I don’t know about other writers, but when I am writing something, often I am talking to myself. This especially goes when I am writing a sermon or working on a novel. Novels, after all, are about the human condition, and believe me, I am very human.
A book I was working on last summer had a character who was faced with the choice with fame and fortune in the music business, or following what God had planned for him. More than once, he was asked if he would follow God, even if the task before him was something that seemed unimportant and would never gain him any recognition. It’s a question we should all ask ourselves every once in a while, especially us writers. Do we write for the recognition, or because God has called us to write? If we never receive any recognition, will we still be willing to do what God wants us to do?
As I mentioned, this question was an extension of my own life. Years ago I spent two years researching, planning and building a new national magazine called ParentTalk with my friend and fellow editor Randy Maxwell. We poured our hearts and souls into that project, and we were very proud of the end result. Unfortunately, the day came when Pacific Press told us that ParentTalk would be discontinued. I was given the unhappy task of telling our writers, advertisers and subscribers the bad news. I took the news hard, and I prayed for a long time about it all. How could this happen, I asked God, when every indication was that the magazine was doing good things, and we were happy doing them. I pondered this for several days before the following statement came into my mind: It’s not what you do that’s important. It’s who you are.
As writers, it’s often easy to get caught up in the identity of being a writer. It’s what I am, we say. But God is asking, is it really? Is being a writer what’s important? Or is it just a means to an end? Is it just an occupation, something that you are good at, like being a plumber, or a tailor or a businessman?
Well, maybe that’s taking it a little too far. I believe writing is a calling, just like being a doctor, teacher or pastor. Not everyone can do it, nor should everyone try. But we have to be careful to remember that writing is a means to an end. Like I told a student a few years ago: “It’s not enough to be able to write. You have to have something to say.”
Having the skills is not enough. You have to use the skills for a higher purpose.
So what’s your higher purpose?