In this third episode of the Gracewriters Podcast, Belinda Pollard, Alison Young and Donita Bundy discuss the question: Am I called to write?
A sense of calling — or perhaps the fear that we’re not called — can affect a Christian writer’s confidence and effectiveness. We share personal experiences, as well as spiritual and practical tips for confirming your calling, or keeping moving while you figure it out.
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Scroll down for audio, video, and a full transcript, or find the podcast on Apple Podcasts here: https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/gracewriters-podcast/id1519376330
In conversation in this episode:
- Belinda Pollard, author of mainstream crime novels, accredited editor, and Gracewriters founder
- Alison Joy, author of sweet romance
- Donita Bundy, author of young adult urban fantasy
Topics covered in this episode:
- The benefits of being assured of a spiritual calling to write.
- The difficulties that occur when we are not sure.
- Belinda, Alison and Donita’s different personal experiences of working out whether we were called.
- Practical tips for keeping moving while you figure out whether God wants you to write, and what God wants you to write.
We would love to hear from you via the Podcast tab above:
- What topics would you like us to cover?
- What questions bother you in your own writing practice as a gracewriter?
- Which Christian writers would you like us to interview, and what would you like us to ask them?
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Belinda Pollard: Welcome to the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Connect with us at Gracewriters.com.
Welcome to the Gracewriters podcast. This week we’re talking about the important question: Am I called to write?
I’m Belinda Pollard, I started Gracewriters, I’m an author, speaker and blogger and I’ve been helping people write and publish books for over 20 years. You can find my books and links to my websites at belindapollard.com.
Donita Bundy: Hi, I’m Donita Bundy. I’m a writer, a blogger, creative writing teacher and I have a healthy addiction to photography. You can find out more about me and what I’m up to at donitabundy.com.
Alison Young: Hi, I’m Alison Young. I live in south-east Queensland. I write sweet romance and like Donita, I’m a little bit addicted to photography. You can find me on alisonjoywriter.com.
Belinda Pollard: Thank you guys. So, our topic today – am I called to write? It’s a big question for Christian writers. I think it’s an important question for us to ask. But I think it’s also important because it’s one of those questions that can make us think we shouldn’t be writing – when perhaps we actually should. So, I’m interested at looking at the reasons why calling is important and the reasons why it can sometimes be difficult to work out our calling. Donita, what are your thoughts about those spiritual aspects of calling for a writer?
Donita Bundy: To identify a calling, whatever that looks like for each of us as individuals, I think is really critical because when you’re called to do something and to partner with God in a work, whatever that is, you know that you’re not alone.
You have the power of the Holy Spirit, you have the blessing of God and you’ve got that love and that team around you to keep you going, help you focus and I think realise and focus that it’s not on your shoulders, that God is covering that as well. So, I think that’s definitely the positive of being called into a Christian work – whatever that is.
Belinda Pollard: How can we tell if we are called?
Donita Bundy: Good question.
Belinda Pollard: Simple question!
Alison Young: Not a simple question!
Donita Bundy: We are all different and God has this amazing ability to be unique and diverse as his creation is, and so each of us may feel that a bit differently.
For example, my story is very different to both of yours, as you know. I started getting dreams from God when I was about nine and through my life I tried to understand what they were about and I couldn’t get help. I went from both ends of the spectrum, I had a Pastor try to exorcise me saying that they were from the devil and I had a Priest try to tell me that I was making things up because there was no such thing as the devil. I had a lot of other reactions everywhere along that perspective, but I knew in my heart they were from God. I just didn’t know what to do with them.
When I was about 44, I had been bouncing from pillar to post for jobs and careers, all the things which were really good to do, but when I got to 44 all my roads led to the option of writing. I had a real desire to write a story and so, I prayed to God about it and I felt Him saying “Use the dreams that I have given you”. The premise of my first book, which comes from one of those dreams, the characters within that story are based on the dreams that I’ve had. One of my characters’ dreams, and his dreams are recorded in the book, those are my dreams that I’ve had as well.
I felt that I had something. So despite the fact that I was not a writer, I was not skilled or experienced in writing, I have a mild disability in writing. I have mild dyslexia, so spelling is an absolute nightmare for me. I just had to get this story out and I felt with those dreams I had some material to write and that gave me confidence. For me it all fell into place, even the higgledy-piggledy background of my jobs and the experiences and the travel, everything fell into place that this now was my time to write, even though I had no idea what writing was about. That was my call.
Belinda Pollard: It’s interesting, isn’t it, we are very different as you said. I learned to read over my mother’s shoulder when she was reading me stories with all the voices, when I was a small child. I was reading the newspaper before I went to school which led to some awkward conversations for my poor parents because there are things in the newspaper that you don’t really want a five-year-old to be reading! I was voracious in consuming the written word, picking everything off the shelves that my older siblings had been reading for school. Also, things that possibly not all that appropriate for a six or seven-year-old child to be reading. I always enjoyed writing, but I never actually knew – I think I probably wouldn’t have had the temerity to think that that meant I could be a writer, because being a writer was this sort of lofty ideal. I wasn’t sure. I thought that might be a little bit too presumptuous of me to be thinking that I could be a writer.
I always enjoyed the written word, I ended up with a job and I did a degree and a job in journalism and that was a good thing for a writerly type of person to do and make a living. Then I ended up studying theology and I started writing Bible devotionals and these types of things – partly for a living and partly as a ministry.
I always had this little undercurrent where I really wanted to write fiction. I really wanted to write fiction. I had a vision for writing mainstream fiction that would have these little hints of the Kingdom that might help turn people towards… make people think differently about Jesus, about Christians, about Christianity, about hope and I wanted to do them.
The number of places that I went and the number of people that I talked to, wanting them to give me permission to do this writing. I would talk to them about it, they would not get what I was talking about and it would fall over yet again.
Actually, part of the reason that I started Gracewriters was because of the number of problems and setbacks and things that I had over my life as a writer and the number of times that I felt that I probably wasn’t allowed to do this thing.
To finally be released and to be doing it and to be encouraging other people to do it, is extremely exciting to me. Testing, whether you’ve got that calling. Did people encourage you in it, Donita?
Donita Bundy: I was just listening to what you said there and I thought I had a mixed response. I had friends say, “yeah, you should do something”, because I had been writing small stories using my photography and poetry for my nephews and children of my friends but when I went to a professional writer, she basically told me, no, I didn’t have what it took, I didn’t have the material and I should perhaps not stop my day job.
I think going and getting testing is good and something we are challenged to do but I thinks it’s important to not put the call of a person over the top of the call of God.
Even though someone might be very experienced, they are not necessarily coming from it the same way that, if on your heart you know that God has called you to write, like me with no skills or experience, write something, then who is someone to say don’t do it.
Like you’ve said before, Belinda, the ability to self-publish, and for me in particular, with the struggles that I’d had, knowing I was called helped me reach out to a wider community.
Having a good editor, having a proofreader, I’ve started a writing group where we live out here so there is support of other writers.
Just because I felt called to do it doesn’t mean that I’m on my own. It’s important that I reached out and be part of a community and get the help that I need so that I can do the best I can with the call I feel I’ve been given to the story I’d like to share.
I think that’s another thing about the value of being – identifying a call is that you’re not on your own spiritually with God but also it empowers you to reach out and get more help, I think, from the community around you or building a community around you to support you.
Belinda Pollard: What’s your experience been with calling, Alison?
Alison Joy: I’m different again. I’ve always been interested in writing. When I was younger I was always making up stories and when I was older I’d read a book, or I’d see a movie and I’m going, “alright, gee I’d like to write something like that” or I’d do that.
Probably I didn’t get the support. I was probably too shy or didn’t think I was good enough to bother sharing anything that I’d written. I did the usual teenager, female teenager poetry writing, and I actually did – I remember one exam I did at high school, I actually topped the grade for the English story that we had to do, which I was quite surprised at, but then it sort of seemed to be a one hit wonder type of thing.
I was always interested in writing and doing stuff that was probably just giving myself permission to actually do it. To actually step out and see where it goes.
As you know, it was only a couple of years ago that I actually decided well, if not now – when. Just say, “okay, give it my best shot” and see how I go. Having someone like Belinda take a look at the script and go, “ah, yeah, you actually might be a writer there, you’ve got some potential”. That’s a bit of encouragement.
Belinda Pollard: I’m a little bit of a lime green editor, in the sense that I don’t always follow the rules of what some people set down in term of what constitutes a book and a writer because some people will look at it – and I’m not talking about your work, Alison – but I’ve had this happen to some of my writers.
People will look at it and say, “this is hopeless” because the person doesn’t know how to say punctuate dialogue. Which is one of those esoteric things and so unimportant because:
- you can learn to do it,
- your editor can do it for you even if you don’t learn to do it.
I had people who were fabulous story tellers, telling these stories that just glowed with light and love and possibility, and people were shutting them down and saying, “oh well you’re not a writer because you can’t spell”. I think, “hello? no!” they are fabulous story tellers.
We can fix the other stuff. But we can’t take someone with perfect grammar and inject story telling ability into them. The storyteller is this innate thing that needs to be nourished and brought forth and encouraged.
Alison, you had a few practical ideas, I think that you had hunted out for us, in terms of discovering whether it’s our calling or even testing the calling or if we’re not sure of the calling – what to do in the meantime.
Alison Joy: I think, if you have people other than maybe your mum and your best friend telling you that they are challenged by your reading or they like what you’re reading, other than being supportive and feeling like they have to tell you.
I think, we were having a discussion about this earlier, Belinda, but I always sort of had to write in some form. I can’t get away from writing, whether it’s even just writing in my head. I’m always writing, can’t get away from it. I’ve physically had to put it aside but there has always been the writing there. I’ve always had a diary, I’ve always done stuff. Been interested in writing and reading, obviously go hand in hand.
If you get professional advice, but obviously take that with a grain of salt, going on Donita’s experiences. We could get some encouragement from somebody in the industry that says, “hey well you’ve got potential”, then it gives you a bit of encouragement to maybe keep going.
If you’re interested in writing and you’re interested in learning how the process works, or you’re interested in doing classes or just interested in improving yourself.
Sometimes you hear from God and it’s obvious that it’s from God. People I’ve seen that from their life experience they would never never write a book and then something happens in their life and God sort of taps them on the shoulder and goes, “hey, you need to write a book”. Or someone will say, “hey, you need to write a book about your experience because it will help others”. I guess that’s another thing.
I think if it’s something you would do even if you couldn’t earn a living out of it. It’s just something you enjoy, something that you want to do. It’s just those sorts of things that go, “okay, you’ve got a bit more” – it’s just that interest there that something you would pursue regardless.
Belinda Pollard: I would add a little bit to that as well from two angles. One is that sometimes there might be times in your life – I know I’ve had times in my life where I didn’t read as much as I would like, and I didn’t write as much as I would like because of things that were happening in my life. So, if I can encourage you out there listening, that if you are going through a phase where it is hard to write, or it is hard to read, don’t assume that means you’re not a writer.
It might just be a period of time that you’re going through. You might need to heal from whatever it is that’s happening, and it might come back to you later and that is fine.
The other thing that I would add from having been helping writers for over 20 years – one of the things that I’ve seen, and a lot of us are a little bit unsure, we’re like “I can’t really claim to be writer, I can’t claim to be called”. We’re shy about it, we pull back, we hesitate to claim and walk into that calling.
One of the things that I would say that I have seen, is that if you have this deep desire to write that’s down there in your heart and the yearning persists over years and years even though there’s the ups and downs and the times you do and don’t write – my experience is that, that yearning is not a mistake. This is from observing writers over many years.
If the yearning is there, there is a reasonable chance that the yearning is a calling. Just keep persevering, keep writing, keep moving forward into it.
Often momentum builds confidence and clarity about calling.
So just keep writing, keep connecting and that’s one of things Gracewriters is for. Come to our monthly Zoom catch-up and chat with other writers. You will be very welcome. It’s a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Come to our online community where you can ask questions and suggest things to other people.
It’s an opportunity to grow as a writer and to test that calling and to grow in confidence. Because once you’ve got the confidence of the calling, as Donita said, you do keep pushing forward.
On the blog last week, we talked about what is success for a Christian writer and we measure success differently. It’s not necessarily selling millions of books! It might be something much smaller and quieter that God has for us but it’s still a true calling.
Did either of you have anything more that you would like to add?
Alison Joy: I was just interested because we were having a discussion about this the other day and Donita, you were mentioning about Moses and the calling that he had that he wasn’t going to know that it was his calling until he had arrived.
Donita Bundy: That’s right. In Exodus.
Yes, he didn’t want to step forward, he didn’t want to go out and do what God was planning because it was overwhelming. He would have to go back and confront Pharaoh and free all his people who did not identify with him.
God says, “trust me, I’m doing this work through you and you will know when you stand on the other side on Mount Sinai and I give you the Law. You will know that I have called you.”
He had to step out in faith and trust that God had called him, and the answer and the assurance come after the event.
So, I think that’s true for us as well – test it. What have you got to lose?
If you have the yearning to write and you have a story to tell, even if you are journaling or poetry or whatever it is – if you are writing for family or for friends or for yourself. What’s it going to hurt if you pursue it and practice it and test it?
If there is any challenge at all, give it a go and find other people because you’re not alone. There is a world of writers out there who are just loving the world of writing.
Belinda Pollard: One of things that helped me was, “can I possibly spend all of this time writing a book?” And then I thought, “well, how many other things do I do in a week that are also not fabulously worthwhile”, like sitting in front of the television for example. Could I dedicate at least some of that wasted time sitting in front of the television, to writing my book? That freed me and helped me. Sorry Alison, I interrupted you.
Alison Joy: No, you’re fine. I just think, you just do the best you can. You write and do whatever you can and then leave the rest to God. The thing is, we are writing and we are worried about – as we were talking about success – how we are going to measure it then none of us would ever get started. You’ve just got to leave it up to God and everything’s in God’s hands. We just put it out – do the best that you can at the time.
Donita Bundy: I think one of the benefits of testing that, if there’s an inkling that you have a calling, in one sense there is a bit of a responsibility to follow through with that calling. But in the other sense if we know that God is with us and God is working through us and we are relying on God, it enables us to have a lot more joy in it. We can enjoy it. Sometimes we might struggle over things and it isn’t always easy or pleasant but underneath it, the bottom line is there is joy in writing. I think if you find that joy in whatever process of writing, then that too might be a marker that it’s a calling. It frees us up to just let go of all of that and just enjoy the art of writing.
Belinda Pollard: Wouldn’t that be great! Let’s enjoy our writing!
Thank you so much, guys. Everyone, please visit Gracewriters.com and go to the podcast tab, if you have any questions and give us your suggestions for what you would like us to discuss in future podcasts. We also love to have you join us in our free online discussion community and to meet with other gracewriters in our monthly catch-up on Zoom. Simply subscribe to the blog to receive your invitation to the community and the catch-up. We don’t make those links public to help keep interference out of our community and our meetings – which has been happening to some online get togethers.
I’ll just quickly pray for us as gracewriters before we finish up the podcast for this week.
Heavenly Father, we thank you so much that you have given us, each of us, particular gifts and a particular calling and that you are not judging us by how successful we are in the world’s terms. That you love to see us delight in you and delight in the gifts that you have given us. I pray for each person listening, that you will help them and encourage them and show them what it is that you have for them to do and exactly how you have gifted them and the opportunities that you are creating and opening up before them. Help them to walk into the calling that you have for them, to be released, encouraged, lifted and carried. We entrust them to you Lord in the name of Jesus and in the power of His blood.
Thank you everybody. Thank you, Alison. Thank you, Donita and we will see you next time on the Gracewriters podcast.
Thank you for joining us today at the Gracewriters podcast – Christian writers changing popular culture. Connect with us at Gracewriters.com. We’d love to see you there.