Saturday, May 21, 2005

One Life At A Time

Can your writing make a difference in someone’s life today?

There are many different types of writing. Some magazine articles are known as “service” articles because they highlight a particular service to the reader. Other articles are “how-to” articles and help the reader know how to do a particular task. Personal experience magazine articles are another popular format where you tell your personal experience and the reader gains insight from your own personal journey. Actually there are seven or eight different types of magazine articles (depending on which book you read). Notice how each time I talked about the article I was focused on the reader? It’s a common failure for new writers not to focus on the audience for their article.

The bulk of my writing has been in the spiritual/ religious/ Christian marketplace. It’s my area of expertise and where I’ve found opportunity for my writing. At times I wander out of this arena—with an article in some place like Writer’s Digest or my how-to material in Book Proposals That Sell (which is universal for any type of book writing).  I could write in other areas of the marketplace but I’ve decided to focus on the spiritual aspects and this aspect is where I have the greatest passion for my writing. Passion will often determine where you do your best work.  If you don’t have passion for a particular idea or writing project, it’s difficult to complete it—possible but difficult.

Writing is often a solitary task where we sit with our pen and paper or computer screen and simply pour out our words.  It’s rare that I receive a letter from someone who has read one of my books (at times forwarded from the publisher). It’s even rarer that I receive feedback from a magazine article that I’ve written and how it’s impacted someone’s life.

While the feedback from readers is terrific and appreciated, there is also some joy in the unknown and how that unknown can affect people. Several months ago, I received an email that asked if I was the “Terry Whalin” who went to Indiana University and went into Wycliffe Bible Translators (where I spent 17 years).  I replied to the email because I was that person.  The writer was someone I went to college with over 30 years ago and had lost contact.

Two years ago, this guy was in Rwanda visiting some Wycliffe missionaries and saw a book with my name on it. It stirred him to contact me. Ironically I wrote this book many years ago and is still in print and widely used around the world.  Because of this lost then newfound connection, I met face-to-face with this old friend last month in New York City. We are back in touch from that old writing project.

What’s ahead for you today in your writing life? Whether you write one page or many pages, get it into the market. It affects readers one life at a time.

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