How do you know if you have truly been called by God to write? Let me suggest three signs that mark the life of a person who has this calling:
1. Knowledgeable people have affirmed our gifts and abilities.
We usually become aware of our spiritual gifts because other believers have affirmed those gifts in us. I’m not saying that writing per se is a spiritual gift, but if we have a spiritual gift of teaching or evangelizing or helping others through our writing, other believers will often tell us they see those gifts in us. We will also receive an affirmation of our writing ability from writing instructors, fellow writers, readers, editors who value our work, and so forth.
2. We have an unquenchable need to write.
We cannot keep from writing. We have to write. When we’re not writing, we think about writing and wish we were writing. This doesn’t mean we always feel inspired and ready to write. But a person who feels called to write wants to write even during bouts of writer’s block. In fact, those times when we are unable to write become times of suffering and spiritual anguish for those who are genuinely call to write.
3. We view writing as obedience to God.
We don’t write out of a desire for wealth or fame or to gratify our own egos. We write to serve Him. And if we did not write, we would feel we are disobeying Him.
Christian novelist and literary agent Terry Burns put it this way: “God initiates if we are genuinely called to write. If He does, writing becomes an assigned task—an obligation—and we must be acutely aware that God always finishes what He starts.”
The writer who is called to write is content to simply do his or her best work, then leave the results with God. The writer’s career is in God’s hands. Sales figures are in God’s hands. Amazon.com rankings are in God’s hands. Awards are in God’s hands.
Above all, the writer who is called to write doesn’t compare himself or herself to any of the writer. Remember how, in the closing verses of John’s Gospel, Peter pointed to John and said, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus replied, in essence, “Mind your own business, Peter. Never mind about John. You must follow me” (see John 21:21-22).
If you approach writing as a holy calling, your life will be marked by two qualities: enthusiasm and inspiration. The English noun enthusiasm comes from the Greek adjective entheos, meaning “having God within” (from en, “within,” and theos, “God”). When you are called by God to write, you have a sense that God lives and works through you, and every creative act you perform is a loving imitation of the nature and activity of God the Creator.
The word inspiration also contains powerful spiritual implications. It comes from the Latin inspirare, meaning “to breathe into or fill with breath or spirit” (from in, “into,” and spirare, “to breathe”). We get our English word spirit (or Spirit, as a proper name for the Holy Spirit of God) from the Latin spirare, because the ancients believed that the breath was the spirit of a person; when the breath departed at death, the spirit departed.
To be inspired is to be fully alive. As Christian novelist Carol Gift Page once said (paraphrasing athlete and missionary Eric Liddel), “When I write, I feel God’s pleasure.” This doesn’t mean you should expect to feel continually inspired and enthusiastic. Feelings go up and down, but a calling from God is forever. When the feelings wane, trust in your calling. Trust in the One who always finishes what He starts.
Christian literary agent Rachelle Gardner of Books & Such Literary Agency tells a story of meeting with an author friend over lunch. Gardner’s friend was going through a difficult struggle in her writing career. She said, “I’m starting to question whether this is really my calling. Some days, writing just isn’t fun.”
“Hmm,” Gardner said. “Is your marriage fun every day?”
The author had to admit there were times when her marriage wasn’t fun.
“When it’s not fun, do you question the marriage? Do you consider divorce?”
The author rolled her eyes. “Of course not.”
“Every time you have an argument, the whole marriage doesn’t fall apart. And every time you have a bad day writing, you shouldn’t question your calling.”
But, the author countered, doesn’t God give us a passion for our calling?
Gardner said, “Are you passionate about your husband—every day?”
The author got the point.
“Your calling to be a writer,” Rachelle Gardner concludes, “is bigger than a feeling that shifts with the wind. Once you decide that this is what you’re supposed to be doing, you have to avoid using every roadblock as a reason to question it. Instead, look at whether your calling is being confirmed.”1
If God calls you to write, then write. Obey your calling. Delight in the eternally important work God has given you to do.
You are blessed with a purpose. You have a holy calling. You are a writer.
1. Rachelle Gardner, “Called to Write,” RachelleGardner.com, November 28, 2011, http://www.rachellegardner.com/2011/11/called-to-write/. Some dialogue was condensed or paraphrased from the original blog.
When did you first know you were called to write? What makes you question your call?
Jim Denney is a writer with more than 100 published books to his credit, including the Timebenders science-fantasy series. He has just released an inspiring new Kindle ebook for writers, Writing in Overdrive: Write Faster, Write Freely, Write Brilliantly. He has written books with supermodel Kim Alexis, Star Trek actress Grace Lee Whitney, and two Super Bowl champions, quarterback Bob Griese and “The Minister of Defense,” Reggie White. He has co-written many books with Pat Williams (co-founder of the Orlando Magic), including Leadership Excellence and The Difference You Make. Jim is a member of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Follow Jim on Twitter at @WriterJimDenney, and follow his blog at http://unearthlyfiction.wordpress.com/.