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overflow of the heart

Writing from the Overflow of the Heart

“The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”–Luke 6:45 (BSB)

Our words and actions reflect what fills our hearts. As Christian creatives, we strive to write encouragement and hope; to let goodness flow into our pens. We want to let the light that shines in us saturate everything we do. But what do we do when the words stop flowing? What do we do when it feels like the overflow of the heart has slowed to a trickle?

Writer’s Clot

Last month, I struggled hard with putting pen to paper. Something about October threw me off-kilter, and I found myself breaking writing habits I’ve tried so hard to build this year. Part of the gap in my routine was simply life getting in the way. I spent lots of time with friends and family, enjoying fall activities. On these days, missing writing goals didn’t bother me so much.

However, a bigger problem lurked in the background: I couldn’t find anything to say. All my words had packed up and left without giving me any clue where they’d gone. It took me until last week to realize what was causing the well of my ideas to dry up. Without meaning to, I’d been filling my heart with the wrong things.

Usually harmless things like binge-watching cartoons and sleeping in later than normal were taken to excess. I was letting negativity creep in as well–frustration over uncooperative projects, worry for friends in tough situations, and discouragement from not meeting my goals. All the while, I neglected to take in what I needed to refresh my spirit. Time in the Word, reading the books on my nightstand, and even making my bed all fell by the wayside as I hurried to finish other things.

I let gunk clog up my pen while also letting the ink get low. No wonder the words wouldn’t come.

Renewing the Overflow of the Heart

In Luke 6:43-45, Jesus teaches that our actions and words reveal what rests at the core of our being. We can’t produce goodness if we’re filled with evil, and we won’t produce evil if we’re filled with goodness.  Our output is shaped by our hearts. It follows, then, that if we want our words to be life-giving–encouraging, hope-filled, and loving–then we need to be attentive to what we internalize. We need to be guarding our hearts (Proverbs 4:23).

On days when the writing won’t come, we should start by considering the condition of our hearts. Most of us would agree that our faith forms the core of our message, so if we step away from God’s outpouring of His Spirit and love, we step away from the source of our words. What we need in these moments is to let ourselves be refilled.

So how do we step back into the overflow?

1: Plunge deeper into God’s presence–

Personal Scripture reading, prayer, and worship are vital to a healthy relationship with our Savior. Yet, even knowing this, it can be so easy to neglect spending time with the Lord. Other things seem more urgent; so many distractions tug at us as we try to focus on Him. But deepening our relationship with Christ enrichens our lives. It helps us grow in wisdom, peace, and joy.

It can be tempting to come to these moments of prayer or Scripture searching for something to share, but we can’t share what we don’t first have ourselves. We have to remember that loving others well is a result of walking with God; it isn’t the reason for walking with Him. Our first priority should be focusing on the Lord purely for the purpose of growing in our love of Him and praising His name. If we get that right, everything else follows.

2. Plunge deeper into community–

When we’re feeling drained and hollow, we need to let our community of fellow believers pour into us. Rather than trying to force ourselves to keep putting out more, we need to take a moment to receive. Ask for prayer. Listen to the stories that others are sharing. Spend time with fellow Christians outside of church services. Deepening our relationships with other believers helps to strengthen our walk with God. It reminds us that God is still working; it gives us someone to lean on when we’re struggling with our faith.

And the encouragement we gain in fellowship recharges us. Fellowship sharpens our faith, and in doing so, strengthens us in our ability to fulfill our ministry–including the ministry of writing.

Clear the Writing Clot 

The overflow of the heart changes the way we speak, the way we write, and the way we live. As writers focused on glorifying God with our words, the greatest way we can invest in our work is to first invest in our worship. By growing in our faith, and then growing in our fellowship with other believers, we let God’s Spirit work in our lives. As His love overflows, He washes away all that we’ve let clog up our hearts, and He makes us new.

And then, perhaps, we can speak.

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )

 

 

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(*Featured Image by: Michael Kauer via Pixabay )

 

social media habits

Closed Circuit: Managing Our Social Media Habits

closed circuit (noun, Electricity). “a circuit without interruption, providing a continuous path through which a current can flow.” (dictionary.com)

When it comes to modern technology, a closed circuit is an incredibly useful thing. Closed circuits allow electricity to flow through the appliances we use every day, giving us light, heat/air conditioning, the wonders of washing machines, etc. But we don’t always want power pulsing through these appliances, burning out our lightbulbs, and raising our bills. So, we have off switches and power buttons. We have ways to open the circuits and give the electricity a rest–to manage the precious resource of energy.

In a similar way, social media allows ideas to flow from one person to another.  It can become a closed circuit, connecting us as writers to our audiences without interruption. Social media provides a highway through which we can send encouragement and receive it in return; a pathway for us to share news and hear what others have to say; an ever-moving current of communication that can be incredibly useful. But if we neglect to turn it off, it can also burn us out and sap our resources. If we aren’t careful, our closed circuits can do us more harm than good.

Managing Our Social Media Habits:

As writers, we face a lot of pressure to build our social media presence consistently. We want to grow meaningful followings and make ourselves available to others. We also want to get our message out in an effective way. In order to achieve these goals, we might be tempted to spend hours and hours online. Slowly, we can fall into believing that a consistent online presence requires constant online activity.

The problem is that too much of anything is harmful, and this is especially true of social media. Allowing an uninterrupted flow of media turns a useful tool into a destructive mechanism that wears down the soul. Social media can become addicting, it can harm relationships, and it can damage our perception of ourselves and others. A continuous intake of other people’s opinions, controversy, and funny cat videos impacts the way we think even after we step away from the screen.

In order to use social media effectively, we have to find a balance between engaging and purposefully disconnecting. So how do we know where to draw the line and set our boundaries? How do we know when it’s time to turn off the switch and cut the current?

Here are three red flags I’ve found recently which warn me that I need to reevaluate my social media habits:

        1: When my presence in the digital world prevents my engagement with daily realities. 

After spending the summer trying to build my media platforms, I’ve noticed myself replacing day-to-day engagement with social media communication. I find myself instinctively reaching for my phone first thing in the morning or when I sit down to eat. Or wasting half an hour at a time scrolling through posts I don’t even fully process.

While I’m engaging in social media purely out of habit (or as a procrastination method), I lose hours of my day. I end up cutting out activities like reading or art, because I’ve simply run out of time. I miss moments with my family because I feel I have to comment on posts or reply to messages.

When these things start to occur regularly, rather than just once in a while, I know it’s time to cut back. One thing I’m trying to do is to limit myself to only checking social media in 5 minutes chunks, preferably at times when I can’t really do much else (such as standing in a long line at the grocery store). That, or I limit myself to only checking it once or twice a day.

The biggest reminder I give myself is that social media is just a footnote to life, not the other way around. While building relationships online can help us show love to people we’ll never meet in person, those relationships can’t take the place of the ones right here, right now. While we can use social media to help make a difference, that impact can’t replace the influence we have in person. Our day-to-day realities have to come first.

        2: When the current I’m taking in changes my output from positive to negative. 

When my social media habits become more time-consuming, I find myself getting stressed by everything I’m absorbing from media. Arguments, controversies, and the fears of others lay heavy on my shoulders and make me worried about things beyond my control. I find myself bothered by my inability to impact world events, and I feel like I’m not doing enough to help with all the various causes I see others advocating for daily.

And when I put away the phone, the worries persist. I begin to see negativity everywhere and forget to see beauty for all my pondering of the trials facing our society.

While it’s good to be aware of the problems around us, we shouldn’t let that become all we see. We can’t carry the weight of the world alone. If we’re trying to take in and take on every problem we see others facing on social media, we lose our ability to help in the ways we’re capable of.

Instead, we need to be actively engaged in our daily, present activities. Being tuned in to our daily lives first lets us bring a more authentic voice to our media platforms.  Living in the present, rather than the digital world, gives us the perspective we need to be discerning in our intake of the messages bombarding us online. It helps us to find encouragement and kindness to share on days when our social media only sends us negativity.

        3: When the closed circuit of media becomes a short circuit, cutting out of my path the things that recharge me. 

I’m blessed to have many sources of wholesome messages on my media feeds. I follow people who consistently share content filled with hope, joy, and reminders of God’s love and holiness. Even so, my Facebook and Instagram feeds are also filled with content that’s negative, or even good but distracting. (Adorable dog videos anyone?)

When my social media habits replace the activities that recharge me, not even the good content is enough to justify the time I’m spending online. Taking pictures of nature to share on Instagram shouldn’t keep me from enjoying the beauty of God’s creation myself. Reading a friend’s perspective on a Bible verse is wonderful; however, it shouldn’t replace my personal Bible study.

Every moment of quiet doesn’t need to be filled with the noise of other’s thoughts, and if we fill all our quiet time with social media, we rob ourselves of the chance for rest.

Opening the Social Media Circuit:

At the end of the day, the most important part of managing our social media habits is being willing to turn it off and walk away. To disconnect totally and leave the issues we’re dealing with on media on our media. Just as turning off lights in rooms we’re not in helps conserve energy, purposefully disconnecting from social media helps us manage our resources of time and energy well. While we do need to connect with our audiences and be aware of events in the world, we don’t need a continuous, uninterrupted flow of digital input.

So shut down the app. Turn off the notifications. Give yourself permission to make your audience wait a day for another reply.

And finally, rather than letting our minds be ruled by social media, may we always be intentional about where we let our thoughts dwell.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think on these things.” –Philippians 4:8

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both. (You can connect with her on Instagram @karleyconklin )

 

Proverbs 13:12

Our Publishing Dreams

Proverbs 13:12

We’ve all had longings or yearnings during our lives, especially when we were young. Having the whole world before us, we could dream about what our lives would look like as writers/authors. “If only I could publish a book” “I wish I could find the perfect literary agent” “If I could only have more sales” “I wish more people would interact with my social media posts” “If only my family and friends would take my career as a writer seriously”. . . and so it goes.

bird by bird

Bird By Bird: A Timeless Writing Resource

“‘So why does our writing matter again?’ they ask. Because of the spirit, I say. Because of the heart. Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul.” –Anne Lamott, pp. 237

Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott should be on every writer’s shelf. Her advice offers encouragement through an honest discussion of what writing is like. Lamott sits her reader down and shares her experience as though she were chatting over a cup of coffee. As she shares, she addresses the feelings of anxiety, discouragement, and even jealousy that almost all writers face at some point. In doing so, she reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles. We all hit the wall on occasion, and it’s possible to keep going despite those setbacks.

Throughout the book, Lamott gives insight on ways to improve our writing. She offers advice on how to write better dialogue, how to stay motivated, and how to find a writing group. But mostly what she provides is inspiration to persevere. Every piece of insight resounds with encouragement (even while Lamott acknowledges the hardships of being a writer). And that prompting to persist, paired with her pithy advice, makes the book well-worth reading.

So here I want to share three of my favorite tid-bits of advice from the book:

1. “Dialogue is the way to nail character” (pp. 67).

In both her chapter on characters and her chapter on dialogue, Anne Lamott emphasizes the connection between the two. She argues that creating one line of strong dialogue that rings true captures your character better than a whole page of description (47). What a character says, or doesn’t say, or how he says it tells the reader how he thinks and what he cares about. Dialogue gives us insight into the personality of the people we read about and brings them to life. And therefore getting to know our characters is vital to creating good dialogue.

(*If you’d like to learn more about how to create strong characters and great dialogue, you should consider checking out Write2Ignite’s Master Class in September!)

2. “The word block suggests that you are constipated or stuck, when the truth is that you’re empty” (pp. 178).

Lamott’s chapter on writer’s block focuses on the truth that all writers experience dry periods. Sometimes we get burnt out and our creativity stops flowing the way it usually does. Lamott says that the best thing to do when we reach these moments is to accept the block, the empty reality, so we can fill up again (pp.178). Her advice is practical: “Do your three hundred words, and then go for a walk” (182). Write a little each day to keep up the habit but then focus on activities that nourish you. Replenish your creativity rather than trying to eke out ink from a dry pen.

3. “You are going to have to give and give and give, or there’s no reason for you to be a writing” (pp. 202-203).

Bird by Bird includes an entire chapter dedicated to writing as giving. Our works-in-progress, she says, “teach you to get out of yourself and become a person for someone else” (203-204). In order to write well, we have to pour everything we have into our writing. And in doing so, we have a chance to act as hosts for our readers, to welcome them in and offer them a feeling of connection (204).

This is especially important for us as Christians. If writing is our calling, then we should be willing to give it all we’ve got. Our words should be for God and for others, not simply for ourselves.

Final Review:

I could go on a while longer, pulling out clever quotes from Lamott’s book. But instead, I’ll simply recommend you pick up a copy for yourself.

Bird by Bird isn’t an earth-shattering text holding the key to the inner sanctum of writing. Instead, this book offers solid advice to steadily improve. It offers relatable accounts of the difficulties of writing and an honest assessment of what it’s like to be published. Lamott encourages us that while writing probably won’t bring us fame or fortune, it does carry with it its own rewards. Her whole book, start to finish, reverberates with the cry, “Just keep going.”

I give her book 4 1/2 out of 5 stars, if you’re looking for a rating.

What books have been encouraging you lately?

 

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Karley Conklin is a part-time librarian, part-time writer, and full-time bookworm. On her blog http://litwyrm.com/, she discusses all sorts of literature, from poetry to picture books. Her goal is to use the power of stories to remind others of hope and joy in a world that all too often forgets both.

Would Your Life Win an Oscar?

mtishows.com

”Do You Hear the People Sing?” *

”I Dreamed a Dream” — that They Won All!  *

Am I ”On My Own” in this?  *

 

Les Mis should have won more Oscar Awards!

At first, I was discontented. Well, okay, miserable. Only three awards out of eight possible? C’mon! Couldn’t the judges see the talent, energy, and pathos that went into the production?

Although I don’t usually watch the Oscars, I was curious to see how my favorite film of the year fared against the others. 

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