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Tuesday, March 01, 2016

A New Season of Writing

By Michael Ehret

Last month in my Novel Rocket post “You’re Invited!,” I began telling the story of my participation in Allen Arnold’s ACFW Conference class, “The Wildness of Writing with God.” You can click back and read the previous post or this snippet from it will set the stage:

You're invited into The Story!
Last September at the … workshop … Allen Arnold announced that he had prayed for all of us and had asked God to give him the words each of us needed to hear about our creative lives. Then, he said, he had written those words into a notebook that he would present to us.

I felt that familiar tummy turmoil as he walked around the room randomly handing out notebooks. Questions raced through my mind as anticipation and fear warred.

Then Allen set a notebook in front of me. My notebook. And I knew it was not a message from him—he was just the conduit. It was a message—an invitation—from God.

And I feared to open it.

Why did I fear?

Why do we fear anything? The unknown. Failure. Lack of confidence in our abilities. There are a plethora of reasons why we fear hearing from God. For me it was all of those—and more.

For me the fear stemmed from knowing. I knew God had called me to write and I had purposefully been avoiding it since 2007, when an appointment with an agent at a conference took a dark, unexpected (to me), turn.

"You'll never be a writer."
It’s hard for me to talk about my own work, and the experience always leaves me trembling (I know many of you can relate). But I screwed up my courage and got a 15-minute appointment with my dream agent. I gave my horrible pitch and handed the agent my first chapter.

The agent, one of the most respected in the field, read several pages. Enough that I was feeling a little confident. After all, the agent didn’t toss it right away, right?

“This is not publishable,” the agent said, with no softening preamble. “You’ll never be a writer.”

Truthfully, the agent definitely said the first part of that quote. Without a doubt.

I remain unsure about the second part. It certainly seems like it was said. In my head I still hear the agent saying it. But from what I know about agents and editors, particularly in the Christian market, I have doubts that it was verbally said.

But regardless, I heard it. And I believed it. And I let it cripple me.

My notebook inscription

God's messages are all around us.
So when I received the notebook from Allen, I opened it in fear and trembling.

“I’m inviting you into a new season of writing. Aslan is on the move! Have fun!” —God

See what God did there?

The agent was correct. My manuscript was not publishable at that time. But that isn’t what God addressed in His affirmation. He addressed what my heart heard and took inside, “You’ll never be a writer.” He poked my wound—to bring healing. And reminded me that His will for me should bring me joy, not fear.

And He didn't scold me for running from my calling. Before the conference, I asked God for a clear sign. Something that could not be mistaken. "Is this still something You have for me? I need to know."

And now I know. Will I ever be published? Well, first of all, I already am. Have been many times. Will my fiction be published? I don’t know. It’s in my hands, and it’s not. But I know this: I am a writer. I’ve made my living as a writer (and editor) since 1986 and I expect that to continue in this “new season.” God told me so.

Are you willing to ask God for a clear sign? And when (not if) He answers, are you willing to listen to what He says? What is He writing in your notebook? Don’t be afraid to open the cover.

Read the story I wrote for ACFW about Allen Arnold's workshop.

____________________________________

Michael Ehret has accepted God's invitation and is a freelance editor at WritingOnTheFineLine.com. In addition, he's worked as editor-in-chief of the ACFW Journal at American Christian Fiction Writers. He pays the bills as a marketing communications writer and sharpened his writing and editing skills as a reporter for The Indianapolis News and The Indianapolis Star.




8 comments:

Southern-fried Fiction said...

I still get chills over this. It's hard to be a friend snd see what is happening to a buddy and unable to help them break through. That class was life changing. And I'm so thrilled we are repeating it in Atlanta in June!

Kathy R. said...

Hi, Thank you so much for sharing. This is really helpful!!

Michael Ehret said...

Thanks Ane and Kathy R.,

I can't recommend Allen's class enough. I'm still working through what my "new season of writing" is (there's no indication that it is definitely fiction writing, though it could be!), but the primary message I received was to put aside the past and all the hurts and embrace a new season. That's what I intend to do.

Allen Arnold said...

Michael - I absolutely love how God is pursuing your heart as a writer. It also feels like he is "re-writing" the scene that happened so long ago between you and the agent. I look forward to reading the future novel you create in this new season of writing. By the way, I'll be leading a C.E. at ACFW's annual conference again this August. The content is new...but I will continue offering those in the class a personalized notebook with what I hear from God as I pray over each notebook. I'm blown away at how God speaks to the hearts of writers in such a personal way through this process. It's such a joy to be a conduit in the process. Hope to see you again at this year's ACFW conference!

Michael Ehret said...

Allen, will be there if I can. Still looking for a paying job, so there's that going on. It's definitely a pursuit, great word choice. He is relentless.

Pamela S. Meyers said...

I remember after you and Ane had been in Allen's class and the whole story about what happened with Mike and I was so thrilled for him. Mike, the one time you submitted a chapter to the Pennies for crit. It blew me away. I remember saying to you to send more. Why are you not writing. I hope you decide it's fiction and please write the rest of that story. I'm still waiting. :-)

Michael Ehret said...

Well, that book IS done, Pam. Except it's not. I need to go back and rework the whole thing with stuff I've learned since ...

I don't know what's happening with that story ... I still love it and want to see it out there, but it's "done" now and that makes it hard for me to go back into it. Isn't that odd?

I started that book with no more than a real life, happened to me all the time, scenario: I saw someone across a crowded room who looked like my mother-in-law (who had just died). I intellectually knew it wasn't her (we'd just buried her), but the heart wants what it wants. This has also happened to me with my favorite grandfather. So, that was the seed and "what if you lost the love of your life--except you keep seeing her everywhere?"

I'm afraid to look at the whole seat of the pants thing as it now exists, because I just basically sat down and wrote it where it went (with very few intentional plot choices) and I'm afraid of what I'll find. (OK, this is starting to be another post...)

Southern-fried Fiction said...

Mike, ,that kind of story is totally character driven, and while you still need a plot, I'd bet it's there. That's great premise for a story. Kind of like that movie Ghost Story. :)