Too smart for my own good

by Michelle Janene

Not that anyone would ever accuse me of being too smart, but I have been doing some reflecting on my recent writing struggles. I participated in my fourth NaNo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. Love challenging myself this way and I’ve succeeded in the past so I went into it with great expectations. But getting the words on the pages this time around was like slogging through an alligator infested swamp.

49756985 - girl with laptop in the hand in comic style. woman with notebook . girl showing the laptop. girl in glasses. hipster girl. sexy blue hair girl with laptop.I had a project in mind. Had been mapping it out and mentally filming it for a couple of months. I couldn’t wait for November 1st to stike on the clock. The goal to complete the challenge is 1,667 words pre-day. Day one saw not quite a thousand, and each day that followed saw few and fewer. The weekends I couldn’t seem to catch up. What was the matter with me? Honestly, the creation part is the most fun. I love starting a project. Hate ending one. So what was going on?

As it turned out, in stalling for the beginning of NaNo, I filled my spare time by studying some craft. That doesn’t sound like a bad thing, but it ended up getting me stuck.

James Scott Bell advised in his book Elements of Writing – Conflict and Suspense, that every scene needs an element of internal or external conflict. There also needs to be questions and suspense built in.

Did that have conflict? Delete, try again. Maybe more suspense here? Or maybe here? Delete. How many words have I written today?

Jerry Jenkins also says that in editing you need to cut out the obvious. “He crossed his arms over his chest.” Where else does one cross their arms? Jerry asks. Write seven words delete three. Going nowhere fast. “She stomped her foot on the floor.” As apposed to stomping on the ceiling? Delete three more.

Jerry also says to not bore the reader with “On-the-Nose writing.” A writer’s propensity is to explain every action. “She rose early in the morning, yawned, stretched and slid her feet out of the warm covers. The icy floor made her toes tingle as she pulled her jeans from the top dresser drawer and her favorite green silk blouse from a hanger. The satiny fabric caressed her skin as she slid in her right arm then her left and buttoned each tiny button.” Yawn. “The cold floor bit at her toes as she dressed in her favorite silk blouse.” Tighter, better, and oh yeah, minus forty-nine words. Yikes, no wonder I was struggling to reach my goal each day.39582993 - closeup portrait of unhappy guy sad thoughtful young business man thinking daydreaming deeply bothered by mistakes hand on head looking up isolated on white background. negative emotions

I kept trying to remind myself of Jodi Picoult’s wise words. “You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” My problem was I wasn’t waiting to edit.

For whatever reason starting NaNo this year I just couldn’t turn off the inner editor and just write the story that had been burning inside me for months. What had been a joy became a drudgery. Fun was now work.

So did I complete NaNo successfully again this year? You better believe it. A day early even. About half way through I started consciously refusing to edit any words until it was finished. It wasn’t easy, but the longer I forbid myself to dwell on the correctness, the style, the have-to’s and should-do’s, the easier the words came. Am I going to go back now and fix everything according to the expert’s advice? New Years Resolution #1: edit all my ‘bad’ writing done in 2016. Happy writing and then happy editing everyone.


Michelle Janene Murray blissfully exists in the medieval creations of her mind most days. She published Mission: Mistaken Identity in 2015, helps edit the Inspire anthologies, and is working to expand her personal press to publish other authors.

What material did you acquire?

by Karen Foster

According to author Willa Cather, “Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen.”

Her words hit home with me. I was six years old when I first became enamored with Jesus. Six years later, I asked Him into my heart when I understood that I needed a Savior. As a child, I’d pretend to be a missionary nurse and explain the Gospel to my dolls. When I was fifteen, I wrote a fiction story (which filled three spiral notebooks) based on a missionary nurse in Africa. Alas, I never became a nurse or a missionary. However, sharing the Gospel and talking about Jesus never waned. And that “material, acquired before the age of fifteen,” defines me as an author.

44598687 - children reading books at park against trees and meadow in the parkThe theme of God’s love, grace, and faithfulness revealed in ordinary people’s lives is what I write about on my blog, devotions, first-person stories. If I wrote fiction, I’d incorporate the same theme. I’ve tried to think “outside my box” and daydream about writing the next great American novel. But I always return to the subject…nay, the object of my affection…Christ Jesus.

Granted, some days I question why I’m writing. Wonder if my words make a difference. I grumble that it’d be easier if I pursued a career as a concert pianist even though I don’t play the piano. But then I read the Bible. Or someone tells me about God’s transforming power in their lives—and I’m hooked. Heart ignites. Fingers start typing. Joy trickles along my spine.

Someone asked me, “Why don’t you write a secular novel which translates to the movie screen instead of writing for Christians magazines?” The person implied I’d never earn money or fame. Great point if those were the carrots that compelled me to write. That’s why I’m thankful for Inspire Christian Writers. “They exists to provide a network of support, encouragement, education, and spiritual growth for Christian writers.” I joined years ago and can attest I wouldn’t be the dedicated writer I am today without their positive, godly influence.

What defines you as a writer? Can you trace your subject or themes to your youth?

karen fosterKaren Foster has been published multiple times in Christian magazines such as The Upper, The Secret Place, Bible Advocate’s ezine: Now What?, MomSense, Fulfill, and Discipleship Journal. Her  stories have also appeared in five Inspire Anthologies. She blogs at and is a guest blogger for


A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem

An Original Poem Written by Xochitl E. Dixon


“A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem”

An Original Poem Written by Xochitl E. Dixon


’Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the land,

not a writer was stirring, none lifted a hand.

With paper and pencils put up with great care,

scribes opened their Bibles, to meet Jesus there.


Refreshing their spirits−they’d intended to do−

inhaling the Scriptures, believing they’re true.

With nary an argument, all snuggled in grace,

each writer excited to seek the Lord’s face.


A break from the hurry, they needed this season,

to affirm, with great hope, that Christ was their reason.

Yes, God−above all−gave them purpose to write.

The Lord−above all−was their Hope and their Light.


They prayed for their loved ones. They prayed for their readers.

They prayed for their projects, their friends, and their leaders.

Hearts fully surrendered, they asked God to be clear.

They asked Him for wisdom to last through next year.


Each writer confessed their worldly behavior.

They wanted so much to be changed by their Savior.

Transformed by God’s love and empowered by grace,

these writers prepared for the obstacles they’d face.


Discouragement. Doubt. Some would even fight fear.

But, the scribes would not quit. Not today. Not next year.

They had readers to serve, with each word and each story.

In the power of the Spirit, they’d write for God’s glory.


Be it novels or poems, their message the same.

Through devotions and articles, they’d spread the Lord’s name.

No frets over platform. With no worries, they’d edit.

With courage they’d write and give God all the credit.


Honing their craft, they’d trust the Lord’s choices.

They’d share the Good News, with their God-given voices.

In courage and faith, they’d gather for training.

No comparing, competing, criticizing, complaining.


They’d encourage each other, giving Jesus their best.

But the day before Christmas, in God’s presence they’d rest.

There’d be time to meet deadlines, to critique, to write brave.

And they’d make time to reflect on all that God gave.


’Twas the day before Christmas, and all through the land,

Christian writers were resting secure in God’s hand.

They’d surrendered their dreams to the Lord and obeyed.

In His unchanging character, their hope and faith stayed.


No matter what words the Lord gave them to write,

it was His words they’d ponder, each day and each night.

Equipped with His truth and empowered by grace,

these scribes would persist, content with God’s pace.


They’d honor their Savior and bask in His love.

They’d serve with great gladness, as He watched from above.

With total submission, on God they’d depend.

They’d trust in His plan and be willing to bend.


Though some days would be harder and tempt them to hide,

the Spirit of God would be with each brave scribe.

With challenges ahead and struggles so real,

they’d follow the High Priest, who knows how they feel.


Springing to action, with words at the ready,

God’s scribes, moving forward, persevering and steady.

Filled with deep joy, they’d shout into the night,

“On this Christmas we rest. For tomorrow, we write!”



Xochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and grow deeper in their personal relationships with Christ and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting in 2017. Married to her best friend since 1994, she enjoys being a wife and mom, traveling, photography, and sharing God’s Word through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and her blog.



“A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem,” was written by Xochitl E. Dixon on December 23, 2016. “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon appeared first as a personal blog post on December 23, 2016 and may not be copied, printed, or dispersed in part or in its entirety, without expressed written consent from the author, Xochitl E. Dixon. “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon, may be shared on social media accounts, by using the share buttons on Xochitl E. Dixon’s personal website, or the share buttons under the December 24, 2016 posting of this poem on the Inspire Christian Writers website. “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon may be shared through the various options offered through social media, as long as the original author is credited. However, “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon may not be shared, in part or in its entirety, on a personal or community website without expressed written consent from Xochitl E. Dixon. Please submit your request to share on a personal or community website in the comment section below the original posting of the poem on Xochitl E. Dixon’s personal website or the Inspire Christian Writers website. When sharing this poem on social media accounts, please note the following: “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon. The original link for “A Christian Writer’s Christmas Poem” by Xochitl E. Dixon is:


Why Bother Sharing Your God-Given Voice?

inspire-joy-book-cover-november-2016When I attended my first Christian Writers Conference in 2010, the Lord affirmed He’d given me a voice and taught me to appreciate the other unique voices using writing to share His truth and love for His glory.

I left that conference inspired, ready to learn, and ready to write with Spirit-empowered boldness. But a few years ago, I made the mistake of listening to someone who claimed to find “nothing of value” on my blog or in anything else I wrote.

After God helped me recover from the shock of that so-not-constructive criticism, He freed me from the bondage of that debilitating lie. Still, I sometimes wonder why anyone would want to read what I have to say.

As I commune more frequently with the Lord through prayer and dig deeper into His Word, I’m learning to write with obedience as I focus on God’s voice, not on myself, my shortcomings, or my qualifications.

I’m not a writer.

I’m a Christ follower who writes.

Writing is a tool purposed for ministry, a tool designed to help God’s disciples fulfill the Great Commission.

Using my God-given voice to write for His glory is a form of worship and good stewardship.

Every voice matters. Every voice makes a difference. And every beautifully diverse voice has a specific purpose.

In my devotion “Harmonizing Voices,” published on the Deeper Waters blog, I share how God confirmed those truths so I would no longer feel the need to compare myself to others.

As members of God’s Writing Tribe, we don’t need to feel competitive or jealous of other scribes. We don’t need to judge the worth or criticize the impact of someone else’s offering to our good, good Father.

All of our voices are important because one writer can’t possibly reach every reader in the world.

But God can’t use what we refuse to offer Him.

As I continue using my God-given voice, I still battle fears and insecurities. I still fend off the why-bother-writing-if-no-one-reads-it thoughts.

But, I’m learning to simply obey God’s leading, trust Him to decide how He wants to use my offering, and encourage others to write for His glory.

And this year, I’m celebrating the debut of a new voice.

My husband’s first devotion, “Teach a Man to Fish,” joins my short story, “Pictures of Joy,” in this year’s Inspire anthology. But ours are only two of the God-given voices in this compilation, so I encourage you to order your copy of Inspire Joy today.

While Inspire Christian Writers invites members to be a part of next year’s anthology, you don’t have to wait to use the voice the Lord has entrusted to you.

There’s a simple way for writers to immediately begin using their God-given voices.


Have you considered starting a blog?

Are you brand-new to blogging?

Do you want to refresh your passion for blogging?

Or do you shudder at the thought of starting or continuing a blog?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of those questions, you won’t want to miss my upcoming interview series: Brave Bloggers.

I’ve had the privilege of learning from some of God’s beautifully diverse voices in the blogging world, and am looking forward to sharing a few of those writers with you.

Until then, I look forward to hearing your stories.

How has God helped you appreciate the value and purpose of different voices, including your own?

How have fears, insecurities, or anything else kept you from sharing your writing with others?

Author Photo 2016 - INSPIRE ThumbnailXochitl (soh-cheel) E. Dixon encourages women and teens to embrace God’s grace and grow deeper in their personal relationships with Christ and others. Her devotions will be featured in Our Daily Bread, starting in 2017. Married to her best friend since 1994, she enjoys sharing God’s Word to the ends of the earth, being a mom, traveling, and photography.

Life’s Plot Twists

Adventures in Writing

Writing is an adventure except, perhaps, when time escapes, the brain won’t cooperate, laundry is calling, dinner needs preparing, or distractions arise from everywhere. I have those similar disruptions along with pain and illness.

33154047 - surprised or shocked handsome sexy muscular man reading book isolated on white background, wearing glassesI live with fifteen chronic conditions, five autoimmune, five pain related, and the rest help drive the plot of my life’s story. Sometimes I’m asked how I manage when pain and ailments weigh down what I’m trying to write. The short answer?


A sign above my desk says, “Trusting God’s sovereignty one day at a time.” It’s my tagline and life motto. The challenge to stay in this thought comes as pain cycles through my legs or back so much I can’t sit long enough to write, or on days my stomach won’t work properly. At times, medications cloud my head and I can’t concentrate on writing anything, let alone something meaningful, or my fingers cramp and won’t hit the right keys. These types of inconsistencies make a regular writing schedule laughable (almost).

On those days, I have to look up. At the sign. To God. I spend time reading, praying, resting, when my eyes will work, quoting Bible verses, or encouraging other people also going through difficulties. Sometimes, I can bullet point writing ideas and end up happy to get even those down. A certain peace comes from not fighting lost expectations.

God called me to write. My health is the back-story of my life, to point to Him. This truth helps keep my focus on the reality of His purpose, not mine, played out in my life. I can’t allow worry about what I can’t do to crowd out what I can.

If I give my timeline to Him, I’m less likely to allow discouragement and stress to rise. If I can’t write much on one day, He seems to give me enough strength on another to complete what’s necessary.

The writing adventure is because of Him. He called me to it so He’ll see me through it one day at a time.