The Most Important Thing You Can Do As a Writer

way of trustI get asked all the time, “Shelley, how did you get published?” The real question, though, that these folks are asking is, “Shelley, what can I do to get published?” We all want to find success in our field of interest, and if you’re reading this, there’s a good chance your field is the same as mine: communication, and in particular, writing.

While there are some GREAT steps of action you can take, and you’ll find a lot of those by following the Water Cooler, I personally have experienced the ONE that is the most important, so I want to pass that along to you as I make my debut here as a contributor. This ONE thing keeps me sane regardless of book sales. This ONE thing helps me know which project to work on and which one to table or forget altogether. The To-Do List of life, family and ministry often blur my vision and confuse my priorities, but this ONE thing really does make ALL the difference.

Ready?

It’s so simple and yet so overlooked by far too many (even Christian) writers.

Trust God.

I told you it was simple, but the truth is, the quality of our lives rises or falls on our level of trust in our Heavenly Creator–the One writing our lives. The One who knows the end from the beginning. The One who has GOOD plans for each and every one of us. Many times a creative soul like a writer gets all jumbled up in the mix of “the next new thing” and trying to have his/her voice rise above the noise of so many voices also trying to make themselves heard. But the motive behind it all is either going to be FEAR or LOVE. And that motivational force will come from the Source in whom I place my trust: myself; my agent; my abilities; my marketing team; my publisher; or my Heavenly Father.

It’s a simple principle, but that doesn’t mean it’s also an easy practice. Thankfully, there is grace for this, too! God cares more about your willingness than your perfection.

As we seek to discover where we’re placing our trust, we can ask ourselves these good questions:

  • Do I have to be a successful (however you define “successful”) writer to be of value?
  • Am I working on this current project because I sense God’s Spirit flowing through me in the process or because I feel pressure to write this?
  • Who is my audience…really? In other words, who am I most seeking to please? (Readers? Myself? God?)
  • If my writing isn’t as successful as someone else’s, is my writing still valuable?
  • What is my source for content? Am I solely relying upon my experiences, education, research, and skills, or am I inviting God’s Spirit to be my greatest influence in what I write?

According to the writer of Hebrews, one we can take some cues from as writers, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.*”

Asking ourselves where we are placing our trust, regardless of the size of that trust, will help us navigate through all the ups and downs and unknowns that writers experience. God sees and God cares more about your calling to write than even you do. Trusting Him in the midst of every day life and trusting Him to give you the words to put ‘out there’ will give you the strength and peace to accept His plans for the reach and impact of those words.

#OnlyTrustHim

*Hebrews 11:1 The Message

Hands and Knees Navigation

“Perhaps the greatest achievement of writing is to become less sure of oneself.”
~ Brian Doyle

The aged rarely hurry. Time and use and strain deplete muscle and bone and marrow of youth’s vigor, suffusing the void with a dichotomy of uncertainty and wisdom which beg measured steps.

Writing likewise begs an unhurried pace. My fingers manage about 70 words per minute when I transcribe the exact words of someone else. My own thoughts might read in my mind with equal clarity and run toward a clear destination, but they’ll crowd over one another and onto a page at a somewhat slower WPM.

What’s more likely is a meeting between a sheet of white before my eyes, strands of understanding and feelings in my mind and heart, and a gripping compulsion in my soul to bring concrete shape to the altogether abstract. My fingers then wander and grasp for each word as they crawl across the page.

For fiction and non-fiction alike, whether my outline and components are defined with precise or rough edges, the navigation of crawling requires the use of both hands and knees. Whatever gift I have, however developed my writing craft, no amount of raw talent and polished skill can bridge the spiritual and mortal without divine empowerment.

“I am like a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the writing. The pencil has nothing to do with it.”
~ Mother Teresa

Do I believe I can present some worthy work that originates with me? Or do I simply offer myself to God, asking Him to use me for His work?

If our writing is His means of conveying stories and ideas and a purpose bigger than the entertainment or information transfer we’d otherwise compose, then allowance must be made for God to be actively engaged in our writing.

The suggestion to pray throughout the process of writing may be stating the obvious to you, or it may be a great new idea. Either way, this reminder comes with a few practical pointers:

• Before sitting down to write, check with the Lord for other priorities.
• If writer’s block strikes, be still and wait for the Lord’s leading.
• Allow God to take an idea in another direction than you had in mind.
• Edit with a spiritual eye, asking God’s Spirit what is pleasing to Him.
• Work toward deadlines with intentional room for chats with the Lord.
• Seek God to resolve conflict (with schedule, editor, outline, etc.).
• Prioritize time with God’s Word to sharpen your power with words.
• Shelve preconceived ideas of God’s intent and timing for the end product.
• Recognize, thank, and praise the Lord for every blessing along the way.
• Before considering a work complete, ask God if you missed anything.

[May God] make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever.
Amen.
~ Hebrews 13:21 (NKJV)

What other specific elements bring the Lord into your writing?
Do you have a testimony of God at work through your words?