Mystery author Agatha Christie once said, “The best time for planning a book is while you’re doing the dishes.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that statement.
You know, you don’t have to live a weird life — or even a particularly exciting life — to be a great author. In fact you can live a very ordinary, chicken-frying, auto-repairing, laundry-washing, diaper-changing kind of life and still write books that will lift people out of the ordinary and into a place where imaginations rise to peak places, where new dreams are ignited, and where hope and faith bring victory into life’s struggles.
So pick up that pen, sit down to that keyboard, or start dictating into that recorder — whatever method works for you. If you’re sure you want to write, START WRITING.
Now that you’ve started, you come to your next decision. Do you want to be an “occasional writer” – sharing an idea or a complaint only now and then – when the mood strikes you? Or do you want to be a “serious writer” – making writing one of your primary goals in life and, therefore, at the top of your list of priorities.? If your answer is the first option, then you are free to write or not, depending on how you feel on any particular day. However, even in that situation, the more you write, the better you will be at it when you feel it counts.
But if you are serious about writing – if you feel it is a necessary part of your feeling successful in your life – then you must live by a different law: You must commit to writing on a regular basis and stick with the program, regardless of how you feel on any particular day – or how anyone else feels about your work.
Unfortunately, this decision to be a serious writer must be made anew every few days. The “new” wears off after a while. The excitement turns to frustration after several days of reaching for just the write words and falling short time after time. The bright ideas seem to fade a little when the family and friends don’t find your first chapter exciting enough to want to listen to you talk about it for three hours non-stop. But if you really do want to write, you must make yourself write faithfully and regularly, regardless of the struggles involved. If you sit at your keyboard three hours and type onto the screen only one sentence worth keeping, you have accomplished writing a sentence that never existed before.
And therein lies the intrinsic value of writing. Everyone who writes becomes a creator. Once you have written an original piece – no matter how small or how large – you have created something that never before existed! And it does not matter if anyone else reads it. It does not matter if anyone else likes it. It does not matter whether it ever sees a publisher’s imprint or a bookstore shelf. The fact remains that you have created an entity that never before existed. I repeat that point because it is a powerful reality that very few writers recognize.
And another related fact – one that many unpublished writers in particular seem to miss — is that once you have created a written product, you are a writer. You’re not “going to be” a writer. You’re not a “would-be” writer. You’re not an “aspiring” writer. You are a writer. You are an author. You are a creator. When you do recognize these two truth, they will empower you to keep creating and to create even more effectively.
Author Jules Renard said, “Writing is the only profession where no one considers you ridiculous if you earn no money.” Well, I’m not sure that’s entirely true. When I was earning no money, I had a significant number of people tell me that I should put my writing aside and apply myself more diligently to “real work.” That being said, I would have to come into agreement with Mr. Renard to some extent anyway, because for the writer who feels the desire strongly enough, it really is not about money at all. It is about pouring out the rich treasure that is inside, just waiting for its release. If you truly are a writer, you must write – for yourself.
But to return to my main point, once you have realized that you are a writer and that you have created something that had no existence before your efforts, you will then come to realize a third truth that is just as important: As a writer, you have a heavy responsibility to your readers. From the moment an individual picks up your work and reads the first sentence, you begin to influence that person – for good or evil. And the more of your work people read, the greater your influence grows.
So it is important to remember that, although you may feel you are writing for yourself, if you intend to allow your work to be read by anyone else at all, you are responsible for what that work does to influence that reader. There is a passage in the Bible, Luke 12:48, that says, “For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required.”
Although the statement is found within the pages of Scripture, it is a truth outside of those pages as well. One does not have to be of the Christian faith to recognize the validity of the point being made. In accordance with that law of life, when we are endowed with the powerful gifts and talents that allow us to create through the written word, we then become accountable for what we do with that word.
As long ago as 1839, English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton stated this truth most succinctly when he wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” Centuries prior to that date, Martin Luther proved the truth of that statement when his words shook a corrupt religious system to its very roots – as did Thomas Paine in his endeavors to move men in the “New World” to fight for their freedom. By the use of the pen (or keyboard) nations can be established, but societies can be destroyed just as easily. Personal lives can be blessed and lifted to a new level, or they can be pulled down into sordidness and filth – depending on what flows from the point of that pen.
A poem I wrote not long ago echos this truth as well:
One man may wield with ease a sharp-honed sword,
And drawing blood, strike death with that long knife.
Another for his weapon chooses words,
Yet with dead aim, he too destroys a life.
‘Twould seem that power resides in reservoirs
And can be drawn and used for peace or strife.
Ah, yes, and ’tis the Master Wordsmith’s Word
That teaches in our words is death and life. *
Powerful? Yes. Exciting? Indeed. Scary? You bet. Because with so much power comes an equal amount of responsibility. We must never lose sight of the fact that words really do create — for good or evil. And words move people — to good or evil.
But isn’t it a great joy to know that the power works both ways? As writers, we have the opportunity to build lives – to bring encouragement, hope, revelation, and even laughter. Allow me to quote from one more passage of scripture. The book of Proverbs, chapter 17, verse 22, says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” And in the last century, medical science told us that scientific tests had proven that laughter really does change the physical condition of the body in a positive way. Yes, even writing something that makes another person laugh can change a life.
If you want to be a writer, you are aspiring to a high calling. Go for it, always remembering to use your power wisely.
And as you pick up that pen or set your hands on that keyboard, you can count on two things coming your way for sure:
# 1 — Frustrating, taxing, aggravating challenges.
# 2 – The exhilarating, elevating, life-renewing joy of having created something out of yourself that never before existed. There is no other experience like it in the world!
*Scripture reference: Proverbs 18:21
This article is an excerpt from the curriculum Releasing the Creative Writer in You, © 2013 by Sandra Conner.