A few weeks ago, a friend sent me an email, told me about a writer who’d lost his way.
I didn’t know his friend. A stranger. Still, I understood. Felt a kinship. Pulled up my chair in his circle. Those of us who write know how discouragement lurks on our edges, just a stone’s throw away.
In response, I sent him a letter, my heartfelt attempt to encourage him to keep at it. After sending it, I read it again, and realized how many times (a year, a week, a day) I need to hear the same. Maybe you, too.
So here’s my letter to Jake (name changed), a writer who isn’t sure why he’s writing anymore. But it’s also my letter to me. And you.
Let’s keep at it.
Hi there, Jake.
My name is Michele. You don’t know me. However, our mutual friend, Mark, tells me you’re a writer.
Knowing my personal experience with writing, my initial inclination is to grab you by the shoulders, look you in the eye, and ask (while shaking you like a pair of maracas):
Why, good man, WHY?
Of course, I jest. Mostly.
I first started writing almost seven years ago. While in the middle of raising my three boys, I kept feeling the tug to write, to capture some of the ideas and revelations bouncing within. From the beginning, I hoped to write a book—dozens of them actually. But I didn’t know the first thing about writing. Nada. Zip.
So I joined a writers group. Asked questions, soaked up conversations, read a stack of books, attended writing conferences. I even started my own blog. Eventually, I learned a thing or two, got my first article published, and then became the Director of said writer’s group. Everything was going splendidly.
Except for that blasted book thing. It kept eluding me, for a variety of reasons. I’m like the Susan Lucci of the book-writing world, for crying out loud.
And, yes. I’ve done that too. Cry out loud.
Last year my second son graduated from high school. With only one child still at home, I planned to start writing my book—er, bookS—in earnest. I wanted to finish my novel, send out a proposal or two, FINALLY do all I’d planned to do.
But then two major interruptions foiled my plans. First, our family went through two massive life changes that significantly changed my at-home responsibilities (READ: almost no writing time). And second, the first publisher I showed my proposal to didn’t like it. In fact, it gets worse. They didn’t like my writing.
I tell you all this for one reason: All these painful lessons finally—FINALLY—brought me to the place I needed to be all along.
In all the struggle of being a writer and doing the actually writing, I stopped writing for ME. I wrote for my ministry, my blog readers, my one-day book readers and the editors and publishers who had the power to decide whether or not the book would ever birth.
No more. Now I write for me. Because somehow, in the writing of words (even when I don’t do it well), I learn something about the Word of Life himself. I see my life from the perspective of the page, and it makes more sense than it did before I wrestled it into print.
If you, as Mark says, are a writer, I can almost guarantee two certainties:
ONE: You will want to quit a hundred times a week. Writing can be one of the most infuriating, frustrating, unrewarding pursuits known to mankind.
And TWO: You can no more NOT write than you can not breathe. When you first started, you were drawn into it almost beyond your will. Quitting, no matter how discouraging it is at this moment, will not sober your need to write. You were made for this.
Write, Jake. Write. It will not be easy. It won’t always be fun. But lean into the adventure. Do it for Him. And do it for you. Even if no one else notices.
I’m in this struggle with you. And that means we’re no longer strangers—we’re friends.
Cheering for you,
What is the reason you write?
I write because I believe words have power.
I write because I want to help others find encouragement, passion, life, and purpose.
I write because sometimes it helps my mind find relief from all the ideas spinning inside.
Thanks for sharing your encouraging note.
Yes, exactly. Thanks, David.
Me too, David! Once I can get a thought down on paper my mind can rest, and start in on a new thought. I’ve been writing books in my head long before I realized I needed to write! I write because it is a calling, a joy and my purpose. Keep up the good work everyone!
My reasons for writing are similar to David’s. I have found healing in writing, and I have found connection with others seeking to heal as well.
God has always promised He would use my pain for His good. I think writing is one way He has called me to fulfill this.
Blogging has connected me with a unique group of sincere and authentic people in a few short months. It would have taken a lifetime to find such a group in traditional methods.
Healing. Yes. It’s funny how writing does that. Every time I feel stuck and sit down to write, it moves me forward, helps me let go of whatever had me wrapped up.
During the 2011 Catalyst Leadership Summit, Andy Stanley talked about apprenticeship. I write to empty my cup. Through writing about my experiences I hope it will help fill someones cup. I wrote a little bit about this recently on my blog: http://www.staceythureen.com/2012/11/13/transparency/
Great post, Stacey. Thanks for sharing it.
I write, because when I don’t I am not whole. When I write I feel alive. Even when I’m struggling and wrestling with words, and when I believe my talent is ordinary at best, I still need to do it. God has wired me that way and most of the time I’m grateful for that.
I write because I LOVE GOD, life, and the people God has placed in my life, both domestic and foreign. God is soooo good!…:-D
You must have read my mind. Or maybe Jake and I are one in the same. I haven’t even been reading so many of the writing emails I get…I think I’m just burnt out. Life continues to go crazy around me, and the more I try to write, the more frustrating it gets. I’ve written for two years now and my path looks similar to yours. Blogging has gone great until recently, but the book just continues to loom over my head. I KNOW God gave me a story to write. I just need to reignite the passion! Thanks for a great post and a reminder of WHY we write.
I write because I have stories to tell, and awareness to gain. I need to vent, and I need to understand. When my daughter was first diagnosed with Juvenile Arthritis, I had a very hard time with it. I needed to talk about it, but my coworkers didn’t understand, and the rest of my family had their own ways of dealing. Her disease(s) became an obsession to me, like if I could research everything, perhaps I could find a cure that the professionals were missing (so naive!). I had to write. I had to vent, to make sense of what was happening, to believe what was happening. And then I discovered something. People were reading. Maybe not a huge, significant amount, but enough that I started receiving messages on Facebook. I made many, many new Facebook friends (many whom I have since met and adore). I discovered that I have a gift for helping people find where they need to be.
Since I went back to school and started homeschooling my kiddo’s, I really don’t have the time that I once had. Since then, I’ve discovered a new peace, some new plans, new directions that God has me going in, but I still always think about writing. In fact, I’m wondering if perhaps it isn’t nursing that He wants me to go into but instead medical writing. For now, I will take it day-by-day, always listening.