Writers and Faith: A Journey and Exercise, Part 1
More than a few authors were discussing feeling murky about the blend of their faith and their writing. More than a few felt mired or uncertain what to write or even if they should write. Could their time be better spent—the exercise of their faith be better spent—doing something else?
Those questions in that discussion sent me on a journey to discover the role of faith-filled authors. What information was available to share with them? What would offer guidance? Direction? Counsel worth having? Were there specific guideposts, guidelines that would be helpful? Specific signs to watch for or to avoid? Was there anything I could give or add to the discussion to help other writers and myself?
Although I’ve been writing steadily for twenty-seven years, I am not the ultimate authority on anything including writing and know that only too well. So I went to what is the ultimate authority on everything—the Bible. What does it say about authors, writers, storytellers and scribes? I thought that would reveal useful insights and, frankly, was stunned that I hadn’t thought to specifically search that before now. Ah, God’s timing. Again. A lesson often repeated during my career and life. Not my time, His time. Often the two are poles apart—or seem as if they are. But experience has taught me that His timing is always perfect. Mine’s anything but. So now is the exact right time to take a look at this. Hence, these articles.
I have to tell you, I did not expect the avalanche of guidance, direction, responsibility, goals and aspirations, and dictates that I found. Nor did I expect the affirmation that writing is an enormous, trusted gift bestowed on writers. But that’s precisely what I discovered. That, and so much more!
In the articles are a dozen of the verses revealed and applied to writing and/or authors and my interpretation of why they are significant. I could expound and dig deeper, but then this would be a book not an article that’s grown to a series of articles. More importantly, full disclosure of my discoveries could color other writers’ own discoveries, and that would deprive them the joy I experienced.
That was such a gift. I hope everyone, writers and others, regardless of what they do, will search the Bible for their vocation. It’s a breathtaking experience—and it alters your perspective forever. In a sense, I feel I got a glimpse of being seen through God’s eyes. Just a glimpse, but the impact was profound. Everyone should feel that special and honored at least once.
The verses selected are ones that spoke intimately to me. After the verse, my thoughts. And beyond that, an exercise on that verse for you to apply to your specific situation.
Now when you run your search, some or all of these verses might speak to you or other verses will speak to you. Some will speak more loudly to you than others. I do believe that is deliberate and our spirits are, if you will, plugging into the Divine will. What speaks most directly and clearly to us, I believe is tied to our individual purposes and to God’s specific plan for us. We recognize it at soul level, just as Christ said we would in hearing His voice.
Here’s a place trust and faith are called into action. Have faith that you will receive what you need when you need it, that you will recognize it, and that you will know exactly what to do with it. Your steps are guided by His will. They might be different than you planned (and often are) but they’re perfect for you (even when it seems otherwise). Know too that there is a reason for each step you take. Whether it’s to gain knowledge, wisdom or experience, you have the opportunity to gain something from each step. So step boldly in faith and trust that walking in His will you will get what you need to take the next step and fulfill His purpose for you. As a dear friend once told me, “Of course, it’ll work out fine. It’s a God thing.”
A God thing. Trust and faith, and us doing our part so He doesn’t violate free will (which He will not do) and He can step in to do His part. Simply put, shedding His grace on thee. It’s amazing how comforting knowing that He longs to shed His Grace on us can be in times of uncertainty when we’re feeling an absence of clarity.
Part 1 Verse:
And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain.” ~Habakkuk 2:2
So many authors, myself included, struggle with what to write. The choices are infinite and the decisions made impact lives and careers and paths for the duration. Choices are infinite and significant to readers and to the author’s life and career as an author.
Writers choose to write to the market, to editorial preferences, to agent recommendations, to personal preferences—and all of that is fine provided those suggestions are in harmony with the author’s vision of the work. If suggestions or preferences are not in harmony with the author’s vision, then the author can’t fulfill the obligations required of him/her.
This is where author theme fits in and from whence the necessity of an author loving the work s/he elects to invest in resides. Why is that important?
If you don’t love the work, you can’t address it honestly with insight and understanding and compassion or with the dogged discipline required to give the work your best. If what you’re writing is outside your author theme (stories you feel are important, essential, compel you to write them), then you lack the determination to give the work all you have to give.
Every work, to achieve its full potential, requires your all. To write lacking your all violates the trust given to you that comes with the storytelling gift. Remember: The storytelling gift is the one part of writing that can’t be taught. You have the gift or you don’t. So, as with all gifts, comes great responsibility.
Write the vision, the verse says. The vision as you see it. Not because “x” told you to write it. Not because you think it will perform well in the market. Because it is the vision. The one given to you in the form of inspiration, ideas, a deep-seated need to write this specific work at this specific time in this specific way.
I always “see” in my mind’s eye, the fingertip of God touching the crown of my head. “Write this,” that still, small voice inside me says.
Since nothing exists that He hasn’t first created, He is the root source of inspiration and ideas. From Him all blessings flow, right? So when that inspired idea resonates with you, isn’t it possible that the reason it resonates is because it’s divinely inspired? Isn’t it possible that you’re feeling inspired to write this or that now because that’s what He’s touching to your crown, infusing you with His desire that the vision be written?
When you write to the vision, you can be assured that those intended to read it will. Those for whom the vision was crafted will find it. That’s the faith aspect. The author’s job is to write the vision.
It’s proven true in my life again and again that no heartfelt desire persists without the skills (or the ability to acquire them) also being present. The two run hand in hand—and affirm that we’re never given more than we can handle. If you have a deep and abiding passion for a project, you have or can acquire the skills and ability to manifest it.
Make it plain. There’s essential craft guidance for the author. It doesn’t matter how wonderful a work might be if the meaning in it isn’t clear. If a reader can’t follow the path, can’t grasp what is being shared, can’t wrap his head or heart around it, the purpose of the work can’t be fulfilled. Clarity is vital. Critical to all.
If you doubt clarity is essential, imagine this: You’re having a conversation with another person, only that person is speaking in a different language. One you don’t understand and s/he can’t understand your language. If you can’t understand or be understood, then how can the purpose of the conversation be transmitted or comprehended? Neither of you have a clue what the other person is saying, what it means, or why it’s important. Both of you gain as much as you would talking to a brick.
Now let’s say there’s an important message God wants to pass between character and reader. He requires a vehicle to do it—a book. He needs a messenger, a translator—an author—to write the book carrying the message. He inspires an author who understands the character’s language and the reader’s language and can depict clearly the message. (The translator-author is trustworthy, willing and able to accurately translate without adlibbing [not writing the vision])—and writes the book. The reader reads and gets the message. The author’s purpose is fulfilled. The book’s purpose is fulfilled, and the reader got what s/he needed from the book.
That’s why authors must strive to convey the vision and to make it plain. So that its purpose might be grasped and understood and fulfilled.
The purpose might be to offer a reader entertainment. Or to give a weary soul a sorely needed, short reprieve during a hard time, perhaps a deathwatch. To prove constructive solutions to challenges being faced exist. To offer hope or joy or clarity—or any of a thousand purposes in between. Whatever His purpose, it will be fulfilled.
He chose the author, inspired him or her, fired love for the project so it got the author’s best, then led the reader to it. Of course, the purpose for which He went to all this planning and directing is fulfilled. Free will played its roll, but the opportunity was presented and delivered.
Part 1 Exercise:
Read the verse and record how it resonates with you. What comes to your mind? Why does it matter? How does it echo in your career, your content, your craft choices? How does it impact your choices of what to write?