Thursday, January 16, 2014

Why God Invites You to Write


Ashley here! Today, I am so happy to welcome a friend, mentor, and encourager, who has spoken God's direction into my writing journey. Allen Arnold currently leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries, and previously worked as founder and Publisher at Thomas Nelson Fiction for over twenty years. Many of you probably know Allen through ACFW and his impact on the Christian publishing industry. I know you are going to be so blessed by his words about God's invitation to write. Be sure to join me in welcoming Allen to the Alley!

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In my twenty years in Christian publishing, I’ve worked with more than 500 authors.


Some of them reached great heights of success.
Others began with big hopes and dreams...that never quite materialized.
And many labored for years and never received a contract.

On the surface, their journeys could not be more different.

Except for one factor.

All writers find themselves – at some point – in the desert.
A place where they feel isolated. Burnt out.
Disheartened. Fearful.
Thirsty.
And alone.

Unfortunately, this desert is real.
Whether you are a best-selling author or still waiting for someone to hear your story, you will spend time there.

But the sense of being alone?
That is perhaps the biggest lie of all.

Yes, the process of writing can feel isolating.
After all, you write by yourself.
And your characters, well, they don’t offer much company.

But you are not alone.

Whose idea did you think it was for you to write anyway?

The Creator of this world gave you the desire to create with words.

Have you ever thought about why?

It’s not because the world needs more stories.
Or just a skill for you to pay the bills.

The reason is far more intimate.

And something most miss.

He gave you the gift of story because he enjoys spending time with you.

That’s why he gave you this particular calling.
To spend time with you.
The art of creating is your unique playground together.

Picture a father teaching his young daughter how to dance.

He places her small hand in his.

She looks up into his eyes, unsure what to do next.

And he brushes her hair back from her ear and whispers, “It’s ok, just follow my lead. I love dancing with you.”

His goal isn’t to place her on the stage to dance alone.
Nor does he stand at a distance – shouting each move.
He sure doesn’t expect her just to figure it out.
He isn’t spending time with her out of duty.
Or so she will become the world’s best dancer.

It’s not primarily about the dance...but the shared experience.

He loves the smell of her hair, the smile in her eyes, and the laughter when he dips her gently.

Dancing alone can’t compare.

Funny thing is - neither can creating alone.

Your gift is actually his invitation into a creative fellowship.

But that invitation often gets stolen so easily in the blur of daily word counts, manuscript deadlines, editorial letters, online reviews...or perhaps the longing for a contract that never quite comes.

So we strive.

We turn to productivity while God longs for our presence.
We put our head down...instead of looking up.
We ask God to bless our day instead of expectantly asking what his plans are.
We get busy doing rather than fully being.
And when we finally look up, we’re off the dance floor.
Back in the desert.

Your identity goes far deeper than being a writer.
At your core, you are a son or daughter of the Father.
He knows you by name.
For who you are...not what you do.

Remember this.

God’s primary desire is not that we write about him.

Or even for him.

It’s that we write with him.

The invitation is always towards intimacy.

Because you can’t write a better story than you’re living.

May you never write alone again.


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Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him. From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian Publishing - overseeing  the development of more than 500 novels as founder and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012. But those facts don't really describe the man. Allen savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is hooked on the TV series "Once Upon a Time" and is passionate about helping storytellers write from an awakened heart.






Do you ever feel isolated in the writing journey? How does this perspective of God's heart challenge our focus on productivity? Allen will be stopping by throughout the day, so feel free to address questions or comments you may have directly to him as well as to the rest of the Alley Cats! 

44 comments:

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Wow...this post spoke to my soul in such a profound way. We all have heard it over and over...write for the Audience of One. But to think that we are writing WITH God is a different matter.

"Your gift is actually his invitation into a creative fellowship." ...fellowship with God...communion with the Creator...intimacy with my Lord...all with an invitation in the form of the gift of writing. That thrills my heart!

Thank you for your words today. God had me set aside my writing last year and I've been waiting for His whisper to begin again. I believe He has spoken and I'm excited to experience a new creative fellowship with Him.

p.s. My father, Tom Williams, was the Art Director for Word Publishing when it was bought by Thomas Nelson. He continued as Art Director for quite a few years. Did you ever meet him?

Jen said...

Oh my goodness. I wish I could put into adequate words how much healing and pre-wilderness preparation this was for me. Thank you for sharing this! I'm printing it, since it will need many more re-reads.

Pepper said...

This was absolutely beautiful. And your sentences here:
"Whose idea did you think it was for you to write anyway?

The Creator of this world gave you the desire to create with words."
Why do I forget this so often? He who began this work in me...even this work of creative writing, is faithful to complete it.

THANK YOU, Allen - for the reminder and for the spirit of encouragement you've shared today.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Wow! This spoke to me so much today. Thank you so much, Allen.

This in particular: That’s why he gave you this particular calling.
To spend time with you.
The art of creating is your unique playground together.

As a busy homeschool mom, sometimes I shun the desire to write as time better spent elsewhere. This speaks to me to take that opportunity to dance with my father, even for a few minutes. I know I'll be coming back to this post again.

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Allen, beautiful post. A balm to my spirit. I spent yesterday in the desert, discouraged and grappling to understand a few things. You know where I went? To my journal, to commune with Jesus. I believe He wants to be with us through the dark days too. He wants us to come to Him with our tears and our discouragement.

I loved the gentleness you show us in giving us God's perspective about our (combined OUR) writing journey together. I loved this:
"Whose idea did you think it was for you to write anyway?

The Creator of this world gave you the desire to create with words.

Have you ever thought about why?"

The reminder that He wants this to be a shared experience—that's priceless. Thank you.

Stacey said...

Your words blessed me today! Thank you so much. It was not until recently that I truly understood what it meant to be in the desert. I loved what you said, "God’s primary desire is not that we write about him. Or even for him. It’s that we write with him." I've said I'm writing for God or God's story, but I haven't really considered it as I'm writing with Him. Wow! I really needed to hear this today. Thank you.

Ashley Clark said...

Sherrinda, I love the quote you referenced! Sometimes I get so goal-focused that I forget the whole point of writing (and really living) is living with Him. How perfectly that corresponds with where you are in your writing journey, too, as you enter into this next chapter! :)

Ashley Clark said...

Jen, thank you for stopping by today! I know what you mean! I think this concept is one that we can come back to throughout the different stages of our writing journey. You said you are in the pre-wildernes... are you new to writing? If so, how exciting!

Ashley Clark said...

Pepper, isn't that SO true? How often do I go around, trying to convince God why the dreams of my heart matter, when in reality, He's the one who made them matter to me in the first place.

Ashley Clark said...

Pepper, isn't that SO true? How often do I go around, trying to convince God why the dreams of my heart matter, when in reality, He's the one who made them matter to me in the first place.

Ashley Clark said...

Julia, what a beautiful perspective! I find it's so easy to put writing on the back burner because it feels like fun time, but you're right-- writing as worship allows for a whole new prioritization.

Ashley Clark said...

Jeanne, I love what you said. I've loved being a part of this journey with you and am so excited to see where God is leading you and your stories.

Ashley Clark said...

Stacey, I loved that quote too! What a powerful concept, that the process of writing can matter just as much as the output. Thank you for stopping by today!

Angie said...

Wow, this is so powerful. Ash, you know how my journey has been over the past year. I have come to realize that most of all, writing is my worship, and that God meets me there for so much more than success, but for intimacy with Him. My writing has grown, but my heart has been refined through this writing journey for more things than just writing. I love the idea of God as a Father teaching His child to dance. Perfect analogy, Allen. When I decide to leave the lesson prematurely and do it on my own, I risk falling on the dance floor for everyone to see! My striving has me do things in a way that reflects Him poorly. Only when I stay for the lesson, and apply what I've learned, do I find security in my ability, but especially in my Father! Thank you so much for sharing today, Allen!

Katie Ganshert said...

Allen Arnold!! Wow. Water for the soul, that's what this post is. Such a beautiful reminder. Thanks, brother!

Allen Arnold said...


Hi Sherrinda -

Thank you for your comments - and yes, I had the honor of working with your father for ten years or so. He was a true Renaissance man with his writing and paintings. Please give him my best! I wish you the best with your writing journey. - ALLEN

April Gardner said...

"God’s primary desire is not that we write about him.

Or even for him.

It’s that we write with him."

Just what I needed today. Thank you!

Allen Arnold said...


Jen, Pepper, Julia, Jeanne, Stacey, and Katie - your kind words mean the world to me. God has invited me into a personal ministry that is all about pursuing the heart of writers. He's opened the door for me to do that at numerous writer's conferences in 2014 - and I'm in the middle of writing a small book on that topic as well. When writers pursue their calling from an awakened heart and begin writing with God, it really does change everything. Your responses have been like manna as I continue writing my book on this topic. I'm expectant for what God has planned for each of you as you take His hand and enjoy the creative dance He's invited each of you into. - ALLEN

Jennifer K. Hale said...

Whew! Brought tears to my eyes!! Thank you, Allen, for this post. Thank you.

Ashley Clark said...

April and Jennifer, so glad you stopped by today!

Ashley Clark said...

April and Jennifer, so glad you stopped by today!

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

What a beautiful illustration! And such a blessing for all of us Alley Cats and our readers. Loved this line: He gave you the gift of story because he enjoys spending time with you. I really needed this reminder, Allen. Thank you so much for being our guest! Truly an honor!

Allen Arnold said...


Thanks Amy. It has been a real blast hanging out with all the Alley Cats today. Better than an extra shot of expresso in my java. ; )

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Wise words, as always, Allen. Not about, not for, but WITH Him! The reminder is timed perfectly, as God knew it would be!

Cynthia Ruchti said...

Wise words, as always, Allen. Not about, not for, but WITH Him! The reminder is timed perfectly, as God knew it would be!

Ashley Clark said...

Cynthia, so good to see you at the Alley today! Hope you are well! :)

Allen, an extra shot of expresso? Wow! What a compliment. :)

Ashley Clark said...

Cynthia, so good to see you at the Alley today! Hope you are well! :)

Allen, an extra shot of expresso? Wow! What a compliment. :)

Rajdeep Paulus-Writer of Young Adult Fiction said...

Allen!

How are you? I was just gonna stop by and read your thoughts. Then the bio got to me. You're into "Once Upon A Time!?!!" So, honest question, which character do you see yourself in the most? I'm "Charming" through and through. :) Although, my heart longs to be like Snow, who my husband is so much more like. Funny how we switched, there. :) My hubby and I are so hooked on that show. Not to mention our teens too. It's the first show after Lost that we've watched. Besided the Bulls, of course. Enjoyed chatting with you in Indiana. Hope you and your family are doing well.

Thanks for the gentle reminders in your post. Can't agree more. No better story than the one I'm living.

best,

Raj

Casey said...

Wow, this post is such perfect timing. I'm currently not writing, but smiling into the day that I can return to it. What a beautiful reminder of where God has me and where He has put me. Thank you so much for gracing the Alley today, Allen. Wonderful to "meet" you again here. :)

Becky Wade said...

Loved this post! Beautifully articulated. I just finished writing a post on discouragement for ACFW's writers and am amazed by how many of these thoughts echoed what God's been telling me about 'the desert' of discouragement. Amen!

Becky Wade said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Krista Phillips said...

Oh I LOVE LOVE LOVE this!!! In my minds eye I can totally picture Jesus scooting a chair up beside me, elbows on his knees, chin on his fist, reading over my shoulder, offering input.

Yup, that sounds like the most FANTASTIC way to write.

Mary Vee said...

Allen,
I can only echo the wonderful words said by others in their comments. We truly do find ourselves in the desert alone, dishearten, when our eyes, like Peter's, fall from the Master's.
Many times I've called to him, as Peter did, to save me from the choice.
Dancing/writing with the Master, our Father, is by far the greatest joy.
Thank you for the reminder.
Blessings on your ministry, Allen.
And thank you for joining us here on the Alley. You are most welcome to come back.

Karen Schravemade said...

Allen, such an honour to have you at the Alley today.

What a beautifully written and profound post. So many lines are humming through my spirit - particularly this one: "You can’t write a better story than you’re living."

I think I need to frame that and hang it above my writing desk.

God really used you to speak to me today. I've definitely been in a "desert season" with my writing, for a lot of different reasons, and this post is an oasis. Thank you so much. (And thank you Ashley for hosting!)

Julia M. Reffner said...

I wanted to come back and share that God used this to confirm a writing project I've had on my heart for a while. I think fear was holding me back :)

Ashley Clark said...

Raj, thanks for stopping by! I love Once Upon a Time too! We're behind by one season and need to get caught up. The settings are so beautiful.

Becky, I love what you had to say! Isn't it so cool when God sends the same themes from multiple directions?

Krista, what a beautiful image! Sometimes I think it's easy to see God has disappointed in us when we disappoint ourselves, rather than seeing Him as a loving Father who longs to spend time with us and share our heart.

Ashley Clark said...

Karen, that is my favorite line as well! Really packs a punch, doesn't it? In my secular degree program, we were really trained in a postmodern perspective that the story itself is not tied to some deeper aspect of the writer (because meaning is so fragmented in that perspective). But to think of story as the output of a healthy spiritual life is such a challenging, beautiful concept.

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Love this post. I can't count how many times I've sat at my computer, words pouring from my fingertips, in awe that God is speaking through me and to me as I type. When I write, I'm writing as a way of worship. I love this quote: "Remember this. God’s primary desire is not that we write about him. Or even for him. It’s that we write with him." One of my greatest joys in life is co-creating a story with God. It's intensely intimate and amazing.

Jaimie Ramsey said...

THANK YOU for this! I've never really thought of it that way before--that God wants us to write WITH him. I've always thought about writing as something I do FOR him. But it is a communion, too-- he enables me to do what I do, he gives me the ideas for what to write about, and he uses my words to bless others. It really is a team effort. Thank you so much for this encouragement!

Allen Arnold said...


Hi Raj -

You asked such an intriguing question about "Once Upon a Time" when you asked which character I most saw myself in. I love the show but have never considered that - and it led to a robust discussion with my kids and wife. I see myself most in August (the Pinocchio character). He's a writer who is trying to help folks awaken to their true identities and power. Thanks for taking me to such a great thought!
- ALLEN

Ashley Clark said...

Gabrielle and Jaimie, thank you for stopping by!

Sue said...

Thanks for this post. A friend posted a link to a different Allen Arnold interview on Facebook and it made me cry. I then started looking for other articles... I'm a Christian but feel called to write for the mainstream. Along the way I've struggled with how mainstream writing could be 'ministry' - now I know how. It's all about intimacy with the Father. The God who made the lady-bird and the eagle, the one who made both the mountains and the exquisitely beautiful wildflower that blooms for a day in a hidden valley, wants to create with me and breath his grace into 'ordinary things'. How amazing. How wonderful! :)

Hannah said...

Wow. These words! Zeroed in and balmed a very tender, lonely bruised place in my heart. Here's to the dance!
Thank you, Allen!
P.S--found this post following this weeks RH podcast. Timely, solid, just--good.

Kathleen Freeman said...

I'm late to the party, but your words have been a gift this week, Allen. Sometimes the needs of the desert seem so compelling, that we forget the abundance God intends for us. Thank you for the reminder!
Blessings,
Kathleen