Thursday, July 5, 2012

To Write or Not to Write?

I just read a post by Carolyn Weber that has inspired me to write this. I am home this week recovering from a procedure, and the week has turned into a kind of spiritual retreat for me. My children have been with my parents, so I have had hours each day to spend alone reading and thinking. And I have been thinking a good bit about writing and this blog.

As I scrolled through the few and far between posts here a few minutes ago, it was obvious how little original writing it includes. It's mostly links and quotes. I wrote more for my old blog, but I had more time at my disposal then as a stay-at-home-mom with an indulgent husband. Now, if I really want to write, I'm going to have to make a commitment to it, be willing to sacrifice other interests, and do it for no other reason than because I know it is a calling. Is it a calling? That's what I need to be sure of, and that is where Carolyn's post comes in.

The post is entitled, "Do Childhood Passions Point Toward Adult Gifts?", and towards the end of the post, she writes:
The child is father of the man,” professes the poet William Wordsworth. This child knows the way to the Kingdom of Heaven within. This child holds the promise of God’s purpose and plan: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13). In these childhood dreams – in that which we take delight and sense how we might be gifted – we glean our future in God’s purpose for us.
I have wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember, but I did not have the single-minded drive nor the personal discipline to train myself as Carolyn did through education and practice. I would have loved to have studied English literature in college, but my innate pragmatic streak and my desire for financial independence won out, and I studied business instead. Nor did I have the encouragement needed from others to spur me on. (My mother always told me I could be whatever I wanted to be, except a basketball coach.)

Like Carolyn, I have certain events impressed upon my memory. After handing in my writing journal to my tenth grade English teacher, I asked her if she thought I could be a writer one day. I cannot remember her exact words, but her response was sweet and unenthusiastic. In college, I made excellent grades on my papers and other writing assignments, but the only specific praise for my writing skills I can remember was in graduate school when my finance professor told me that he had given me a B on a paper because my writing skills were superior to the rest of the class. Left to my financial analysis alone, I would have earned only a C.

As Providence would have it, I finished graduate school during a recession and my ambitions for banking were squelched. And of all of the jobs I could have possibly found (thanks to my mother pouring over the Atlanta Journal Constitution every Sunday), I was hired by a trade association as a technical writer. The tests I had to pass to get that job made it clear that I had excellent writing and editing skills, but the standardized tests I ended up writing on the job did not inspire, and about a year later I moved into another position within the company. I will not bore you with the list of jobs I had in the years to follow. I did a good bit of marketing and PR, so there was always some writing going on, but nothing personal or inspired—with the exception of a few snippets that might possibly be found in a boxed-up long-forgotten journal.

Looking back, I think I thought my time had come as a writer when I began my old blog, Logoscentric. God had clearly called me to be a teacher of the Word, and like any teacher, I was eager to share what I was learning through whatever means available. I knew I was a decent writer, so a blog seemed like a good idea. Pretty early on I developed some online friendships that provided encouragement and feedback. I had a few followers and pretty regular comments. Not a lot, but enough to keep me going. My closest friends and family members thought I was brilliant. I was off to a great start!

Unfortunately, I became consumed with Logoscentric. During our summer vacation in Orlando that year, I read Blogging for Dummies to figure how to attract more readers. It became more about comments and readership than about being obedient to write what was on my heart and trusting God with the outcome. In contrast, look at what New York Times bestselling author Ann Voskamp says about her foray into blogging:
I had journaled up until that point as a young mom, taking Scripture that I'm reading and laying that down in a journal, and how am I living this out, and where is the sin in my life that I need to confess and work through—so never journaling apart from God's Word. Blogging came out of that: If God could use in another mother's life what I was wrestling through, that was a way to go into the world while still being a stay-at-home mom and serving my husband and kids. ... I've never had comments. I've never installed a site meter on it. So I was never thinking there was anyone really out there. Now and then you'd get an email, but up until fall 2010, the screen was black. I saw it as a dark, quiet space. —World Magazine, July 14, 2012
So less than a year after I started it, I gave up Logoscentric. Some time later, I went back and deleted a number of posts: those with no real substance wherein I was trying to be clever or attract another blogger's attention, silly lists— I don't even remember now. The best way for me to describe it is that I deleted all of the crap. I left the posts that I was pleased with, that I knew were primarily motivated for the right reasons, and that may benefit others if they happened to stumble across them out there in cyberspace.

The years that followed can best be described as my "dark night of the soul." I struggled with depression and had no real sense of purpose. I resigned from all teaching responsibilities at my church, and other than a couple of short-lived part time jobs in ministry, I was little more than a church member with excellent attendance, above-average knowledge, and an outward morally upstanding life. There was spiritual growth at that time—in spite of myself. I still did Bible studies and had stretches of regular daily quiet times, but I was spiritually dry as a bone and emotionally pathetic.

My lack of a sense of spiritual purpose beyond my family led me to consider becoming an artist. I knit, crochet, and embroider, and I do it well, so it wasn't that much of a stretch. I started a blog chronicling my creative efforts and established online friendships with other crafty types. I soon took up drawing and painting, which culminated in a week-long painting class at the John C. Campbell Folk School for my fortieth birthday. It was a defining moment, but not the one I'd hoped for. My skills were average, and if I was going to be a painter it would take work. I knew it wan't realistic for me to do a painting a day for the indefinite future. Now what? This led to what was probably the worst time in my life. I was miserable.

(At this point, you are most likely thinking, what does this have to do with writing? I'm getting there.)

In retrospect, I have no doubt that I was clinically depressed. Most days, after I took my children to school, I came home and went back to bed. I was tired all the time, and I cried constantly. I was at the end of myself. And when we come to the end of ourselves, that is when God can do something with us. That's what He did for me. While I was depressed and miserable, within weeks of each other, God called me to start a new women's Sunday school class at my church, and he called me to be the executive director of a new women's ministry that was opening in our town. God chose a time for these things when I was under absolutely no delusion that I was worthy or had done anything to deserve these positions. It was all grace.

Once I had a sense of calling again, I had a desire to write and to share the things God was teaching me. So I started this blog. (The name of our Sunday School class is Berean Women, which explains the blog name.) I remembered my lessons from my Logoscentric experience, so I decided that it would be a blog just for our class—to share things, to encourage them, and to enhance our studies. No delusions of grandeur this time! Therefore, in the past couple of years, I have posted if and when I've been inspired to and with very little original content. I get a positive comment about the blog occasionally, but my sense is that no one is really reading it. And why not? There are only about 25 women on our class roll. I am writing for an extremely limited potential audience.

All of this leads to the question prompted by Carolyn Weber's post: Does my childhood passion for writing along with my tendency to keep coming back to it make me a writer? Is it a calling? If so, what should I do about it? Discipline myself to write more and to provide more original content here or start another blog altogether for a broader potential audience? (There have been many false starts that I haven't bothered to mention in this post.)

Or should the lack of feedback and encouragement dissuade me? Should I see it as confirmation that I shouldn't be wasting my time? Something that has been especially difficult over the years is the lack of encouragement I have received from spiritual mentors in my life. Is God sending me a message or encouraging perseverance?

In the World Magazine interview quoted above, Ann Voskamp says she doesn't really know what she thinks until she writes. That she has to write to understand life. That's what I've been doing here: Writing to understand why I desire to write and if I should bother continuing. This exercise has made it clear to me that my desire to write and what I write about are inextricably linked to God's call on my life. When I know I am called, I have a voice. But what is the point of having a voice, if no one is listening?

"Ask Jeremiah.", is the response that comes to mind.

Your words were found, and I ate them,
and your words became to me a joy
and the delight of my heart, 
for I am called by your name, 
O Lord, God of hosts.
—Jeremiah 15:16


  1. Thanks for your kind comment on my blog, Katy. Figuring out a calling is just never easy, is it? May God bless you as you continue to wrestle with yours!

  2. I read this after following your link at my comments, Katy. Wow. What a beautiful and vulnerable and truly soul provoking piece. I'm honoured you would respond to my thoughts, but even more taken by your honesty here, and discerning desire before God. This is so inspiring! My vote is that you keep writing, and that you keep writing first and foremost for that audience of One. Build your own temple and they will come :)


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