When I Can’t Becomes I Can

by Kariss Lynch, @karisslynch

In high school, my band director erased can’t from my vocabulary. We had been a championship band, a finalist in the state for 4A high schools. But after two years, of mediocre performances, we were left wondering if we were has-beens that had become wanna-bes.

But he never settled for defeat. He delighted in giving us the most challenging routines and music while watching us rise to the occasion. And he tolerated nothing less than our absolute best, knowing that our greatest potential often lay just below our valid but weak excuses. It took training. Sweltering hours on pavement in Texas weather, running the routine over and over again until our clothes clung to sweaty frames. Then we hit the classroom, fingers meticulously skipping over the keys until we knew every note by heart and could play it standing or running in rhythm.

I remember trying and trying to get a note set correct and failing miserably (in front of fifty of my peers, by the way) on more than one occasion. After the fifth time, I quit trying.

“I can’t do it.”

“I’m sorry, what?”

“I can’t do it, Mr. C.”

“I don’t understand that word. Try again.”

It’s amazing what I came up with in the absence of that word. I’m having trouble. This is hard. How in the world do I do this? I don’t know how. But not one of those gave me the option to stop trying. And every excuse carried with it the opportunity to discover a new journey in the struggle.

He never let me quit in the classroom or on the marching field. Slow down, sure. Take each note one finger at a time, yep. But NEVER quit. Because he knew I could conquer the struggle if I set my mind to it, no matter the challenge.

Success lay just below the I can’ts just waiting to come to fruition with the acknowledgment of “I can…somehow.” And that lesson has shaped my writing journey. Rejections became detours. Can’ts became other challenges to conquer.

There have been many moments that I have been tempted to say “I can’t” in the middle of writing or editing or even marketing. But somehow, I meet the deadline every time, proud of the finished product.

Much like with marching or learning music, I keep writing until the words become an extension and enhancement of the story instead of simply an exploration to jog my creativity. Every time I finish, I know I CAN. I just have to discover HOW. I determined that I wanted it much more than I feared it.

Talent and passion may come naturally. But success as a result of those attributes NEVER comes without hard work and a willingness to push past rejection, defeat, and redirection. As soon as you purge the excuses, the story blooms, and it’s only a matter of time before others outside your circle begin to notice the beauty of the finished product.

By the way, when we purged the excuses, our band went on to place first in every competition that season and ended the semester and my high school career as 4A Texas State Champions.

This thing you keep attempting that you think is impossible? That next step you aren’t sure about? They’re possible. It just takes placing one foot in front of the other until you see the results.


Tweet: When I can’t becomes I can by @KarissLynch via @NovelAcademy #writing #encouragement https://ctt.ec/906Gs+

Tweet: “Every time I finish, I know I CAN. I just have to discover HOW.” by @KarissLynch via @NovelAcademy #writing https://ctt.ec/2d6XL+


Kariss Lynch writes contemporary romance about characters with big dreams, adventurous hearts, and enduring hope. She is the author of the Heart of a Warrior series and loves to encourage her readers to have courage. In her free time, she hangs out with her family and friends, explores the great outdoors, and tries not to plot five stories at once. Connect with her at karisslynch.com, or on Facebook, Instagram, or Goodreads.


When The Journey Seems Long

I like to think of myself as a patient person. I think we all like to believe we possess the characteristic of patience. But what happens when we’re faced with a huge virtual stop sign that holds up our plans?

That’s what I’m facing right now as a writer. As I struggle with the daily-ness of raising my family, supporting that family – circumstances become an unsurpassable roadblock living out my writing dreams.

Mind the Timeline

When we celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary, my husband planned a surprise weekend in the hill country of Texas. (Yes, we have some hills.) While there, we stopped by this amazing prayer garden called “The Coming King Sculpture Prayer Garden” in Kerrville, Texas. It’s 23-acres garden, that contains a 77-foot steel cross, along with many other works of donated art.

The garden has a huge sign that delineates the time frame from conception of the idea to its completion. I couldn’t help but notice the time span: December 2001 to July 2010.

Then I thought about Biblical heroes who had to wait for their promises. You know that guy Noah? He built an ark and waited for rain. Conservative estimates are at 75 years. He carried out the task of building the ark and didn’t even know what rain was! He served faithfully with a looooonnnnggg wait time included. Hmm … is my wait really that long?

Recently, I bemoaned how little time I have to write and my ever-present competing responsibilities. My writer-friends gently encouraged me to see outside my narrow gray-colored lenses. Okay, it was more like a loving whack upside the head, but hey, it worked. I thought I would pass their insights on to you.

  1. Write. Keep taking baby steps. Write that sentence. Write the next sentence. Write the paragraph. Write the scene. Write the chapter and then the next. You will soon have a book. Large blocks of writing time in this season of my life won’t happen. (I’m writing this as I wait for my daughter at the dentist.) Take whatever time you can. Write from your phone if you have to, but write.
  2. Don’t compare. Several friends started on this writing journey at the same time as me. Today, some of them have an even dozen books written and published. God had to remind me, my timetable is not His timetable.
  3. Prioritize your priorities. My Mom went to heaven when I was two years old. That event has colored every aspect of my life today. She had four young children and within a year cancer had taken her life. I know we are not guaranteed tomorrow and I cherish the time I have with my kids. For me, during this season, writing comes after time with my children.
  4. Leave the rest to God. I’m striving for obedience to the calling He’s placed in my life. To write the stories He’s given me. I’m working to do what I can, learn what I can, and leave the rest in His hands.



Who’s on your team?

The longer we sat on the tarmac at the Destin, Florida airport, the great the possibility I’d be doing a sprint through the Atlanta airport to catch my next flight. The sun hung high in the clear blue sky, not a hint of disaster, no need to ice the wings, or avoid a snowstorm…I can admit to a grumble in my soul by the time we took off, 40 minutes late.

I’m sorry, but a 30 minute layover just isn’t long enough when you hit the Detroit, Atlanta or Chicago airports, right? When we touched down in Atlanta, my next flight was already boarding.

According to my app, I had to go from gate D42 to A20 in less than ten minutes. Or, I had the lovely option to take a different flight, route through Eau Claire, or Milwaukee and arrive home at midnight.

I made a pact in my soul that I’d make that next flight.

But Someone Upstairs knew I’d need a little help.

Some passenger in First Class decided the rest of the plane could just wait for them, and ambled up the gangway like they might be strolling through Luxembourg Gardens.

By the time I hit the terminal, my window had whittled down to seven minutes.

If you’ve ever been in the ATL airport, you know running through the terminal is like trying to cross traffic in a game of Frogger. I took off at a sprint, but every time I worked up a good pace, some defensive lineman in flip-flops came out of nowhere to take me out.

That’s when the Guy from Row 14 appeared. A guy from my flight ran up next to me possessing the same lofty goal of getting on his next flight, also in the A terminal, come hell or high water. We chatted even as we jogged past gates A36-A20. It was when he legged out in front of me that I realized my good fortune.

I had a blocker.

I settled in behind him, decided to pretend we were together and simply kept up. He parted traffic like Gronk, and I was his happy tailwind. “Excuse me, Excuse me,” he said as he whipped past people going down the escalator. I smiled as followed his trail. Yeah, I’m with him.

I sneaked onto the tram through a different door, not wanting my stalking to be obvious, hovering near the exit. When we hit the A gates, I was out like lightning, falling in behind him as he sprinted up the escalator. “Excuse me, Excuse me.” (I don’t think anyone had ever seen people trying to pass them going UP. For my part, I determined I would Not Be Left Behind. It became a sort of Olympic stair-climbing event.)

Row 14 parted traffic all the way until I cut away at my gate. “Now boarding all rows, all flights.”

I got in line, breathing hard (yes, I need to work out more) and handed my ticket over. I was one of the last ones on.

But I made it. (Sadly my luggage didn’t, but that’s another story.)


Having a blocker, someone going before me made all the difference. I am not the kind of person to push my way through a crowd—but I’m super willing to follow in the wake of someone else.

In publishing, I’ve had some awesome mentors—Dee Henderson, Karen Kingsbury, Ted Dekker. Friends, yes, but authors who’ve made me into a better writer, better person. Better mentor.

People who’ve cleared the way.

We all need mentors in our lives—whether it’s in our publishing race, or in healthy habits, financial goals, parenting, even spiritual coaches. And, your character needs one too—someone who has been there, done that, whether they succeeded or failed. Someone your hero can either pattern their journey after, or use a cautionary tale. Hello, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Henry Jones, Sr. Even, Haymitch Abernathy.

Someone who can answer questions, give advice.


And someone who can offer truths, dispense with lies and assist your character on his journey.

That’s one of the reasons we started Novel.Academy. Not only so you could have an arsenal of great classes, but so we could help you on the journey. We get together every Thursday night for a Peptalk. Yes, it’s a lesson, but it’s also a Q & A time for authors to get the help they need.

Like this week. We’re having amazing, long-time industry giant, agent Steve Laube on for chat about trends, author mistakes, industry insights and general questions.

He’s been there, done that, and is still going strong.

If you’re considering adding expert teaching to your writing journey, if you’re ready to go deep, ask questions, get published and build that writing career, you might want to stop in and check out this week’s Peptalk.

At the very least, look around you, show up at writer’s events, go to conferences, meet people and ask for help. There might be a mentor in Row 14 who is ready to show you the way.

Your story matters! Go, write something brilliant!

PS. You can start with a FREE class, the 10 Common Mistakes of Aspiring Authors! Click here to watch it!


What to do with the hurt?

It was my fault. I’d turned my phone to silent for church and forgot to turn the volume back on. So, I didn’t hear the phone ring. 7 times. 7 missed calls…all from a restricted number in Virginia.

Where my son is stationed.

Panic. I thought—oh no! What if he’s in trouble? I checked, the number was registered to the state.

More panic. I texted my son. Nothing. Called his cell. It went right to voice mail.


Admittedly, I had terrible scenarios emerging in my creative brain—most of them ending with him in a hospital.

“Calm down,” my husband said. “It’s probably nothing.”

Right. Tell that to my mother’s heart.

Four hours later, my son texted. “I’m fine. What’s the problem?”

He hadn’t tried to call. Wasn’t in the hospital. Wasn’t deploying suddenly to war.

The calls were from a telemarketer. Are you kidding me? (and I have to say, a darned determined telemarketer!) All that fuss, worry and…


That helpless feeling, the sense of not knowing, the panic that I kept fighting was exactly the emotion I was searching for in the SCENE I COULDN’T GET RIGHT. A scene where my helpless, frustrated, panicked heroine waited for news on a loved one.

Oh brother. But Yay! Because now I knew exactly what emotions to bring to the page, and how.

Last night, Meryl Streep gave a long acceptance speech for winning the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement award at the Golden Globes. Her best line came at the end—“Take your broken heart and turn it into art.”

I have had my heart broken plenty of times—losing loved ones, surviving terrifying situations, being betrayed, embarrassed, humiliated. And so have you! Everything counts when you’re a writer. (even if it is your crazy mind overreacting!)

You have an amazing toolbox of writing skills if you are able to dig down and find those emotional moments that have formed you. Bring them to the page, explore them, pull out the lies, and the truths. Don’t be afraid—you’ve walked through them and survived. Now gift those moments, those truths to your reader.

It’s true that every great story has a piece of the creator in it. Let your hurt give the story power.

This is one of the many things we talk about at our annual Deep Thinker’s Retreat—how to create characters who bring authentic emotion to page (and how to write it!) We also brainstorm your story, help you flesh out scenes, wordsmith and dissect that story down to find the most powerful, compelling pieces. It’s such a life-changing week that we usually fill up with repeaters within the first week of opening.

But, we leave a few spaces open for new attendees. Right now, we have 2 spots open for our retreat in Destin, Florida, in late February. Click HERE to find out more.

Use everything. Because your story matters.

Go! Write Something Brilliant!

Susie May

P.S, if you’re interested in the retreat, we have a twin upper bunk available, and a KING bed in a semi-private room (you share the bathroom with 2 others, but you get the bed to yourself!) Chose either of those two options in the drop-down menu under lodging and it will calculate your retreat costs. Any questions? Write to: retreats@mybooktherapy.com. See you in Florida!