Posted by Sally Matheny on Jan 28th, 2013 | 11 comments
Gleaning Gold: Interview with Author Cecil Murphey–
A Special Tribute in Honor of His 80th Birthday
by Sally Matheny
“If your actions inspire others to dream more,
learn more, do more and become more,
you are a leader.”
- John Quincy Adams
Alfred Hitchcock inspired nine-year-old Cecil “Cec” Murphey’s first attempt at mystery writing. At age twenty-one, Cec began his “conversion process” after reading the provoking words of Lloyd C. Douglas. God revealed early to Cec that words have the power to motivate.
Inspired by God to do many things, Cec Murphey has served: in the Navy; as a missionary in Kenya; as a pastor and a hospital chaplain; as a public school teacher and a Bible college teacher. His servant’s heart has also followed God’s call to inspire others through his own writing and speaking.
Cec began writing articles in 1971. At age thirty-eight, he published his first book in 1975. Since then, the multi-award winning author has penned over 130 books, including 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper) and Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story (with Ben Carson). Thirteen new books are hitting the shelves in 2013!
“I want to hug people with my words” is the first thing you see when you visit Cec’s website (www.cecilmurphey.com). Not only does he embrace people with the words he writes but also with the words he speaks. Cec has taught at over 250 conferences on topics such as spiritual growth, caregiving, and significant living. He also shares from his own experience of childhood sexual abuse and recovery. Not surprisingly, another hot topic for Cec is speaking on writing.
Cecil Murphey lives out the golden rule. In his early years of writing, Cec had difficulty acquiring help from other writers. After he sold twenty articles, he promised God he would never stop learning and improving as a writer. He also promised to help other writers. Cec generously gives of his time, talent and resources to a multitude of writers. He will motivate writers at the Write2Ignite! Writers’ Conference in March 2013. Cec will be the keynote speaker and will teach a writing class to the teen participants.
Cec celebrates his eightieth birthday on January 28. This energy-packed fireball starts everyday by running, and then, writes eight hours a day, five and half days a week. His love for the Lord ignites him into motion. His actions inspire others to “dream more, learn more, do more, and become more.” Cecil Murphey is a leader who inspires.
Cec, you made a commitment to God to never stop learning and improving as a writer. After forty years of writing, are you still learning? What do you know now you wish you had known forty years ago?
I’m still learning. I read portions of grammar books almost every day. Most of what I learn these days I can’t put into words. I struggle over the tone of a sentence or search for the exact word I want.
Often the distinction is subtle and most readers and writers don’t seem to notice. For instance, I realized that when I wrote when, a more accurate term was after.
When they returned home, they . . .
After they returned home . . .
I wish I had known everything about writing; however, the best lessons are those I learned after I was actively writing. Because of papers in college and graduate school, I knew the mechanics of writing. English grammar was a subject I enjoyed in high school and college.
No one could teach me the hardest lesson: How to become authentic—to write from who I am and not from what I think people expect. Here’s one of my original maxims: I’d rather be disliked for who I am than to be admired for who I’m not.
Books come out every year as well as dozens of websites and blogs of how-to material. Every third writing book focuses on marketing, but I don’t see much about being honest and transparent in writing. I’m still learning how to be authentic.
Writing eight hours a day, how do you stay focused? Is there a daily routine?
I stay focused by reading widely. I read far beyond the Christian market. I use our county library system and check out most of the top sellers. I suppose I’m just a curious person and I like new ideas or read people who challenge my thinking.
Daily routine? I start my writing between 7:30 and 8:00 in the morning, take off 30 minutes for lunch (and I usually read during most of that time) and stay at my computer until 4:00. After that, in the summer, I go outside to pull weeds and plant flowers. In the cold months, I usually work until 5:00, although sometimes I need a break so I go for a two-mile walk to clear my head.
Unless I’m under a lot of pressure to get something done, I don’t do any writing after 5:00 p.m.
You own at least 200 books on writing. What books do you recommend for writers?
I think every writer needs to read (and re-read) Elements of Style. I suggest reading any writing books that pique your interest.
My advice, no matter what your writing level, is to figure out what you don’t do well. Read writers who excel in that area. Observe how they do it and figure out how you can you do it better.
I realized that I’m not good at descriptions, so I copied sentences from book/articles by people whom I felt did that well. I didn’t copy their words when I wrote, but they helped me grasp how to say it better.
You’ve done so much to encourage other writers. Who encourages you?
I’m one of those self-motivated individuals. In my early days of writing, I tried getting a little advice from professional writers I knew. They didn’t help.
God used that lack of response to push me. For example, when a publisher first asked me to ghostwrite (and I’ve done about 70 of them since), I had no idea how. I thought about the project several days and figured out how I would like it done. I wrote the manuscript, the publisher liked it, and asked me to do another book for them.
I determined that, with God’s help, I’d figure out how to learn to become the best writer I could with the gifts God gave me.
Here’s something I pray every day about my writing: Help me improve so I can use my improvement to help other writers improve.
As a survivor of childhood abuse, you’ve helped other adults heal by sharing your story. Have you ever considered writing a book for children or teens concerning this topic?
I’m currently working with a woman named Kat Rosenblatt who escaped from human trafficking and started a ministry called There Is Hope for Me Inc. She was snared into the sex trade at age 13 and escaped at age 17.
I wrote one book on male sexual abuse and just before the conference, my follow-up book comes off the press. It’s called Not Quite Healed. If that book does well, I’ll certainly consider writing a book for children/teens.
After publishing 130 books and numerous articles, how do you keep pride in check?
I don’t think about pride. God gave me the gift to write. My role is to improve and learn so that I won’t have to be ashamed of what I publish.
Here’s one sentence I say every morning when I start my quiet time with God: Everything I am and everything I have come as gifts from you.
We all have gifts, so why should I be proud that I have a gift to write? I didn’t choose my talent. My diligence is my way to give God thanks.
How have you balanced your family with your writing, especially when your children were still at home?
That’s always been the tough part for me. With my children grown, I’ve often wished I had given them more time. I apologized to them, and they responded graciously and said they had no complaints.
Our middle child, who gave us the most trouble during her teens, said to me with tears in her eyes, “You were always there for me when I needed you.” (Then my eyes filled with tears.)
Although I wish I had been a better parent (and I assume most of us feel that way), I know my kids love me. They come to our monthly family get-togethers, even though I frequently tell them, “If you get a better offer, take it.” I want them to come only because they want to be with us and not from any sense of obligation.
Your life is a testimony to Jesus Christ. It’s inspiring how you allow God to use you as His servant-messenger to people. God teaches us things every day. What is God showing you at this season in your life?
I’m learning to trust in the sovereign love of God. By that I mean, I’m learning by experience and not only intellectual assent that my loving Father is totally in control of my life. Instead of complaining when something goes bad, I’ve learned to be at peace. I tell myself, “This event didn’t catch God by surprise.”
Cec, thanks for allowing us to glean from your experience and wisdom. We are eager to hear more from you at the Write2Ignite Conference. May the Lord continue to meet all your needs and bless you with a joyful birthday!