I love writing, producing an award-winning program, or hosting a great event that nourishes souls. But it is often agonizing getting there. I know the destination, but the journey of getting there never stops being challenging. I have a beast inside me that occasionally rears its head, hissing that I’m not good enough, not worthy, and blowing flames of ensuing failure at me if I awaken it. This beast can wake me up in the middle of the night, prompting me to avoid the pain of attempting what God says I can do – “all things.” I end up in the pit of procrastination while watching others from the sidelines instead of doing the hard work to move forward.
Procrastination is a form of anxiety and fear.
Judson Brewer, a psychiatrist, neuroscientist, and the author of “Unwinding Anxiety: New Science Shows How to Break the Cycles of Worry and Fear to Heal Your Mind,” said in a WSJ article, “Procrastination is a distraction. Anxiety triggers procrastination, especially for perfectionists, because we worry our solution to the problem won’t be good enough. Procrastination feels better than being anxious or trying to come up with a solution.”
No one wants to live in pain, so we stop moving forward to avoid failure and suffering. Procrastination holds us back. But it is a mindset that can be broken. God is a forward moving God who wants us to go forward and trust Him. Throughout the Bible, in story after story, God reminds us to make decisions on His Kingdom’s purposes and His will. We may not be good enough yet, but we can do “all things through Him who strengthens us” (Philippians 4:13). The issue is whether we are fully engaged and aligned with Him and His will, or are we just running to Him with our willful desires when fear sets in.
Our mind needs to be sound and calm when we are anxious so we don’t lose sight of the road in front of us. It’s a choice. When we only focus on the pain and not God’s promise to be with us through the struggles, we freeze and procrastinate. The squeaky wheel (our pain and fear) is heard, but the wheel isn’t broken. It’s still going around. Our job is to keep going forward; in time and with God’s guidance, we will prevail. The Bible tells us that we are to be “anxious for nothing” and to take our requests (not demands) to God (Philippians 4:6-7). He will empower us and find solutions to the squeaky wheel if we stay connected to His will, which may not turn out the way we planned. It’s a message I have had to be reminded of again and again and why my quiet time with God is essential.
Want to break through the fear and learn how to gain fortitude in 2024?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines fortitude as “strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger and bear pain or adversity with courage.” In the world we live in today, we need fortitude and the strength to face the oncoming cultural winds that often bring pain and suffering. We need to take on the “mind of Christ” living within us. This year focus on where God is taking you. We are to “walk by faith and not sight” (II Corinthians 5:7). Kingdom purpose must be at the forefront of all we do, both for our families and for our careers. This year will you watch from the sidelines or push forward?
God’s on the journey with you, so trust Him to be there. Let’s roll!
As a follow-up to our incredibly successful Influence Women Webinar, How to Publish a Book: What You Need to Know to Write and Launch Your Book Successfully, we are revisiting some questions that we ran out of time to answer!
If you haven’t been joining our monthly Influence Women webinars, you need to! Each month we chat with a leading woman of influence who can inspire and bring clarity to your career path. Beyond the webinars, we also offer 6-week mentorships with many of these professional women to help grow your career and life. We encourage you to keep an eye on our website as new webinars and mentorships are being offered regularly each month. Take advantage of the resources and knowledge these women can give you!
Hope Lyda is an author, writing coach and companion, spiritual director, and senior development editor. She’s worked in faith-based publishing for more than 25 years and has accompanied more than 120 writers through the process of finding their voices and expressing their hearts on the page.
Hope considers it an honor to help writers shape their messages with engaging structure, tone, and pace. She also companions them with spiritual insight and inquiry, so they draw from their experiences and beliefs to deepen those messages. She has authored more than 35 books (combined sales of over 1.5 million copies), including the bestselling One-Minute Prayers® for Women and more than 15 other books in the One-Minute Prayers® series. Hope has penned a few novels as well as several devotionals such as What Do You Need Today? and Life as a Prayer. Her book My Unedited Writing Year—a gathering of 365 prompts—combines her passions for writing and spiritual direction to invite others to explore life, faith, and creativity.
Hope lives in Eugene, Oregon, with her husband, Marc, and dog, Bodie (his breed is Attention Hound). When not writing or guiding another writer, she’s taking walks, going to independent films, brainstorming, listening to podcasts, buying MORE books, or planning her next retreat to the coast or desert. She is delighted and grateful when she can take in the gifts of a landscape to feed her spirit and refresh her creativity.
Kathleen Cooke: Devotionals are everywhere. Will people buy them? What’s the secret to writing one that will be chosen by a publisher and purchased by shoppers?
Hope Lyda: Devotionals are everywhere. Even after having several published, I am pausing as I craft some new proposals because I want to think through a few things:
1. Does the devo topic meet a heart need that might not be addressed in the market right now?
2. I ask myself the same questions I ask writers I companion: Why me and why this book? Follow-up questions for this…Can I bring wisdom and depth and offer the right tone for this particular devotional? And do I, as a reader, see and feel the lack of books embracing and exploring this topic in the marketplace?
3. Is there a special structure, format, and voice that gives this devo concept an edge for a publisher who might be interested in the topic but also unsure about one more devotional? The way a message is presented can become the star quality that shines brighter than other factors and give a publisher a reason to look twice at a concept.
Kathleen: If your manuscript is 35 pages, would you publish it as a short story, novella, or essay?
Hope: A short 35-page fiction manuscript could be a novella. That is probably at the long end for parameters, but doable. If you had an interest in a novella publisher or an online marketplace, or e-zine that publishes them, that could work. If this is a topical exploration…non-fiction, then it could be used as a supplemental resource or an online book offering that you use as part of a course you create, a bonus offering for sign-ups, or simply as a short book you are selling yourself from your site.
Before any of those decisions, however, sit with the material. If fiction, is this actually a story arc you would love to dig into for a full-length book? If non-fiction, is there a lot more you’d have to offer on this topic or aspects of it that could be fleshed out to create a 12+ chapter manuscript of 176 pages or more?
If you keep it as a novella, you might watch for contests or calls for submissions from groups online or publishers that are focusing on this category. See what their word/page count requirements are. This could help you to see what the “norm” is or at least what the most sought-after format is. There are lots of flash fiction contests and challenges. Those are much shorter (typically 300-1000 words!) and are great as writing exercises to work those story creation muscles! You might end up with a concept for a full length novel from doing those.
Kathleen: Lots of books today have quotes in them. Are they needed? Do they help in keeping the readers’ attention? Are they good to have them highlighted in the middle of the pages as a creative insert?
Hope: Quotes! I personally love them. They can be very useful to create a structure/design that has standout appeal. They do draw readers in and help highlight the heart of a message one is presenting in a typical Christian living book or a devotional/prayer book. There are different ways quotes are used.
1. A quote from another resource (other than your own brilliant mind) can be used as an epigraph (kicks off a chapter/section at the top). If you are using quotes in this way, be sure you are accurately quoting the original material and crediting the writer. Also, there are copyright rules to follow. A joke where I work is that for gift books and some other project, we are always looking for great quotes by long-dead people. Material that is in the public domain allows your usage without concern for copyright restrictions. I get way too excited when I find a book of quotes at an estate sale or a fabulous topical read that is based on writings from the 1800s or early 1900s. Anyway, contrary to popular practices on social media…you need to credit the source and do it properly. And if the quote is used in the flow of content and is over a certain length, then permission from the source publisher is also required. Keep in mind, all the writers who have gone before (or who published a great article last week) worked hard to craft the lines we find worth sharing and repeating…they deserve the recognition legally and ethically. This may require endnotes to cite sources, so keep that in mind. I will say that I like the idea of honoring the voices that have impacted my faith and writing journey and promoting those when it serves the book concept as a whole and the end reader.
2. Quotes FROM your genius mind that are IN the flow of your book’s content can be duplicated and echoed in the design. This is a call-out and may be what the webinar inquiry is related to. These are very popular, and I do think they have value. Choose quotes that are easily read and absorbed. Those a-ha thoughts are the best. They also reinforce the message of that particular chapter and can become those stepping stones (or breadcrumbs) I love so much that help to gently guide a reader through the arc of the message.
3. Quotes that come from your amazing mind but are NOT in the flow of content can be designed and placed in the book as enhancements to the message. Some call these sticky statements, I believe. I think of them as a sort of friendly “Hey, get this…” to point the reader to an insight or maybe even a question/prompt that deepens their engagement with the content. It isn’t in the chapter or offering and is only in that set-apart form.
For both of these last two kinds of quotes, there is value on the marketing end. For example, if these are full-page designs or easy to capture, readers will take a pic and post them. You can encourage that in your book’s intro and suggest a hashtag even. The publisher may also want to use them for A+ pages on Amazon (these are publishers paid for more elaborate descriptions and photos for a book) or for their promotional posts. We have even created bonus offerings for a few books using such quotes and printing them on frame-worthy cardstock.
Don’t overuse call-outs or set-apart quotes. They can become a distraction and not an enhancement. Choose wisely. As you write, think about crafting short, powerful lines that could be good for such highlighting.
Connect with Hope:
Facebook: Hope Lyda
Navigating your path can be challenging. Learning to let go of idols, offenses and hurt (especially from the Church) isn’t easy, but it’s incredibly necessary. Read this month’s INNER VIEW with award-winning writer Sarah Sumpolec as she shares about the speed bumps she’s had to overcome in her walk with God.
BIO: Sarah Sumpolec is a writer and producer who is particularly passionate about the tween, teen, and family markets. She’s a traditionally published, award-winning novelist with seven teen novels. She began writing for TV and film in 2004 after graduating from the Act One Hollywood Program. She worked in development alongside Vonda Skelton to launch the teen intern program at the Gideon Media Arts & Film Festival and worked on short films and major features in a variety of capacities refining her career. She has a nurturing heart and a passion to mentor writers to see them develop award-winning content. Her family has been involved in the entertainment industry for a long while; two of her three daughters work as professional actresses, and when her youngest was 12 years old, she toured the country on the National Broadway tour of Annie. The family has recently moved to Los Angeles to continue their careers, and Sarah remains passionate about writing and producing content that allows teens (ages 8-18) to flourish and discover their identity and purpose.
Sarah will be leading an Influence Women Mentorship track on writing this coming April. Register at influencewomen.org!
Kathleen Cooke: How has God walked with you through the roller-coaster of a career as a writer?
Sarah Sumpolec: Oh, I could write a book. Quite honestly, I’ve been in a wilderness season that has dragged on far longer than I ever anticipated. I’m still very much in it. But as painful as it has been at times, it has also been precious. I recognize how God has been by my side to transform me on the inside, even as I walk through a barren landscape. How He gently but persistently calls me to keep my eyes fixed on Him alone. Even when everything falls apart and nothing looks the way you had hoped or imagined – He is the treasure. But keeping my eyes on Jesus, abiding in the truth of who He is, means I must ignore all of the things that come at me from the world that try to paint a different reality. It means I must choose joy when grief threatens to flood me. I must choose joy when I face yet another rejection. I must choose joy when yet someone or something else tries to tell me I don’t belong. Because if He didn’t say it, then it’s not true.
Choosing joy is no small thing and I feel like I’ve had increased opportunities to choose joy at ever-deepening levels. Because “everything falling apart and nothing looking the way we had hoped or imagined”? That’s been our journey. Joy can’t wait until things have changed because then my joy is because of that external thing that has changed. No, I have to choose joy here and now, when my hands are empty, and I’ve got nothing to offer except myself. I will “praise before the breakthrough” because He truly is enough.
Kathleen: It takes grit and ambition to carve out a writing career. How do you live in the “wait” and the writing and re-writing and more re-writing, knowing God’s got you?
Sarah: As a young teen, before I met Jesus, I started working in the theater and assistant directing in my local theater. In college, I continued that journey as a double major in Theater and Psychology – I dreamed of being an actor, director, and playwright. Enter Jesus. By the time I was a senior and had grown considerably in my walk, God showed me how the theater was an idol in my life, and that it needed to go. I quickly dropped my major with just one class left to take and walked away from it completely. I didn’t want anything between Jesus and me! And in many ways, that set the tone for my walk with Jesus. When we lay down our own ambitions and dreams, it is only then we can make room for Him to plant new ones in our hearts. I always think of Abraham and Sarah – and how – in their urgency to “help” God’s promise come along, Ishmael was born. But he was not the son of promise. If you try to get things your own way, circumventing God’s plan, you could end up with something that God didn’t mean for you to have. His way is always better. The things He has planned for me will come in my pursuit of Him – not in my pursuit of those “things”.
That allows me to let go of things whenever He nudges me that I’m holding something too tightly, or something that I shouldn’t be holding at all. I used to want the lights shining on me, and now I’m content to be invisible. Being invisible is a weird place, too, but because I know that I’m not invisible to Him, I can be at peace even in this place. Anonymity can become a comfort zone, too – for example – I was recently invited onto a podcast, a live radio show, and asked for this interview!! Because God has had me hidden for so long, doing interviews makes me uncomfortable! So I have found we need to find a balance to be willing to go when He says go, and let go when He says let go and seek to be sensitive enough to His voice to know the difference.
Kathleen: The industry is rotted with promises that are often never fulfilled and people who say and do damaging things which affect creative and artistic endeavors. What has God taught you about forgiveness and moving forward?
Sarah: I didn’t grow up in the Church (I have a wild testimony!), and I think one of the things that surprised me most about Christianity early was seeing how badly some Christians treat other Christians. Over the years, some of the hardest things I have had to endure came at the hands of people who called themselves believers. I learned very early on – thanks to an amazing discipleship group where I was truly healed and set free – that I can never use God’s people as a measure of who He truly is. Sadly, they just aren’t always a good reflection of Him.
But the second piece of that is that forgiveness is a choice. Unforgiveness is a sin that will hurt us if we don’t deal with it. It will choke us like an out-of-control weed if we don’t cut it off. It must be dealt with swiftly. The beauty of choosing forgiveness is I can choose it even if my feelings aren’t there yet. The feelings will catch up eventually. Choosing forgiveness, then praying blessings for those that have wronged you helps your heart line up correctly. I find this is something I go back to over and over in my walk, because, well, offenses happen, don’t they?
Kathleen: God tells us more times in the Bible to “go” and influence the world than He tells us to stay put. Why is this important for someone working in the industry to learn?
Sarah: Right before the COVID shutdown, our family received some surprising direction from God. We were on a completely different path, merrily walking along, thinking that the path we walked made sense. Then everything changed; all because a college kid looked at us and said, “Why would you do that?” Little did she know that her question prompted some deep prayer and soul-searching for us all. And strangely, the idea of “We are all moving to Hollywood” didn’t seem so strange anymore. It seemed like it is what we were supposed to figure out all along. But when I say our lives were upended, it’s not an exaggeration. And it’s been hard. Really hard. I think too many Christians believe following God should be this smooth, even road, and I’ve found that to not be the case. Sometimes your promised land has giants, but when God leads, nothing is impossible.
Teaching in the public school system taught me long ago that we are all constantly influencing people around us. Whatever is in us oozes out into the world around us. Our internal world and personal deep and abiding connection with Christ is the most important thing to care for. Because it is from that core that all influence happens.
The question for me really is – what kind of influence am I? Am I bringing words of faith and hope into the world around me? Sometimes that is all you can do, and that is enough.
Connect with Sarah:
Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/what-do-i-do-with-my-life/id1502924500 https://open.spotify.com/show/1XtoNofXO49HaEGyFbL5LA