We gravitate to the known. Familiarity feels
good whether it’s our favorite pair of jeans, the movie that never grows old or
the annual vacation getaway.
Doing what we’ve done before can be
stabilizing and comforting – but it rarely stretches us.
The same applies to your life as a writer. Mastering
a skill is never the finish line for an artist but simply an invitation towards
the next starting block. It is your chance to breathe something into existence
the world has yet to imagine. A story that you didn’t believe you could write a
year ago but now see the way.
This month, I step into a new first.
I will attend my first writer’s conference as
Yes, I’ve been to dozens of writer’s
conferences during more than twenty years in the publishing industry. But each
time, I was on assignment – either to represent the Christian Fiction division
I served as Publisher or, more recently, to offer a keynote message, teach a
class or serve on the board of the conference. All good things...but not the
This week I get to be the student. No one
expects me to share any wisdom or make things go right. I have total freedom to
simply sit at the feet of others and savor what is being offered. It is both
exciting and wildly disruptive to a guy who lived too much of life trying to
earn his place at the table.
You may be in the opposite situation. If
you’ve been the student at several conferences – perhaps it’s time for you to
offer to lead a session. Or if you attend the same gathering every year with
the same people, why not fly across the country by yourself to an event where
no one knows your name?
Years ago, I heard the concept of a Learning
Bandwidth that made a huge impact on my life. It’s based on the ratio of how
much we speak versus how much we listen. From there, it calculates our capacity
– or bandwidth – for learning. The premise is we only learn when we hear new
ideas and information – and we only do that by listening to others. When we
dominate a conversation – we say what we already know (or think we know). In
the next 24 hours, notice your ratio of talking versus asking questions and
I encourage you to run into the unknown this
summer. Rather than remain in the place where you have all the answers, enter
into a hobby or a vacation or class where you are the student. Skip your
favorite lunch hangout for the place you haven’t eaten at before. Visit the
church on the other end of town. Pick up an instrument you’ve never played. All
of these will stimulate your senses in a new way.
When it comes to story, discover the art of
writing with God rather than writing for or about him. If you’d like to learn more about that, I share thoughts
on how to experience creative intimacy with God in a blog post titled The Deeper Magic of Writing.
God is constantly inviting us into new
frontiers where we can’t rely on our own strength or past experience to get us
through. In these journeys, he offers no upfront map. The only way to navigate
the terrain is with him or the people he provides along the way.
Here’s the reason why. Once you’ve mastered
something, it’s too easy to rely on yourself. God constantly is wooing us to
pursue our gifting with him.
Sometimes we don’t expose ourselves to the new
because deep down we feel inadequate. We know we need help but are unsure whom
to ask. But as Anthony Hopkins said in The
Mask of Zorro, “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
Are you ready?
This is your invitation to enter new frontiers
that force you to be a beginner again. The goal isn’t simply to conquer
whatever is new...another notch on your belt of accomplishments. The goal is to
listen more. Discover more. Stretch more. If you go all out, you will come to
know God in new ways that only present themselves when you reach the end of
Watch the effect it has on you. As my friend
John Eldredge recently said, “What good is a new frontier if you get into it
and emerge out of it exactly the same person?”
Become a student again. Learn from other
people. Learn from God. In the process, you will become a new creation. And that,
in turn, will transform the way you create.
Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing - overseeing the development of more than 500 novels as founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But that doesn't really describe the man. Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is hooked on the TV series "Once Upon a Time" and is passionate about helping storytellers tell better stories from an awakened heart.