By Norma Hopcraft
It takes an inordinate amount of courage to reveal our lives—our bad choices, our weaknesses and foibles, our very souls—in our writing. So the title of the Center for Faith and Work’s workshop for writers, “Fearless: Accessing Hidden Creativity Through the Written Word,” snapped me to attention. We long to be known (and we are by God, thank God!), even as we fear people’s judgment. A prayer for bravery is probably the way to start any writing. It’s how I begin when I face the screen or the page.
I went to the workshop hoping to be strengthened and nudged to be more intrepid in my writing. I also hoped to meet Christian writers, a merry band that wants to write to the glory of God while engaging human readers. This isn’t easy! We need each other’s encouragement and reminders to stay grounded in God’s word, in his love for us and for all human beings. I left the workshop with an action plan to fight—and write—through the fear.
The workshop leader, Jakki Kerubo, helped the 30 writers gathered begin to ease our fears with her easygoing, interactive approach. Though she earned her MFA from NYU’s prestigious Creative Writing program, and has been published in the Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and Quartz, among many other outlets, the CFW Artist-in-Residence did not speak or teach from “on high.” She kept the event lively and interactive, encouraging the comments that flew from the audience.
Jakki centered the workshop around two Scriptures: 2 Timothy 1:6-7 and Luke 21:15. These verses highlight the fact that God is strengthening us, giving us irresistible wisdom for this task of revealing ourselves in our writing. We need these reminders that we don’t have to be our own rock—that we have a Rock holding us up.
She listed our many fears: of putting a believer’s perspective out and being condemned for it, writing about our traumas and people judging us for the bad choices we made, or online reactions with trolling and derogatory remarks. Then, Jakki reiterated the source of our courage: Christ.
“Knowing who we are in Christ,” Jakki said, “helps us not care so much what people think.”.
Part of what makes this “knowing” real is trust. “Knowing our self-worth, putting our best work out, not caring what people think,” Jakki continued, means “letting go and trusting God for the outcome.”
It’s essential to remember that God is in control of the process of getting our words out as well as the way our work is received. “We’re not responsible for the reception of the seeds we sow, any more than the farmer in Jesus’ parable of the Sower was responsible for the condition of the ground the seeds fell on.”
She urged us as writers to find liberation from fears by shedding light on our own dark places. “Go to the dark stuff, even in a blog,” she encouraged. “Live the least secretive life you can possibly live, and you’ll have fewer worries to be afraid of.”
She reminded us that people connect with writing speaks to “universal” secrets.
“Our art is in the uncomfortable, dark places we don’t like. That’s where the breakthrough is.”
In addition to her encouragement, Jakki gave us five tips to help us push through fear and produce:
Focus. Stay in your chair. If you like tea while you write, make it before you sit down.
Set weekly goals. Always have goals. Write them down and post them where you can see them.
Find the place you write your best. Whether it’s a desk at home, the library, or a café in your neighborhood, go to the place that you write most comfortably. For a friend of Jakki’s, it was in a taxi driving around New York.
Don’t think of writing as work. Instead, recast it in your mind as fulfillment.
Stay grounded in God’s word. Search the Scriptures for instances of people who overcame their fears and use them for encouragement.
As a result of attending this workshop, I plan to write down weekly goals and post them on my fridge. To help me focus better, I make my writing time a text message- and email-free zone. I will also continue my practice of the last 30 years, delving deep into the Scriptures, deep into God’s love for me, and deep into the dark stuff. While praying for courage to write about it.