New Year’s Writing Resolution

by Peter Leavell, @PeterLeavell

New Year’s resolutions and toddlers—cute, but better when they belong to someone else.

This year, there’s one resolution I’m focused on, and that’s finding my invisible culture so that I have permission to be obsessive about my writing.

What does that mean?

Invisible culture: The intangible aspects of a group setting that reinforces good or bad behavior, not always through explicitly written rules, but through codes of conduct that a newcomer would need to interpret and learn, so they mightfit in comfortably.

A group of bank robbers will not act like bakers. They’ll probably look more like…well, more like writers, really.

For example, let’s get controversial. Church and clothes. Is there a doctrine that defines what clothes to wear in worship? EVERYONE MUST WEAR EARLY CHRISTIAN ROBES. 4th Peter 1:9. The end. Controversy over.

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But one fellow goes to church topless. Dude. He’s getting looks from disapproval to lust. His attempt to bare his soul in worship falls too short, and we’re eager for him to show respect to God and to everyone else. But he’s from tribal Africa, where it’s hot, and clothes are hard to come by. Instead of everyone else in the church going topless (this example’s getting out of hand), we’re going to encourage him to dress up a bit.

Invisible culture makes us comfortable. But it’s more than that. As Angela Duckworth says in her book, Grit, “The culture in which we live, and which we identify, powerfully shapes just about every aspect of our being.” These are “invisible psychological boundaries separating us from them.”

Clothes in church are a vital part of worship—naked will simply not do. Swearing at the priest or pastor will be discouraged. Writing on the wall ‘Scrooge McDuck is My Homeboy’ at work will probably not put you in good graces with your boss.

But it’s not just negative fences invisible cultures build. Libraries encourage reading. Churches encourage spirituality. Good families encourage safety, openness, and love.

If you want to be a writer, find writers and join them.

Allow yourself to be taken by the culture.

Go to writer’s conferences. Write in libraries in coffeehouses. Get a job selling books. Teach English. Ask her on a date, go to a bookstore, each buy a book, and going somewhere romantic to read. Be cool with Hemingway and TS Elliot and get down with Byron and grow close to Chaucer. Freak when Victor Hugo sais ‘Perseverance, secret of all triumphs.’

As the incredible author Brandilyn Collins has said, there are writers, and there are normals. Embrace your inner author nerd. We’re team writer!

The secret of being a great writer? Obsess your gift. People respect authenticity, particularities, and odd ducks, especially when it falls just short of recklessness.

Allow yourself the comfort of the writing culture. You’ll find when looking at writers, you’ll stop saying ‘that’s the way they do things,’ to believing ‘this is how and why I do things.’

And sitting down to a computer, opening up a vein and bleeding out a story won’t seem such a bizarre act. It will simply be who you are.


Shadow of Devil’s Tower

Philip Anderson is a reluctant gunslinger whose fame has spread through the Dakota Territory. He can’t escape his reputation as the hero who took down the entire Maxwell Gang, and he’s even had a popular dime novel written about him. All Philip yearns for is to live a quiet life raising horses and to finally marry his beloved Anna. He’d gladly give up his half of the treasure map his murdered father left behind, but until Jacob Wilkes is captured he can never hang up his gun. Bent on destroying Philip and everything he loves, Wilkes has his eye on the hidden cache. And on Anna.

Just when Philip thinks he might be able to bury the demons of his past, the unthinkable happens and Anna and her family are kidnapped. Riding his Arabian mare Raven, he is forced into the race of his life as he desperately tracks his enemies across the desert. Can he rescue Anna before it’s too late? Joining forces with old friends like Teddy Roosevelt and Running Deer, Philip is pushed to the breaking point. Will he ever be free, or must he make the ultimate sacrifice for those he loves under the shadow of Devil’s Tower?

Peter Leavell, a 2007 graduate of Boise State University with a degree in history, was the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author. Peter and his family live in Boise, Idaho. For entertainment, he reads historical books, where he finds ideas for new novels. Whenever he has a chance, he takes his wife and two homeschooled children on crazy but fun research trips. Learn more about Peter’s books, research, and family adventures at