In his book Writing for the Soul, Jerry B. Jenkins mentions a category of writers who write because they can’t not write. I’m one of them. If I’m not working on a writing project, my soul begins to fester. Writing is what drives me and helps me make sense of the world. Ideally, my writing helps readers to make sense of their realities while also inspiring them. As a journalist I’ve written and edited hard news and features, and lately I’ve been moving into the realms of narrative journalism, a medium that upholds journalistic standards but allows the writer a more creative voice.
Like any writer, I sometimes struggle. Lately it’s been a challenge to organize my thoughts and harness my brain’s creative free radicals, which I blame partly on dogged pregnancy hormones. Seeking a deep thaw for my brain freeze, I turn to writers such as Jenkins, Philip Yancey, and books like Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul. They redirect my focus, remind me why the call to write is so important.
In his article “The Writer as Journalist,” Yancey discusses his goal as a narrative journalist:
The kind of narrative journalism that appears in the better magazines and often expands into book length has a very different goal. We are more interested in telling a story rather than communicating information. I would summarize my writing goal in this way: to cause the subject (which may in fact be a person) to stand out in relief, in a kind of silhouette, for the benefit of a particular audience, and to do so in an engaging way that holds the reader’s interest.
Yancey achieves his goal every time, in my opinion. I aspire to be as clear and effective in my writing as Yancey is in his.
Elizabeth Engstrom, writing in Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul, says:
… I have learned that the surest way to make my own dreams come true is to help others achieve theirs. The fate of empires does not hinge upon my work or upon any one piece of work. But those of us to whom this gift has been given have a responsibility to be persistent about writing and publishing our work until a sufficient body of work has been assembled. Our message is important. The world needs it. That’s our job. Never forget: It doesn’t matter what you write. What you believe will show through.
This is sound advice for any writer, from novices to best-selling novelists. God calls certain people to be writers, and our mission is as critical to souls as that of teachers, pastors and counselors. Speaking of souls, Jenkins reminds us how to keep our souls in shape as writers, so we can continue to help others through the written word. He suggests nourishing the soul by spending time reading the Bible, praying, and in fellowship with other believers. He also says writers must follow their passion:
Regardless of where you are in your writing journey, always strive for the freedom to write about what really matters to you. Whatever else the writing life offers, nothing compares with the dream of actually changing lives with words. And if you plan to make a life of writing, you must stand for something, have a carefully considered and lived-out world view.
This blog is my effort in that direction. My son’s arrival almost two-and-a-half years ago ushered in an era of upheaval, and the dark days that followed his birth still haunt me. Yet my faith in Christ has been the beacon beckoning me forward. I cast my cares, doubts and grief on him, and he has faithfully spun them into gold. He has made it clear that I should use my skills as a journalist to help other women through trials and grief, particularly those related to motherhood. Were it not for the trauma surrounding my son’s birth, I wouldn’t be on this path.
Pain has a purpose, often a divine purpose. Billy Graham attests to this in an anecdote offered by Jenkins in Writing for the Soul. Jenkins and his wife were visiting Graham in the summer of 2004, and found him bedridden with a broken pelvis. Graham explained that the previous day, a doctor had come to give him an injection, warning of the dire pain he’d experience:
The doctor told me to imagine the one place I’d rather be than this, a Shangri-la of some sort, and concentrate on that. I told him, “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here, right now.” The doctor said, “Why in the world would you say that? I told you, this is really going to hurt.”
I told him, “Because I believe I’m in the center of God’s will, and if this is where He wants me, this is where I want to be.”
I experienced many forms of pain after my son was born–physical, emotional, spiritual–and I wanted out. Because I was uncomfortable, it didn’t occur to me that I might’ve been at the center of God’s plan. I see now, though, that wading through the mire was exactly where I was supposed to be. As odd as it seems, I’m learning to be grateful for the pain God has allowed into my life: it has taken me closer to the heart of Christ, and closer to the hearts of my readers.
- When I Have Fears (Mama Writes, May 24, 2011)