Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Mapping Encouragement by Emily Conrad

Plants like six-inch tall Truffula trees lined the trail I hiked in the Canadian Rockies. I paused to snap pictures then continued to a mountain lake and on to a tree-sheltered meadow of poppy red, gold, and white wildflowers. 

After that, the inclines became steeper—or maybe my legs were fatigued. Distant mountains disappeared into mist that swallowed scenery closer and closer to me. Soaking rain was moving in. I consulted the map and hurried to shelter.

That hike resembles the writing life. Wonders dot the journey, but it also has its share of uphill stretches, fatigue, and difficulties. Then a storm rolls in, showering us with doubt and worry, and we need a map to guide us to an emotional shelter.

Whether you’ve just started your writing journey or you’re miles down the trail, pausing here to chart an encouragement map will help prepare you for whatever waits around the next bend.

Step 1 – Choose your format

Maps come in all forms—phone GPS to globes. Likewise, an encouragement map can be a physical file, an electronic document, or a series of sealed envelopes. I chose to create a document on my desktop titled “Click Here.”

Step 2 – Add a compass rose

As Christian writers, the Bible is our ultimate compass. Save some Bible verses that will speak to you in times of discouragement. My document includes Luke 1:45 and Isaiah 50:4.

Step 3 – Outline the basic landmarks.

Mine your archives for positives from friends, readers, critique partners, or contest judges. If you’re newer, look for encouragement from family to take the leap into writing or a blog post that inspired you to write in the first place. Your own journal might have something encouraging or insightful to keep you going in tough times. Anything that reminds you of where you’re going and why can go into your map.

Step 4 – Add detail

When you receive encouraging words, take a moment to type or paste them into your file. The more the merrier!

Step 5 – Provide Maps for your Friends

Don’t just collect encouragement; spread praise around. It’ll build a stronger community of writers around you, and yours may be the word that keeps someone going through their own valley.

Step 6 – Read the Map

On those days when you’re not sure why—or if—God called you to write, go to your file. Jesus is there for you in the Bible verses, reminding you of true north. Your friends, family, and co-journeyers are there, too, cheering you along the trail. 

Writing takes us through some rough country. This calling, this opportunity to be used by God in a hurting world, is too valuable a thing to lose to the wilderness of discouragement. Chart your map now. Tuck it in your pack, and carry it until you need it. 

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What has encouraged you along the writing journey?

About the Author
A Thing of Beauty by Emily Conrad

Emily Conrad's short stories are included in the anthologies A Bit of Christmas: 6 Christian Short Stories Celebrating the Season (Dec, 2015) and Sweet Mountain Love (upcoming, mid-2016). Her novel-length women's fiction is represented by Steven Hutson of WordWise Media. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and EmilyConradAuthor.com.


A Thing of Beauty

From a childhood spent in the shadow of her beautiful sister, artist Naomi knows true beauty is deeper than outward appearances. But when Naomi's relationship with her boyfriend, Emmerich, is challenged in unexpected ways, coping means moving beyond a definition of beauty and discovering its ultimate source.