Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

gavin-stoneLast night I had the opportunity to pre-screen The Resurrection of Gavin Stone. Actually, I had the opportunity last week, but due to some technical issues I didn’t get to until last night.

The Resurrection of Gavin Stone is Walden Media’s and Vertical Church’s latest offering in the ever growing faith-movie industry. It’s about washed-up child star, Gavin Stone, who has become a media badboy as an adult. After a particularly wild party, Gavin is sentenced to 200 hours of community service. He serves these out at a church in his hometown, where he has no choice but to reconnect with his estranged dad. Gavin also charms himself into the church’s stage production to get out of mopping floors, and takes the role of Jesus. It stars Brett Dalton (Gavin), Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (Kelly), Neil Flynn (Waylon), D.B. Sweeney (Pastor Allen), and Shawn Michaels (Doug).

When I was asked if I’d review a movie in which Grant Ward (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) plays Jesus and the Janitor (Scrubs) is his dad? I said, “Yes, please.”

The movie opens this Friday (Jan 20, 2017) in theaters. As a matter of full disclosure, I was provided an advanced screening from Inspire Buzz marketing. However, as I always do, I will give you a completely honest review. Continue reading Review: The Resurrection of Gavin Stone

In Defense of Old Testament Law

With all the excitement over the SCOTUS decision over same-sex marriage, there has been a renewed push for an old view of the Old Testament law, one that says we are no longer bound by Old Testament law and it is therefore irrelevant in the context of Christ. Sure, it’s convenient to take this position when you fall on the side in favor of same-sex marriage, since the greatest condemnation of the practice comes from the Old Testament (never mind the NT scriptures that say the same things.) It’s also tempting for genuine Bible believing, God following, Christians to want to adopt this view, because it’s so much easier than challenging the new norm of our culture.

But to do this would be a mistake, and I want to write this blog, not as a dissent against same-sex marriage, but as a defense for the legitimacy of following Old Testament law alongside the cross of Christ. To understand this is somewhat complex and requires a multi-layered view of how scripture is to be interpreted. This isn’t a convoluted way to justify OT law, but is merely good interpretation practice. Scriptures vary by historical context, genre, writing style, audience, author intentions, and it takes understanding all of these to really get at the true meaning of scripture.

First, we must understand that the original audience of the OT law was the post-captivity people of Israel, who had been living as slaves in Egypt for some 400 years or so. Four hundred years of silence on the part of God, where there is no doubt that the Israelites had adopted many Egyptian lifestyles and religious habits. In fact, a deeper study of the ten plagues leading up to their freedom, shows that God systematically proved himself greater than all the Egyptian gods, the last two being attacks on Amon-Ra and the institution of Pharaoh himself.

This was a people who knew nothing about God, how to worship him, what he expected of them morally, socially, and theologically; and they had lost their concept of absolute morality, sin, separation from God, and the consequences. The OT law was necessary to teach them these things. They had to be retrained, reconditioned, to be the people of God. It is no coincidence that at the beginning of the New Testament we see the Israelites have finally figured out the law, albeit taking it to a legalistic extreme. It’s when they’ve learned the lessons the law was meant to teach that Jesus finally arrives for the next phase.

The law represents God’s expectations of us, socially, theologically, morally, religiously, and teaches us the meaning of sin, repentance, justification, and forgiveness. It is all good, it is all beneficial, and the person who suggests throwing it out, saying the “old covenant” is over, Jesus is the “new covenant” doesn’t understand the purpose of the law or the covenants. (The covenants have nothing to do with this. That’s another topic for later.)

This is our context for understand the law. We must ask, “What was God trying to teach the Israelites?” and “How can I apply this teaching to my life now?”

One example I find quite humorous and often infuriating, is found in Leveticus 19:28, ‘You shall not make any cuts in your body for the dead nor make any tattoo marks on yourselves: I am the LORD.” There are Godly people who use this verse to preach AGAINST tattoos. Yet at the same time these same Godly people shave regularly and the verse just before this, v.27, says, “You shall not round off the side-growth of your heads nor harm the edges of your beard.”

You can’t have one without the other. So what do we do? Context tells us. The majority of that passage speaks of proper ways to express religious worship before God. What is God trying to teach the Israelites? Not to worship him with practices they learned from pagans. How can i apply this? Don’t worship God the way other religions worship their gods.

Every part of the law can be interpreted like this, and should be. When it comes to statements against homosexuality, the context is proper social and moral behavior. It’s pretty clear what God intends, though the consequences are pretty harsh (leading us to believe that Israelites really had a problem with proper social and moral behavior). Which brings us to the next point…

How should we interpret the law in the light of Jesus and grace? So many people want to throw out these very valuable laws about learning what God expects of us, instead saying that grace tells us we don’t need them anymore. This just isn’t true. Let’s review what the New Testament says about the Old Testament law.

Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus himself says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

Romans 8:1-4 says, Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”

There are a few other scriptures that talk about Jesus being the fulfillment, or end, of the law, that grace is now the new standard and so forth, but those don’t give the full context of what’s at stake. These two above, together, help us understand what’s going on so that we might better interpret those other scriptures. Approach them holistically…don’t pick and choose. Bring these two, and you’ll understand those others better. What Jesus put an end to, what grace replaces, is the PUNISHMENT.

What Jesus says in Matthew 5 and Paul is trying to say in Romans 8, is that Jesus does not mean the strictures of the OT law are to be replaced by grace, but that he fulfilled the REQUIREMENTS of the law. Grace takes the place of our punishment. The law still teaches us how to live, how to understand God and morality, but the consequences and the expectations that were near impossible to bear or achieve, were all taken care of by Jesus.

And Jesus was pretty adamant that we continue to teach people to obey these laws. Jesus himself says the law still stands. It is still good and profitable. He tells his disciples to “teach them to obey all things (Matt 28:20),” a reference to the law because no part of the New Testament had yet been written.

Sure the law may be complicated to understand, it may take time to fully comprehend the context of what God was trying to teach the Israelites’ post-captivity world-view, but the OT law is still important and should still be taught and followed. We don’t have to worry about being perfect, because grace has covered the consequences. But we don’t throw the law out either.

There are scriptures in the law that have some steep penalties…like stoning. Guess what? The penalties are paid for, but that doesn’t mean we are free to break that law anytime we want…we are expected to still obey it within the context of what God is trying to teach.

Imagine if you received a memo in the mail from your state government, that declared from here on out all traffic tickets would be forgiven and no one would be required to pay any future traffic tickets. Does that give you permission to throw out all the traffic laws? No! Does that prevent the police from pulling you over and holding you accountable for keeping those laws? No!

That’s how it is with the Old Testament law. Jesus has paid the price…there will be no more requirement to pay our sin “tickets.” But that doesn’t mean we throw the law out, it doesn’t mean we should not expect Godly leaders to hold us accountable for keeping the law.

And when it comes to the complicated sacrificial system, ask the same question:  What was God trying to teach the Israelites? He was trying to teach them the consequences for sin, the necessity of repentance and forgiveness, and the impossibility of being perfect. Jesus BECAME that sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice. Since he was the perfect sacrifice, no others are necessary. Did he negate it? No. Did he remove the requirement? No. He WAS the requirement, and no other is now needed. Once again, the law still stands.

Take the sacrificial system, and replace it with the cross of Christ. Take the penalties for breaking the law, and replace them with grace. In neither case, do you take the laws themselves and say they no longer apply to Christians.

If we begin to pick the Bible apart because of inconveniences to our cultural beliefs, then that’s a slipery slope to rejecting the authority of the Bible as a whole. The New Testament doesn’t override the Old, Jesus doesn’t abolish the law. The New Testament and the sacrifice of Christ gives us a new dynamic with which to understand and follow the law without fear of imperfection.

I hope this helps you to have a little more integrity in following God, a little more courage to stand up for what you believe, and a little more curiosity to stop avoiding those random weird laws and to really dig in to figuring out what God wanted to teach the Israelites and what we can learn from those lesson.

Happy studying!

-k

Zelda needs writers??

**raises hand** Ooo…me! Pick me!

I try to live my life by the principle of always doing exactly what God wants me to do. This has led to a pretty drastic life change recently, of which I’ll blog about in the coming weeks. But if you can’t wait, you can check out my wife’s blog on the subject.

But if I were to pick anything in the world to satisfy all the geeky ambitions and pipe-dreams floating around in the back of my brain, it would be the very news I received over the weekend.

Continue reading Zelda needs writers??

What Pastors Fear Most

Last spring, I preached from the passage below. It was a very vulnerable sermon to preach, because it struck too close to my heart. As I uploaded the video to YouTube today, I decided that some of what I said should be shared with others. So this post is for pastors…that you might have encouragement and know that you’re not alone. And this post is for church members…that you might understand a little more what your pastor goes through.

In 2 Corinthians 12:16-21 Paul gives us four things that he fears most about his ministry to the Corinthians. It shows us that ministers have always had the same fears and that there can be some comfort in knowing that Paul felt the same way we feel over our ministry. So according to Paul, here are the four things that pastors fear most. Continue reading What Pastors Fear Most

Story Building Mastery 1 – Progressive Complexity

THIS ARTICLE SERVES AS THE MAIN MENU FOR THE SERIES. CLICK EACH TITLE TO ACCESS THE FULL INDIVIDUAL ARTICLES.

What you’ll get from these articles is not a “how to” on plot development or character development, but rather a wider view on the construction and development of the story as a whole. Having no formal education in creative writing, no doubt some of my terminology may be foreign to creative writing students. Keep in mind, though, I have been a self-student of creative writing for twenty years or more. Maybe my way of approaching things will be refreshing encouragement to the rigorous tenants of traditional writing study. So here comes lesson one. Step into my mind and see how I analyze a story…

Continue reading Story Building Mastery 1 – Progressive Complexity

Dear Anne #8 – Words Are Your Trade

Dear Anne,

I realized this week that it has been a month since I’ve written, and for that I want to apologize. I’m sure you understand how crazy summer can be sometimes, even though it’s supposed to be “vacation” time. Ha!

Right now you’re starting back to high school and you’re getting ready for your Sweet 16 party. How did this happen? You make me feel old. Maybe I am. But I won’t admit it for another two years.

As you’re getting back into daily social interactions with your teenage friends, I wanted to write this letter to remind you of something very important. If you’re going to be a writer, you must embrace the fact that words are your trade. You are to become an expert at the manipulation and proper construction of words and sentences.

Have you been watching the Olympics? I have. I’m struck with this one simple fact: when an athlete keys in on who they are as an athlete, they train insanely in their chosen discipline. The announcers revealed that rhythmic gymnasts train ten hours a day, six days a week. Katie Ledecky gets up at 4am to begin her training day, putting in about eight and a half miles of swimming. Every. Day.

These athletes have embraced that thing that makes them an athlete, so they train at that thing excessively.

Words are what make you a writer. They are your tools, your friends, and sometimes your worst enemies. But without words you could never be a writer. You should thrive on words, exercise your words, train your words, and embrace words in all their complexity and mood swings. Because words are your trade.

You are an athlete of words.

darth grammarWhat does that mean? Listen to the way you speak, listen to the way others speak, and improve your words. Practice saying things the right way, rather than flippant teen-speech. When texting or posting on Facebook, write your words all the way instead of abbreviations. Vulgarity in speech could never compare to the power of a cleverly crafted comeback.

Also, listen to your English teacher intently. Absorb all you can about the construction of words into complex sentences. Understand how words interact with each other and how subtle meanings can change based on the nuances of grammatical structure. You don’t have to make English your favorite subject, but you should take it seriously.

Expand your vocabulary. Always look for new words to add to your arsenal. Make a thesaurus your best friend. But don’t just add more weapons, understand how they work and when to use them. Words are powerful and fun, but not all words are appropriate in every situation. Learn what words to use and when.

I’m not saying you have to be a perfect speller. I’m not. But I’ve trained myself over the years and I’m better than most people whose words are not their trade. I’m not saying become a grammar nazi. I’m not. But I’ve trained myself over the years and I’m better than most people whose words are not their trade.

Words are your trade. Learn words. Embrace words. Use words properly. Become an expert with words. Train with words as if you were training for an Olympics for word-smiths.

And if I see lol or jk or idk or anything like that in any of your stories, I may just crawl through the computer, forget the fact that you’re about to be sixteen, and make you stand in the corner until you apologize.

Respect words.

-k

RETURN TO THE “DEAR ANNE” TABLE OF CONTENTS

Planes, trains, automobiles, and feet: My Realm Makers adventure

For the first time since it began, though I remember being a part of some of the conversations that led up to its founding, I finally had the opportunity to attend Realm Makers. Realm Makers is a writer’s conference, the only one of its kind in the world, that is specifically for Christian speculative fiction. Speculative, if you don’t know, includes things like sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal. Also, not every writer who attends actually writes for the Christian market, but it most certainly is a conference where writers of the Christian faith get to spend time growing and learning with one another.

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My adventure must be told in two parts:  the actual conference and my travel adventure.

This year the conference was held on the campus of Villanova University just outside of Philadelphia, PA. The conference was awesome and the keynote speaker was Thomas Locke. But perhaps the most meaningful thing to me was finally getting to meet in person many friends that I’ve known for years but have never met in person. Authors such as Kat Heckenbach, Kristen Stieffel, Ralene Burke, Becky Minor, Randy Streu, Kerry Neitz, Avily Jerome, Heather Titus, and many others that I may not be able to remember right now. (Sorry!) I also got to meet many authors that I’ve gotten to know more recently online.

The weirdest thing, though, was that people I didn’t know at all from the writing community actually recognized my name. It was both humbling and honoring to know that on some level I’ve had a positive influence on the development of these young writers.

I was invited to be on two panels. One was a panel on self-publishing. I felt a little out of place because Splashdown Books isn’t really self-publishing though they’ve changed to a hybrid publishing style very similar. The audience, though, really just wanted to know about marketing for self-publishers…to which I told them simply that I was really bad at marketing.

On the other hand, the paranormal/horror panel I sat on was tons of fun. We could have discussed the subject for several hours if we’d had the time. It was also inspiring to know that I had things to say to those attending that they actually wanted to hear about.

chuckAttendees were also encouraged to dress in costume for the awards banquet. I was a Nerd Herder, from the TV show Chuck. In a room full of nerds, this costume was too obscure. Only a handful of people actually recognized it. Most people had to have the show meticulously explained to them, because they hadn’t even heard of it. (How is that possible, people!?)

Finally, most productive and fun for me was the time I spent volunteering to be an appointment timer for writers pitching to the publishers and agents at the conference. I enjoyed it so much that I did extra time, sending one young author back to the conference. I got to encourage and calm nervous writers who had never pitched to someone before and I got to have meaningful conversations with the publishers and agents during the in-between times.

I may or may not have successfully accidentally pitched to one of the publishers a book I wasn’t planning on writing at all for about a year and a half. I may or may not have successfully purposefully pitched my non-fiction book to an agent in less than five minutes. Requests for both. (Got to write one of them first. Ha!)

Well, enough about the conference. What you really want to hear about…what you NEED to hear about…is the adventure that was my travels.

It all started months ago when I booked my flight. I booked a cheap flight…I had a budget. My flight plan sent me from Charlotte to Newark, NJ by plane and required me to transfer to an Amtrak train to take me to Philly. From there I would take the regional rail line, right out of the train station, that would take me directly to the campus of Villanova University.

Sounds fun, right? You might be tempted to think so. Leg 1 – driving to the airport – was fine. Uneventful. Leg 2 – flying to Newark – was also fine. Uneventful. But then things begin to get weird.

Leg 3 required the transfer to the train. The Newark airport has an inter-rail system to transport passengers from the airport to the train station. At the pen-ultimate stop of the inter-rail train, the doors opened and a lady began to yell at everyone to get off, cross the platform, and get on the opposite train. We were all confused, but we complied. The original inter-train left.

We waited. The doors never closed. The new train never left. Another one showed up on the original rail opposite us. And then the lady started yelling at us to get off, cross the platform, and get on the other one. Again. Thoroughly confused, we were eventually herded back across the platform, back to where we started, and finally departed for the Amtrak station.

I’ll skip the ticketing confusion at the Amtrak station and then again at the Philly station when trying to get on the regional rail. Let’s just say train stations aren’t as organized and obviously signed as airports.

I hopped on the regional rail moments before it closed the doors. Yes! A break. I didn’t have to wait for another. But then it stopped two stops early. The conductor came on and said, “Last stop for this train. Everyone off.”

I was a mile away from my destination. I had no idea where I was. In hindsight, I should have just called a taxi. But I didn’t. I walked the last mile.

I was 15 minutes late for the cafeteria. The doors were locked. I was hungry, tired, frustrated, and sweaty. I just wanted to sit down and give up for the day. Finally, someone came out who worked there and she let me in. I begged the cafeteria manager for something, anything to eat. She pitied me and let me have the only thing she had available…a gluten free, dairy free, turkey sandwich from the cooler. I didn’t care. I was too hungry to care. As I was eating, the manager also brought me some chips and granola bars. She really did pity me. I must have looked horrible. Did I mention I missed my afternoon coffee?

After that, everything was fine during the conference, even though I was 30 minutes late for the kick-off.

But then I had to travel home. My train left at 5:15 am from Philly to go back to Newark. And if you’re not on the platform for the train, they don’t wait on you. I wanted to be there with time to spare. So I got up at 3:30 and called an Uber at 4:00. I’ve never rode with Uber before and I had a great first experience!

But the driver almost hit a herd of deer in the middle of Lancaster Avenue on our way to downtown Philly. He said he had NEVER seen any deer on Lancaster Avenue before, and he’d lived there for 20 years. We found at least six that night. At least his brakes were fine.

Then we may or may not have driven through the middle of an active crime scene while driving through West Philly. Six police cars, no lights flashing, and a small crowd gathered around one particular part of the sidewalk…Just keep driving, just keep driving…

But I made it on time and the train to Newark was uneventful. The plane from Newark to Charlotte was also uneventful, though delayed 30 minutes because of weather. (Much better than one of my friends who had a 7 hour delay!) And I had my first experience with an over-the-top caricature of a stewardess. No one has the right to be that perky that early in the morning. No. One.

Finally, the drive back home was also uneventful, though by now I felt like a zombie. I made it with a little help from my friend Starbuck.

And that was the end of my Realm Makers adventure. It was good to be with my tribe. But it’s great to be home. Thanks to all my friends for an awesome time!

-k

 

Dear Anne #7 – Finding Inspiration

Dear Anne,

ideaToday I want to talk to you about finding inspiration. The truth is, the firing of the synapses in your mind will only take you so far in the creative process. Your brain needs a database of inspirational input in order to come up with truly creative ideas. Think of it as putting things in a hat. If you need an idea, you simply reach into the hat for one or two. But if there are only a handful of mundane daily things in your hat, you’re not going to get a lot of great ideas to work with. So you have to fill your hat with as much random junk as you can. Pull two or three things out of the hat, and suddenly your brain has a spark of creative genius.

This is what it means when people say you have to practice being creative. Being creative is not something that just comes randomly to especially creative people, but it comes to those who have stock-piled a collection of random things that they can draw upon to be inspired in their creativity. If you don’t make it a habit to keep your collection up-to-date, your creativity will begin to stale.

So where do you get these random things that fuel your inner creative genius? Here are just a few places…

1. Other stories. Reading and watching movies are great places to find unique ideas to put into your hat. It’s okay to be inspired by other writers…chances are they were inspired by other writers too. There’s nothing new under the sun (Ecc. 1:9). The inspiration you have from other writers will come out differently with you than it did with them. You’ll have a unique spin and a unique story, even if certain elements might have been inspired by another story or movie. Take all of these stories, especially the elements you like the most, and put them into your hat.

2. Observing life. Sure you live life. You see life. You talk to people. You do things. But are you really observing what is happening? Do you listen to the subtle nuances of a conversation? Do you look for possible hidden meanings in a word or phrase? Do you speculate on the secret thoughts behind a look on someone’s face? Do you notice the variations in shadows on the wall? Do you lay on the floor or turn your head upside down just to look at things from a new perspective? Do you wonder about sounds you don’t recognize? Do you see weird things while riding down the road and try to figure out what was going on? Do you ask the question “why?” about anything and everything, not to get the real answer, but to give your creative mind a chance to fabricate an answer true or not? Never forget to take time to observe life. Watch it with all the analyzation and wonder you might new movie…always wondering what might come next and always trying to predict the most outlandish outcomes. Everything you see, everything you hear, and everything you speculate all goes into your hat.

3. Dreams. Yeah, I know. Cliche, right? But don’t knock it. Some of my favorite scenes in my books were inspired by dreams. In fact, I have an entire book in my “To Write List” that was almost 100% inspired by a particularly vivid dream. Dreams are when your brain is at its most creative and random. You might be able to use whole dream sequences or maybe just a small impression, emotion, or snippet of conversation. The point is, put these things in your hat and pull them out whenever you need inspiration. When you first wake up, take a few moments to try to remember your dreams. Think about details. Think about over-arching plot lines in the “story” of your dream. Think about the emotional affect it might have had on you. And if necessary keep a dream journal to write them down.

4. A dictionary, encyclopedia, or text book. You’ll be surprised what learning something new will do for creativity. If you read an article about the early Aztec Empire, you might find something there that you can put into your hat. Maybe a certain word in the dictionary has a sound that rolls off your tongue in just the right way to give you inspiration. Maybe a definition gives you the insight to tweak an idea a different way. As boring as it may sound, plain academic studying can sometimes inspire you in big ways. Learn random facts about history, learn new words, and put them all into your hat.

The bigger your hat the easier it is to find the right spark of creativity at the right time. Practice creativity, stock it with plenty of fuel, and you’ll find all the inspiration you need.

-k

RETURN TO THE “DEAR ANNE” TABLE OF CONTENTS

Dear Anne #6 – Dealing With Life and Motivation

Dear Anne,

Life and motivation are big problems for writers. Life will always get in the way and much of the time motivation to write will be a difficult thing for you to find. I must admit, this is how I feel most of the time. When the creative juices are flowing I can write very quickly. But when I can’t get my head in the right place it is very difficult to stay motivated. Most anything can take my mind away…church responsibilities, spending time with my family, lack of inspiration, chores, writer depression (that sagging feeling every writer gets that they are a failure at writing), accidents, unexpected expenses, unexpected trips to town, TV, internet, loss of my “want to.” The list goes on and on. But if I’m going to be a writer, I have to deal with all of that and find ways to write anyway. You’re going to need to do the same thing.

So with that introduction out of the way, here are some ways to deal with life and motivation.

waiting to write1. Life happens. It can’t be helped. Admit it. Accept it. The most well-intentioned and prolific writers in the world have been derailed by life. And there will come times in your life when you just don’t feel like or can’t emotionally handle the writing process. You lose your “want to.”

But dealing with life is a part of the reason writers write to begin with. It’s their escape from reality if only for a few minutes. It’s their creative outlet that helps them recharge. It’s their emotional expression that helps them vent. Sure you must know how to balance life with writing, but life is also the fuel for writing.

You may not be able to actually put fingers on the keyboard, but you can write in your mind. Let life be your inspiration.

2. Write in the cracks. Do you have any idea how much time we waste everyday? Ten minute here. Fifteen there. Just one more Netflix episode. I know this is a rerun, but I really like this one. Find those cracks of time that you’re wasting and find a way to use them to write. Evernote or Onenote on your phone or tablet may be perfect for this. When you have a moment and an idea, jot it down. When you have more time you can return to that idea and write it more fully. Look for those little nuggets of time you can use to write a few more words.

3. Write what you’re passionate about. In an interview with Joss Whedon, the writer and director of The Avengers, he answered the mystery of how he stayed so prolific in his work. How did he get so much done so quickly? His answer was simple…he writes what he’s “into” at the moment. In other words, if there’s a particular scene that he can’t get out of his head, he writes it. It doesn’t matter where it is in the story…he writes what he’s into. And once he gets all of those things out his system, he begins the slower process of piecing the story together with the scenes he skipped. If you’re having trouble being motivated to write that boring scene you’re just not into, skip it and write the one you’re passionate about.

one word - neil gainman4. Butt in seat. (This is actually an official battle cry of writers everywhere.) Sometimes it’s just this simple. Sit your butt down in front of your computer and start writing. You’ll be surprised at how difficult this can be. Life and everything will tell you to ignore that seat. But that seat will start staring at you…pointing its finger. You’ll begin avoiding it. You won’t even look at it. You know it wants you and you can’t ignore it forever. Just sit your butt down and write.

Because writing is a discipline.

In an earlier letter I talked about studying what you want to write by reading the things similar to what you want to write. But you must also realize that writing, like anything worth doing, requires practice. It’s a discipline that must be exercised whether you feel like it or not.

I was in the band throughout high school and college. I was a music major and a band director for a few years when I graduated. At one point I was practicing over an hour a day on my instrument. Many of those days I didn’t feel like it, but if I wanted to be an accomplished musician I had to do the work whether I felt like it or not.

Singers practice singing. Athletes practice their sports. Artists practice their art. I’m sure you know that practice is essential to getting better at anything, but the often overlooked part of practice is that you must PURPOSE to practice. A baseball player doesn’t just accidentally show up for practice. A dancer doesn’t accidentally show up for rehearsal. And you won’t accidentally write.

There are days the baseball player doesn’t want to practice. But he goes anyway. There are days when the dancer doesn’t want to rehearse. But she does anyway. There will be days when you don’t want to write. And those may be the most important days for you TO write.
Just get your butt in the seat.

one word - stephen king5. One word at a time. This is Stephen King’s secret to writing. Just write one word at a time. Neil Gaiman says to just put one word after another until it’s done.

One word leads to one sentence. One sentence leads to a paragraph. One paragraph leads to another, and so on until you’ve written a whole page. Pages lead to chapters. Chapters become books. Don’t know what to write or where to start? Try writing just one word.

6. Find your routine. Habits are habit forming. If you write every day at 4:30, then that time becomes sacred. You’ll schedule your entire day around that sacred time. You’ll feel incomplete if you miss it. Find your habit…a daily habit. Whether it’s an hour, thirty minutes, or just fifteen minutes…it doesn’t matter. Just lock it in and say, “This is MY writing time. Do not disturb.”

But no matter how good intentioned you are about writing with a routine, life happens and you’re going to drop the ball. One of your scheduled writing times will be interrupted. And the next time you’ll find it easier to be distracted, until one day you think, “Hey, I should really start writing again.” That’s when it hits you that you STOPPED writing and you’re kinda okay with that. Never be okay with that.

Find your routine and protect it like a wild animal.

7. Kill the time wasters. You can’t write if you’re letting time wasters suck all your extra time away. You may intend to sit down and write and spend all your time on Facebook instead. Then you’ve missed your writing time. Your routine becomes a Facebook routine and not a writing routine. So you must learn to recognize the time wasters and kill them.

Close Facebook. Turn the TV off. Put your phone in another room. Get rid of any and every possible distraction around you. Open your story and use your writing time to write. That’s when you have time well-spent.

I hope this helps you when life derails you. Don’t let lack of motivation be an excuse for not writing. If you want to be a writer you’ve got to learn to write even when life gets in the way.

-k

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