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For The Exposure and the Business of Writing

I posted an article on my Facebook wall that caused a minor stir. The article entitled “Wil Wheaton and Why I Won’t Write for Huffington Post Anymore” was posted by a writer no longer willing to write for the exposure. He had been sending his articles to the Huffington Post without pay. He made the rational decision that if they wanted his content to help them make money, they should pay him. He’s right.

Here’s my original comment posted with the article, “I write my blogs for free when they’re on my sites but if someone wants my work, I quote Harlan Ellison, “Pay the writer.” I have been approached several times for submitting pieces for free to sites and magazines that are for-profit. I decline every time because writing for exposure rarely works out in favor of the artist regardless of their particular art. Bottom line, exposure doesn’t pay the bills. This is a very important article that echoes my sentiment very clearly. Other writers need to pay attention.”

Here’s the deal: I make media including writing. I have made money from my work. I learned a long time ago that if someone was going to make a profit from my efforts I was going to be sharing in that profit.

Let’s break down the business of writing so I can make myself clearer. For many people, when you say writer the first thing that pops into their head is books. However, that is the smallest portion of the business. Book authors often do all of their work for free because most of what they do is unsolicited. They have an idea and run with it. It’s their responsibility to for what happens with that work. Most authors never see publication. Books are a high risk business with high potential costs and risky sales. There’ s a reason I am so grateful for the people I know who have been published. It’s a wonderful gift and an encouragement for anyone working on their own book.

Writing a book is a real act of faith. I have several that are in various stages of completion ranging from collections of notes to large sections written and everything in between. I have faith that what I have spent all this time on is worthwhile and will be picked up by a publisher. This is essentially free work until that point. It’s up to the author to market the idea to publishers and agents and sell it to them. If you’re writing a book and that’s all your interested in doing, go for it. The rest of this may apply to you anyway.

Most of the business of writing is not in books but in smaller projects. It’s in articles, website content, reviews, scripts, ad copy, and the like. These are the projects the article refers to not books. This is also where you find the most organizations happy to use your work to make a profit while paying the author nothing more than the privilege of writing for them for the exposure and experience.

I started writing professionally almost twenty years ago. In the early days, I did a lot of this kind of work “for the exposure” that I now regret. In truth, I gained nothing from these agreements. The exposure gained me no further work. It all came to a head a little over ten years ago when I was approached to help start a publication. Although it was a profit venture, the owners wouldn’t pay for content. Without content, there wouldn’t be a magazine to sell all those ads, about 70% or more of the space within the pages. That made me angry enough to take a hard look at things.

I have discovered that there’s a lot of publications, both online and print, that won’t pay the writers (or photographers, videographers, voice artists, etc) for their contribution. They only offer exposure as the payment is exposure and experience. Neither of those things pay the bills. I have a real problem with publishers and editors that make their living from the work of other people without paying the content providers. A workman is worth his hire. I think I read that somewhere.

Ten years ago, I made a decision to only write for free for those who will actually appreciate it. I will write to further the Kingdom, to produce my personal projects, or support someone I believe in enough to spend the time on. I have spent a lot of money and time over the years learning media production and writing. Those skills are worth something. Since then, I have done a lot of free work for ministries including scripts, ads, and other small projects. However, I haven’t done any of that or other assignments for free for any for-profit venture.

Does it make me less spiritual because I expect to be paid for my work? Not in the slightest. Why are my efforts as a media producer and writer different from my efforts on my day job? I won’t work for them for free so why are the skills I’ve worked to hard to gain worth less?

Do I need to do work for free to build my platform/brand? Absolutely. I write four blogs of my own including this one, create my own sites, and work my tail off on social media for which I make nothing up front. The key is that they are mine to produce. No one is profiting from my work except me unless they hire me.

I approach my writing as both a business and an art. Even is my books never see the light of day beyond my hard drive, I will still eat and make money from my efforts.

The bottom line, if you’re making a profit from an artist/writer, pay them. Their skills and talents are not their for your disposal without compensation. If you’re an artist of any stripe and are good at what you do, your skills are worth something. Only give them away by your choosing not the policies and choices of others.

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Coming Out of The Dark

For the last few weeks, I have been fairly dark on social media on all fronts, especially with Jesus’ Outsider and Freedom Church. There have been a lot of things happening in our lives and the Lord has been speaking to us about serious changes that we are being called to make.

There are two things in my life that I am extremely passionate about. The first is preaching God’s Word, especially the Gospel. No matter what occupation I’ve had over the years to earn a living for my family, those jobs have never gotten me out of bed every morning. They have never filled me with purpose even when I’ve enjoyed the work. In my very marrow, I am a preacher of the Gospel. Nothing else drives me and fills me with purpose like the Lord does. That’s what gets me out of bed. That’s what makes all the trials and difficulties worthwhile.

The other thing I am passionate about is media, all types of media. Jesus’ Outsider is only one expression of that love. All the blogs I write are others. I love to write. I love to create new things. I love reaching out with the power of audio, video, and the written word. I love to use them to help others fulfill their God-designed calling. I have had the privilege of developing those skills with the intent on using them to glorify God.

The time has come to make some major transitions and those passions are the key. The Lord has been convicting me lately about how I’ve been neglecting those skills and gifts. I haven’t written much lately on any front. I have a lot of partially written books, snippets of scripts, and essays that need to be finished as well as much that still needs to be written. They’re there for a reason and need to be finished.

The time has come to focus more on producing media including writing, audio, and video projects. I am also being called to speak at conferences and events on a range of topics. There are things that I have been given to share and I need to share them. Anyone who’s listened to Jesus’ Outsider for the last few years likely has a good idea of topics I’ll be focusing on as a solo speaker and part of conferences. Soon I’ll be adding another Facebook page for my writing and speaking.

It’s time to make a living from my passions. I am working on launching Deep Mystery Studio as a for profit enterprise. I will be making my skills available to clients with a focus on producing media for ministries and churches. I will also be partnering with a friend to help build both of our businesses grow and develop. There’s a lot of work to be done first but that has already begun.

So, what does that mean for Freedom Church? Everything. Without making these transitions, Freedom Church will never happen. While progress has been made, constraints on my time have made recruiting and fundraising almost impossible. Proceeds from speaking engagements will be used primarily as fundraising for the launch. Some additional announcements regarding FC are coming soon.

Although it’s a huge leap of faith that we’re about to take and not without a little bit of fear, it’s very exciting to me that my two passions are integrating in a way that will honor God and provide for my family. Sometimes, going dark isn’t a bad thing.

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Chaos! And The Art of Finding Truth in The Mess

Chaos stinks. I hate it when nothing seems to be settled and life is one huge and uncontrolled mess. That’s where my lovely bride and I have been for the last several weeks and, by all appearances, will continue to be for a while longer. The old saying, “Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug” leaves out one person. Sometimes, you’re the one with the squeegee cleaning up the mess. That’s a lot of what’s been happening for a while. Kim and I both have squeegeed a lot of bugs. However, stress does have its effects on us including bringing things to the surface.

As we headed into this cycle of insanity, we were coming to a collection of major decisions involving our finances, my jobs, Jesus’ Outsider, and Freedom Church. Have you ever noticed that when you need your head to be the clearest that circumstances crop up that can get in the way of your thinking and hearing God’s voice?

The chaos was not without benefits. Some of the financial decisions got easier and now we only need to narrow the options to the final answers and wait upon the Lord for further direction. Finding a way to be in a place to help with Kingdom related chaos is huge for us. Some of the squeegees we’ve taken up had eternal impact and helped to build up the Kingdom. Those are the ones I take up with some joy (even when they’re challenging) because I know the why.

There is another side of the chaos that is much more difficult but just as necessary. Things that we thought were taken care of had really only been dormant. Big things in our lives that, if left unchecked, could destroy us and everything we’ve been working for over the last few years. Exreme stress often has the effect of revealing things long hidden or dormant. It’s very easy for us to fall into old, sinful patterns when the world around us is in chaos. That has happened for us. We are dealing with a stronghold in our lives that we are only now starting to see just how much damage it’s caused.

Prayer in the storms are often the most effective in changing us. When we see these sinful habits and behaviors for what they really are we can start to change them. Even the most devote follower of Christ can open themselves up to demonic activity by harboring thoughts and actions in coflict with true holiness and righteous. We have, through some sins we share, given the enemy authority over areas of our lives that long ago we should have surrendered. In fact, we though much of it had been but that’s how deception works. The false sense of security comes from thinking it’s all under control when all it’s really doing is festering under the surface.

We are now starting a cleansing of this area of our lives. We will still work on Freedom Church, albeit at a slower, more measured pace for a few weeks while we do the hard work. Already, a few days into the process, we are experiencing some level of victory but there is more work to do. We are confident in our Lord to pull us through into ultimate victory. The battle is His and already won, we only need to walk it out.

We are no different than anyone else. When extreme stress and exhaustion hit, sometimes bad things happen and bad decisions are made. The key, which is likely no surprise to any of you, is what you do with these when they happen. After coming down from the “sin high,” do you recognize the bahavior for what it is and seek to bring it under the Blood? Do you rationalize it and excuse it? The answer determines the difference between freedom and remaining in bondage. When the time comes, will you see the truth and change things or continue in chains?

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A Double Celebration

This Easter is a huge double win for me thanks to a happy accident of the calendar. I get to celebrate the resurrection of my Lord and the day He redeemed me from the pit of hell and brought me into His Kingdom. Easter Sunday, April 5th, marks twenty-three years to the day that Jesus took charge of my life. Easter hasn’t been this personal in a long time.

Sunday, we will remember Jesus’ death on the cross and his triumphal resurrection as he gave His life for the sins of many and conquered death. Even more than His birth, this is the pivotal day in all of history. All of history before lead up to the cross and all of history since then has been looking back to it. Love Him or hate Him, only a fool would refuse to acknowledge the impact the Lord’s incarnation had on the world. Those three days, it all changed.

For me, the change happened at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis hotel ballroom back in ’92. To be brief, before that day, my life was a huge mess with a hodgepodge of beliefs blended into a brand of Luciferianism and my personal life an even bigger mess. I was angry, arrogant, lustful, drunk, smoker, and a whole list of other things even worse. I was evil. But, at that Amway meeting (!) so long ago, everything changed. Jesus came into my life and everything about me started to transform. I am a completely different person than I was back then and am growing into something new every day. His power, love, and grace in my life has been remaking me since that fateful day.

For many years I had a Disabled American Vets sticker on my car that proclaimed, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” I know that to be true. The price Jesus paid for my freedom, for your freedom, was greater than anything that anyone else could have paid. Only Jesus could have done it. His death and resurrection is the once and done  for anyone who will trust in Him and His love and grace.

The greatest compliment I can receive is one that points to the glory of God and his redemption. Whenever I share part of my testimony with someone and they tell me that they can’t even imagine me being the person I described, that’s a huge opportunity to share the Gospel. My continuing transformation would not have been possible or, if the truth be told, even desired. Not only has He changed me but He creates the desire to change. I wasn’t looking for Him when He found me. That gives me hope for everyone and is why I won’t ever give up sharing the Gospel. I know that no one is beyond redemption.

Celebrate Easter, celebrate Him. He’s worth it.

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Baptisms and The Big Why

This morning at Rock Church where the Lovely Bride and I have been going while preparing to launch Freedom Church, they were having a vision and baptismal service. I’m already familiar with the simple vision of RC and have used a great deal of it as a model for FC so that part wasn’t news to me. It’s clear, simple to understand, and implemented with gusto. Today’s baptism service is the result or that vision.

As I’ve grown in Christ, I’ve found that my emotions are closer to the surface than they used to be and I am moved by things that would have never even hit my radar pre-Christ. Today’s baptisms were a prime example. More than once I found tears welling up in my eyes not of sorrow but of joy. The greatness of the celebration in Heaven mirrored by the joy in my heart expressed itself in complex and powerful emotions. Joy is obvious but it was mixed with a sense of honor, compassion, and others that I do not have the words to express. Some of them were especially moving as I know a large portion of their testimonies.

There are times when all the tasks in front of me get overwhelming. If you’ve been following this blog in the week or so since I started it then you know I’ve had a lot of major decisions facing me. It has largely been a question of priorities. Even as I take things off my plate, there’s still a mountain in front of me. It’s easy to allow it to look at it and shut down.

In all the work, busyness, and stress, it’s easy to lose sight of the reason I do this, the big why if you will. When I see how far behind everything related to building Freedom Church has become, condemnation, doubt, and discouragement are my constant companions. When I get to these times, days like today are just what I need.

Today as I watched people who have accepted the gift of grace and mercy offered through Jesus and make that confession public, I remembered why I do all this. Sometimes knowing I’m being obedient isn’t enough to keep me motivated. I need to be reminded of His purposes. Seeing these public professions of faith did a lot to restore my drive and restore my priorities. I do the work, suffer hardships, go without rest, and much more to see people transformed by the Gospel. There is nothing else that could make the sacrifices worth it.

Those tears I shed this morning affirmed in me all that the Lord has told me. His Glory is what matters. Preaching the Gospel to snatch souls from the fires of Hell and sharing the freedom that comes from following Jesus is what I must do. That’s why Freedom Church is happening and why I do work so hard. My Big Why is in front of me. I can never lose sight of it.

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Cutting Back to Move Forward

A few weeks ago, I wrote a post on The Stainless Steel Soapbox about fighting the tyranny of the urgent. In it, I stated that I needed to make several decisions to combat it and change the way I’ve been doing things. This has proven to be more difficult than I anticipated. One major decision has come in stages without me realizing where it was leading.

I need to take things off my plate. The truth is, I’ve got far too many areas to work in and none of them are getting the attention they deserve. Because of that, no progress has been made on anything. All excuses aside, I’m just overloaded, dividing my energy into too many directions. It’s overwhelming to take up all that’s in front of me. With limited time and energy, I’m not getting anything done and what little I’ve accomplished has not been up to the standards of work I expect of myself.

Through prayer and counsel, I’ve had to look at my priorities and where each demand on my time and energy fit into them. There were winners and losers. The bottom line, the winner must be the one that the Lord has ordained as my calling and the great task He assigned, Freedom Church. The urgency of income has kept me from doing anything significant with Freedom Church. It’s the reason I dropped to part time at my day job but has commanded the least of my time and energy. I’ve come to see this as a major act of disobedience the I need to repent of before the Lord will bless us again.

The big loser is Deep Mystery. The time I’ve spent on the studio has been driven by the urgency of building an income. In truth, none of those efforts has resulted in any real income. The business plan has always been a mess. I’ve never been able to settle on what services to offer, who the customers should be, or how much to charge for most of what I could offer. The only part of the studio I get excited about are internal projects like web videos, audio books for friends, and other personal projects. Even to help the church, I just can’t get excited about anything that I would get hired to do.

That’s not to say that the studio is going away. It will continue to exist as the home for the projects I want to work on, mostly of my own creation. I will still take on select work from friends and aquantences but I’m not going to advertise. I’m going to  take a little time and alter the website to reflect the changes. Deep Mystery Studio will become what it should have been all along, a place to build great media to preach the Gospel, build up the Body of Christ, and provide alternatives to the existing media. However, that time isn’t right now.

I was lead to make changes to build Freedom Church but far too many decisions the last couple of months have not been built on a foundation of prayer but desperation for money.  There’s been a lot of really bad decisions that I believe have lead to the Lord’s hand of blessing to be removed from our finances. We spent the last few years able to pay the bills and have money left over. We started this year in the black but as bad decisions, health problems, and a shot of disobedience that we didn’t even know we were committing compounded, we’re in the red now.

The time has come to cast off the crap and focus on what I set out to do. If we’re going to experience God’s provision, then we need to do what He told us to do. I need to do what He told me to do. That is Freedom Church.

Look for more posts on the FC Facebook page, more videos, and blog posts on what’s needed to launch. In the short term, due to some problems with setting up an official FC bank account (thanks to a government program called “Operation Choke Point”), I’m setting up a temporary working name to take advantage of existing accounts. Until the incorporation for the church is complete, Deep Mystery Ministries will be the working name for the purposes of fundraising. That way, no one needs to write a check to a person but to Deep Mystery. It may even continue past that as a part of the church as we grow, if the Lord leads.

There will be more soon. Check here and on the Freedom Church blog.

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Sometimes, There Are Things That Don’t Belong Anywhere Else

I write a lot of blogs. There’s one for Freedom Church, another for Jesus’ Outsider, and another for Deep Mystery. I’ve shut down two more that just aren’t worth keeping. The problem is, there are some things I want to write and share that don’t pertain to any of the others I write. It’s just personal thoughts, struggles, or ideas that I want to share.

So, that’s one of the reasons I created another blog. Here, on a personal blog, I can share those thoughts, snippets of other writings, ideas, and challenges that are worth writing about and sharing. The other reason is a little more practical, I’ve never used WordPress before and needed to learn how to use it. However, my experience with it, once more thorough, will wind up on The Deep Mystery Files.

In fact, it was Deep Mystery Studio that prompted starting the blog. I have been working on it for some time now but have not made any real headway in the official launch of the business. Something just didn’t seem right. The business plan I had wasn’t working to inspire the passion it should have for the studio to make a profit and support the family while planting Freedom Church. I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Was it the service offering? Was it the idea itself? What was the problem?

It didn’t make sense. I love producing media. I love to write, I love to sit behind the Big Boy Mic and record. I truly enjoy directing and creating web videos. There’s nothing I offered that I didn’t find fascinating and wonderful. All of them have the potential to be great profit centers not only for us but for freelance artists of all stripes. Over the years, I’ve accumulated the knowledge and skill necessary to make Deep Mystery work. Yet, despite all of that, something was holding me back.

I have been in a sort of holding pattern lately with everything. Activity has been replaced with contemplation and large amounts of prayer to push through the barriers I have been hitting. It’s been going on for the last several weeks as I’ve sought the face of God for Freedom Church, Deep Mystery, and a whole host of other things that need decisions to be made. Doing little to nothing is very hard for me. I prefer to do things, accomplish tasks, and move forward towards goals. I hate being idle. The post on the Stainless Steel Soapbox touched on the problem.

During this time of concentrated prayer, I came to a realization: None of the things I listed above get me out of bed every morning. I may enjoy them and even have some passion for them, but that’s not what drives me. No matter what I do, I can’t muster the enthusiasm to build the studio as I had planned it. I just can’t.

At the risk of sounding super spiritual, there is only one thing that gets me out of bed in the mornings, no matter what the day may hold. I live to preach the Gospel and to see lives changed by the power and love of Jesus Christ. For some of you, this will not be much of a shock. Many of my passions have passed away or at least greatly dwindled in the last few years. For example, I used to eat, sleep, and breathe politics. Now, I stay informed but I don’t get as fired up about it anymore. Likewise, business and marketing were serious passions for a long time but now those are no longer all that important.

I came to the conclusion that I just can’t do a commercial for a steakhouse. There’s nothing wrong with it and I truly love a good steak, but I can’t do it. I am called to help people change through redemption in Christ. Period. There are skills I have that help me do that. It’s those skills that need to be shared with the Church-at-Large to fulfill the mission we’ve been given. I have to do what God called me to do in every area of life.

I will be shifting the media and studio into a ministry support and building role instead of it’s current secular marketing model. I need to build the Kingdom and help others who are called to do likewise. The more I move into my coming role as the pastor of Freedom Church, the harder it is for me to prioritize anything beyond the Gospel. This is the message that must be shared with all the world. The skills I have spent enormous amounts of time and money learning need to be used for that purpose. I can’t get anything else to matter enough to spend my time and energy on beyond meeting immediate financial needs.

I’ll be detailing the meaning of all this on the business blog as I get ready for the full launch. Thanks for indulging me. I’ll be writing here as often as the mood seizes me.