How to Succeed as a Christian Writer

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).

16 replies
  1. Richard Mabry says:

    Nick, Thanks for sharing your wisdom, which is spot-on. There have been at least three “God things” in my road to writing, and probably more that I didn’t recognize.
    You’ve made me realize that I can’t just rest in the security of my “call,” but must reexamine it through prayer and meditation on a regular basis. Blessings, friend.

  2. Brayden Hirsch says:

    Great insight! The whole calling thing is something I think few people kind of forget…if you don’t want to write, if you don’t feel motivated at all, if you don’t feel it’s something God wants you to do…then there’s no way you can get published. I liked this post, and will be checking back for the rest of the series! Thanks,


  3. Nick says:

    Brenda, that’s such a blessing. Yes, I know people who prayed for me too. I will include the need for prayer from others in a future post.

  4. Michael K. Reynolds says:

    Sometimes lost in the endless waves of information regarding marketing advice, platform emphasis, publishing industry woes and strategies for career advancement, it’s important to be reminded of the purpose of what we do. Thank you Nick for getting us recentered.

  5. coleen johnson says:

    Hey Nick,
    Just heard about your blog through Kathy Lipp’s post on facebook. I was just praying yesterday and felt like God was telling me that my “writing ministry” would be clearly defined soon. He’s got me in Joshua right now studying the complete eradication of sin in the camp, total obedience, in order to enter the promised land. Your post is confirmation once again that I am “called” to write. I look forward to learning more from what God speaks through you.

  6. Stephanie Shott says:

    This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’m preparing for my first writer’s/speaker’s conference and I really want clarity of my calling and some specifics of the call before I walk in the door.

    I know God may not choose to answer me before I walk across the threshold of the conference room, but I also know He is not in heaven trying to hide His plan for our lives from us. That He delights when we walk in works He has planned for us.

    I’m so thankful Kathi Lipp directed me to your blog – and thanks so much for your prayer initiatives!

  7. Marlayne Giron says:

    I wrote a lot of short stories as a kid and am an avid reader but I can’t honestly say that I ever felt a “calling” to be an author. However, that being said, God did give inspire me with the idea for a story 30 years ago which has recently been published. I never aspired to be an author but I did believe that God wanted to use The Victor (my book) and so have pursued getting it into publication and am now marketing/promoting it as best I can with my limited resources. I enjoy writing but don’t feel the need or compelled and I think I have been given a natural gift for it. I truly wish I was one of those authors that had a million ideas and not enough time to write them because I have people requesting sequels to The Victor all the time!

  8. Edwina Cowgill says:

    I saw your blog mentioned in Brandilyn’s blog for today. Excellent topic! I’m sharing the link with my local writers’ group.

    Looking forward to the remaining blogs on this topic!

  9. Christina Summers says:

    This morning I was just asking God for guidance in my writing. I’m about to step out of the boat onto the deep and unknown waters of a writing career, as God has called me to. Coleen, your comment touched my heart because it is exactly what God has been doing in my life: eradicting sin, and teaching me total obedience so that when I step out the boat, I won’t sink. Praise God!
    Thanks Nick for your insight. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

  10. Debbie Hannah Skinner says:

    Great wisdom, Nick… especially the reminder to pray.
    “Prayer for my writing is a mainstay of my life”— that’s simply powerful.
    Seems this is true for art and any creative pursuit the Lord leads us to and through. Your words inspire me to pray more and look for His open doors.

  11. Sheila Deeth says:

    Thank you Nick, for the reminder to pray, and the thoughts on how we tell if writing is God’s plan for us. I’m praying to be directed and not distracted, but most of all to keep praying.

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  2. […] sure I touched on dealing with setbacks and discouragement in my earlier series on How to Succeed as a Christian Writer, but today I want to revisit it for a minute. Not surprisingly, this is due to a bout with […]

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