Written by Barbara Baranowski
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”
John 15:1-2 (NIV)
The beautiful ivy had crawled up through the ground after winter’s cold and was overtaking our sturdy wooden fence. I needed to remove it. So, on a beautiful spring day, with gloves and clippers, I headed out to trim. The vine was solidly and deeply rooted in the dirt, but I was able to pull the runners away from the fence. I hated trimming those beautifully variegated leaves. To me, ivy gives a sense of antiquity and strength. As the day ended, I looked at the carpet of cuttings on the ground and breathe a sigh of relief that the job was nearly complete. When I finished the next morning, I noticed how dead the trimmings were after only one night.
Jesus cautioned believers to live in Him for the same reason. His words resound with the same thought—apart from Him, we can do nothing for His kingdom and do not become what He has created us to be. If we are like sturdy branches growing in Him, the Vine of Life, we will understand that the pruning, while sometimes painful, is necessary for us to grow in love, trust, and service for God, leaving us to be an ever-bearing, vibrant part of His kingdom. However, as the leaves of the ivy vine die apart from its strong source of strength, we too will quickly die spiritually if we remove ourselves from prayer, Bible study, and fellowship with believers and in our case, too, other writers.
As springtime brings new growth and the earth becomes rejuvenated with beauty, let’s take stock of our spiritual and writing life. Are we a dying vine or a vibrant part of the Lord’s
Written by Barbara Baranowski
Are you thinking about attending a writers’ conference in 2017? Here are some tips from my own experience.
I left the American Christian Writers’ Conference ready to conquer some “giants” of Writerdom, including lack of time and fear of rejection. The instructors, as always, delighted me with their wealth of information and inspirational words. And, as always, I felt armed to do battle. But, I also knew another giant was awaiting me on the drive home and would follow me into the house. That was the hardest one for me to escape. I call him “Big Blue.”
Recognizing the Giant
After a writers’ conference, “Big Blue” walks into the house with me, and as I place the wonderful materials near my computer, whispers to me that I won’t see those inspiring attendees for another year. I can hear him laughing at the thought that I would open my newest notes or leisurely peruse new materials. He reminds me of the time and energy it takes to develop writing skills. I brush him off, but he sits near me and notes how solitary I seem. Some may call him post-conference blues or depression. I’m not sure if this is a classified condition, but it happens when I leave a conference feeling so inspired, yet so empty of those relationships and people I’ve been with—people a little “strange” about the lure of writing, like me. Lately, however, I recognize his voice immediately and have developed some ways to banish him. If this happen to you, I recommend these giant-slaying tips.
Share Your Experience
Share what you did at the conference with someone, even if you have to speak to yourself. Don’t keep the excitement and positive experiences bottled up. Call or email a fellow writer. You may inspire others, but more importantly, you reconnect to your own excitement. Often a speaker addresses more than writing techniques. Did one encourage you to a deeper prayer life? Share the inspiration you received. Did an article or book writer relate an unforgettable experience that motivated or inspired you? Pass along those words to comfort and hearten others. At many conferences an attendee list is given. Network your experience, but also network your feelings.
Seek Immediate Writing Opportunities
Look for writing opportunities immediately following the conference. Check with your church newsletter, bulletins, community papers, or send off that article which you have been clutching with insecurity. Open your market guide and go on a writer’s “shopping spree” in search of the publication with needs that match your work. Take on the challenge of defeating the giant by hurling the stone of enthusiasm.
Review Your Notes
Review the conference notes that you worked so hard to get and listen to any tapes you bought. Remember how the speakers’ words satiated your writer’s hunger and energized your spirit? In the same way, let the lessons energize your writing. By doing so, you will relive the excitement and be encouraged to continue. Highlight the notes that have special meaning to you and apply them immediately to your writing.
Make Use of Freebies
Probably your muscles strained as you carried home heavy bags leaded with wonderful catalogues, periodicals, and writers’ guidelines. Look carefully through them and anticipate gaining insights about the publications. File them by type for future reference, and review them often.
The Next Mountaintop
As soon as possible, make plans for your next conference. Regenerate the excitement. Look forward to new lessons and friends. After all, the next mountain top experience is just around the corner.
Post-conference blues can become a time of growth, or post conference greens, as I now like to think. These days I have learned to walk out of the conferences with only my writing friends. I leave “Big Blue” behind. Who needs him?
For some conference opportunities see our Writer Opportunities page.
Written by Barbara Baranowski
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”
Ecclesiastes 3: 1 (KJV)
Like many writers, I dream of writing without ceasing. I have ideas and inspirations to share and words to write before I sleep. Sometimes, though, God has a different plan for me.
We were packing to take a family beach vacation. We had rented a house and were looking forward to spending time with our family, especially enjoying our grandchildren.
As usual, I packed my writing supplies. I fantasized about meditating on the beauty of the beach, walking the sand at sunset with pencil and pad in hand, and dashing off inspirational pieces. Along with family time, I had visualized a writer’s retreat. How blissful. How unrealistic! A retreat doesn’t happen with family, especially children, around. I had prayed for everything concerning the week, except how the Lord would use it from a writing perspective.
After the first day, reality knocked on the door of my sandcastle dreams. I loved being with our grandchildren. I planned out treasure hunts, played games, built roads in the sand, and read lots of books. We watched children’s movies and went shell hunting. The only time I could write was early mornings or at night. That didn’t work. I was too tired from playing to plan an article or write a devotional.
I prayed, “Lord, did you bring me to this lovely spot to hear your voice and apply it to my writing, or do you have another plan for me?”
I could almost hear God laughing as He spoke to my heart, “ Child, sometimes I provide writing time for you, and sometimes I place you in the middle of things to write about. With spiritual eyes watch yourself interact with your family—playing with your grandchildren and teaching lessons about Me from the beauty around you.”
I was reminded that this was not the time to write about adventures with the Lord; it was the time to live them. I could write about them later. Learning the importance of discerning writing “seasons” by listening and being obedient to the Lord is as important as the writing itself.
By Barbara Baranowski
Sometimes we write just for ourselves. Remembering and taking time to write out an experience allows the writer to relive it, perhaps for a therapeutic reason. Personal writing helps the writer to get inside the experience with all its imagery and meaning, while still looking at it as a spectator, as well. This writing may be journal writing. If it is never shared, that may be enough, or perhaps one day God will use the experience for the benefit of others.
On the other hand, God allows our words to live in places we will never visit and touch people we will never meet to touch and to heal hurting hearts. Sometimes we write to inspire, guide, or show how God answered prayer in a situation. When we have witnessed God’s grace as He worked in our lives, we are able to share that story. We don’t know where the seeds of our words will land, but through seeking His will in our writing, we know He will water that seed and grow something that can feed the spirit of others.
Not all personal writing aimed at inspiration comes from valley experiences. Some just come from our full lives—family life, working, church, or volunteering. Some experiences are humorous. Funny family anecdotes can bring a smile to anyone’s day.
Knowing when to share a story is important, and that again involves prayer. A writer’s emotions may be too raw or the situation/person too close. If that is the case for you, then journal the impressions for possible use at later time. A pen name (pseudonym) may be used for certain difficult topics, although the publisher has to be informed. Through prayer you will know the right time to share experiences.
When we have seen how God takes our greatest hurts and disappointments and turn them into something for both His and our good, then, our hope-filled words can make a huge difference to the heart needs of others. How many times have you read a book or piece that gave you hope, a smile, or strength? Why not do the same for others? Publishers will guide you in topics they need. Read publications and market guides. The Christian Writer’s Market Guide is a good one to check out.
What are the benefits for others? II Corinthian 1:3-4 reminds us, “the God of all comfort.. comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble” (NIV). In addition to sending us the Great Comforter in the Holy Spirit, God uses us as His ambassadors of comfort. Is there someone you can comfort today?