by Jen Hatmaker on May 22nd, 2015

‘Twas the first week of summer and all through the land
Not a Mom was still signing folders, not even a Dad.
The backpacks were slung in the garage without care
In hopes that some Clean Out Fairy soon would be there.

The children were nestled (super late) in their beds
While visions of NO HOMEWORK danced in their heads.
Mama in her yoga pants and I in my jorts
Are scheduling summer playdates, vacations, and sports.

When out in the playroom there arose such a clatter
We yelled (from the couch) to see what was the matter.
The children were arguing, restless, and I was floored
To hear the young cherubs declare: I’M BORED.

“Well hail no,” said Mama, “bored kids get chores.
You can clean out your closets and baskets and drawers.”
When what to my wondering eyes should appear?
A bunch of Bored Kids who ran the heck out of here.

Now Gavin! Now Sydney! Now Caleb and Ben!
On Remy! On all the kids till the neighborhood ends!
To the park, to the courts, to the pool and the mall!
Now dash away, dash away, dash away all!
It's nearly summer, parents and teachers…WE'VE ALMOST MADE IT. Amen, hallelujah, and cheers! The children have been educated another year, and we all deserve prizes. My zip code is somewhere left of a rigorous schedule that kills joy but right of unstructured anarchy. If it smacks of rigid systems, I'll give up on the third day. If it’s all loosey-goosey, no plans, no direction, no momentum, and no order, I lose the will to live.

I’m no Pinterest Mom, people. My life is pinnable about twelve days a year. I’m not precious and sometimes I think summer sucks, but after seventeen years as a parent and five kids up in this hizzie, I think I’ve found our family rhythm. I don't organize every minute of my kids' summer AT ALL (they free range a lot), but twelve weeks is loooooong and sometimes I look at the clock and cannot believe it is only 3:15pm and these people will be awake another 6-7 hours. We've got to have a few tricks in the bag. So here are 10 things to do with your kids this summer.
  • Find out what is free: Look for activities like theaters offering free kid movies (usually older movies but still fun because POPCORN!), Kids Eat Free days at local restaurants, Summer Reading Challenges with your local library or bookstore to win a free book or two, tours through local fire stations/bakeries/theaters/museums, outdoor concerts and plays, and local beaches or trails or bike paths. We live in Austin, and we love our city like a fat kid loves cake, so it’s super fun to trot around the city for free, because we are brainwashing our kids to never move away.
  • Throw a “Read In” and let your kids invite their friends. Set up pillows and blankets and fun snacks all over the living room floor, light some candles, put on some Pandora, and feel really good about yourself for upholding literacy. Post on Instagram for additional bragging. (They could also read the same book and have a Book Club discussion, but don’t give them wine like our grown up book clubs and maybe they won’t totally derail off topic.)
  • Let your kids make videos or movies with your/their iPhones (here are 10 movie making apps: most free or cheap). I cannot believe how electronically savvy my kids are. They are incapable of turning their socks right side out but can somehow produce incredible mockumentaries (we are a sarcastic people), all edited and everything. Then pop some popcorn, pile on the couch, and have Family Movie Night starring your kids. Public child star emotional breakdown optional.
  • For the exercise people, kids are totally down with Family Boot Camp. Make a big deal out of it. Get new water bottles, wear wristbands, make playlists. Set up an exercise tract with your kids: jogging, bike riding, lifting light weights, yoga, Pilates. Ben and I use an app called RoundTimer for interval workouts (30 seconds on, 30 seconds off...okay, fine, 26 seconds on, 34 seconds off...RoundTimer is not my boss). Got big kids? Go to the gym together. Record your times and work at besting them all summer. Take it to the high school track, which somehow seems extra fun. Do not hate on moms like me who man the stopwatch while the littles run in circles.
  • Go to your grocery store and grab a bunch of boxes from out back. Big ones, medium ones, weird ones. People, I have bigger kids, and I can still put them on the patio with a bunch of boxes, and they will play for days. Mine drag out pillows and blankets and flashlights, they connect boxes with duct tape, they create cities. It’s too fun. I sit out there and read, and yes, that fits my definition of “Things to Do With Your Kids.” If I’m next to you, that freaking counts.

  • We do “Mystery Thursdays” (Thursday is not a sacred cow, it is just the day of the week I’m about to snap.) The kids know we’re going somewhere fun, somewhere cool, but it’s a surprise. We’ve gone to every lake, river, park, exhibit, concert, and attraction in a 150-mile radius. If my kids don’t applaud this initiative in my eulogy, I’m coming back to haunt them.

  • In the spirit of my book “7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,” summer is a great time to go through toy bins, closets, and playrooms and donate some great stuff. We particularly love connecting with an actual family or organization rather than generically dropping off at Goodwill, because human care matters so much, and we all belong to each other. Call the counselor at the poorest school in town, email a children’s shelter, or ask a local nonprofit to connect you with a family in need. You won’t believe how your kids will get behind this.

  • Cook! At the start of every summer, I drag out my cookbooks, my kids select 3-4 new recipes each and make a shopping list, and we tick them off one at a time. The recipe chooser is the kitchen helper, which isn’t as precious as it sounds, but nonetheless, an hour with one kid is a prize around these parts. My daughter and I made homemade meatball subs that were so delicious, we’ve never stopped talking about them, and by we I mean she and I and everyone else is over it, but just whatever. They were good, y’all.

  • Throw a “fancy” brunch for your kids’ friends. Use your good dishes. Put their apple juice in wine glasses. It doesn’t really matter what you make; this is all about the accoutrements. Eat at the good table. Cloth napkins? Brang it. Candles, place cards, dress up, all of it. Then have them change into bathing suits and stick them in the backyard with the hose, because seriously? We’re lowbrow.

  • Take a class together! Baking, crochet, cross-stitch, guitar, painting, bread-making, illustrating, pottery, archery, kickboxing, creative writing, sculpting, acting, braiding, cake decorating, weaving, anything. Tons of local colleges, restaurants, craft stores, trade schools, and culinary institutes offer one-day classes or more. Such a fantastic way to connect with each other over a new skill. Plus you can harness their new skills for your own personal gain. Fresh bread, anyone?

So Mamas and Daddies, let’s make the memories, because the days are long (oh my gosh) but the years are short. These aggravating, fighting kids will be gone in just a few years. May your summer be filled with laughter, adventure, and Non-Bored Kids. But should they risk their lives and utter the b-word, a few hours of scrubbing baseboards will cure what ails them. Mama may be fun, but she don’t play.

[I originally wrote this post for Barnes and Noble two years ago, but HERE WE ARE AGAIN, SUMMER.]

What are your summer ideas? How do you fill the hours? I'm serious: share your ideas because I am always looking for new additions to my Summer Activities List.

by Jen Hatmaker on May 21st, 2015

A few weeks ago, our oldest son jacked up his truck AGAIN while “mudding” with his friends. This is maybe a Texas thing, I think. It involves teen boys, trucks, empty fields, and general frontal lobe underdevelopment. There were a handful of details I’ll omit, but we ended up getting a “story” instead of the truth.
In the inevitable confrontation, Brandon and I both played the heavy because the parenting book I read ten years ago cautioned against triangulation. But between our son’s obvious emotional distress and our relief that the “story” involved a muddy road instead of, say, drug paraphernalia, we both started losing steam midway through the lecture.
At one point too late in the game, Brandon looked sternly at our son and declared: “Do you know what a truck is for? TRANSPORTATION!” and I got the giggles so bad I had to hide in the kitchen. Once composed as presiding judge, I asked: “Do we look like two parents who are going to pay for your joyrides indefinitely?” and he looked at us so intently, as if the contours of our faces might confirm or deny the query, that Brandon almost snorted. Having exhausted our severity, we sent him to his room and dissolved in fits of laughter.
You know what I didn’t understand about parenting? No one knows what they are doing.
We have no idea if we are reacting correctly or making appropriate choices or parenting “right” or striking the proper balance. Did we discipline when we should have shown grace? Or relent when we should have clamped down? Are we getting the technology thing right? Should we have let the kids see that movie with the F-word? Are other parents letting their 7th grader go to Sonic after school? Do we give our kids too many/few chores? Do we allow boyfriends and girlfriends in 8th grade? Is our kid’s curfew appropriate? If we don’t enroll him in SAT Prep Class, is he doomed? Have spanking/time outs/isolation/lost privileges ruined our kids or redeemed them? Do they know when I make up answers?
We are just kids who grew up and had babies ourselves. What in the blazes do we know? Parenting is less “Stratego” and more “Chance” than we imagined. We’re flinging way more stuff at the wall to see what sticks than we let on. I second-guess around 72% of my parenting decisions. This feels unstable at best.
I’ve been thinking for weeks about the yeses and no’s we give as parents and how flimsy some of them are. There are so many question marks in parenting, but we have a few yeses and no’s that help steer the ship. Maybe these will provide a firmer foundation under the myriad of other choices that make parenting an absolute crapshoot.
I am not falling for the constant entertainment pressure our culture heaps on my mom head. I do not have to micromanage my kids’ lives to ensure every waking moment is developmentally stimulating and educationally fulfilling. I am not your dancing monkey; I am your mom. My children can grow up like every child in history: awash in their own exploration and creativity. They can make up games. They can create projects. They can play outside. They can turn every screen off and figure it out.

If my kids cannot make up their own fun outside of mindless technology or maternal leadership, we have way bigger problems. It is okay to say “no screens” while not shouldering the responsibility to fill the blank space. Oh sure, they may whine for awhile, but leave them alone long enough and they will remember how to use their imaginations, bodies, inventiveness, and brains. We make a list at the beginning of summer of possible things to do. It is long and outrageous. We put every possible idea on the list: make a film on iMovie, organize bike races with your friends, bake cupcakes, plan a neighborhood yard party and make invitations, read, practice your typing skills, visit the craft closet, whatever. “Consult the list” is my summer mantra. This all leads to an ancillary:
Get okay with couches turned over into a fort. Say yes to sheets draped over your dining room table with a messy picnic underneath. Ignore the Lego City carefully constructed over six square feet of your playroom. Let your kids play outside/ride bikes/climb trees/catch fireflies/skateboard/fish/go to the park without constantly freaking out. Make your peace with skinned knees, bike wrecks, and splinters – this is the substance of childhood. Your house will be a hot mess. Your children will always smell like dirty gym socks. Their shorts will be chronically torn. They will break some dishes.
So what??
Either we control and micromanage their childhoods, or we raise real kids. Being a kid should be fun, and not from ten developmentally correct boutique activities but because this is when they are supposed to be free without abandon, fear, or – let’s be honest – much responsibility. I don’t want my kids to operate like miniature accountants with every second preplanned. I want them to be kids. Which means my house and yard look like crap and I go through a lot of bandaids.
I have no idea if other kids do this, but mine ask for stuff constantly. Big stuff, small stuff, new apps, new shoes, new phones, junk food, the steak platter in a restaurant, $18 socks, Netflix rentals, expensive jeans, pricey activities, candy in the check out line, name-brand headphones. It is a tsunami of consumer interrogation. And sometimes in the deluge, I get confused about what to do. If I’ve said no the last 25 times, should the next answer be yes? Am I the only mom who says no ninety times a day? Am I a No Mom who just crushes dreams all the time?
My conclusion: it is perfectly, wonderfully okay to say NO to a million requests to spend money on junk, even good junk, even harmless junk. I think our kids use the quantity tactic: ask enough times for enough pieces of crap and eventually she will say yes. I already deeply believe all the good stuff isn’t tied to material possessions, so why do I let Mom Guilt convince me that I’ve exhausted my No Supply and owe my spawn a financial transaction? Nonsense. I can dry up the commercial pipeline and my kids will still have everything they need, most things they want, and all the stuff that really matters. No is a perfectly acceptable answer, even if I give it 394 times in a row. Which leads us to another really great:
In the spirit of generosity for things of actual value, unless I have a very real reason not to, I say yes to friends over, yes to sleepovers, yes to playdates, yes to invitations. I place a premium on relationships and experiences in my own life, so I have the same openhandedness with my kids. You want a friend over after school? Sure. Sleepover Friday? Yep. Can you go with your friend to the Wiener Dog Races? You bet. (Yes, this is a thing in Buda, Texas, ‘Merica.)
Whenever I can, I say yes to things that have emotional or relational merit but don’t cost anything. Sometimes my knee-jerk reaction is to say no (see above section; the children have conditioned me), but if I stop and weigh the request and find no good reason to refuse, it is super fun to be generous instead.
Yes, you can read one more chapter even though it is past your bedtime. Yes, you and your two buds can spend the night in the backyard. Yes, you can cook us breakfast. Yes, you and your friend can use my makeup for a makeover. Yes, you can paint that cardboard box. Yes, you can make a music video with my phone. Yes, you can get that weird haircut. Yes, you can rearrange your room. Yes, you can wear my high heels around the house. Yes, you can sleep with me while Dad is out of town. Yes, yes, yes.

We drew names for Christmas. Remy bought me "Beyonce lotion."  Be jealous.

I find when I am generous with these kinds of yeses, the material requests slow to a crawl. If I am going to give them stuff, let it be the stuff that feeds their minds and hearts and souls and imaginations. Let the yeses push them toward relationships, inventiveness, and contentment instead of materialism, isolation, and entitlement.
So sure, we mostly have no idea what we’re doing as parents, but we can decide on a few yeses and no’s that frame up our family rhythms, that prioritize the better things even if the kids disagree now, and that help our children prefer treasures that will last.
And if your “stern no” sends you laughing into the kitchen in the midst of discipline, well, tomorrow is a new day for you to get your parenting act together, man.

Do you have similar yeses and no's? Do you struggle with Mom Guilt too? Do you know what you're doing? If so, PLEASE ADVISE.

by Jen Hatmaker on March 6th, 2015

You guys, no joke: I just clapped my hands together and did a little squeal at my desk in my office by myself. I’m grinning from ear to ear. Cause me and a whole bunch of you are about to have the best time.
So, I have a book coming out August 18th - “For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards.” After pulling a million pics of covers and art that I loved, going back and forth 25 times with designers, running the finalists past my Friend Test Group not once but three times (bless them), and tweaking even the smallest details down to the flourish on the F, here is the cover:
I want to marry this cover and have babies.

So normally at this time, publishers start saying: “Time to send this early copy out to all your author friends and beg guilt shame ask them to write an endorsement to print inside the book.” Let me tell you how many books authors receive a week with endorsement requests: 2943057832. Plus, even for my actual friends, this is a big drag on their to-do list. Coercing your friends is not a really fun way to put your book baby out into the world.
I told my people last year while still writing the book: no “celebrity” endorsements. I only want real readers who truly want to read the book in advance, the ones I am actually writing for. YOU are the ones I think about and labor over and rally for. YOU are my beloved readers. Let’s put YOUR endorsements in the final copy! Real readers! Imagine that! So innovative.
So we thought: let’s create a Launch Team of real readers willing to get For the Love out into the big wide world!

A launch team is a dedicated group of Jen Hatmaker Volunteers that will be willing to help announce the release of the book. They will help spread the word through blogs or websites, social media, and reviews on retailer sites. Plus, Being Awesome is a key component to Launch Team Members. Obvs.
  • Are you excited to read For the Love and tell all your friends about it? 
  • Are you fairly savvy at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram?
  • Do you have an active blog? Or another legit place of influence (ministry director, newsletter editor, group leader, site manager, etc.)? Include this specific information in the comment section on the application form.
  • Would you like to provide an endorsement that may end up in the front of the book? 
If YES to the above, then apply here, sister! We will cap it at 500 and those spots will fly.
We would ask you to do 4 things:

1) Read an early copy of the book. Yay!
2) Engage with your friends and followers online by posting about the book before, during and after launch week (8/18/2015).
3.) In your place of influence (blog, group, ministry, club, website), we’d love for you to blog or write about the book! We'll give you a bunch of pics and links and goodies for this...
4.) Post a review on Amazon or your favorite retailer’s website.
You will receive a free advanced (digital) copy of the book, so you can read it and begin telling your friends about it. You will also be invited to a private Facebook group with the rest of the Launch Team members where you will be updated on the activity and latest news around the book. It’s your chance to get an inside look at marketing a book and be a part of the movement! Plus, I have some special surprises for my Launch Team... Not to mention this: I will simply love you forever. FOREVER, FOR THE LOVE.
We are looking for some great endorsements from the Launch Team to include in the front pages of the final printed copy! You have a chance to be included in For the Love! You will be published! If accepted to the team, we will send out information on submitting your endorsement. I am so excited for you to read it! I don't want any endorsement more than yours. Not even Tina Fey.
Click HERE to apply! We are looking for 500 people to be a part of this Launch Team. (We selected 300 applicants for my last book and the spots were gone in two hours, so if you want in, JUMP!) If chosen, you will receive an email from the marketing team at Thomas Nelson within the next 2 weeks.

We are taking applications starting today! When the 500 spots are gone, they are gone... I can't wait to meet you! LET'S DO THIS!

For the Love is already available for preorder: On Amazon here or Barnes and Noble here!

by Jen Hatmaker on February 18th, 2015

Last June, Brandon and I went to rural Canada with a whole bunch of people we didn’t know, because we do weird things. One of the guys we met was Mark Batterson, and I told Brandon one night, “There is no way he is really that nice. No one is that awesome.” (I must have been in a cynical place. LIGHTEN UP, FRANCIS.)
Anyhow, I was wrong.
Mark and his beautiful wife Lora are honest-to-goodness kind, warm, loving, amazing people leading the incredible work of National Community Church in theaters all around DC (surely my DC readers know you have a treasure in your midst). I mean, look at his face:
This face says: I am a really great guy. And a little goofy.

I’m in an interesting season that I bet a bunch of you are in too. My mom has cancer, and I can’t do a thing about it. No amount of reason or work or diligence or attention has any effect. All my usual tricks are useless. I find myself utterly out of control here. The combinations I typically employ are half-bankrupt:
Prayer + obedience.
Prayer + action.
Prayer + change.
Prayer + hard work.
Here is what I have:

I’m not a great pray-er. My friend Sarah is. My dad is. My friend Laurel is. But I have always felt closest to God in Scripture while prayer is territory I have to work harder for. (This is the exact reason I believe God has prompted specific people to hold prayer vigils over me for the last 10 years. I have the same handful of pray-ers interceding for me constantly. God is like, I need to get this girl covered since she won’t get her nose out of that Bible.)
But here I am in desperate need of prayer strength, and just in the nick of time, my friend Mark put an invaluable tool in my hands, and I want you to have it too: The Circle Maker. As weirdly interested in obscure ancient Jewish history as I am, Mark dug out an old story out of the Book of Legends and discovered Honi, the Circle Maker.

In 1 B.C., when God’s voice had been silent for four centuries, the prophets were dead, and miracles were not to be found, the Israelites were perishing in a brutal drought, one generation before Jesus. While faith was thin and prayer seemed futile, an old sage was still known for his dogged insistence on prayer. The people begged Honi to pray for rain on their behalf, and with his staff, he drew a large circle around himself in the dirt, dropped to his knees, help up his arms and prayed:
“Lord of the universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.”
Small drops began to fall. Still inside the circle, Honi went on boldly:
“Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns.”
Immediately, it began to rain in earnest. Empowered, Honi declared:
“Not for such rain have I prayed, for the rain of thy favor, blessing, and graciousness!”

The next generation saw the birth of Jesus.
Don’t you love that story with all your heart? Mark took that beautiful old legend from the Talmud and claimed it for our generation. Could we be Circle Makers in our families, in our callings, in our time? Could we draw circles around our children and pray for God’s movement in their lives? Could we draw circles around our struggles and pray for victory? Could we draw circles around our God-given dreams and pray for courage?
Mark walked off a 4-mile circle around his neighborhood and prayed God’s mighty movement in his community. Thousands of believers have drawn circles around ruined marriages, dead dreams, crippling fears, broken cities, wayward children. Mark put it like this:
“The earth has circled the sun more than two thousand times since the day Honi drew his circle in the sand, but God is still looking for circle makers. And the timeless truth secreted within this ancient legend is as true now as it was then: bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.
God isn’t offended by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren’t impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don’t require divine intervention. But ask God to part the Red Sea or make the sun stand still or float an iron ax-head, and God is moved to omnipotent action.”

I promise you, this is no name-it-and-claim it mess. This is simply emulating the prayers of the prophets and saints, the bold believing ancients, the church that has always come boldly before God exactly like He told us to. How will God answer? We don’t know, but like Mark says, we will live with a holy anticipation. You guys, his book is so moving and instructive and powerful. I am so grateful for this brother who has called us out of paralysis and into a place of strength.
Do you need to be a Circle Maker right now? Is it time for a righteous boldness in your life? For me, it is. I am drawing a circle around my mom and begging God to move. I am asking for healing because God said I could. I am asking boldly because Jesus made that posture possible. While I’m in the dirt, I am drawing circles around my children and marriage, my neighborhood and church. I am drawing a circle around our work and ministry. I am drawing a circle around the terrors in the Middle East right now and begging God to intervene.
Can you imagine a whole generation of Circle Makers? The ramifications are overwhelming. Let’s claim our territory in Christ with the authority He granted us. We are not an aw-shucks people. We are God’s own family, so we ought to pray like it.
Let’s draw big, bold, brave circles and pray for rain.

What circles do you need to draw?


Snag your copy at Barnes and Noble here.

by Jen Hatmaker on February 4th, 2015

Just to be clear, let me see if I’m describing you right: You love to read, you always have. You think words are powerful and beautiful and devastating when used correctly. You have a story, ideas, a lot to say. These things rattle around in your brain and if you don’t get them on paper, YOU JUST MIGHT DIE. You’ve always been a good communicator; you prayed for an essay test over those devil-sanctioned multiple-choice scantrons. You stare at your laptop like a frenemy. If you could just sit down with it for an extended time and write your words, or maybe if you could just set it on fire and be free of it, or both, you would finally be happy. And, of course, there is teeny tiny, oh so tiny part of you, so tiny you have to whisper it, tiny tiny little bit that says I want to be published because that will make me real.
What do I know of writing? I still feel like a hack that snuck in the side door at just the right moment and no one kicked me out of the party. I really do. You might think after writing 10 books I would feel like an “expert,” but you would be so very wrong, good reader. I’m still stumbling through, wondering when I’ll be a grown up who masters her field.
I can give you no expert advice. Absolutely none. But I can tell you what I’ve learned and I can certainly tell you what didn’t work. Let’s start with this:
Don’t disqualify yourself from writing before you even get started. A writer is a person who writes words. The end. Do you know who asked me to write my first book? Zero people. No one said, you should do this hard thing or we really want to hear from you in print form. Writer: 1, People Who Asked Me to Write: 0. I wrote for two reasons:
I wanted to and had something to say.

I can't help you process the cover design. It was a different time. Go with God.

Granted, that is not much to build a career on, but who knew I would make a career out of writing?? I didn’t start with even an inkling of that grand notion. Hell, I was raising babies and toddlers and didn’t even own a laptop. I didn’t even have an email address and it was 2004 (I am frequently late to current developments). I was not set up to be a career writer, but that is not why you start writing. It can’t be.
If you want to and have something to say, write. This first step is a doozy. If you are waiting for someone to beg you to do the work or promise to give you a huge advance or rearrange your schedule to clear the time or somehow make this whole part easier, you might as well take your little dream for a nice long drive out into the country and say goodbye. Writers write. It is one of our main characteristics, as a point of fact. Writers don’t wait for someone else to tell them they should or can. You should and you can.
Next, I am devastated to bring this bad news, but writing requires work. Kind of hard, brutal, sanity-threatening work. All the writing dreams in your head have to transition to your ten fingers on a keyboard, and I’m afraid there is no other way. (I’m sorry. Take your time.) Work requires time, which of course, you have none of. This is the writer’s dilemma. You will not miraculously become a writer by carrying on exactly like you are. It’s a whole thing and you have to make room for it.
Maybe that is in the earliest wee hours, which is when legions of writers make the magic happen. Maybe you engineer a child swap or childcare to create time. Maybe you let something go and free up a slot. Know this: something will have to give. And I mean that sincerely. Writing will take time away from other things: sometimes kids, sometimes spouse, sometimes a thing you used to do, sometimes sleep. Work does this. You don’t get to keep everything as is and also add writing. That is not how the time/space continuum works. I have to regularly tell my kids:
Me: I’ll be in my office working.
Kids: What do you even do out there? (If you think 10 books will up your credibility at home, think again, grasshopper.)
Me: I’m writing. It is my work and it is a real job.
Kids: *side eye*
Me: IT IS.
Of course my kids wish I would devote every spare second to maintain their place in the center of the universe, but writers write and writing is work and work takes time. And it is good work. It means something. It is noble and important. It always has been.
I remember crying a river when my mom went back to college when we were in elementary, middle, and high school because she was less available to cater to our every whim, but it very soon became a source of great pride for me, because I watched my mom do meaningful, hard work that mattered. She went for it, right in the middle of living life. As it turned out, I needed a mom who mothered, dreamed, worked, and achieved. We all did.
Now, put your writing out there somewhere where actual people will read it: a blog, a newsletter you made up, guest posts, your community, your church, any local outlet, anywhere there are readers. Don’t tell me you can’t handle this; you want to be a writer that no one ever reads?? Nonsense. Readers make you a better writer. Writing for readers makes you a better writer. This is not just about “developing a platform” (gag) but getting out of your own head and engaging with other human beings. Additionally, good writing gets noticed, especially in today’s online space, so be a “writer with readers” - strong talent does not go undetected for long.
Develop a thicker skin immediately. (May I gently suggest that if your skin is paper thin, writing might be the worst profession on earth for you.) As shocking as it is, not everyone will love everything you say, and you need to be able to deal with criticism without coming unraveled. Ask any writer. Furthermore, if every reader always loves every word you ever write, I mean this nicely, but you are not writing anything that interesting. Write the real stuff, the hard stuff, the true stuff. Literature is too saturated for cotton candy fluff. Most readers are craving truth-tellers who don’t sanitize their words to avoid criticism. Be brave.
Finally, everyone wants to be published but few want to work on the craft of writing. While the internet has provided unprecedented opportunity for the new writer, it has also elevated sensationalized link-bait over truly good composition. We know this because we read utter crap constantly and then discover one astounding piece written with precision and talent and intelligence, and we go WHOA. Take a class, take a course, go to a writer’s conference (this is both how I developed and got initially published), join a writer’s group, read books as a reader (writers read), read books as a writer (writers learn), hire an editor who doesn’t feel as precious about all your words as you do, invite constructive criticism, pay attention to what good writing does: How does it use language? How does it construct sentences? How does it move the story along? How does it sound? How does it feel?
Doctors do the work to be good doctors. Teachers do the work to become better teachers. Writers cannot imagine that because they have the dexterity to type words on a keyboard their craft does not need development. Worry less about getting published and more about being good at what you do. Much like the Lord, the eyes of publishers roam about the earth searching for undiscovered writers who can actually compose a compelling sentence (2 Chron. 16:9…extremely compromised).
Some postscripts:
Do not become immobilized by good writing already out there. Stop that this instant. Literature is not an exercise in scarcity. The world always needs good writing. There is room for you. Don’t be intimidated by successful writers; be inspired by them. Every good writer wrote his or her first piece at one point. Do your time; there is space for you at the party.
Just because one person says your writing is crap doesn’t mean it is. Or maybe it is, but that is not the end of your story. You cannot bail with your first rejection, first critique, first outright troll. You’ll be done by the end of the week. Writing is a synonym for perseverance. Keep going, learn from criticism, reject the haters, onward. The Harry Potter series was rejected 12 times before it got picked up, and IT IS DOING OKAY NOW.
Getting published will not make you miraculously happy, rich (oh my gosh), or validated. I’m laughing as I type that because I know you are thinking: YES IT WILL. I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY. It won’t. You’ll still be in your weird mind wondering why your life is mostly the same. You won’t arrive, but it is still worth the work. It is worth every second.
Cheering for you. Write on, writer.
Write your words.

Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. That’s what I have to say.
The second is only a part of the first. . . .
There are thousands of people out there with the same degree you have; when you get a job, there will be thousands of people doing what you want to do for a living.
But you are the only person alive who has sole custody of your life.
Your particular life. Your entire life.
Not just your life at a desk, or your life on the bus, or in the car, or at the computer.
Not just the life of your mind, but the life of your heart.
—Anna Quindlen

Writer’s Conferences

Do your own research here. The type of conference you attend depends on the type of writing you do and your audience: Children? Fiction? Christian? General market? Memoir? Nonfiction? Buy a Market Guide in your genre, which will include conferences, publishers, and agents for this calendar year. I only have my story, but a writer’s conference was my front door into publishing. Additionally, while there, I learned skills during my "writing nonfiction tract" that I use to this day from Dr. Dennis Hensley, writing professor at Taylor University. Easily one of the best teachers I’ve ever sat under. I could have listened to him for 12 hours a day. I practically clung to his ankles as I was leaving as a 29-year-old dreamer.
Books on Writing

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
On Writing by Stephan King
Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg
The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
The War of Art by Steven Pressfield

What can you add, writers? Great websites? Tips? Are you one of those wringing her hands and waiting for someone to give you permission to go for it? PERMISSION GRANTED.

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