Sunday, September 20, 2015

Writing Your Puzzle Piece: Post-ACFW Thoughts

I have to say, over the past six years there has been a constant battle within me around the middle of September. It's that time of year when about 500 ACFW members at all different stages—from best sellers to debut authors to award winners to aspiring writers—gather together to learn, reconnect, and network. And it is absolutely the HIGHLIGHT of my year. It is the sparkle on my timeline. The shiny gem of a dream glittering wildly.

But with the light, comes the creeping darkness...threatening to swallow up the shine, if I let it. It's ushered in by my insecurity, my gloom-n-doom attitude that engulfs my heart when my dream dulls in the wake of others' successes.

Anyone who has attended ACFW will tell you that it is overwhelmingly encouraging. There is little, if any, outward competition among the many writers vying for the precious appointments of editors and agents. It is a special atmosphere which allows you to continue in your dream without worrying about someone sticking their boot in the aisle to trip you up.

So, having gone to this writer's conference over and over again, I beg myself to not allow the darkness to cloud my time. I pray for the confident, optimistic voice to win the battle over the insecure, uncertain, jealousy-tinged rasp fighting in my head. And the thing that drives me crazy, is that no outsider or circumstance really provokes's just the innate flaw of my broken humanity wanting all the glory.

Am I being a little too transparent? Maybe. Maybe you will never look at me the same. But something happened this conference, which transformed my self-speak and blanketed my heart with an overwhelming peace.


Not to the voices inside my head. But to the wisdom-speakers that I had the pleasure of fellowshipping with this weekend.

I used to get so caught up in my internal battle, my competitive drive, and my desperate desire for publication to really consider anything said to me. Stubborn, much?? Fortunately, though, the stubborness lessens each year because I surround myself with wonderful friends. And my transparent trait, flaw or not, allows for some amazing encouragement from others.

However, this year something finally clicked the paradigm of my writing identity into a completely different place. Two important ideas from several professionals resonated with me over the course of the weekend. It probably wasn't the first time I have heard them...but again, this year I LISTENED:

  1. Don't write for the market. Write the story on your heart. The stories that first gripped my heart to write were not part of the same jigsaw puzzle as the current market. They were stories boxed up in the foreign and exotic section of the puzzle aisle. At one point, I tried writing for the market...I was encouraged to do so by many. And I have that half-written manuscript to prove it. Just didn't have the desire to keep writing it. While there are brilliant authors out there who God has so pressed upon their hearts to write manuscripts FOR the present market...I have yet to find my heart pour out that perfect fit. And what I heard from many people this weekend, finally sunk into my thick skull: Don't  worry about writing for the market. Write the story on your heart. Because readers are smart enough to know when a story is not written from the heart. You know, those books you begin to read, and after the first chapter you want to chuck it across the room?

     I am finally at a place where I don't want to get published for the sake of being published. It has to be the right time and the right story. Aaaah! I can't believe I just typed that! I used to be SOOO eager to just get my name in print...I'd do just about anything. But now, I want my name in print on something that I LOVE, and that others will LOVE, too. And that might just take a little extra time.
    My current story gives me butterflies every time I think of it. I sit and day dream about the scenes I have written, playing them out in my mind over and over like my favorite movie. I am in awe of the truth of God woven in the story, not because I wrote it, but because it was written as worship to Him. I cannot turn my back on the story of my heart just yet.
  1. My idea of the journey is nothing compared to God's plan for me. You know, this has been playing out in my life for quite some time, non-writing related. It's a hard lesson to grasp when my world seems to fall apart all around me, and I'm just not quite sure if God even cares. It often feels like I have to take things into my own hands and hope that whatever I do will get God's attention enough that He'll bless my pursuit. And sometimes, I am sure, in His grace, He does bless those efforts. BUT, it's more exciting, and a WHOLE lot more productive, to see the fruits from simply saying “Yes” to God and forfeiting my own effort.
    For example, the first day of conference cast a heavy shadow of doubt upon me. I truly did not know why I was there. I knew my story was a difficult puzzle piece for the market, and I felt like my writing dream was falling apart at the seams of a very tattered, out-dated puzzle box. I wrestled with my envy of watching others hold puzzle pieces of perfect-fits, versus the truth that there was purpose to this pursuit--even for me. After my agent's encouragement to use this weekend as a venture for clarity, and the keynote speaker's amazing story of God showing up in unexpected ways, I realized one very important truth: My idea of the journey is nothing compared to God's plan for me.
    Just because it looks a certain way for one person, does not mean that God isn't creative enough to draw my journey in a completely different, but still perfectly-purposed way.
    And you know what? When I settled into my OWN skin, seeking clarity and trusting the hand of God to provide it, He lavished droplets—like perfect little diamond droplets—of hope upon my path. My path not only found open doors along the way, but my heart fell prostrate to God more than I had let it, recently. And in that, I saw a glimpse of His care...and His nearness even to me.

My pursuit is different than that writer over there, that author down the hall, that crit partner across the table. We each hold a puzzle piece...but not every writer has a piece to the current edition of the puzzle. I might not have the piece of the market-jigsaw-puzzle laid out in front of me just now. And if I do, I haven't found its place, yet. But I am renewed in this journey of carving the edges of my piece, and I hope as the puzzle fills in along the way, God will guide me to the perfect fit down the road.

Angie Dicken is a full-time mom and lives in the Midwest with her Texas Aggie sweetheart. An ACFW member since 2010, she has written six historical novels and is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Agency. Angie also spends her time designing one-sheets and drinking good coffee with great friends. Check her personal blog at and connect at:
Twitter: @angiedicken


Robin E. Mason said...

thank you Angie, i need the reminder to write what's in my heart and trust Father in the journey. i have yet to attend ACFW conference (rather like the magical land of Oz to my mind!!!) but will be there next year for sure!

Angie Dicken said...

Robin, It would be so great to meet you in person! Definitely hope to see you next year!!

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Angie, what an inspired, hope-filled post! I've been there this past weekend that place where the voices lie and cause me to question why I ever thought I could craft a story worth reading.

And this line: "My idea of the journey is nothing compared to God's plan for me." Beautiful truth right there. How often do we limit ourselves to what we can see rather than step out and trust God's much broader plan for us? You've givenme good food for thought today. Thanks, friend.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

You. Are. Awesome! Love this!

Anonymous said...

Wow. This was SO something I needed to read...and I didn't realize it. God did though. Thank you for this, for your transparency and bold truth-speaking in this.
The heart of writing is worship, following after God in obedience and just writing what He calls us all to. <3

Laura C. Brandenburg said...

Thank you for your honesty! This post really encouraged me. :) I'm bummed I never got to meet you at ACFW. As a first-timer, I was overwhelmed with the crowds! But I had an amazing experience, and I plan to be back next year! :)

Angie Dicken said...

I am glad this resonated with you, Jeanne. God has been teaching me how much bigger He is than I used to think...and His plan for all of us is so much more a mystery than I think we let it be.:) have a great week!

Angie Dicken said...

Love you!!

Angie Dicken said...

I am so glad you benefited from this, Meghan! I really do feel like writing is my worship. Such an honor to have that avenue to do so!

Angie Dicken said...

Oh, I am so sad we didn't meet!! Conference can be such a whirlwind...and sea of faces! Definitely next year!!!

Shelli Littleton said...

This is beautiful, Angie. And I saw you live this out ... in the time that you took to encourage me. You weren't thinking of yourself ... you were pouring yourself into me. I'll never forget it. Thank you.

Morgan Tarpley Smith said...

This is ME, Angie!!! This is exactly how I've been feeling today!! Thank you so much for pouring your heart out here!! Blessing!!

Angie Dicken said...

Aw! So glad it touched you, Morgan! Such a great thing to be part of the writing community and find affirmation and encouragement!!