Getting to a Writer’s Heart

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by Lisa Kibler

He took a very sharp scalpel and, with great care, cut into my soul and pulled out my guts. The best surgeons know the answers aren’t found on superficial scans. To get to one’s heart, they must split the ribs, dig in, and find what lies beneath, hidden behind the interwoven mass of muscles, bones, and arteries. To get to the heart of who we are as writers, a surgeon (aka mentor) who’s able to wield a sharp blade with precision and kindness can work wonders.

My “doc” left them, my innards, lying out for investigation—a soul bared for viewing. He’d already figured me out; now it was my turn to examine my life and discover why and what I am called to write. Getting to my heart was my mentor’s way of making me realize who I am at the core, the person and writer God created me to be.

My brilliant surgeon and mentor is best-selling/multiple award-winning author, Jim Rubart (along with his son, Taylor). That he used a very sharp instrument is a key to his expertise. He knows when you get cut by anything dull, it hurts more and you “bleed out” from a jagged mess. That leaves nothing whole to place back into your God-given storehouse of ability—aka your soul. A clean cut opens the way for God to take a writer’s hidden treasures and use them in the stories He gives.

What started as a consultation led to the biggest Wow experience I’ve ever had as a writer. The life change which ensued is second only to my conversion. Jim and Taylor’s company, the Rubart Writing Academy, goes straight to a writer’s essential nature. The first thing an applicant does is complete a 900-page questionnaire. Yeah, I’m kidding, but the document did take a long look at who I am, and every writer needs to know that. (Warning, put on some thick skin, take the lumps, rub some dirt on them, and grow, writer, grow!).

I now have a path toward becoming the writer God intends for me to be. Jim’s premise (one of them) is that a writer cannot engage his readers if he doesn’t know who he is. Simple, right? Think about your favorite piece of fiction. How many times have you read it? Haven’t you placed yourself in the characters? The setting? You experience it with all your senses. Knowing who you are makes this possible. The incision and clean space make it easy to place the pieces/parts back where they need to go, ready for the true Surgeon to use all of my history in everything He gives me to write.

Every good mentor will do that. Jim is a good fit for me, and there is a mentor out there who suits your style and writing level. Talk to people who know you and your writing. Ask them for references and arrange phone chats with a few people you think may be good for your growth.

Jim asked early in my course work, “So, Lisa. Are you going to write fiction or nonfiction?”

“Fiction. There is an amazing amount of truth you can infuse into it.”

I think a novelist would be happy to hear that—a novelist/surgeon. Fiction used to scare me because I didn’t comprehend the vast treasure of experiences God had gifted me with to use in stories. It’s all there waiting to be extracted and applied, and I can’t write fast enough to keep up with the ideas.

I didn’t tell my mentor about the story I started the night before one of our meetings, but I sent it to him prior our following phone conversation. It’s the story I am living, and I am able to write it because I discovered amazing things about myself. Jim humbled me with his praise, and I thanked him for the surgery.

Hiring an excellent mentor is one of the best things a writer can do. It can get expensive, but the sacrifice of a year’s worth of lattes is worth it, because they won’t fill a soul the way being the writer one is created to be does.

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Lisa Kibler is co-author of Someplace to Be Somebody, the memoir of Pastor Marshall Brandon, former black nationalist. She plans to continue writing fiction that reflects who she is, a rock-n-roll girl who loves Jesus. She may currently be found at


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