As you reflect on your writing journey over 2010 and look ahead to the next year, what thoughts come to mind? Did you reach your writing goals? Did your hopes and dreams come true, or was the year beset with disappointments--more than you'd thought? This writing life is all about a life lived with purpose and calling. No one has to tell any of us how hard a path this is--spending so much precious time dedicated to this endeavor of putting ideas on a page, in hopes those ideas might ultimately lead someone to God. Often we doubt ourselves, feel we are wasting time, being indulgent in a career that often gives little back in rewards--monetarily or otherwise. It is often enough for me to revel in the satisfaction of accomplishment--that I've written something meaningful or clever or powerful. But, looking at the bigger picture, that's not why we believers write--to feel good about ourselves and what we can do.
As writers, we make many plans. Perhaps you've already laid out much of your next year: what conferences you will attend or teach at, what writing intensives you'll participate in, what books you plan to write, what novels and instructive books you plan to read and study to better your craft. It's helpful to plan things out. Our time is fractured into so many pieces, with family and church and other responsibilities requiring our time. But we have these dreams God has put into our heart, dreams that press us toward our writing goals, for his glory.
As I plan out next year, I try to keep in mind the verse in James that warns against making too many plans without consulting God. We are to say "I will do this and go there IF God wills it." Sure, we pray for God's direction all the time, but sometimes we get so busy making plans, we forget to ask him his plans.
Once I began praying for God to only open the doors I am meant to go through and close all the others, I noticed a huge change in my life. I've never been good at asking God's direction and then "hearing" his answer. So this became the way I could hear God. So often I felt frustration when a contract didn't come through, or an editor I thought would love my book showed no interest at all. I kept picturing how I thought my career should look. You'd think I'd learn after having to wait 24 years before getting published? No, I still keep telling God what I think my writing journey should look like and when everything should happen, and how...
I believe partnering with God takes practice. It takes deliberate attention to always meet with God (our true boss, agent, and publisher) and consult with him. I've learned more and more to rely on him to not only give me ideas for my books, but to help me write every sentence, every word as I delve into my current project. Sometimes I hear God telling me NOT to write, that a scene isn't ready, that I need to step back and spend time thinking. This has been a revelation to me (see my personal blog post about the pitfalls of counting words). A writing life is not about how many words I can put down on the page in a day. God is not going to ask me, when I stand before him, how many words I wrote a day for him. He wants to know I've been faithful with what he's entrusted with me--this calling and gift of writing. It is a precious, fragile thing, which I cherish, but most importantly, it is a means to one end--growing in love and appreciation for him, to where, when I set my fingers on the keyboard, I want his will to be done. It's a fine dance, focusing on the actual writing while at the same time surrendering and letting God's spirit lead. I know it will take a lifetime for me to get the hang of this balancing act, but one thing God has shown me most powerfully--being called to write is not about achievement--it's about relationship.
As you continue writing, remember to lay all your goals, dreams, hopes, fears, and worries at the feet of the cross. As much as we want to accomplish and do and produce, God is interested in a relationship with us above all. I believe if we focus on that foremost, everything else will click into place. And whatever 2011 has for us--be it great contracts and terrific offers or nothing but the day-by-day grind of putting words on the page--know that this is God's work and his doing. May we rejoice in all of it.