artists & influencers :: a series at chatting at the sky

Last Monday, I introduced a series inspired by this question: What do you know for sure?

I tried to come up with a response to that question, but instead of a list of answers coming to mind, I kept seeing a list of people.

And so I bring you Artists & Influencers.

For the next several Mondays I will share with you some people who are helping me uncover and affirm those things I know for sure about a variety of topics and challenge you to identify and celebrate who those people are in your own life.

So for today, let’s talk about writing.

Donald Miller has a post up today called How My Faith Has Changed Since Blue Like Jazz. It’s an interesting read, but the thing that caught my attention was simply this: his faith has changed since he wrote Blue Like Jazz.

One reason why it feels like so much pressure to write a book is because I have thought that everything I put in my books has to be Completely And Undeniably True Without Possibility Of Changing.

Writing does not represent that for me anymore. I’m not writing scripture, I’m writing blog posts and I’m writing books. The kind of writing I do is not evidence of absolute truth, but of a person who is absolutely alive.

I will always work to pursue and represent truth, but to carry the burden of only writing what I will agree with for the rest of my life? Impossible.

In the spirit of embracing change, growth, and learning from artists and influencers, here are 5 people who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about writing:

1. My husband.

My most encouraging words for you often come after a discouraging time alone. But what moves me from the “discouraging time” to the “encouraging words” is conversation, usually with my husband.

When I am stuck, trying hard to write it out doesn’t always work. I need him to remind me of what I know is true, to point out the holes in my reasoning, to ask me questions and expect an answer.

If you are a writer who is having a hard time writing, try having a conversation instead.

artists and influencers

2. Christa Wells.

Christa is a singer/songwriter living in Raleigh who I also consider a friend. Back in October, she wrote a two-post series called How to Love Your Independent Artist. Here’s something she said that resonated with me:

“I think people often believe all artists are hoping for the same things: notoriety, money, awards, platinum albums, or even just to be picked up by a label. We are all either on our way or not on our way due to unfortunate circumstances.

If we weren’t after those things, then what could possibly be the point?

The reality is that the majority of professional artists do want all of those things. But there are many of us who honestly don’t.”

And then she said this, something I’m beginning to know as true, true, true, true, true:

“The longer we stay in or around the business, the more we’re aware that all good things come at some cost. Those costs are too high for some of us.”

Not all singer/songwriters have the same goals.

Not all writers do, either.

And all good things come at some cost. Even good things cast shadows.

It is important to work out and continue to uncover why you write and who you are writing for. My reasons may not fit with the latest marketing trends and they may not produce impressive numbers. I’m continually drawn to writing content that feels like it is for a smaller number of people.

Sometimes that’s hard for me to accept. But it would be harder for me to write differently just so more people would read.

3. Jon Acuff. 

I don’t know Jon personally, but when I am in danger of feeling the weight of responsibility and overwhelmed with The Serious And Important Work I’m doing, it helps to remember these words of his:

“Have fun. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’re not discovering penicillin. You’re writing a book. If you ever find yourself becoming pretentious about the magnitude of what you are doing, go write at the library.

There are tens of thousands of books there that some other author once thought, If I don’t share this book with the world, the world will be incomplete. Writing a book is hard work, but don’t put the pressure of ‘changing the world’ on every page you write. You’ll cripple yourself and not enjoy the process even a little bit.”

In other words:


image source

4. My editor, Andrea Doering.

Last week I received the first round of edits for my next book, to release in November. I will spare you the details of her edits, of which there are many. But here’s one thing I can say with confidence: I have a lot to learn about the craft of writing.

In the past, that was overwhelming to me. Now, it’s strangely comforting.

Andrea is an artist in the way she eloquently encourages and speaks into my strengths while also calling out a more courageous voice that she knows is in me.

I learn and embrace the rules of writing in order to release my clearest, most powerful message. I have her to thank for that.

5. You. 

Last Wednesday, I spent several hours responding to email from readers. I read every email I get but I can’t always respond to them all the way I want.

But that day, I did. There was a moment when I was overcome with emotion – it almost felt sacred to me.

The fog of discouragement and self-doubt lifted and I could see how the cycle of words given to me turned over into words given to you.

Generally it is important for me to remember what Jon Acuff says – lighten up!

But sometimes, on days like last Wednesday, it’s nice for me to remember that even though every page doesn’t have to change the world, there will be some pages that do. And it is good and right to celebrate that.

These are some of the artists and influencers who are helping me uncover what I know for sure about writing. What about you? Who are the people in this season of life who are teaching you about writing? What are they saying?