Ten years ago, I was living in New York City after graduating with my BFA in Music Theater. I had moved there to pursue the performing arts industry; but after one (very) long year of no theater work, an increase in chronic pain, rampant loneliness, and working multiple jobs to pay the rent, I was at the end of my rope.
As I walked home from the subway one day, I decided to start a blog. I needed an outlet. My sole intention was to meditate on God’s Word each morning and then write about it, to process what he was teaching me and what I was learning about him in a season that felt like exile.
That’s when the writing bug bit me.
Reflections On a Decade of Writing
It occurred to me this morning that I have been writing for 10 years. This has been a decade full of grace, many challenges, and unexpected joys, all of which God has used to reveal more of himself to me. So, in the spirit of a decade of writing, and in a spirit of great thanksgiving to the Lord, the following are some reflections on the craft.
These are (hopefully) not about me, nor do I have all the answers—far from it. I simply share these lessons as one writer-in-process to another, and to point you to our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who alone can save sinners and redirect our well-intended but wayward paths, using us in whatever ways he wants to glorify his name and build up his people.
#1: Write from a place of quiet faithfulness rather than worldly ambition.
“The greatest among you shall be your servant.” (Matt. 23:11)
In a culture of platform-building, it’s tempting to write as a means to some end—likely, getting published, which is the world’s definition of writing-greatness. The digital economy makes it easy to chase after something bigger and supposedly better than simple faithfulness, a plodding along in service to the Lord, no matter the earthly outcome.
I sometimes wonder, if I were not a published author, would I still be writing? I hope the answer is yes. I hope that love for Jesus and his Word, and a desire to faithfully serve him, is always the propelling force behind all the words I write, far outweighing the ambition to achieve a specific earthly outcome by those words. In God’s kingdom, faithfulness outweighs ambition any day, for his definition of greatness is service, and the lowly-in-heart are the ones he exalts.
How do you tend to define greatness? How can you tell when worldly ambition is your primary pursuit? What does it look like to pursue faithfulness and service to God as you write?
#2: Write because God has first written his truth on your heart.
Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! (Ps. 139:23–24)
At this point you may be wondering, But what if nobody reads what I write? What’s the point, and is it still worth it? Answering that question is between you and the Lord. But here’s my encouragement to you: Even if nobody reads what you write, if you are writing from a place of being taught by God, then it has been worth it.
In other words, write primarily for yourself and for your own soul. And if others benefit from it, that is an added bonus and blessing.
I often say to people that if God has not first written his truth on my heart, then what I’m writing is likely not worth writing about. I write to think, to understand, and (Lord willing) to be changed. I write to grasp his truth and bring it home to my heart. I write to weave his Word into my soul, by the power that his Spirit supplies. And if I’m not primarily writing for these reasons, then whatever I’m writing is probably not worth writing.
What is God teaching you through his Word? What is he revealing to you about himself? About your own heart? Write about that. And if what you write happens to help others, then thank God for that added blessing.
#3: Write, and keep writing, even when it’s hard.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor. 15:58)
The idea that most writers steal away to a secluded cabin in the woods, meandering about the trees until lightning strikes with a phenomenal creative idea, is absurd. I suppose some writers might function this way (Walden Pond, anyone?), but this is not common.
Whether you write vocationally or not, writing is hard work. And like any other work, it requires focus, commitment, and (sometimes) slogging. So when you’re discouraged, don’t give up. Keep writing, even if it’s just the next sentence or paragraph. Remember how God has been faithful to use this discipline within your own heart, and perhaps within other people. Anything hard is usually worth doing, so keep writing even when it’s hard. Your labor is not in vain.
What do you expect writing to be like? Are there misconceptions you need to get over? How is God calling you to persevere right now?
#4: Write from a posture of humility.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. (Prov. 12:15)
Correction is a painful but necessary tool for a writer’s growth. Just as the Lord disciplines the one he loves so we will become holy, and just as a parent trains her children for the purpose of growth, so a writer will get better at his or her craft only if we humbly receive correction.
When it comes to writing, I have been corrected many times, which is always a painful but fruitful experience. In the moment, it hurts; no one likes to be told their writing isn’t compelling, their argument isn’t strong, or their idea is boring. The question is, how will we respond when correction comes? Will we get defensive, rejecting peoples’ critiques in favor of being “right”? Or will we see them as God’s grace to us, a tool in his hands for our growth?
Receive correction with humility: from your spouse, family members, friends, and especially from editors and agents. They are on your side, and they want you to be better! You also demonstrate trustworthiness as you respond to them with a teachable heart, which will only make people want to work with you again. I share this with you in love as a writer who has responded well to criticism…and also poorly. “A wise man listens to advice.”
Do you need to take someone’s criticism or advice right now? Or is there someone you can reach out to for feedback on your writing?
Written on Our Hearts
A decade later, and I love writing even more than when I first began. I pray this delight increases. Ultimately, I pray for us, that our love for Christ will run deeper and deeper the more we write—and that he will keep writing his truth on our hearts as we do.