A war continues to wage within this writing sinner’s heart.
My first three confessions covered identity, comparison, and motives in writing. Here are the final four:
Confession #4: I often don’t (think I) know what I’m doing.
There. I said it. Someone’s going to find me out because I’m not sure I know what I’m doing. By this, I don’t mean I know nothing about how to write. I know something about this. Otherwise I wouldn’t have scored well on research papers in college or be writing anything remotely helpful today…
What I mean is: I’m young and inexperienced and don’t have a turnkey process for writing. I compare myself to other writers (there it is again), and I see the sin in my heart, my mixed motives. All this makes me feel unqualified, undeserving, and, most of the time, incapable.
But this is a good place to be.
When Jesus says, “Apart from me you can do nothing,” he doesn’t mean we can literally do nothing. He means we can do nothing of eternal worth, lasting significance, or Spirit-produced fruit, for his name and the spread of his gospel, unless he helps us. This reminds me how dependent I am on God for grasping, being transformed by, and communicating his Word. It reminds me how unqualified, undeserving, and incapable I truly am—and how gracious, kind, and generous God is for calling me his “workmanship” and preparing good works for me to walk in so Christ gets the glory (Ephesians 2:10).
Writer, if you don’t feel like you know what you’re doing, rejoice. Christ is an all-sufficient Lord and Savior for insufficient, weak sinners, and you can do eternally-significant good works, for his fame and honor, only by his help and strength. Dependence on Jesus is exactly where you and I should be.
Confession #5: I don’t like critique or correction.
Two things especially heighten my insecurities: When my writing stinks, and when I’m wrong. I don’t like being bad at things, and I really don’t like being wrong. Pride is a deceitful sin, and it often tells me other people are wrong about me being wrong (or writing a stinker of an article). My flesh rebels against critique and correction.
Yet God has used this sinful reaction many times to put me in my place and reveal his patience and mercy. He’s used the good discipline of correction and feedback to knock me off my high-horse and turn me again to the cross, where grace and mercy flow, the beautiful reason for all our writing in the first place.
I won’t get everything right, especially not the first time, and my writing and teaching will be flawed, even if true. But I’m learning to love, by degrees, the good gift of correction (God’s and others’) and the even better gift of humility from his Spirit.
In his kindness, he reveals that only he knows all things and we don’t, and this reality keeps us clinging to him for all the writing and teaching we do.
Confession #6: I’m often at a loss for ideas.
Writers who are prolific creators astound me. Turning out articles by the day and books by the year, they never seem to be at a loss for ideas—and I just don’t get this! I praise God that he’s apportioned to them, by his Spirit, a gift of such capacity because I don’t work like that, nor do I grasp how anybody does. Wow! These writers are a gift to the church.
I, on the other hand, am often at a loss for ideas—but I’m learning, again, how good this is. The writer’s temptation is to “produce,” to feed a publishing machine; the pressure to have an endless vat of ideas can feel overwhelming. But day by day, I’m grasping the good discipline of waiting on God and his Word, along with the humbling reality that God doesn’t necessarily need me to write. His plans and purposes won’t fall apart if I don’t write; and if I do, I can trust he has planned it and will use it according to his wisdom.
I know when I’m forcing an outline or article, and I know I’m sacrificing faithfulness and integrity when this is the case. (Usually, the result isn’t that great either.) I’d rather write less often, but know that what I’m writing is an honest reflection of what God’s been teaching and revealing to me. And I’d rather linger over God’s Word, meditating and studying it carefully, than rush through it, knowing my teaching and writing are honoring, rather than distorting or misinterpreting, his truth.
These words from John Piper struck me: “How different our Bible reading and our Bible discussion would be if we refused to speak of our insights until they were sweetened by the real communion of our souls with God in them.”¹ Amen. I’d add “writing” and “teaching” to his list.
Confession #7: I don’t write every day.
The popular rule of thumb, “Write every day to form a habit,” is valued and practiced by a good number of writers, as it should be. Part of me wishes I could do this! I try to write first-thing in the morning, after I read my Bible, because that’s when my mind works best. But I confess, I don’t write every day. Here’s why:
First, chronic pain in my arms and hands doesn’t allow for this. I try to rest from typing if I’m going to work and write well on other days, and do manual labor at home. (Sometimes I use dictation software, or type with one hand, which can do the job…even if slowly.)
Yet I enjoy taking days off writing for another reason:
Days off encourage me to prioritize. They grant the precious opportunity to engage in-person with family members, our church family, friends, neighbors, and others. Because my wayward heart loves instant gratification, writing and sharing online might make me feel useful in an immediate sense—but that “feeling” will eventually fade.
While writing to serve people digitally is important to me, I don’t want it to become my number one ambition; I want face-to-face, long-term interactions to be priority, especially the ministry opportunities God has placed directly in front of me within the home and our local church.
Of course, this may look different for every writer! We seek to know our hearts and motives, the needs of our families and churches, the demands of our other responsibilities and roles, and we discern how to best serve God through our writing with all this in mind.
What about you, fellow writer? Any confessions you’d add to these?