Don’t be your own limiting factor

Guest Blogger: Jennifer Slattery

Sometimes the words flow and our fingers can barely keep up with the creative bursts firing from our brains. Other times, it feels as if every sentence is a struggle and we begin to wonder, can I really do this? What if I don’t have what it takes to be a writer?

My first novel, one that may never see actual ink, came easy. But then I joined writing groups, went to classes, formed critique partner relationships, and all of a sudden, my creativity stalls.

I suffered from too-many-rules disease. It’s an insidious illness, one capable of strangling one’s inner muse. And stealing one’s self-confidence.

Four years ago our daughter developed math phobia. She had a difficult, often hostile teacher, who was hard to please, and this paralyzed her. Each problem was torturous. She was so afraid she’d get it wrong, so terrified of making a mistake, she couldn’t begin.

It took a bit of “worse-case-scenario” discussions to move her past this. Basically, I told her I didn’t care if she got it wrong, or even if she failed the class. All I wanted was for her to do her best. My straight-A student didn’t like to hear this, but once I brought it to a spiritual level, reminding her that her obedience to God was all that mattered, she was able to move forward.

We all have fears and insecurities that paralyze us. And we all have our comfort zones. So, we gravitate toward those things that come easily and are the most comfortable, and avoid those things that are difficult—like sending out queries, approaching agents, or writing articles. But that leads to stagnation and God calls us to continual growth.

In Dr. Senske’s book, The Calling: Live a Life of Significance, he encourages us to focus on our areas of weakness-to purposefully seek out new, challenging activities.

It reminds me of training I participated in in high school. I was a distance runner. The longer the run, the better. Those short, fast turn-outs about killed me. Because speed wasn’t my thing. If left on my own, I would have avoided the drills and speed runs entirely, adding more miles to my day in an effort to hone my strength. But my coach knew better. He saw a weakness in me and zeroed in on it.

How might this translate to your life? Take a moment to evaluate your writing and your writing habits. What are your areas of weakness? Do you respond well to criticism, knowing how to glean feedback, taking what is helpful and disregarding the rest? Or does constructive feedback make you cringe?

If so, you might need to intentionally seek out some harsh critique partners. This way, you’ll become accustomed to sifting through strong opinions. Then, when you receive your first contract and open an eight page document of suggested big picture edits, you won’t freak out. In fact, you’ll approach the changes with confidence because you’ve been there before.

Perhaps you’re afraid to speak in public. Although you can have a successful launch without speaking engagements, you’ll be avoiding potential platform-building opportunities. In other words, you will be your own limiting factor.

What if, instead, you chose to grow in this area, and purposefully sought out a few speaking engagements.

Finally, whatever you do, bring it back to your audience of one. No matter what you’re doing, each day make it between you and God–no one else. Don’t worry about what your editor will say. Don’t worry about your boss. Don’t even think about the end result. Focus instead on your Savior and make each moment, each task, an act of praise.

So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.—1 Corinthians 10:31


Jennifer Slattery head shotJennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. Her debut novel, Beyond I Do, is currently available: http://www.amazon.com/Jennifer-Slattery/e/B00JKQ4ZTW/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Jennifer loves helping aspiring authors grow in their craft, and will give away a free chapter critique to one random commenter. http://wordsthatkeep.wordpress.com/

Visit with Jennifer online at JenniferSlatteryLivesOutLoud. 

8 comments on “Don’t be your own limiting factor

  1. Everywhere I look here lately, I’m seeing similar things. It’s almost like God is sending me challenging messages from everywhere on a multitude of topics. Thanks for your words of encouragement hard as they are to hear.

  2. Excellent advice front to back, Jennifer! 🙂 Alternately, we could join the Navy SEALS and get some *really hard lessons in these very matters… 😉

    • Maybe you might need to get that form from Mr Stafford about getting out of military duty. 🙂 That was a great speech by this Navy seal. Powerful speech and if we all could incorporate this into our lives, we’d have no need for Navy seals or a military whatsoever. The concept is phenomenal. It was nice that our pastor recommended that for us. Surprisingly balanced which I not always find coming from what my real father told me about the military.

  3. Hi, John! I’m glad you found today’s post encouraging. I’m watching the video as I type this. 🙂 Thanks for sharing the link! And I love what he says, “If every one of you change the life of ten people…” and extrapolates this out. Awesome thought.

  4. Hi Jennifer
    I enjoyed what you have spoken from your heart here. I can feel you live this and they aren’t just a bunch of rehearsed words. I am just getting started trying to write. Trying to collaborate with John but time is an unfortunate premium for him. So I am trying to get much advice and try to open the avenues of my mind to questions that will help me write even short stories if necessary. I am not sure a collaboration is going to work from a time spectrum but trying to keep hope alive.
    You are right about a number of issues here and I am trying to find a place to utilize them for my own writing. I love writing and want to explore all the creative and yet God approved topics I can incorporate with the help of writers here. I have a great deal of published writers who subscribe to my word press blog and have for years. So I may incorporate their wisdom’s and experience as well.May I ask for advice here and there from you?
    Shalom yisraela

  5. Beautiful, Jennifer! God is always calling us higher. May I always follow His lead. Thanks.

  6. I appreciate what you said about suffering from too many rules that kill your creativity and silence your voice. What works for me is viewing the “rules” as principles instead. This means I am free to break the “rule” when the story demands it. It also means I am free to cheerfully discard some writers’ “rules” because they’re not mine — if I were to follow that I’d be imitating them, not following my own voice. At the same time, using “rules” as guiding principles, I am also free to follow them, to sharpen my talent rather than destroy it. This is something every writer must work out on his or her own, it cannot be imposed from the top down. That kind of tyranny doesn’t belong in the Body of Christ anyway. Thank you for sharing your troubles and for exhorting us all to do OUR best!

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