Friday, July 3, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 9 of 22)

How important is it for authors to think of every kind of personality of their readers as they write? Has that helped make you successful as a writer?

My best friend says he'll never be a writer, "Because I always think that some won't understand or they'll disagree."

It's a trap to try to figure out the personality of your readers. Most of us know the age group or the type of people for whom we write. To attempt to be "all things to all people" is paralyzing.

I know writers who think that way. They're so careful to be orthodox, culturally correct, and not offend anyone, and their writing doesn't come from deep within. This is especially true of Christian authors. They don't have to prove their faith; they have to show their faith by opening themselves. When they're honest, even people who don't agree can accept them.

As I keep saying in this blog, I write from my heart and throw it out into the world. Not everyone likes my writing or agrees with my worldview. And I get criticized sometimes.

Here's one of my maxims:

I'd rather be disliked for who I am
than to be admired for who I'm not.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 8 of 22)

On your website,, you say you like to hug people with your words. What do you mean by that?

My hugging is an action from within. I open myself and show readers who I am. If they read my words and understand, they have received my hugs.

From the beginning stages of my professional writing, I've tried to be faithful and open about my pain, joy, triumph, and even stupidity.

That's my way to hug readers.

For me, hugging them is my way to symbolically wrap my arm around their shoulders and say, "Let's talk. I care about people like you. I want to pass on my mistakes and failures so you can avoid them."

I want to be open and loving to readers.
When I do that, I'm hugging them with my words.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 7 of 22)

What would you say to the person who is afraid of or suffers from writer's block?

1. Think of that block as a divine message to you. There's a reason you're struggling. Don't push it; don't force it.

2. Ask yourself, What is going on inside me that doesn't want me to write this? Fear of failure? Fear of success? Not something I truly want to do? I feel inadequate to write it?

3. Listen carefully to your heart's answer. Be compassionate toward yourself. Several times in my career, I've dropped projects (which wasn't easy to do) because, deep inside, I knew I didn't want to do them.

Here's one of my maxims:

Professionals write even when they don't feel like it.

I'm a professional.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 6 of 22)

What are the best professional practices you can recommend for those who want to improve their writing?

1. Challenge yourself to keep learning. Read books, articles, and blogs of all kinds. Stay curious. Look up words or phrases you don't know.

2. Note the writers you like and ask yourself why you like them. For me, it means they're writing in a style with which I resonate. The implication is that I can learn more about writing in my voice by reading that writer.

3. Copy sentences by those special writers and keep them in a folder or a document, which you read from time to time. (I've been doing that since 1996.)

4. Join an editing group, because that helps you de-sensitize yourself and learn not to take rejection personally.

5. Pass on everything about writing you learn. The universal principle is that the more you give, the more you receive. (And didn't Jesus say something about that?)

The best professional practice is

to keep learning and not stopping.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 5 of 22)

Will you share a few personal habits that have helped you over the years to remain a productive writer? That question usually comes after the interviewer mentions the large number of books I've published.

Here are three personal habits.

1. When I face a task I don't like doing, I set a date and time to start. I put a sticky note next to my computer. I look at the note several times during the day and remind myself of that self-imposed deadline. And it works.

2. I'm a professional and I work even if I don't feel like it. When I taught school, I had to prepare lessons even when I didn't feel like it. Here's a maxim I wrote: My feelings are only emotions; they are not reality.

3. Early in my career I faced a large number of rejections (and still receive them). I remind myself that I have offered to sell a product and the editor says, "It's not something we're interested in buying."

One of the things I began to say to myself daily—and still do—is this: I accept rejections objectively and dispassionately.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 4 of 22)

What is the toughest obstacle you've faced as a writer?

My biggest obstacle is to keep writing, even now, because I'm tempted to hit the delete key a dozen times a day. I constantly think, This is garbage and everybody knows it.

My late wife, Shirley, used to say to me, "Because you think about it all the time, you assume everyone knows it. But they haven't read it the way you write it."

Another factor is that once I've worked through something, I'm ready to move on to new territory. "I've finished with that," I hear myself say. That's the major reason I write in the midst of my struggles. I do it when I'm still unsettled, confused, or in pain.

For instance, I wrote a book called When God Turned Off the Lights.[1] For eighteen months, God didn't communicate with me. I'm not one of those individuals who has chummy conversations with the Lord, but I sense directions after I seek guidance. But nothing happened for all those months.

In the Old Testament, the writers speak of God hiding his face from them for a time. Then I understood—it didn't change my emotions, but it did help me to know that my experience wasn't unique. Psalm 13:1 was the verse I most often thought about: "How long, O Lord, will you hide your face from me?"

After a few months living in the darkness, I began to rough out chapters (and entries in my journal). I've never had such a dark period in my life, but I knew the day would come when God would smile on me again.

Outwardly, life was going well and I had book contracts for collaborating with others. But my own life felt empty and lifeless. The worst part was when I asked myself, If God never makes his face shine on me again, will I still trust him?

Again, it was painfully hard to write about the darkness because I was living in it. But I kept on. The book has never been a big seller, but occasionally I hear from individuals who tell me they have been or are going through that dark, arid period.

I write in the midst of my pain 
and that helps me come out of my pain.

[1] When God Turned Off the Lights, 2009, Regal/Baker Books.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Frequently Asked Questions from Interviewers (Part 3 of 22)

In order of frequency, here's number three: What do you hope to accomplish with this book?

I don't like this question and I know the interviewers are sincere in asking, but my most honest answer is: Whatever God wants. I'm not smart enough to figure out how my writing will touch others—if it does.

For example, I wrote 90 Minutes in Heaven for Don Piper. Most positive comments came from people who spoke about their powerful or peaceful response to Don's description of heaven. However, a large number of people responded in a way that surprised me. The first one was from a man who said, "Thank God, someone understands chronic pain and has the courage to write about it." Others resonated with that same idea.

I wasn't insightful enough to anticipate that response, but it amplifies my answer: Whatever God wants.

That doesn't mean I never have anything in mind, but often I have to be asked the question before I figure it out. This is the response I gave to the ezine interview mentioned in a previous blog about my book When a Man You Love Was Abused: "I want to help women who know or suspect that an important man in their lives was abused. They also need to realize that his victimization affects them. I hope women will share portions of the book with those men who might not otherwise seek help."

Again, when I ponder the wide level of responses, most of the readers—male and female—tell me that what they liked best was that I talked personally about problematic topics few people dare to mention. They identified with many of my issues.

But here's one answer that covers every book I write:

I write with transparency 
to encourage others to face their own issues.