Søren Kierkegaard on Writing

Søren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher and writer in the mid-1800s. His works have been highly influential for the past 170 years. He is not without his critics but a couple years ago Christianity Today ran an article titled, “Why We Still Need Kierkegaard.” My own journey has included wrestling with Fear and Trembling, Sickness Unto Deathand Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing.

Recently I came across some journal entries found in The Diary of Søren Kierkegaard edited by Peter Rohde (on page 52).

From an entry in 1847:

Only when I write do I feel well. Then I forget all of life’s vexations, all its sufferings, then I am wrapped in thought and am happy. If I stop for a few days, right away I become ill, overwhelmed and troubled; my head feels heavy and burdened. So powerful an urge, so ample, so inexhaustible, one which, having subsisted day after day for five or six years, is still flowing as richly as ever, such an urge, one would think, must also be a vocation from God.

If these great riches of thought, still latent in my soul, must be repressed, it will be anguish and torture for me, and I shall become an absolute good-for-nothing. […]

May God then give me good fortune and succor and above all a certain spirit, yes, a certain spirit to resist the onslaughts of doubt and temptation that rise within me.

These words resonate because it is the universal condition of writers. The call, the urge, to write is part of who you are. However, notice his last sentence where he admits to “the onslaughts of doubt and temptation that rise within me.” This, again, is a universal condition. It is normal. Embrace it and pray that God will grant you the strength today to resist.

Then do it again tomorrow.


18 Responses to Søren Kierkegaard on Writing

  1. Sharon K. Connell June 18, 2018 at 6:15 am #

    Writing is the world we writers live in. What better place to feel secure and happy. If God called you to write, there’s more than one reason for it. It’s a calling. It’s good for you and for all those who will benefit from what you create.

    Thanks for the article, Steve.

  2. Meg MacDonald June 18, 2018 at 6:22 am #

    Just the thing I needed today. Thanks, Steve.

  3. Judith Robl June 18, 2018 at 6:24 am #

    Great post, Steve. It is a universal truth for every writer I know. Marlene Bagnull’s conferences have the subtitle “Write His Answer”. The trick is in knowing which question to answer. Still working on that one.

  4. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 18, 2018 at 6:42 am #

    You cannot write tomorrow that which you would have written today. The words and spirit will change, because context, like manna, perishes in the night.

    • Damon J. Gray June 18, 2018 at 7:21 am #

      Experience has proven this to be true. I’ll have an “amazing” thought or idea, and assure myself that I’ll get that written down later in the day, or tomorrow.


      It’s gone and no amount of mental energy will recall that wonderful idea that I had earlier.

      • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 18, 2018 at 7:30 am #

        Thank you, Damon. Also, Barbara mentioned that you were among those praying for me this weekend, and I am very grateful.

        Trying to bring the bits back together; I am still not ‘myself’, but can seem to function on some level. The disappearance of parts of memory due to pain is not altogether evil, as its light bathes life in a kind of lovely simplicity.

        I suppose it does fit the topic for Mr.Laube’s (and Mr. Kierkegaard’s) writing today; we need Grace to obtain the strength for, and the appreciation of, now.

    • Shirlee Abbott June 18, 2018 at 10:20 am #

      Yes! My muse is manna.
      Thank you, Andrew.

  5. Damon J. Gray June 18, 2018 at 6:44 am #

    I recall having to read Kierkegaard’s “Philosophical Fragments” as a freshman in college. At the time I was completely unprepared for that style of writing. I was just a Kansas farm boy who could not understand the mental gymnastics Kierkegaard was performing. He made my head spin, and I thought he was likely borderline insane. 😉

    The segment quoted above, however, makes perfect sense. Granted, I’m 35 years or so beyond those naive freshman days. Hopefully 35 years wiser too, but there are no guarantees.

  6. Rebekah Love Dorris June 18, 2018 at 7:24 am #

    Talk about medicine for Monday morning! Maybe writing will be just the ticket for these kidney stones…

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser June 18, 2018 at 7:32 am #

      If I may, Rebekah, I shall pray for you, that Yahweh Rapha dissolves the stones and leaves you free of pain.

      • Rebekah Love Dorris June 19, 2018 at 5:37 am #

        Wow, thank you so much, Andrew. I’m honored. I believe He did, too. I pray He blesses you richly today and you also experience His healing.

  7. Katie Powner June 18, 2018 at 8:49 am #

    This reminds me of what Anne Lamott wrote in bird by bird, about how “writing is…the latch that keeps the door of the pen closed, keeps those ravenous dogs contained.” I’ve never related to a sentence more in my life than that one.

  8. Norma Brumbaugh June 18, 2018 at 9:41 am #

    Love what you have shared. I so relate. Everyone’s comments speak to the writing journey in living color.

  9. Linda Riggs Mayfield June 18, 2018 at 10:47 am #

    Thank you, Steve, for this eloquent piece. “May God then give me …above all… a certain spirit to resist the onslaughts of doubts and temptation that arise within me.” WOW! The struggle is real, as is the guilt when choosing to write (because I MUST) and let other things, also important to me, but MUST issues to others, go undone. This reminder renewed my gratitude for a husband and children who have always understood and supported my MUST. (Sometimes I still need to convince myself–this helped!) Thanks again!

  10. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D June 18, 2018 at 11:46 am #

    Thanks for old home week, Steve. My dissertation was on indirect communication; Kierkegaard is considered the father of indirect communication. He was walking through a cemetery one afternoon when he overheard a conversation between and elderly man and a little boy, The grandfather was explaining to his grandson why the little boy’s father had died. He hadn’t wanted to overhear the chat, but he did and it profoundly changed his life.

    Kierkegaard realized that he could reach the people of Denmark with important social concerns by allowing them to overhear conversations, take those thoughts inward, and double reflect on them. The social concern most pressing to his heart was the idea that sitting in a church does not make you a Christian; the people of Denmark thought it did. Through the use of pseudonyms, he was able to start point-counter-point discussions with the people of Denmark with the hopes of leading them to the Lord. (If he had approached them directly, there would have been “hell to pay,” as they say.)

    While I used the work of Kierkegaard to discuss the television series “House, M.D.,” we can use indirect communication in our writing to witness to our readers. They think they are being entertained (which, hopefully, they are) but we are carrying on a conversation about more weighty things that meets the eye. I could talk for hours on this topic, or direct you to my 400-page dissertation called “House, M.D. and Indirect Communication: A Close Textural Analysis.”

    Have a great day!

  11. Tracey Dyck June 18, 2018 at 8:52 pm #

    So true. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Robert Stroud June 22, 2018 at 7:16 pm #

    Steve, your column here inspired my most recent post at MereInkling.net (where I, of course, credited you as the source, and quoted your closing paragraph.

    Anyone who would be interested in seeing a discussion entitled “C.S. Lewis and Kierkegaard” can visit https://mereinkling.net/2018/06/21/c-s-lewis-and-kierkegaard/

  13. Robin Melvin June 25, 2018 at 12:59 pm #

    Love this. Thank you for the encouragement & the reminder I’m not crazy:)

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