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Friday, May 12, 2017

A Story’s Sacred Circle

by Allen Arnold

We all long for our stories to make an eternal impact. Yet so few books seem to shine for more than a moment.

I believe what’s missing is an eternal spark. And that only comes from the glow of those writers who have spent time with the Creator. Only what is co-created with God has that brilliance.

I call that process entering into a Story’s Sacred Circle. Let me explain. Picture a bulls-eye with concentric color rings that grow outward from the center. It’s the kind you’ve thrown darts at as a kid or maybe shot arrows at when you were older. Everyone aims for the small red circle in the middle. Sure, it’s easier to hit the wider circles. But you don’t get many points when you’re far from the center.
It’s the same with the Sacred Circle. In this model, the small center circle is defined by one word: WITH. Creating with God is the bulls-eye – the sweet spot that changes everything. This circle represents the heart of Creative Fellowship. It is the place where you and God co-create together. Check out my blog post called It’s Not Up To You for more on what this active, intimate process involves.

Proceeding outward, the next circle is labeled:TRUSTED BOHEMIANS. These are the rare ones who pour into you during the creative process. They aren’t a substitute for creating with God, but they are the second ring of Creative Fellowship. These people understand your art and your heart. And they make both better by their presence.

Continuing outward, the third circle is: HUNGRY READERS. What you’ve written while in the first circle with God and honed while in the second circle with Fellow Bohemians now ripples out to those who need this story. These are the hungry, not the critics. But remember, the primary reason for creating with God is to experience relational intimacy as you co-create with him. The main goal isn’t to write something for God or for others. It is to create with God. It’s counter intuitive, but you actually help these hungry readers most by focusing on God more than them as you write. That’s why they are in this circle rather than the bulls-eye.

The final ring of the Story’s Sacred Circle is: DISTRACTION / REACTION. While you can’t avoid this territory completely, it is the circle where you most need to guard your heart. This is a place where outside voices will try to distract, define, or deflate you. The longer you stay, the more overwhelmed you will get from trying to achieve success in your own strength or looking to external metrics to validate your art. When here, you must remember your truest identity and calling. Otherwise, this circle will try to name you. And only God has the right to name his children. Just as in darts, this circle is the easiest to hit – and the least worth your time.

The goal is to start and stay in the center circle of WITH. You don’t just need to stay there when you’re writing your book. Stay there after you’ve released the book and all the doubts and fears and social media questions come at you. That’s why it’s so important once you finish your story to turn to God for the First Feedback.

So many writers approach the Sacred Circle backwards. They start at the outer ring, hoping it can answer their questions about success, identity and future story ideas. Then they move inward to the next circle, wanting readers to validate them. This inverse approach causes authors to ride the waves of public opinion rather than stand firm in their identity as Sons and Daughters co-creating with their Father.

By the time they finally make it to the center of this inverted Circle, they will find it hollow. The center is known as WITHOUT because their creative process has been limited to their own strength and ideas. In this model, God is more of an afterthought. The author may hope that God helps them meet the manuscript due date or that he blesses the story that’s been written without his intimate involvement. But that’s really not Creative Fellowship. And this approach won’t lead to stories with an eternal spark – because that spark can only come from him. As hard as it may be to fathom, God’s desire is to spend time co-creating with you rather than nod in approval at a finished work that you did alone.

If you feel you’ve been running in circles, it’s time to step inside your Story’s Sacred Circle. And remember, the goal is to stay in the center.


God’s desire is to co-create with you, not nod at work you did alone. Allen Arnold (Click to Tweet)

Allen Arnold is the author of The Story of With, an allegory that reveals a better way to live and create through the doorway of identity, imagination, and intimacy. His mission is to help people actively pursue and transform their talent by discovering how to pursue it with God. As the founding Fiction Publisher for one of the world's largest Christian publishing houses, Allen oversaw the development of more than five hundred novels. He knows first-hand how common it is for creators to become disheartened, overwhelmed or burnt-out–as well as what it takes to help the dreams of writers become reality. In his current role at Ransomed Heart, he oversees content from the mountains of Colorado for the ministry. Before becoming a Board Member for ACFW, he was awarded their Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012 for his substantial contributions to the world of Christian Fiction.


  1. Loved this, Allen. So hard to stay in that circle, but it really is the place of life!

    1. Hey Nate - it is easy to look up and find ourselves caught up in the drama or doubts of one of the outer rings. I think that's why Psalm 27:14 starts and ends with this reminder: "Stay with God!" (The Message). The middle of this verse also highlights the importance of nurturing our heart and not giving up. But that can only happen if we "Stay with God!" You and your wife Sara do that so well! I am loving her upcoming book, Unseen. Wow!

  2. Nate Hagerty recommended this article to me and I'm so glad He did. These words are so timely for me as a writer. I feel led to share my writing quietly and work in step with the Spirit, trusting God to give me wisdom in my writing and creativity, but it's so hard to do with the pressures of social media and publishers wanting platforms. Thank you for this article I will go back to often!!

    1. Charissa - I so appreciate your comment. Thanks for reaching out about your writer's journey. I invite you to join a group of fellow Christian bohemian writers on my Facebook page (TheStoryofWith) and to follow me on Twitter @thestoryofwith. In both settings, I share a better way to create - based on my book, The Story of With.

  3. What a blessing and eye opener for a new blogger! I was referred to you by Nate and I am glad he did. I also read your other article "It’s Not Up To You." I love this statement, "You didn’t just wake up one morning and decide to be a writer. God infused you with the love of story as a way for the two of you to get to know each other better as you create together." Thank you for sharing such a great wisdom! I want God to lead all that I do and I want to do it for his honor and glory. My past experience has shown me that any other way will leave me feeling empty and unfulfilled. How liberating to know that with God, "The process will be beautifully disruptive, wonderfully counter-intuitive, often inefficient, and immensely freeing. And the outcome will be transformative." Thank you!


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