Writing Is a Gift

A lot of writers feel insecure calling themselves writers. Can’t say I haven’t been there. After all, it’s hard to make a living as a writer–always has been. You can’t say, “I’m a writer,” and command the same respect as saying, “I’m a nurse,” because people have a lot of preconceived notions about writers. (Some of which are quite accurate, some of which are true for certain writers, and some of which aren’t true at all.)

But, when it comes down to it, all of that is beside the point. I’m a writer because I write.

And writing is a gift.

I don’t mean that the way we say, “He’s a gifted painter,” or “She’s a talented musician.” I mean, writing is a gift from God, wrapped in the plain brown paper of education and tied with a gorgeous colorful bow of creativity.

This is a gift partly for my enjoyment. Stringing words together in sentences, putting thoughts into coherent text, painting pictures with black marks on white paper, gives me a great deal of joy. (Why do you think I’m so apt to get long-winded, hmm?)

And if I never wrote for anyone except me and God to see, it would still be a precious, delightful gift that never grows dull.

But I do get to write for others to see. I get to try to amuse people, challenge people, encourage people, and bless people. That is a lovely gift. (Granted, I don’t always succeed, and that’s one difficulty of being a writer–we are never perfect, much as we’d like to be. And because we put our imperfections into the semi-permanence of written words, they can sometimes haunt us more strongly.)

Yet when I succeed in writing something people are glad to read, I’m delighted all over again with this gift.

Best of all, I have the opportunity to glorify God with my words. To unveil Him to this world. To capture a tiny facet of His glory. To point others, and myself, to the God who created language in the first place.

Hard to describe how I feel when I think about that. Kind of overwhelmed and kind of disbelieving.

Writing isn’t always a rose-garden gift.

Some days what I write wrings me out and I feel physically tired. Some days the words refuse to come–they feel clunky, they won’t fit, and I erase almost as much as I write.

But the Lord never said our gifts wouldn’t mean work. Contrary to popular belief, work is a good thing.

Then some days this gift feels like a burden.

“I’m not reaching my word-count goals.”

“I can’t say this the way I want to.”

“I can’t find the passion to write this.”

“I can’t get into this character’s head.”

But for me, and I can’t speak for any other writer, I’ve discovered writing becomes a burden when I’m focusing more on the gift than the Giver.

“God, I want to write for you. Why can’t I find the words? Why can’t I write better? How am I going to write all the stories You’ve given me?”

But it’s not about the words. It’s not about perfection. It’s not about what I can do.

It’s really about Him. He gave me a gift, just as surely as if I found it under the Christmas tree one year.

This gift is to push me to Him. To give me joy as I use it under His direction. To challenge me. To serve others. To glorify Him.

God gives us many gifts.

Family. Friends. Pets. Jobs. Possessions. Food. Land. Beauty. Feelings. Knowledge. Music. Skills.

But these are all to point us to Him, to inspire gratitude toward Him, to bring us joy in Him.

The gifts must never be more important than the Giver.

It doesn’t help me to pressure myself, saying, “You must write such and such for God. You must write more words for God’s glory.” But when my relationship with Jesus is in the right place, when there is nothing coming between Him and me, then I can write freely. And even if it’s hard work, it’s satisfying and good.

You can’t brag about a gift. (Well, you can, but it’s silly because you didn’t acquire it through any merit of your own.) But you can make use of a gift. You can revel in it. And you can talk about the goodness of the Giver whenever you get the chance.

-Miss Darcy

The Measurement of Success

The world has its measurement of success, and pretty much screams it at us constantly.

Money. Wealth. Things.

Fame. Popularity. Status.

Pleasure. Any kind. All the time.

But when you don’t plan to spend most of your life in one place, it’s important not to stockpile your treasure there.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal;

but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

-Matthew 6:19-21 (NKJV)

Writers usually measure success in sales. In number of positive reviews. In number of loyal readers. Or number of new readers who rave about your book.

And, to be honest, I would appreciate all those things when I finally publish. But I never want to forget how I measured success when I first started writing: success is giving someone a blessing, however small.

Souls touched for even a little good will be treasure in heaven, yes?

But the world’s measurement of success can be distracting from what’s important.

No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.

-Matthew 6:24

I can’t afford to get distracted by pursuing this world’s success. Yes, I’ll do the best publishing job I can. Yes, I’ll market my books. And, most certainly, I want people to enjoy and be encouraged by what I write. I want it very much. But I must remember that people’s approval is not the main thing to aim for.

I want to write for my King’s approval.

Of course, I want His approval in my whole life, not just writing. But writing has become a big part of my life.

You’ve probably heard the verse about “well done, good and faithful servant.”

His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.

-Matthew 25:21 NKJV (emphasis mine)

That’s what I want. To enter into the joy of my Lord.

-Miss Darcy

Book-Making

It has recently come to my attention that this is supposed to be a writer’s blog, yet I rarely talk about either writing or books. I’m thinking I want to change that. Not that I’ll quit writing my other posts about the Bible and Christian life. I’m far too opinionated to give that up. *smile*

But today I’m going to talk about my work-in-progress (or WIP in writer’s jargon).

It started almost seven years ago in 2010 when I got to thinking about the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale and how it might look without magic. One day in August, I took pencil to notebook paper in every spare minute between doing my schoolwork. In two days, I had ten college-ruled pages full of cursive handwriting. I called it “The Kingdom of Light.”

That was the framework. I typed it up and worked on it, polishing it and expanding it for several years. When I started writing seriously in 2013, I set “The Kingdom of Light” aside in favor of another story. But last spring, I got the urge to work on it again. I had learned so much about writing, and I wanted to apply all my new knowledge to this little story that I loved so much. (Even if it was in terrible shape. ‘Tis a good thing that original story will never see a printing press.)

I loved the characters, and I started thinking about what happened to them after the story. How many children would Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora have? What would they be like? How would their parents’ strange past affect them?

That’s how I met Dierk, eldest son of Phillip and Aurora. It has been almost a year since I started working on his story. I wove the original “Kingdom of Light” story into Dierk’s journey, and I changed the title to Prince of Sunland. The book grew.

Yesterday, I completed my revisions. The word count is over 85,000 words. Today I got the manuscript printed and spiral-bound so I can see it on paper.

I’m more than a little excited.

I’ve never finished a project of that length before. I actually have a two-hundred-page novel that goes from beginning to end, following a reasonable coherent path. In some ways, I feel this book is nothing new. “There is nothing new under the sun,” you know. But I still love it.

Of course, this is just one milestone on the path to publication. But I believe in celebrating milestones (I’m making homemade ice cream tonight for the occasion).

And if you’re wondering what’s next for Prince of Sunland: well, I’m sending it through my critique group. Then I’ll do another round of revisions based on my critique partners’ feedback.

Then I’ll hire a professional editor because I dare not trust my own brain alone to make this book the best it can be. I’m a tiny bit scared to see how long it will take me to put the book back together after the editor’s done.

Then I’ll have the book formatted, and I’ll hire someone to design the cover.

And then, Lord-willing, I’ll publish it myself. Because it looks like I’ll be an independent author. My books probably won’t be available in bookstores, just online. I’ll publish an ebook and a print version. My head spins just thinking about all that.

But I’m excited because I love this story, and right now, the dream seems possible. Not easy, mind you. But possible, if it’s what the Lord wants.

Already I have two sequels percolating in my head. Hopefully they won’t take eight years to come to life!

I still have much to learn. But it’s a good journey. Thanks for following with me.

-Miss Darcy

A Choice of Tools

My church is focusing this week on consecration. It’s horrifying how unconsecrated I can get without realizing it at all. Then I checked out a book of short stories by one of my favorite authors, Grace Livingston Hill, from the library. And what is the focus of the stories? Wholehearted devotion to Jesus.

Writing is a big part of me. I wrote this poem nearly five years ago, reminding myself why I love the written word so. With all the whirlwind of the writing industry, it is good for me to keep things in perspective.

Words are powerful; they have great potential for God’s glory. I don’t want to misuse them.

The pen, ’tis said, is mightier
Than sword or spear or dart.
Indeed, the sword can only kill:
The pen can soothe the heart.

The sword can serve but to destroy
The one opposing me;
The pen, howe’er, may make a friend
Out of my enemy.

So teach me, Lord, to use this tool
To glorify Your Name;
And let me write to bless mankind,
Not seeking worldly fame.

-Miss Darcy

Does God Experience Pain?

In order to write strong fiction, I have to “experience” my characters’ emotions as best I can. I have to get inside them:  feel what they feel, see what they see, fear what they fear.

Even if I experience the scene from only one person’s point of view, I still must have an idea at least of what the other characters in the situation think and feel. No matter how light or funny the scene, this drains mental energy.

Not that I’m complaining, mind you. I love to write, and I love the satisfaction of a scene that turns out well. These imaginary people are the closest to children that I have right now.

So when they hurt, I hurt (even when I cause their pain). Have you ever read a scene that just wrings your heart?

Let me tell you, it wrung the heart of the writer harder.

Sometimes I think the Lord must be like a writer.

He holds our lives in his hands, and He loves each one of His creations. Way more than a writer can love her imaginary friends.

When Mary and Martha lost their brother, Jesus wept with them. But He knew He would raise Lazarus back to life. So why did He weep?

Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled.

And He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

Jesus wept.

-John 11:32-34

Perhaps Jesus wept because He experienced the pain that crushed Mary and Martha.

But that is not the only pain God experiences.

In Ezekiel, God speaks to his people about their sin of idolatry. And He makes a statement that caught me off guard.

“Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations.”

-Ezekiel 6:9 (emphasis mine)

Did you catch it?

Our sin crushes the heart of our God.

When we seek fulfillment in worldly pursuits, instead of looking to God for our deepest needs, we crush the God who gave His very best for us–the life of His firstborn Son.

When our eyes turn from God and long for the pleasures of this world–even if we don’t actually engage in them–we trample on the love of the One who plans only His best for us.

What are we doing? We are so ignorant.

As a writer, I make my characters make mistakes sometimes, for the sake of a good plot. But I still grieve for their pain.

How much more does God grieve when we stray? He knows we will end in loathing ourselves for our evils.

But He wants to give us only goodness. Which is Himself.

It gives me a different perspective on my flighty, unsteady heart.

-Miss Darcy