A Call to Write

This is a sneak peek of a talk I’ll be giving at the Faith and Culture Writers Conference this weekend. It’s in Portland and the price is incredible considering the slate of presenters. Come for them, but make sure to say hi to me too.

All over the internet you can find a plethora of great material on what to write and how to write well. And those articles and perspectives are helpful, but if you don’t know why you write (or should), you’ll burnout before you ever find your voice.

It’s when I lose my why that I focus too much on the what and how of writing. And when I do that it’s only a matter of time before everything I write and publish cannot fulfill my deepest desires.

Without a compelling reason to keep writing or start writing, you’ll get bogged down in trying to find success through what you’re doing, rather than experiencing the joy of God breathing His life into the work He’s called you to.

Christians believe God created the world ex nihilo. Ex nihilo meaning “out of nothing” in Latin. I think writing is creating ex nihilo. I think writing and creating art is an arduous task of creating something out of nothing. It’s taking the empty page or blank canvas and spilling out onto it. The mere act is beautiful even though the product itself needs time to form.

Since creation God has passed on this duty of creating to you and I. It is us who He is creating through. If the same power that raised Jesus is now within us, we also have that same power that created the world beating within our chests. But there’s a big disconnect between the way we talk about creating and what creating is actually like.

Creating stuff is hard work.

Every spring I usually plant some flowers, some herbs, and some produce in our garden (note: my garden looks nothing like this picture, I wish!). And every year something doesn’t go quite right. One year I trimmed back everything too much and it never grew back. One year we had a week of heavy early summer rain and it ruined the just beginning to sprout seedlings. One year I didn’t trim back anything and it all stopped growing about half way through the season. Now I plant a garden because of the challenge.

Gardening reminds me of writing and the difficulty I have creating something from nothing. I take the seed of a thought and try to plant it in fertile soil, so that it leads to something of greater depth. Why is it that what I try to cultivate ends up looking even worse than my attempts at gardening?

This is why I think God creating ex nihilo matters. This is why the fact that creating is HARD work is okay. If it was easy everyone would be lining up to become the next great artist.

Why write? Because God has given you this calling of breathing His life into the darkness all around. (tweet this?)

The Creator God is creating something in you so you can now create something in the world. Not only has He given you this calling but He is at work, equipping you for this great challenge.

Yes this act of creation is hard work. No, it probably won’t get easier. No, learning what to write and how to write won’t make creation go more smoothly. This is hard work because this matters. This is hard work because it’s about taking something deep within you and slowly bringing it to life.

Any thoughts of why you write (or should)? Or maybe you’d like to give me some gardening advice (please!)?

If you liked this post on writing you may want to check out another post I wrote on the same subject for the Story Conference blog. It’s a little different than my usual and I really enjoyed writing it.