Uncertainty can dog Christian writers, and it often takes us by surprise. We expect to be all calm and spiritual, not scared and hiding under a blanket.
Why does it happen?
Imagination is deeply personal
Baring our imagination and creativity is intimidating. It’s a window to the soul. When someone rejects or judges our creativity, it cuts deep.
John Cleese is quoted as having said: “Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”
This fear can be enough to stop some of us writing the thing we long to write – maybe even the thing we’ve been called to write.
But “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10 NIV)
The fear that sparks wisdom is a deep-seated reverence, but also a perspective adjustment: our God is much bigger than our fears and failures.
Even experienced writers encounter self-doubt
I’ve often said the collective noun should be “an insecurity of writers”.
We might be startled to find that even writers we see as successful face self-doubt, but it’s less surprising when you consider that:
- it’s one of the few professions where you can work diligently for years and yet never see the outcome you are aiming for (for example, a published book)
- despite the assumptions made by many non-writers, the hourly rate for most writers is far too low to pay a mortgage
- while you’re writing, everyone has an opinion on how and why you should do it
- creative writing is frequently criticised once it’s published.
Think about, say, an engineer being expected to work confidently under all those conditions.
We are afraid of dishonouring God
On top of the stresses common to all writers, the Christian writer has an extra pressure. We want to bring honour to God by what we write, and frequently worry about whether our words are doing so.
I don’t think that’s an altogether bad fear. Humility is an excellent trait in a Christian writer.
I find comfort in the fact that God can take my faltering words and turn them into what he needs them to be when the moment arises. (I’m encouraged that one time he even got his message out via a donkey – Numbers 22.)
I pray that God will give me the words he wants to say to the person he knows is going to read them.
Confusion about God’s priorities
I once spent three months in Europe working on a book project. Every night, the teenager on the other side of my paper-thin bedroom wall would come home at 1 am and put on loud music for a couple of hours.
I became furious and exhausted and just a little bit desperate.
I felt like a zombie and struggled to concentrate.
I prayed and prayed for God to “fix it” so I could get some sleep, because didn’t he know the important book project – the whole reason I was there – was suffering?
I prayed and prayed.
The teenager kept coming home at 1 am.
My sleep kept getting decimated.
And somewhere along the way, I finally realised that maybe God’s top priority was for me to grow in godliness in the midst of challenges.
How do we know if we’ve succeeded as Gracewriters?
We often innocently assume, based on what we think is happening for other people, that there’ll be a particular outcome if we obey God’s call to write.
We might call this outcome “success”, which looks different for each of us, but often includes a sizeable readership, or recognition, or financial reward.
And then when the expected “success” doesn’t come, we think we’ve failed, or displeased God, or misheard him in the first place and were never meant to write.
Putting aside for the moment any pride that might be worming its way in there, how can we regain momentum?
Let me share some stats:
- Average full-time-author income in the UK: £10,500. (Authors Licensing and Collecting Society, 2018)
- Average full-time-author income in the USA: $6,080. (Statista/The Authors Guild, 2017)
- In a study of Australian commercial publishers, 90% of titles sold fewer than 120 copies, and half sold fewer than 6 copies. (University of Melbourne Book Industry Study 2009)
Maybe you are more “successful” than you realise.
And maybe “success” in the world’s terms has very little to do with it. If God is calling you to write for just one particular reader that he knows needs your message, will you do it?
I was talking to another Gracewriter this week and she said: “All I keep coming back to is I’ve been called to obedience not success. If God says write, I write.”
Do you have a longing to write that niggles away at you and doesn’t go away? Over many years and many writers, I’ve noticed a longing like that is usually not a mistake.
Write, Gracewriters, if it’s what you yearn to do. Write, and let God take care of the outcome.