My family and I made the 4-hour trip to St. Louis last Friday because we wanted to see my son Reuben. My friend Jeremiah made the trip with us because he wanted to attend Preview Day at Covenant Theological Seminary.
Since Reuben would be at work until noon, Steve, Helen and I opted to join Jeremiah for Preview Day activities that morning, to pass the time.
The day began with Chapel, where visiting pastor and author C. R. Wiley delivered the morning message. After chapel services, the preview group chose from a variety of seminary classes and dispersed to different classrooms. My daughter and I headed to “Apologetics and Outreach,” Room 341.
Turned out, Mr. Wiley was the guest speaker for Friday’s A&O class, too. He talked about intellect and imagination as tools for outreach and evangelism. Mr. Wiley spoke as a pastor and a theologian. He also spoke as a writer, and he shared his experiences with the writing process and the publication industry.
I traveled to St. Louis to see my son, and seeing Reuben was the highlight of my day. But God also had another reason for me to be in St. Louis Friday morning.
Writing is hard work, often marked by long seasons that bear little fruit or bring little reward. It is difficult to persevere. Every writer has struggled with the question, “Why am I even doing this?” I asked myself that very question, just last week.
Friday morning, Mr. Wiley asked his audience, “Why do we write? [Or sing, or paint, or preach, or do any creative work?]” He paused to give us time to think about the question, to consider our answers. Then he continued: “We write to give people hope.” As Christians, he explained, we are uniquely gifted to offer people hope, because we know the one story that truly does have a happy ending. We have the privilege of inviting others to become a part of that story, to make it their own.
I knew that. Really, I did. I wrote about it HERE, only a month ago. My dream job? I want to be a person who gives other people hope. But feeling discouraged last week, I had lost sight of that purpose. I was grateful to Mr. Wiley for his reminder.
Also, we write to be obedient. I would love to know my writing encourages someone else. I would love for writing to pay some of the bills. But I must remember this: if I feel that God has called me and that He compels me to write, then my responsibility is to write; what God does with my writing, that is his business.
Publishing. Literary agents. Queries. The Catch 22 with which all writers are familiar: to be published, you must have agent representation; to acquire an agent, you must be published. Mmm, yeah…so tell me how that works again?
The name of the game is perseverance. Write, write, write, and while you are writing, query, query, query. (But I hate putting together queries. I want to WRITE, dag-nabbit!)
Stephen King tells in his memoir, On Writing, that he hammered a nail into the wall, and every time he received a rejection letter, he stuck it on that nail. When he filled up one nail with rejections, he hammered another nail in the wall. That is perseverance.
Friday, Mr. Wiley told the class it took right at 150 rejections to find representation for his first book. That is perseverance.
After twenty rejections for my latest manuscript, I was tempted to throw in the towel. Friday, I was encouraged to persevere. Twenty rejection letters? Psht! I’m just getting warmed up!
I was encouraged many other times throughout the day, by people who knew nothing about my personal situation, yet whose words spoke directly to my heart. In fact, the encouragement was so precise and so explicit that at one point, my daughter leaned against me and whispered, “Mom, I don’t think we’re here for Jeremiah at all. I think God has us here today for you!”
If your writerly motivation is flagging, I want to encourage you, as I have been encouraged:
- Breathe in hope, and breathe it back out again to others.
- Work diligently at your calling, and trust God with the results.