Thursday, August 8, 2019

A Holy Calling

"You are... God's instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you--from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted." (1 Peter 2:10 The Message)

Dear friends,

You may've seen my posts about this on Facebook. Several weeks ago, I was able to attend the Northwestern Writers Conference with Angie and learn from one of my all-time favorites, Robin Jones Gunn. I am always enchanted by her speaking/storytelling, but during her keynote, something in particular struck me. She reminded the audience our calling to write is that: a calling. Which means we ought to be treating it like a profession, a ministry, a holy thing.

I've been writing for a very long time. I've come to a place here I truly love writing for the opportunity to create alongside God, and while I really really really want to be published, I catch myself sometimes seeing writing as a personal, spiritual thing. Maybe that's how I've survived the whims of what sells in the industry? I don't know--but I for one have gone inward to cope with rejection. Whether you're unpublished or an award-winning author, this propensity never fully goes away because rejection never fully goes away. Threat never goes away. Writing is a very courageous thing. So long as you're writing, you are risking loss in all the traditional ways, from a manuscript without a home to a poorly-selling book.

And so, I believe that over time, we begin to cozy into a writing comfort zone. Maybe for you that means not writing at all, and dedicating all your time to social media instead. Maybe it means "researching" but never actually putting the story on the page. Maybe it means distractions around your house or other commitments you see as more important.

Friends, if God has called you, your writing is important. It's important enough to carve out a dedicated time for, even if that's two hours before everyone in your family wakes in the morning (I recently read in a tribute to Toni Morrison that's how she wrote her first book as a single mom in her late 30s) or two hours after everyone goes to sleep.

Everyone is asking questions like how to write books that sell in both markets, how much is too much, how CBA can maintain its audience with the closing of Lifeway, you name it. But is it possible we are asking the wrong questions? Is it possible we're taking the long way around because we don't want to do the work climbing up the mountain, and we already know the path we are supposed to take? Maybe the better question is how can I better discipline myself to follow the calling God has already given me?

You and I are the future of the industry. Think about the books that have influenced you in the last decade. You have the opportunity to be that voice for someone else. So stand up and take it seriously! Who cares if you win that contest or if your first five books sell. If God has called you, is that not enough to make it holy?

We often think what if I never have readers? or maybe what if I my books never find an audience beyond a few hundred people? But the thing is--and maybe this should stagger us a little. What if they do? Will you be ready?

Let's be careful we don't forsake our confidence in God and call it "humility." It's never prideful to take your calling seriously, nor is it a virtue to grow wishy-washy in your dedication to pursuing your gifting.

I'd love to hear from you! What practical ways do you (or can you) prioritize your writing despite your busy schedule?


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 also an active member of ACFW. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her website - and while you're there, be sure to sign up for her newsletter!


Joy Neal Kidney said...

Up at 4 a.m., before retired Hubs is up or the radio is on! Spend time with God, too, so a precious sacred early hour!

Terrie Todd said...

I love this, Ashley! "It's never prideful to take your calling seriously." I, too, have been an early-morning writer--starting with prayer. Sacred time.

kaybee said...

Ashley, something we all need to remind ourselves of in this tumultuous publishing climate and world in general. I started my career writing for Sunday School papers, anyone remember those? I cast the net pretty widely, and had a piece accepted by a Mennonite magazine. I live in New England where there are maybe 10 Mennonites? I was grumbling about how I'd never grow an audience, and the Lord brought me up short. He pointed out that because the magazine was denominational, it went all over the world, and some Mennonite person on far shores JUST MIGHT pick it up, and my words JUST MIGHT be what they needed to hear that day. I call it the "Anonymous Mennonite" theory. (Anyone who lives in a Mennonite-heavy area, feel free to replace with another branch of Christianity.) Who Am I to say that that story didn't go where it was meant to? A roundabout way of saying we need to remember our First Love, in writing and in Christian life in general. Thanks for a great post!
Kathy Bailey
Living it out in New Hampshire

Jeanne Takenaka said...

Ashley, such good words. Sometimes I struggle to see "my" writing as valuable. I get overwhelmed by life and teenaged boys and crazy schedules. But it is important, because God has given it to me as a calling. I'm working to re-establish good habits.

When I can, I get up early and write before my boys are up. I also make appointments on my calendar and do my best to not schedule anything else during those times.

Thanks for this lovely post, friend.

Ashley Clark said...

Thank you all so much for chiming in! I loved reading these responses-- especially what you said about your anonymous Mennonite theory, Kay! What a funny but challenging idea. <3

Anneliese Dalaba said...

Thank you for writing this blog post. I needed to read this today. "Let's be careful we don't forsake our confidence in God and call it "humility."" Powerful! Thank you!