspiration for writing blog posts until I realized that maybe the Hare’s “consistent” framework just has more wiggle room than the Tortoise. Maybe it’s OK if I post on a Wednesday or Thursday here or there and maybe it’s OK if I miss a week of emails.  (I know…stop laughing)

I want to keep writing, speaking and offering my voice so others will be able to offer their’s, and I want to do it for a long time to come. I know I can’t sustain my typical mile 1-6 pace. I know that I will be a healthier person and better wife, mother and friend if I find a sustainable, steady pace. So I’m pushing back deadlines a little and dialing down my own immediate expectations a notch.

But I doubt I’ll ever be steady.Aaron and G running I’m not all that concerned about “winning” races. I’ll still try to take advantage of the burst of enthusiasm that thrusts me forward at beginning of a project, but I won’t be surprised or beat myself up when I hit mile 6 and need a break. In fact, maybe I’ll plan for it. Maybe I’ll set deadlines for the half-way point of projects and then reset my pace and determine project completion deadlines at that point.

I don’t need to be Tortoise. I just want to allow some of the wisdom of the Tortoise to help me be a healthier Hare. Who said it’s a race, anyway?

Are you a Tortoise or Hare? What are your corresponding strengths and weaknesses? How do you manage them?

Dear Tortoise,Your steady pace is inspiring.

Dear Tortoise,

Your steady pace is inspiring. Don’t be discouraged when you see a Hare sprinting at the beginning of a race. Cheer them on and then give them a drink as you pass them at mile 6.

Love,

An admiring Hare

 

Dear Hare,

Your enthusiasm is inspiring. Don’t be discouraged when a Tortoise offers you a drink at mile 6 and then passes you by. Thank them, cheer them on and then reset your own pace with confidence.

Love,

A fellow Hare

Stretch Into Who You Are-Like It’s Your Job

Purpose and calling may not always have a measurable reward. Stay at home parents know exactly what I’m talking about. The day-to-day humdrum of life keeps beating and they keep-on keepin’-on withoutsweetness financial reward or recognition for their often extraordinary efforts to fend off tantrums, sickness and boredom. Some of the most important jobs are not paid.

Over a year ago I desired to spend time on a curriculum on friendship that I’ve been developing for forever. Aaron and I looked at our schedule and decided that I would spend time working on it while our youngest was in preschool. Expending time and energy on it felt self-indulgent until I started thinking of writing as a part-time “job.” We decided to devote job-like time to it because it was that important to us. I wasn’t getting paid to do it, but thinking of it as my job to read, think, write and teach was freeing! It was like stretching out in a big soft bed after having been cooped up in a box – a little bit of pain, a lot of relief.

I don’t know if we really had a choice about how much time I could spend on this sort of thing while the kids were tiny. Though I’m sure I could have, I’m not going to say I should have done it a different way or that anyone who feels boxed up doesn’t have to maintain their responsibilities. I don’t want to turn stretching into running away from responsibilities for me or you. I don’t want to neglect my kids when I’m with them or prioritize writing over my family.

But I do want to prioritize it. I do want to take a hard look at the week and our commitments with my husband and come up with ways that we can each find time to stretch into who we are. The fact is that I am a better mom, wife and friend when I stretch out into these other parts of me.  Most of the time I have more energy, focus and momentum to carry out my responsibilities. And when that happens, my perspective sees beyond the tantrum or barking dogs and I interact knowing that hard moment will pass.

Things that feel self-indulgent might actually help me fulfill my calling as a family girl and a writer.

When my husband and I work together to consider how we want to spend our time, we become mutually invested in each other’s growth and purpose in life.

     Sometimes that means we don’t get what we think we want coming into the conversation because through open discussion we realize we want something else even more – time together, sanity for our partner or maybe just rest. Great team-building conversations are open like that. They aren’t demanding, they seek the best for everyone. Of course, not all of our conversations are like that! But when they are, great things happen for both of us and we strengthen our team.

Tackle It Together: Discussion ideas to explore with someone you love.

1 – What “you” sort of thing would you do if you had more time or energy? How would it help you stretch into who you are so you can offer more of YOU to the world?

2 – What box are you cooped up in? Where is there room to stretch while still maintaining your responsibilities/prioritites? What could you cut so you can add something more important to you? (Sometimes saying “yes” means saying “no” to something wonderful!) What things could you set aside for now or for the evening or for the week?

3 – If you live or work with your loved-one, how can you work together to accomplish other tasks or provide specialized time or encouragement for you to each stretch into who you are? (Maybe it’s 30 minutes, maybe it’s a whole weekend! What works this week, in this stage of life?)

I hope we can look at those we love and with all our hearts be able to say: Stretch into you like it’s your job (even if it’s a very-part-time job). 

like it's your job

What would you do more of if you could call it your job? Let me know in the comments here or on Facebook.

 

Why I Love Being Alive In 2015

When I was younger I felt like a prude. People would laugh at jokes I didn’t think were funny or get excited to do things I didn’t think were fun. Sometimes I just felt out of place. I know I wasn’t the only one. But I also know that I was really serious.

Why can’t I just let go and have fun like the other kids? 

I wondered if I should have been born 50 years ago? Then I wouldn’t feel so out of place, right?

Well, now that I’m much older there are plenty of times that I still feel out of place and too serious for social settings. But there’s something about 2015 that I never would have had in 1965, and it’s got me feeling really good about being who I am, right where I am, in 2015. The Internet.

2015

What a Web!

When I was in 8th grade I volunteered to be one of two kids to go to a workshop about this new thing that had to do with computers called the “World Wide Web.” Honestly, I had very little interest in computers, I just wanted to get out of school for a day and have this special opportunity…because I wanted to be special. The whole workshop explaining how information could be shared with other computers all over the globe was beyond my comprehension. I stared at the green screen all day, thinking that one of my techy friends should have been there in my place. They tried to explain how the WWW would change the world, but I didn’t get it. I was bored and had no idea how this computer deal would mean much to me.

I get it now!

Seriously. I know a lot of people are unimpressed with social media and its many negative effects (to say the least). It is certainly true that I can get distracted by it and start comparing my life with the pictures and stories others tell. I need mindful boundaries for how I use and process it.

But social media has given me the opportunity to stay connected with kindred spirits around the world. Friends both across the street and around the world in Australia, Turkey, Malaysia, Moldova and England to name a few. I enjoy thinking of them, praying for them and interacting with them. Staying in touch with such friends helps me remember that I am a small dot on a much bigger picture. But even small dots can have a voice on the Internet and make a difference.

Social media has been the primary vehicle through which I publish writings and use my voice the past year. It’s fun to share my heart with others on a regular basis without having to wait for someone to choose me. “Pick yourself,” says forward thinker and bestselling author Seth Godin. Indeed. Pick yourself and then let others decide if they want to listen to what you have to say.

And then there’s Twitter. Dear Twitter. It took me a LONG time to get Twitter. IMG_2161But I sure do now! Yesterday Her View From Home published my article, “An Open Letter To Sandi Patty” (read it here). I tweeted (posted) the article and tagged Sandi Patty. And then she retweeted it, indicating the article made her tear up. I could have written a letter to a special influencer in my life in 1965 and they may or may not get it and may or may not read it. I could have written a letter to the editor and it may or may not be read by others. But on Twitter you know. You have direct access to people who otherwise seem out of reach. “Star” status doesn’t mean the same thing it did 20 years ago. I know normal people are getting attention for minimal things, but for the most part, social media can help us remember that we’re all human. Followers or not, likes or not, we’re all accessible and can have an impact on one another.

I am so grateful that I could share my love with someone who was a large influence on the formation of my voice. I’m grateful I could bless her hear heart by using the voice of my heart, expressed on the Internet.

Your voice matters on the Internet. How will you use it?

The #1 Problem with Standing Out

And 5 situations when it's worth it.

The world came to a screeching halt as all eyes turned on me and I turned beet red. “Is she supposed to sing that loud?”  My worst junior high fears were coming true in the middle of the music room. My voice was too much. Our teacher disagreed with my classmate and we moved on, but I took note:

Don’t stand out or someone might call you out, Andrea.

Indeed, they may. This very point is one reason why I struggle so much with figuring out what to say and how to say it and why it took me so long to start writing. But here I am. I’m sure it means that eventually I’ll be called out for one thing or another. But I’m at a point that I’d rather speak up for others than hide from them.

Stand Out

I wonder if the possibility of getting called out is why so many people hold back when they have something real to say in conversation? It seems safer to blend in unnoticed than go “off-script” and say something that questions the status quo and makes people think. Maybe we all have a tendency to get stuck in the unofficial script written by the tribe around us. It’s nice to have social norms to help us know how to interact with others, but there are times those norms become a cover for the real voice inside.

Perhaps when someone asks how are you, you say “fine.” But what if you’re not fine?

Maybe when you tell someone you are struggling, you say “but God is good.” But what if your heart really isn’t sure of God’s goodness in the midst of your brutal struggle?

What about the times when someone gives you a compliment and you say you’re “no big deal?” What if you really are a big deal and saying you’re not is saying your friend doesn’t know what they’re talking about?

Photo by Laura Bernaro www.laurabernaro.wordpress.com

Photo by Laura Bernaro
www.laurabernero.wordpress.com

I know a lot of amazing people. If I’ve met you, you’re one of them. (If I haven’t, I hope to get the privilege someday.) And each of these amazing people are way more amazing when they use the voice of their hearts instead of simply saying what they’re supposed to say.

I know a lot of people who are quiet. I love those people. They seem to have wisdom I long to hear. Quiet wisdom is powerful, but there is a difference between quiet and silent. Many people have great things to say but hold back because they are afraid of standing out for fear that they might be called out for rocking the boat or upsetting someone else.

Go Off-Script

It’s hard to know when to go off script, but I would like to suggest a few times when it’s good to say what’s on your heart. Find “Words To Say” that go with these situations by subscribing to my weekly email “Voice Lessons”.

If you want to connect with others and nourish their souls, try going off-script in these situations:

  1. When you see someone who is struggling. Imagine what it’s like to be in their situation. What might touch your heart in such a moment? Don’t worry about inflicting pain, they’re already in pain. What if you were the friend who let them release their pain in your presence without hushing them? Connecting with you in such a moment has more potential to stir life in them than advice or hushing.
  2. When someone puts you on the spot, the temptation is to immediately agree with whatever they say. Why? Probably because we don’t want to cause waves or appear confused or weak in the moment when we don’t know what to do. But you do not need to give people immediate answers. Most of the time it is best to put space between the conversation and your response when you feel caught off guard.
  3. When someone gets upset with you. I hate it when people get upset with me because their disapproval makes me feel like I’m worthless. Sometimes we fight back. Sometimes we silently seethe. But there is another way. You can own your mistakes. You can question the other person’s response. You don’t have to say whatever the other person hopes you’ll say.
  4. When someone starts gossiping. You do not have to participate in gossip. I realize that it is difficult to back out of conversations like this without judging or making others feel uncomfortable, but you can do it. You don’t have to nod your head and agree. You don’t have to laugh. You can smile and redirect the conversation. You can.
  5. When you feel annoyed. I know. It’s tempting to lash out or be passive aggressive when you feel annoyed. Me too. But we don’t have to react to others with anger. We can ask ourselves what is making us sad in this moment – because if we’re angry, there’s most likely sadness under that anger. So dig a little. What life-giving words could you say?

I realize that going off-script in these moments can be really difficult. That’s why I created a little list of things you could say in each of these instances called, “Words To Say: 25 Sayings for Awkward Moments.” You can have this pdf to print or keep on your computer or phone, along with a weekly email from me offering resources and inspiration to help us communicate in life-giving ways that make deep impact. Find it by clicking here: Words To Say.

Words To Say

Please share this post with others who might be interested. I am hoping to give another 30 copies away this week. I will have more to share very soon!

 

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

If Your Dreams Don’t Scare You, They’re Not Big Enough

Dear Friends,

I keep writing and re-writing this post, looking for a clever way to say what I want to say this week. But the truth is, my mind and heart are on a different set of documents on my computer.
IMG_1566They are on the large sheets of paper taped up on my walls filled with ideas, connections, quotes, outlines and chapters.

Friends, I’m writing a book. My head has felt like a pressure cooker of thoughts and feelings growing and flowing around for a very long time. After watching Frozen on November 30th, 2013, I knew I needed to find a way to release everything cooking in my head. It took a year for me to let out my Frozen Top Ten” (Click here to read). Then after I did, my good friend Debbie sat me down and challenged me to write a book about it. I’ve been dreaming and setting my course in that direction since then.

Each week on this blog I open the top and release a tiny bit from that pressure cooker of a head of mine. I am relishing the opportunity to Let It Go through writing a book.

This book compares the epic journey depicted in Disney’s Frozen with my own dramatic experience searching for a way to authentically express myself while building connections rather than destroying them. I hope to inspire and challenge others to find, refine and release their own voice.  (Read this short post called Your Voice Matters…it really does.)

Your voice – what you say and how you say it – really does matter. If you are interested in helping me get this project off the ground and into the hands and hearts of others, here’s how you can use your voice to help make that happen.

1. Subscribe to my website. Thank YOU to those who already do! If you subscribed prior to July, 2015 you are not subscribed now because I changed my website – I apologize for the inconvenience! If you did not receive an email with this blog post, you are not subscribed.

I will be sending periodic updates and special information and materials to subscribers. Building a robust email list is one of the most important and difficult jobs for authors. Before you read anything else, go to the subscription form on the side or bottom of this post and type in your email address. Your voice matters when you support by subscribing.

2. Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest. And if you think to yourself, “This post could help someone else,” please consider retweeting or reposting. It sounds minor, but I see the stats. When people interact with posts and share them, they reach thousands more people than I could reach on my own. Your voice matters on social media.

3. Pray. Writing is an exciting creative and introspective adventure. It’s thrilling and frightening and consuming. I have a rigorous, ambitious timeline. If you pray, would you consider praying for me in this process when you see my posts? I long to dig in, share with wisdom and connect deeply with others. Your voice matters to God.

Thank you for all of your support and encouragement. This is just the beginning. There are more exciting things on the horizon that I look forward to sharing with you in the near future!

Deeply,

Andrea Joy

Underdog!

A loving push toward who you are

Sometimes we just need a good push to become more of who we are.

My childhood backyard was situated on a corner, so my parents surrounded it with a tall privacy fence. That yard was our academy of play. Mom was our teacher and Dad was our coach. My sister and I had all kinds of fun learning and growing in our yard. We grew in strength and accuracy as we played catch. We learned how to live in and celebrate the moment while we ran through and under streams of water from the hose. And we experienced the happy exhilaration of pumping our whole selves in rhythm with external forces (eh-hem…gravity) on the swing.

The swing was my happy-place. Sometimes we faced the house, other times we would face the fence and see if we could swing high enough to peak over the top and at the world outside. And every once in a while Dad would surprise us from behind…

UnderdogUnderdog!

His force of strength thrust us higher and faster than we ever went on our own. Dad’s underdogs were scary and thrilling and they inspired us to find the new swing-beat he set for us, and pump along.

Six months ago I was sitting on a swing in my current stomping grounds, the academy of purpose. There were things inside of my mind and heart that needed to come out, but I wasn’t sure I could let them go. I wasn’t sure I could swing with enough force of strength to do justice to the message I wanted to convey. I tried pumping my legs time after time but I didn’t know which way I wanted to face and I just couldn’t get my legs and body to move in sync. I looked around at others swinging and wondered if I would ever be able to join them – or if my insides would go to waste simply because I couldn’t find the swing-beat of my purpose.

Then out of nowhere…

Underdog!

Finally – clarity! I had words to say and passion with which to say them. I drove to the closest coffee shop, popped on my earphones and typed for two hours without stopping. When I got done, I posted my intimate thoughts on the movie Frozen (Frozen Top Ten), and let the world know.

My body began moving to the rhythm of the new swing-beat and pump, pump, pump…keep pumping! Every time I lost momentum, someone would give me the push I needed by sharing how he or she connected with my message. And somehow, I kept swinging.

Six months later I am a better version of myself. I am more of myself. I am playing in a playground that feels right and good and…like it was made for me. Sometimes I swing just high enough to peek over the fence and get a glimpse of things beyond – and then I settle into my swing-beat and keep pumping, knowing that at some point the rhythm will change again. And I want to be ready.

Are you?

Because my dad gives the best underdogs.

 

A Letter to Readers

Deep One,

Over three months have passed since I began to blog regularly. It’s a blip on the timeline of my life, but it’s been an intense blip, without a doubt. It’s hard to say if it was the reflective writing, strategizing, life or the weather that made for so much internal ebb and flow of angst and release. I suppose it’s probably everything mixed together.

If you read any of my posts, you are part of this. So thank you. It’s kind of odd to think that a blog could offer an opportunity for a relationship, but I hope it does. Because of this “relationship,” I’d like to ask a favorite question of mine: “How are we doing?” (read about the “How Are We Doing” conversation here). I’ll start.

How I’m Doing

Coffee TimeI regularly struggle with self-doubt. It certainly takes courage, trust and some self-confidence to put myself out there, but for every ounce of “I can do this,” there is a pound of “What do I think I’m doing? I’ll never be able to keep this up! I’m not even a real writer. People are going to get tired of me. I can’t even keep my house clean, why would I spend so many hours a week writing without getting paid to do it?!”

Yet there has been just enough feedback to keep me moving forward. Though for years I’ve been willing and able to share the deeper parts of myself with others, I’ve done so in conversations where I can see and hear the people with whom I’m sharing. If I’m an expert -albeit imperfect- at anything, I’m an expert at knowing what to share and what questions to ask in a conversation to invite others to go deeper.

But writing is an entirely different shtick. I don’t see the look in your eyes. I don’t know when you tuck something in your heart. And most of the time, I don’t even know who you are. Nearly all of the relational feedback I usually rely on to know what to say next, is gone.

So I end up looking for digital feedback. This is pretty much ridiculous. You know the Facebook game – it’s an impossible measure of how much something you say or post is “liked” by others. Besides, when you’re writing not to be liked but to make a difference, it’s like measuring weight with a ruler.

Misleading. Confusing. Impossible.

Intentional Friends

I’ve been playing with the concept of intentional friendship for over ten years. If there’s ever been a time when I’ve needed friends to intentionally seek out deeper conversations with me and offer their expertise, it’s now. Without these friends (and family-friends), I am alone and I am not blogging. Without them, I am more of a hot mess than I am usually. I am so grateful for my intentional friends. I hope you have friends like that. I hope you and I can be like that.

How I’m Doing, Really

WorkingBut if I dig a little deeper, the truth is that I love blogging. I love the opportunity to sit at the keyboard and search for what is stirring in me and release it through my fingertips. I love condensing offerings into short snapshots of life-reflected and clicking “Post to Live and Love Deeply.”

I love sharing my life with you.

And the more I write, the more I see my little posts as little works of art. They are bits of me – born out of enough vulnerability to invite you in, veiled in enough ambiguity to invite you to relate.

I hope.

I hope that you will continue to join me here every once in a while. I hope that a few of you will sign up for email updates (at the side or bottom of your screen). I hope a few more will comment and share. I hope that if you are touched by something you read here, you will share deeply with someone. It doesn’t have to be me. But my hope for Live and Love Deeply is that you might find you are not alone and that you have the courage to think and feel deeply so that you can connect and share more deeply in your relationships.

I hope it for both of us.

Miracles

If you pray, would you pray that I would share life and love in ways that help people connect deeply? Would you pray that this message would touch hearts and that we would be open to receive what Love has to offer? I really believe miracles happen. And they are most amazing when they happen in relationships.

How Are You Doing?

Now that I’ve shared how I’m doing, I would like to ask you the same question. I realize you probably do not think about reading this blog as though we have a relationship, but we kinda do. Especially if you respond in some way. There are many people I would love to hear from, but you are the one I want to take to coffee. Seriously. I do. So if you’re in town and want to do that, please let me know. Email and messages are also great. Your comments, likes and shares do make a difference for getting the word out and encouraging me. I really appreciate it. Your voice matters to me (read about that here).

  • How do you want to take risks to love?
  • When do you let your guard down and let others in?
  • What do you want to explore together?
  • Why do you choose to read posts from this blog? What aspects of it keep you coming back?

Thank you for reading. Thank you for your feedback and support. I deeply desire to share my journey with you, that we might impact one another to…

Live & Love Deeply,

Andrea Joy

Find me on…

Facebook: at Andrea Joy Wenburg

Twitter: @andreawenburg

Email: awenburg@gmail.com