Over the course of the next few blog entries, I want to talk about the factors that go into making a successful Christian writer. Each entry will briefly touch on one of the factors I’ve observed over the years. The first one, chronologically speaking, is:
1. Know your calling as a writer. Why exactly do you write? Are you serious about writing or are you a dabbler? Will you be briefly disappointed if you don’t succeed, and then move on to the next thing in your life? Or are you aware that this endeavor of writing, editing, and publishing is right where God wants you in spite of repeated rejections from publishers? Knowing your calling is from God will anchor you during those long hot days in the desert when nothing seems to be happening with your writing.
How do you know if writing is your calling from God? First, I think you need to look at your own heart and at your own desires. Do you have a seemingly inborn desire to succeed at writing? Many writers can trace such yearnings all the way to their childhood. In my own case, I well remember writing my first short story at age eight. That led to more writing along the way—some of which….no, MOST of which was embarrassingly horrible. And eventually, in college I majored in English and minored in journalism. My first jobs were in the library and then in bookstores. Writing was very much on the back burner then. I didn’t sell my first article until I was in my late 30’s. All the while, though, the knowledge that books and writing were to be the major part of my life was evident to me. When, stupidly, I abandoned it all for a year to try a career in real estate, I failed miserably. Only when I returned to my first vocational love of books (my calling) did I find a return to contentment.
Another way to know is to watch how God leads you. Believe me, to succeed in writing, you really need some divinely opened doors along the way. Even flat-out miracles. I’ve had at least three (and probably more) major door-opening miracles that moved me along the path toward my destination. These were doors I could not have opened myself.
One reason those miracles happened was that I was praying for God to lead me as I went along. I prayed for those open doors. So, in talking about one’s calling as a writer, I’m going to include prayer as a key ingredient to a successful career as a Christian writer. Even today—perhaps more than ever—prayer for my writing is a mainstay of my life. Not just about my present and future projects, but also about the books I’ve already published. I continue to pray for the effect they will have on readers, even long after I’m gone.
I can’t mention prayer without touching briefly on praying for discernment in your career. You may have opportunities that sound good, but are really a distraction. Others may sound less attractive, but are just what God has ordered for you. Knowing the difference is a result of being discerning about your writing career. I’ll return to the topic of discernment later during this series.
Calling and prayer, then, are the first and primary factors in success for a Christian writer.
With each of the entries in this blog series, I’m going to ask you to find a way to apply what I’ve written. Sort of like homework from Nick. Today’s homework, then, is for you to first make sure of your calling as a writer. Spend time with God. Pray clear through on the matter. God may even give you a word about your writing. That’s happened to me. Early on, God specifically told me two things about my writing. One was that I’d write daily devotional books (I’ve written five now) and that I would write at least one book for men. To date, I’ve done two: Promises to Keep: Daily Devotions for Men Seeking Integrity and Survival Guide for New Dads. For a long time after those initial words from God, I had no fresh sense of how my writing would proceed. But I plowed along (as I do now) and then this year the Lord gave me a fresh word about my writing (which I’m not at liberty to share just yet).
So now I’m going to give you a few days to pray and settle this matter in your heart one way or the other. Perhaps the answer will be that God is calling you to some other task. If so, then you really shouldn’t waste any more time writing. You should be about the task to which you’re assigned. God will make you shine there. If God does show you that you’re meant to write, then keep watching this spot for the second factor in success as a Christian writer. (And send this link to friends who might benefit from the series).