Let's face it. There are a lot of stories in the world that are cute, or entertaining, or suspenseful, or even well-written. Yet when we come away from them, we find no "take away" value. Same thing with movies and tv shows. How many times have we consumed stories that are just a standard sweet romance or edge-of-your-seat adventure?
Now, there's nothing wrong with these stories. We can definitely all use some just-plain-old-entertainment movies or books from time to time. Think of how heartwarming Hallmark movies are during the stress of Christmas preparations, for instance. They serve a particular function that I, for one, think can be very valuable.
But many of us-- here on the Alley and our dear Alley friends-- are called to something different. We are called to stories with a purpose. We are called to stories as a ministry.
|Photo by nuchylee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net|
A couple years ago at the ACFW conference, Robin Jones Gunn shared during one of her keynotes that she always prays before she starts a story-- not only that she will catch God's vision for the book(s), but also that her readers would be receptive to what God wants to say to them. Such a simple concept, and yet I found it profoundly challenging.
To pray for readers, in particular, is challenging to me because it presumes there may be readers, and that takes a heart-level investment to do. But let me ask you this. What would happen if we became so intentional about our books that we asked God not only for the right publishing house, or the right agent, or even the right concept/foundation/theme? What if, instead, we prayed for our readership? That God would make their hearts sensitive to His message, and guide our own fingers over the keyboard? That each book would challenge and leave a lasting effect not only on ourselves, but on others? And not for our own interests, either, but for God's?
In that paradigm, something shifts. Stories are no longer bound up in our own interests; they become intertwined with ministry. Readership. Encouragement. God's purpose. And that greater purpose helps carry us through the ups and downs the writing life brings along.
Let me ask you this. When was the last time you ardently sought God for clarity and direction of His calling in your writing life? Are you going about aimlessly, hoping He blesses your efforts? Or are you creating with Him, enjoying the process? Are you praying for your future readers and vision-casting for your stories, or have you lost hope anyone will ever really read them, let alone be challenged by them? It's so easy to become disheartened, especially the longer we write, as a coping mechanism to all the inevitable rejection and criticism we come across. Ask God to renew your vision today, and watch where He leads-- in your stories and in your life.
Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.