Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Guest Post: "Writing is Not for Wimps" by Sue Faris Raatjes

I am so happy to introduce my readers to a new author I recently met, Sue Faris Raatjes. She is publishing her first book very soon, and I know you'll find this post supportive of both new and experienced authors. Welcome, Sue!

Discipline is a dirty word. We cringe when we read it, especially when self- comes in front of it. All writers struggle to maintain the self-discipline required to perfect their craft.

I’d like to put a positive spin on this dreaded term by focusing on the root—disciple. A disciple is a follower of someone or Someone or something. A loyal follower. Apply that to your role as writer and think of yourself as a follower of a dream to influence readers. You are pursuing an end product—a piece of writing that gives you pride and joy.

Toss out that dreaded term discipline and replace it with motivation, structure, or perseverance. I like the term doggedness because it conjures up images of growling strength.

Clich├ęs for writers:
·      It’s a marathon not a race.
·      Duct tape yourself to the chair in front of the computer.
·      Adopt a “butt in the seat” philosophy.
·      Quit whining and just do it.
·      Writing is 20% inspiration and 80%...well, you know the rest.

These all are good, but are worn-out and guilt-producing. If you are holding down a job, managing a home, caring for others, and you’re developing a writing career, you probably have the discipline-thing worked out. You forfeit sleep, streamline your life, eat more take-out, or ignore relationships in order to fit writing into your bursting schedule.

For those with more time to write (and fritter away), it helps to adopt a work attitude. I tell myself I’m off to work when I sit down at the computer. I take coffee breaks and lunch breaks, but that’s about it. No goofing off at work. Good thing there are no co-workers to distract me. (Best part is I don’t have to dress up or do my hair.) I’ve considered hanging an old-fashioned time clock on the wall of my den so I can punch in and punch out.

Word-count Discipline:
Someone once said, “To improve any piece of writing, cross out every other word.” A little tongue-in-cheek but the message is good. We not only have to be dogged about our time but also our wordiness.

As a writer for the Christian market, I enjoy devotional writing because it forces me into a specific word count. Devotionals usually are limited to 300 to 350 words. It’s a great exercise that requires the elimination of superfluous words in order to meet the required number. Why use two adjectives when one strong one will do the job? It forces me to eliminate meaningless, unnecessary verbiage. There’s no room for fluff.

I serve on a volunteer editorial panel for the Arizona Republic. Each week we receive a question dealing with current events to which we respond in one hundred words. Editors select four answers and publish them in the column titled AZ Talk. It’s an exercise in brevity. If it’s a question I feel passionate about, I easily can create a 150-word response. Then I delete until I get to the golden 100, revealing a nugget of powerful writing.

Give yourself an assignment with a limited word-count to see what it feels like. At first it’s devastating to delete beautifully worded prose. After a while, though, you get into the swing and see your writing is improved, tightened up. It’s very Hemingway-esque.

Rewards and Inspiration:
It’s tough being a writer. The rewards are slow to come, if they come at all. It helps to be self-driven, goal-oriented, or just plain stubborn. Find out what inspires and motivates you and shower that generously on yourself.
·      Gourmet coffee and/or expensive chocolate
·      An encouraging friend who thinks everything you write is wonderful (Thanks, Mom)
·      An inspirational quote hanging on your wall

Here are three items that keep me plugging when the gas tank is empty:

1.     “Write. Finish what you start. Make it great. Then do it all again.” (Chuck Wendig, Writer’s Digest, February, 2014) (The “finish” part is for me.)
2.     An article from the newspaper titled, “Author publishes 1st Novel at age 85.”
3.     A poem, “On Being Happy,” from a greeting card I received thirty years ago that talks about singing a song, painting a picture, or writing a poem that no one hears or sees or reads. It ends with: “Then one day/ I sang my song/ and I read my poem/ and I saw my picture/ and I knew why/ and I was happy.”

Congratulations for choosing to write. Most people don’t have the skill, inspiration, or perseverance to do what you are doing. Be proud of yourself. You are a disciple following the dream of changing lives through your words. Your brain connects with other brains and that is a formidable task. Wimps need not apply.

Coming Soon!

Route to Survival by Sue Faris Raatjes

(a novel published by WestBow Press, a division of Thomas Nelson-Zondervan)

Support systems crumbling? In Route to Survival Kate Mitchell shows how to make wise choices in tough times. You’ll live through it, but you won’t look the same!

Sue Faris Raatjes is a former high school English teacher and writer with credits in various Christian magazines. She’s taught Bible studies to all ages for many years. She has four children, ten grandchildren, and lives in Phoenix with her husband, Bob.

Social Media Contacts:

Blog: “Grow with God” at www.sueraatjes.blogspot.com


  1. "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter." - probably Mark Twain.

    Nice post, Sue.