Writing

It’s Not A Competition

Blog_Competition‘Tis the season for writers’ conferences. Across the nation, those with a love for the written word will gather to hone their craft. Some will come with a desire only to develop their skill, others with aspirations of publication.

A couple years ago I was sitting in a classroom at the local conference when a woman walked in, eyes narrowed, hands on hips. “I’m just sizing up the competition, that’s all,” she explained in all seriousness.

I couldn’t decide whether her statement was more humorous or grieving. Writers were never meant to be competitors, especially in the Christian realm. We’re instead co-laborers, each contributing our unique voice for the building up of others. If anything, we’re to encourage one another in the use of our gift rather than viewing one another as a threat to our selfish advancement.

We’ve each been gifted with a unique history that enables us to speak a word in season to those within our sphere of influence. If one of our voices is silenced, we all suffer. Comparison and competition are destructive weapons against the good of the art.

Yes, I’m challenged by others who use their gifts with excellence. But I won’t let it silence me. Instead, it inspires me to use words more effectively and with greater wisdom and purpose.

Every voice speaking in defense of truth and justice, mercy and love is a needed voice. Writers are not enemies, but fellow soldiers. Competition is the enemy.

 

Photo Credit: Free stock photo: Runners, Competition, Race, Running – Free Image …

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Red Ink

Blog_QuillPenAndJournalSitting on a padded lounge chair on a sandy beach, waves lapping over my feet as my pen easily flows across the paper to the rhythm of the swaying palm trees. That’s how I envisioned the writing life. How wrong I was.

For me, the ink has flowed more like blood than anything else. And the view has been a far cry from the idyllic writer’s retreat. But at least I’m not alone. Some of my favorite writers have written from depths far deeper than I’ve ever gone.

The world’s most meaningful words are wrought in the fires of affliction. They often go unread, unnoticed by the masses for years, decades, centuries, until they, and their writer, have stood the test of time. When they finally emerge, they are as liquid gold, yielding wisdom for generations to come.

Today’s bookstores are filled with words that will fade with the passing seasons, blowing away like dust from the shelves. They’ve endured a short while to feed a passing trend. Yet they’ll be long forgotten as time moves on.

As for me, I’d rather write with red ink, words written from a life of sacrifice and struggle. Words that stand through the fires of adversity. Words not meant for the fickle masses, but words for those hungry for something more substantial than a quick fix. Words that don’t fade with the passing of time and trends.

 

Photo Credit: Free stock photo: Feather Pen, Defense Group, Ink – Free Image on …

The Writer’s Burden

Blog_ValleyIt’s hard to write when the heart is heavy. Hard, but therapeutic. There’s something freeing about weaving thoughts into words. I’ve often said I don’t know what I really think about something until I get it down on paper.

And so in the pain and confusion that so often is life, I’m grateful for pens and journals and computer keyboards. Even though I just spent a half hour pouring my heart out on this topic and the computer deleted every last word. Ugh. Admitted, I attempted to strangle my computer after the fact. Not so therapeutic.

Anyhow, I’ve found that writers are called to bear burdens. One is called modern technology, but that’s the least of them. Often, we’re called to walk through valleys long before anyone else gets there—just so they won’t be alone once they do.

When Moses was called to lead a nation of former slaves through the wilderness, he asked for help from a man named Hobab, telling him, “Please do not leave us. You know where to camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes.” This man had been through the wilderness, and now his calling would be to help others make their way through.

Every burden we’re called to bear endows us with strength and wisdom to help others when they encounter similar trials. Each of us has been entrusted with a gift of suffering in whatever form it comes, which enables us to lighten the burden for others when they walk under the heaviness of life’s trials.

This is true for everyone, but I find it to be true for writers in particular. Words have the power to free and encourage, strengthen and uplift. If our words are to gain such power, we must go through many difficulties to bring them to birth. In the end, it will be worth it, if even one life is changed as a result.

Photo Credit: Free stock photo: Valley, Mountains, River, Stream – Free Image on …

Beyond the Public Eye

Blog_EmptyStageThere was a time when it was okay to be unknown. People sang in the shower without aspiring to idol status. Gifted writers were content when their words served to encourage their friends and loved ones. Iron chefs cooked for the love of food and family.

Now everything’s a competition. A good voice isn’t enough unless it’s discovered. The written word seems worthless if not hailed by the masses. There’s even cooking shows that turn the kitchen into a stage and the well-cooked meal into a shot at stardom.

What drives us to push our talents and abilities into the public eye? Why are we so discontent with obscurity?

Maybe we’re longing for significance—believing it can only be found in worldwide recognition. If the world knows we’re gifted, we’re assured of our existence. We feel validated only when acknowledged by others. Add impatience to the mix. We want immediate gratification from our efforts—likes and shares, comments and accolades.

It’s interesting to note that some of the most enduring works of art were created in obscurity. Many now-famous writers, artists, and composers weren’t recognized for their work until they passed on from this life. Would we of this fame-famished generation be content to know our greatest works will benefit those powerless to build our present-day ego?

I’d rather have my work outlive me for the benefit of a generation I’ll never see than for it merely to endure a short-lived hype. Serving in obscurity ensures sincerity. If I’m using my talent only for immediate recognition, hypocrisy is likely to steal the stage—my works governed by the feeble and fleeting opinions of man. It’s better to flourish in obscurity than to waste away in the toxic waters of fame.

Live and Write

theAverageJen_LiveAndWrite

When we write merely to validate our existence, or to gain approval from others, we lose our sense of purpose. A compass set to others’ opinions is bound to take us off course. The judgments of man are constantly changing. What’s trending one day is forgotten the next. I don’t want to write to be popular or well-liked, I want to write from the heart…words that will stand the test of time and eternity.

#LiveWithPurposeWriteWithPassion

Beautiful Noise

Caution Signs from Bing Images There are few sounds I love more than the sound…of silence. While some might get restless in a quiet house, I get inspired. It means there will be time to think and write, and maybe even rest. Solitude is one of my closest friends.

As much as I love quiet, I don’t get a lot of it. It’s tough to come by in a house with two high-energy kids, a persistent cat, and a dog who barks at everything that passes by our front door (even if it’s a leaf). Last year for my birthday, I asked for a half-day locked in the bedroom—alone with my computer and a mind full of uninterrupted ideas. But even the closed door and droning fan couldn’t drown out the noise beyond.

It wasn’t long before my solitude was invaded by something not-so-peaceful. The kids played on and squealed in ear-piercing decibels, blissfully unaware there was a momster of a storm brewing on the other side of the door. Before the storm could erupt to full-blown chaos, something stopped me. A still, small voice whispering. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

I reluctantly unplugged the fan that had drowned out a fraction of the noise, and listened. What I heard calmed the storm within. It was the sound of life and joy and fun and innocence. All too soon, those little noise-makers will be grown and my house will be quiet once again.

Be slow to anger. Listen. That gentle reminder helped me to hear the beautiful noise surrounding me. In the midst of that noise, there is peace. And I wouldn’t have found it had I been quick to anger.

True Love…is SLOW to ANGER (Day 32, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)

Note to Self…Look Beyond

Finish Line from Bing Images Reading the headlines and listening to the news can get pretty depressing these days. That’s why I started this blog series on love. Observing all the darkness, hatred, and violence in this world, I realized it all stems from one root issue: a lack of love.

Instead of responding to evil with hate, I want to proclaim the truth about what love is. Now, halfway through my series, I am both exhilarated and exhausted. Doing what I love (writing!) nurtures me, but it’s hard work—especially when the only focused time I have to write is when the day’s work is done and the kids are sound asleep. It doesn’t help that one kid is a night owl and the other a very early bird.

In the midst of the busyness, I’ve been working on a book about human trafficking. It’s been a work in progress for the past few years, and as much as I love writing I can’t say it’s been easy. There are times when I don’t feel up to the task, and even more times I’m tempted to give up.

With my blog, it’s been much the same. It’s easy to get discouraged when I pour out my heart in hopes someone will be touched by what I say, only to wonder if anyone’s listening at all. But what keeps me going, with both the blog and the book, is the thought that one life could be changed by my words.

As I travail over the edits on my book, I envision victims of modern slavery being set free as they read the finished product. And with this blog, I picture someone whose life is broken being changed by the knowledge of what love really is. Love for those I’m writing for helps me to persevere.

There are countless days I wrestle with feeling I lack the skill to do what’s in my heart to do. And so many times I fear I fall short of my own message. But I’m reminded that true love looks beyond the current sacrifices, struggles, and doubts to the good that can come from it all. And that’s what keeps me going.
 
“Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross..” (Hebrews 12:2)

True Love…LOOKS BEYOND (Day 25, #50ShadesOfTrueLove)