What to do When Someone Else Already Wrote Your Book

I’ve been listening to Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, Big Magic, in my car as I drive around town this week. She has a fantastic reading voice which is a relief after the last book I listened to in my car (Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters – read by Blake Masters who is a brilliant person with a terrible monotone).

Big Magic

Swiping this image from The Nester since I don’t actually have the print book.

One of my favorite things Gilbert has said so far is this:

“Your fear is like a mall cop who thinks he’s a Navy SEAL: He hasn’t slept in days, he’s all hopped up on Red Bull, and he’s liable to shoot at his own shadow in an absurd effort to keep everyone ‘safe.’”

Her whole book is really just one long permission slip with big writing on the front that states: You Are Allowed To Be Here.

Barney Fife fear with the Jack Bauer swagger will try to convince us all that we are going to jail for showing up to the mall after hours, that our punishment will be steep and also who do we think we are anyway?

Fife and Bauer

It’s an easy book to listen to, mainly because I see myself as someone who is already living a creative life. Not every moment of every day, but the path I’ve chosen to walk is pointing in that direction. And while my own mall cop fear still shouts out warnings at me all the time, I’m mostly able to see him for what he is.

I don’t see my writing on the same plane as Elizabeth Gilbert’s by any stretch of anyone’s imagination, but as I listen to her read, I am pleased by this one thought: I’m so relieved I already wrote my own Big Magic.

It’s called A Million Little Ways and it came out in 2013.

Does that sound arrogant? Like I’m comparing my little book with her big book?

I don’t mean to.

What I mean to say is if I had not done the work to write A Million Little Ways, to wrestle it to the ground, to catch those ideas and put them into sentences and subject myself to the grueling editorial process; if instead I had considered how hard it would be to take those whispy, swirling thoughts I had about art and creativity and living our lives in the creative image of God and decided to put them in a drawer somewhere for “later” instead of writing them down and doing the work, then listening to Big Magic this week would feel very different for me than it does.

I would be angry. I would be sad. I would be whispering to myself, why didn’t I write this book when the idea came to me? Why did I let it go?

Every writer feels it at least once except a thousand times more than once, that someone else has written their book.

But while I listen to Big Magic, to Elizabeth Gilbert walk the same circles around creativity that so many of us have walked around and then written about, I realize I am deeply grateful.

Because while our perspective and world view are vastly different, while our personality and theology might not mix well, and while her book sits high up on bestseller lists while mine is mostly unknown by the majority of the population, I feel a certain kinship with Elizabeth Gilbert as I listen to her book.

And I am thankful that, at least this time, I do not feel threatened by the voice of another author who is saying similar things I’ve said.

The truth is, a lot of us have said these things. Pick up any book on writing or creativity and you will read about all the same themes – fear, resistance, permission, inspiration, motivation, all of it. It isn’t new.

But here’s something we often forget: most of us don’t want new, not really. We want true.

We just need to keep saying things that are true. To do that, we need to have other artists circle with us, artists who are different from us, similar to us, offensive to us. Artists we’re a little afraid of as well as artists who help us feel safe.

We need to circle around the difficulty of creating with other people who are doing it, too. And we need walk beside them with open hands, willing hearts, and a stubborn refusal to compete and compare.

That’s all. I don’t have a grand finale here. I wasn’t planning to post at all today, actually. But this morning on my way home from Target, as I listened to Big Magic and felt that profound sense of gratitude that I’ve already written my own version, I thought about you.

Maybe you have your own version of Big Magic lingering within you, too. Perhaps you have words you want to say, a story you would like to tell, a perspective you might like to share, but Barney Fife is screaming at you to stay safe.

Aren’t you tired of listening to him?

Here are three things that might help:

  • My friend Ed Cyzewski wrote this fantastic post about writing and publishing. He doesn’t cheerlead, sugar coat or pander. I would bet money on the fact that he doesn’t own even one single pair of rose colored glasses. Instead, he is honest about how much publishing hurts. How it’s hard. But how, if you can find a way to do it without crushing your soul, then it’s worth it.

Big Magic and A Million Little Ways


  • And now this. If you are tired of listening to fear and want to write words that matter, perhaps you’d like to join our growing community of writers like you. It’s a commitment – $15 a month – but if you’re serious about your writing, it’s well worth the investment. And if you join us by 9pm EST Saturday (12/5), we’ll send you a signed copy of one of our books for free – including A Million Little Ways – and you’ll be entered to win a signed copy of all of our books (8 print books + 2 ebooks). Here are a few of themFree Books for Hope*Writers

If you don’t like the membership site, at least you’ll get a book out of it. All the details are here – we’d love to have you join us.

December might seem an odd time to talk about this – it feels more like a January topic, doesn’t it? But for me today, it’s just right.

No more waiting around for the perfect time.

No more coddling shame and embarrassment about our art.

No more hiding behind comparisons and excuses.

December reminds us that Love came down to be with us. And not just to walk beside us, but to live within us.

What beautiful ways He wants to come out! What a unique filter your personality is!

May we walk in freedom and confidence that we are made in the creative image of God, and he has made us to make art.

The Surprising Kind of Hero Our Soul Really Needs

It’s ingrained in us to root of the small guy, but no one wants to be him in real life. When I think of my childhood heroes, several come to mind, none of them small.

Charlie Brown

Wonder Woman, because of her beautiful hair and awesome powers.

Dorothy Gale, because of her ability to travel over rainbows and kill witches.

Beverly Cleary, because she wrote stories about a girl I could relate to.

And Atreyu, the brave boy warrior in The NeverEnding Story tasked with saving a dying empress from certain death.

One reason why these are heralded as heroes in my mind is they remain untouchable, either by virtue of their beauty, their power, their talent, or their task. They are brave and courageous in an obvious sort of way.

As important as I think it is to have heroes we look up to, it’s equally important to have heroes we look over at.

“Charlie Brown must be the one who suffers, because he’s a caricature of the average person. Most of us are much more acquainted with losing than winning. Winning is great, but it isn’t funny.”

Charles M.Schulz

It’s one thing to create a hero who is lovable, admirable, and dashing. What isn’t so easy is to create a layered character (especially a cartoon one) who is chronically embarrassed, rejected, and made to look like a fool and still have him come out as the hero.

But that’s what Charles Schulz did with Charlie Brown. We relate to him in his embarrassment and chuckle at his consistent misfortune.

But the heroic part of Charlie Brown is that the kid never gives up.

Charlie Brown doesn’t ride in on a white horse or save the world in a blue cape, but he endures in the midst of everyday difficulty and that’s the kind of hope most of us need.

Like Charlie, we need to know how to carry on as the manager of the team even when our team keeps losing.

We need to learn to trust our friends even though the football has been pulled away more time than we can count.

We need to learn that love is still an option even thought the little red-headed girl doesn’t look our way.

We need to continue holding out our trick-or-treat bags even when all we get is rocks.

True hope doesn’t come from good results, positive outcomes, or sure wins.

The hope that is deep and enduring is knowing we will be okay even if the results and outcomes aren’t a win.

It’s surprising, isn’t it? But Charlie Brown is a regular-day hero for the soul.

The Kind of Hero Our Soul Needs

He makes embarrassment okay, even endearing. He gives me permission to be small and humble but also inspires me to persevere.

His story reminds me not to run so fast away from failure, disappointment, and embarrassment, but maybe to walk bravely through it and discover what might be waiting on the other side.

If you are looking for a more ways to see surprising gift smallness has to offer, check out my newest book, Simply Tuesday: Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World.

Why You Should Care About Back to the Future Day

Keep your eyes out for Doc and Marty McFly today. October 21, 2015 is the day they crashed into the future from 1985 in Back to the Future II.  When the movie came out in 1989, I was 12.

Back to the Future Day

I remember my sister having to explain the whole “back to the future” concept to me when the first movie released. What does it mean BACK to the future?! Wouldn’t they go forward to the future? 

It was a whole thing. I think there was lots of eye-rolling on her part.

Back to the Future

A glimpse of 2015 through the eyes of 1985.

When I was 12, I couldn’t imagine the year 2000, much less 2015. Remember how we didn’t know how to say it?

Will it be the year two thousand? What about in 2001? Will we say “the year two thousand and one?” Will we just call it two thousand one? Twenty oh one?! The future has so many questions!

But today, October 21, 2015 matters for more reasons than just being Back to the Future Day. Today can remind us that as long as we’re alive, the future always comes.

No matter what celebrations, heartbreaks, successes, failures, or boredoms we live through, there isn’t a thing we can do to stop time from rolling on.

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

When you find yourself in the future, what do you hope you’ll be able to say about your past?

I don’t know what your answer to that question is, but I think it’s a safe bet that none of us would say, well I really hope, in the future, that I’ll be able to say I was anxious, worried, and fearful for years on end.

We don’t plan for anxiety and we don’t hope for it, either. It tends to show up without an invitation. Same goes for doubt, procrastination, comparison, and defeat.

Maybe a better question is this one: What can I do today to practice the future I hope to have?

This one might be worth a little time in solitude and silence. As we approach the end of 2015, consider carrying that question into the presence of God who has already gone before us. He is mindful of every possible future and is intimately acquainted with all of our desires.

Acknowledge those desires. Dare to write them down. Whisper them in prayer. Consider the future you hope to have and then practice that future today.

Want to create space for you soul to breathe but don’t know how? Sign up here to receive a series of free videos where I will help you to create that space so that you can begin to practice the future you hope to have, even in the midst of your busy life.

One Thing Change Doesn’t Change


They built a Wal-Mart next to the Starbucks in the shopping center where I write. Once demolition started, they put up fences to keep the traffic out. You could see where the new building would be even though it was mainly construction equipment, piles of debris, and mounds of dirt.

construction zone

It was a parking lot in transition, on its way to becoming a shopping center.

What was is no longer and what will be isn’t quite yet.

When John and I were living in the midst of a vocational transition since he left his job of twelve years, I felt a little like that parking lot. I married a pastor, was involved in our church, felt part of a team of other youth leaders, and then all of that was gone.

It was our choice and the parting wasn’t ugly or painful in any of the ways these partings sometimes are. But it was painful in the ways you might expect – loss of community, an unpredictable future, fear of the unknown.

What was is no longer and what will be isn’t quite yet.

It took me several months to begin to grieve some of those losses as well as to recognize the control and predictability I thought I had before were only illusions anyway.

Slowly we started to carve out a new normal in the midst of the vocational limbo.

Girl Meets Change

I’m always hesitant to embrace change, at least the kind I don’t feel in charge of.

But the biggest reason I hesitate is because I only know what I’m leaving. I don’t yet know what I’m walking toward. And that is the hardest part of the limbo.

“When change puts me in tight places, is it especially dark because his hand covers and protects me too? Can I believe — really believe — it is dark because of mercy and protection rather than abandonment?”

Kristen Strong, Girl Meets Change

growth in change

Walking to my car after leaving Starbucks shortly after construction began, I noticed some of those mounds of dirt in the construction zone had grass and other plants growing out of them.

Grass! And other plants!

This parking lot was in the midst of transition and grass was growing where it had no business. The dirt wasn’t there for keeps, but it was there for now. Even so, seed takes root, burrows into the darkness, and shoots up to the light because that’s what seeds do.

Seeds take root and grow even though things won’t be this way for always, even though all is about to change, even though all seems unsettled, unsure, and unstable.

The one thing change doesn’t change is growth.

The growing still happens even in the midst of transition. But unlike those plants that will be uprooted and tossed aside as that dirt mound becomes a foundation, the growth that happens within me in the midst of change will not be wasted.

Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong

When I look back on my life, the times I have experienced the most important growth have intersected with some kind of life change or transition.

I’m not saying those changes have always been welcome, but when my soul has been asked to move forward, let go of something old, or embrace something new, these are the times when I have become more fully myself.

Change invites me to burrow down deep into the place where God lives with me and find the solid ground of peace, hope, and a whole heart.

I may despise the change, but I never regret the growth.

And so we pause to consider those things we’ve left behind, those strange places where we now find ourselves, and the unknown future we’re walking into. Isn’t that what life is, after all? A series of holding on, letting go, moving forward, and growing in the middle?

Girl Meets Change by Kristen Strong
My friend Kristen Strong wrote a whole book about this ever-present, not-often-enough talked about topic of change. She would know – she has traveled far and wide with her air force family, settling in to one community just in time to leave again.

KristenStrongHeadshotAs the wife of a career veteran, Kristen speaks as a woman who has experienced change in many makes and models. And as a friend, Kristen speaks the kind of language I can relate to.

I read Girl Meets Change during a time when I really needed to remember the truth: that God is with me even though things are different.

As my girls are into their first few weeks of middle school, I hold on to that truth.

As I walk with John into a new season of ministry, I hold on to that truth.

As I consider what it means to love, really love, my friends even when we’re all changing, I hold on to that truth.

You can learn more about Kristen and her new book at GirlMeetsChange.com. If you are in the midst of a life change, no matter how big or small, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of Kristen’s book today. She’s lovely, kind, and just the kind of company you want beside you in the midst of those unknown seasons of change.

When Your Dream Begins to Change

They had a dream to create a place where they could take the old, beautiful things – the wooden chairs and side tables and other broken pieces people tend to throw away – and give them new life. They wanted a place to do what they had always done: make the used into art.  

when your dream changes

I shared their story here before, how they wanted a shop, how they dreamed of a name and came up with Chartreuse, a word they thought of separately in the night and realized it in the morning, their oneness showing itself in the simplest, most surprising ways.

And they opened that shop and sold their wares, both the ones they made and re-made with their hands and the various finds and work of others.

Then, a month or so ago, they opened their doors for the last time, had their last big mark-down sale, and cleaned out the back rooms — both the crannies as well as the nooks.

Our community said goodbye to the shop called Chartreuse.

I can see how that might seem like sad news, that our friends who had a dream have now closed down their shop. If you only looked from the outside, you might lose hope. That story was too good to be true in the first place.

Steve and Paula at Chartreuse

photos from the Chartreuse Facebook page

But looking again, paying attention to the full story arc, I remember they had a dream and they didn’t let fear keep them from making it come true. The dream was about more than let’s have a shop.

The shop was simply evidence of a couple brave enough to move toward what makes them come alive. It was one piece of proof that these two are together becoming more fully themselves.

The art lives on simply because the shop is not the art. Steve and Paula dreaming together, moving toward one another, making plans for their future – this is the true art. The shop was just the proof.

They closed the shop for a reason. Now, they have a new dream. They found land just outside of town with space to host weekend sales of all their goods. This will allow them to not have to staff a shop for a certain number of hours a week but will give flexibility to their schedule.

This dream that fits them even better than Chartreuse.

the new dream

When you hold your dreams with open hands, you let them breathe, grow, and have life. This can be scary because living things move, change, and take shapes we can’t predict or control.

But what good is a dream if it doesn’t grow along with us?

Watching Steve and Paula make this newest transition, I’m reminded that the true art isn’t the thing we can point to – the shop, the barn, the book, the song. The true art is listening to a living God and relating to real people as the person I most deeply am.

And sometimes that means letting go of what I thought the dream was supposed to look like and opening up to a new idea.

I’ve been thinking a lot about change and transition recently as John  and I continue to watch his vocational landscape shift and move and take new shapes – some we planned for, some we didn’t.

I think about another dream, one our family has to work together to combine our unique passions into one voice. It started with our first Barn event last year and continued with the launch of Hope*ologie in April. Our theme for Hope*ologie in September is Change & Transition – and starting this month, we’re making some changes of our own.

Introducing The Hope*ologie Podcast!

The Hope*ologie PodcastStarting this month, The Hope*ologie Podcast will be available for free on iTunes. On this episode, Dad, The Nester, and I talk about transitions in our own lives. It’s light-hearted for the most part, a little silly, hopefully relatable. We’re thrilled to be able to share a piece of Hope*ologie with everyone.

To listen: We’re still working through some of the technical things (and when I say we I mean Dad). For now, you can find the podcast here on iTunes. Then click ‘view in iTunes’ and you have to click ‘subscribe’ to listen.

I think in a day or so you should be able to listen without subscribing but I’m the baby sister and too impatient to wait for those tech issues to be worked out so you’re welcome and I’m sorry.


Incase you haven’t yet heard, Hope*ologie is a membership site co-created by my Dad, sister, and me where we hope to help you overcome chronic discouragement by finding delight in your right-now home, family, and soul.

If you’re considering signing up for Hope*ologie but haven’t yet, here’s something you might like to know:

Instead of having the monthly collections expire after 30 days, we’ve decided to give our members unlimited access to the content. That means if you subscribe today, you’ll have access to nearly everything that’s been available since the first month. Visit Hope*ologie to learn more.