We write to be read. To be published. To make a difference. To touch a life.
Right? Of course, right. But those of us who write blog posts, articles, books, and even games (yes, that’s a thing, and maybe I’ll write about it in the near future) put immense pressure on ourselves to be accepted, get a contract, win an award, and so on.
But whether or not your work is published, your writing is still accomplishing some good things. Seriously. I’m not joking. That poem in your desk drawer? That devotion that was rejected? That book proposal or manuscript that never got a contract? They’re all doing some good—even great—things, though they’re not yet and may never be published. Don’t believe me? Let me count the ways:
- Deepening your inner life
If you’re a Christian writer who doesn’t write in order to grow and grow in order to write, I have to ask: What are you doing? Writing, whether longhand or on a typewriter, keyboard, or tablet, should be deepening your inner life.
- Sharpening your skills
Francis Bacon said, “Reading maketh a full man; and writing an exact man.” Every moment you spend writing, you are becoming more exact, more concise, sharper, stronger.
- Educating you
One of the things I love most about the writing life is the constant education it provides—demands, in fact. Writing involves praying; listening; researching; and thinking, thinking, thinking, which makes it an educational experience.
- Teaching you patience and perseverance
Sure, revision and rejection can be exhausting and discouraging. But have you forgotten Romans 5:3-4 (“We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”)?
- Feeding your creativity
Anyone can get into a rut. But writing fuels the imagination, which, like a perpetual-motion device, fuels the writing and produces more imagination, and on and on it goes.
- Producing greater spiritual maturity in you
Have you forgotten James 1:3-4 (“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”)? Seeing a piece of writing through to the end, even if it never sees publication (perhaps especially then) will either kill you or produce greater maturity.
- Preserving your sanity
Graham Greene wrote, “Writing is a form of therapy; sometimes I wonder how all those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, melancholia, the panic and fear which is inherent in a human situation.”
- Producing energy
According to Richard Reeves, “Writing energy is like anything else: The more you put in, the more you get out.”
- Keeping you out of jail
Okay, so this one’s a little tongue-in-cheek. But if you’re spending all your time bent over your keyboard or wearing down pencils on your legal pad, you’ll be much less likely to get into trouble. After all, there are only so many hours in the day—right, officer?
- Preventing or delaying dementia
This one is not tongue-in-cheek. Multiple studies have concluded that challenging the human brain with reading and crosswords—and writing—tends to keep the brain healthier and delay the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by years. Which is really good news for me. Also, this is really good news for me.
When I started writing this post, I planned it as “Five Good Things Your Writing is Doing, Published or Not.” It turns out there are at least twice as many as I thought, which may indicate that #3, #5, and #8 were happening as I wrote. Go figure.
What about you? Have anything to add? Subtract? Refute? Let me know in the comments.
Some think that writing poetry
bespeaks an inner fire,
a seeking out of mystery
and misty mountains higher
than one’s thought has gone before,
and maybe that’s most poets’ station,
but rhyme to me’s an open door
that’s marked ‘Communication’.
It’s not for my own heart I write,
but for blogs like this,
and it’s worth losing sleep at night
so that I do not miss
the chance to wave Hello and greet
friends that I will never meet.
Andrew, I read your poetry comment when I read the post. It boggles my mind how you do it. Poetry is the hardest type of writing.
In the beginning, I wondered if you got an advance copy of the post. How else could you write poetry every time AND be the first comment? Amazing.
Robyn, thank YOU.
There is, I think, a connexion between poetry and music. I could always transpose keys by ear, and this does seem to play into the ability to write verse on the fly.
Also, the vicissitudes of cancer ensure that I am awake when a new post is published, and I’m deeply grateful for the distraction!
Robyn, I think it’s amazing that Andrew can write his poems so quickly, too.
And, Andrew, I’m thankful you have this kind of distraction. 🙂 It blesses you and it blesses us!
I love this article (and the humor on #10).
A powerful post—print and frame worthy.
Rosemary B. Althoff
Thank you for your blessed article. I do have poems and stories in my drawer, AND a real book contract on my 3rd book in progress! I never thought of all the backstory and little anecdotes I’ve written down as so good for ME! May the Angel of the Lord be with you.
Really enjoyed this! You have a wonderful gift of encouragement. Thank you
Wonderful post. Write on!
Bob, I’m beginning to think it’s not possible for you not to be funny. Love the humor — and no, nothing to add or subtract. You nailed it. Numbers 4 and 6 are especially true for me. Thank you!
For #9 keeping me out of jail, I thought you were going to comment on how writing about crime and criminals in our stories was enough of an outlet for us that we wouldn’t actually commit those crimes. As a romantic suspense writer, it can be very cathartic at times to kill someone in my story….
Lester L. Stephenson
Clear thinking focuses writing. Yet, at the same time writing focuses thinking.
Sometimes I will write something, and then read it, and say “I can’t do anything with this, it can’t be a blog post, or an article, or part of a book.” And then I put it in a file called “Extras”. That file now has about 150 documents in it. And sometimes I will read one of them with great pleasure, and a slightly guilty chuckle, and think “Hmm, this is not bad, I wonder who wrote it”.
(Dementia can only be postponed for so long).
I think the next Christian Writers Conference I go to should have those ten workshops! I find everyone to be enlightening and encouraging. THANKS!
Marilyn A Turk
Great idea, Lori! Thanks!
And thank you, Bob, for reminding me why I need to keep this commitment. Thank you for telling me I’m doing something good, even when my inner voice and a demonic outer one tells me I’m not.
Thank you! I started writing at age 11, saving scraps of papers, jotting ideas for stories, and poems.
(My dad was the newspaper boy for Marjorie Kinnon Rawlings, at Cross Creek, FL, and as I heard his stories about the Pulitzer Prize winner, I asked, “Can I be a writer, too ?”
He replied, “Sure you can!”) I believed him.
I’ve wondered what to do with those stories and poems besides file folders and boxes.
Your post helps me feel assured that it was not time wasted. I agree with a previous post. This one should be framed!
Thank you for the alliteration of P
Add journals to your list of writing outlets, Sir Bob. That’s how I began, just musing over and recording my life, until I belonged to Christ. Then my journals became a jumble of life, Bible study notes, prayers, discoveries of the Divine Person who gave me life. Conversations happened that changed my heart and life. These typically began with a phrase the Spirit formed in my mind, but when I took pen to paper, much more often came. It was as if the Lord, seeing that I paid attention and cared enough to record His words and count them precious, decided give me more. I later found His Word confirming this in Mark 4:24-25.
Later, journals became sermon outlines, Bible studies to teach on spiritual growth, devotionals and books — with enough material tucked in file folders and notebooks for many times as much. I’m not widely read, and impatient to get my books out there, I self-published them all, and gratified over the years to hear that something spurred another on to know God as they can.
But above all, as you so beautifully and efficiently outlined in your post, Bob, my own inward life has been greatly enriched by all this writing. Kudos to you for putting this out there and not tucking it into a file folder!
Connie Elizabeth Cox
This is an encouraging post! Thank you for lifting my hopes to becoming a published author instead of a writer in secret.
Delightful as always! Thanks for the smile.
I lost my husband—suddenly—Jan. 2, 2021 after moving from Florida to Texas, closer to our children. I’ve always written stories and have a few published, but I found writing to be my best form of expressing my grief, love and regrets while it supported my spiritual beliefs and understanding to a new degree. I’ve written over 40,000 words and continue to write several times a month or as often as I need.
Claudia, your comment made me turn back to my homemade Shakespeare/KJV calendar reading for today, which has this quote from Shakespeare’s King Henry VI Pt. 3: “So part we sadly in this troublous world/ to meet with joy in sweet Jerusalem.” And the corresponding verse from Revelation 3:12: “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.” May the God of all comfort continue to comfort and sustain you.
Where in Texas do you live? I live in Tyler and could plug you into a great writer’s club here if you live in this area. They are a great source of encouragement.
For me, quite often a few pages of brilliance that were part of a REJECTED proposal later are repurposed and turn up in manuscript for a book idea that does get a contract. Never throw anything away!
Great encouragement, Bob! I am saving, printing, posting a copy near my workspace, and will re-read this often.
I love this post! Thank you, Bob! I needed this encouragement today!
I may feel chained to my desk at times, but there are not yet bars over my window so according to your words, I gather I’m doing all right!
I love the creativity my writing exercises. There is something immensely satisfying about “taking words out and playing with them,” the challenge of saying thoughts in fresh ways, and the problem solving of saying the same thing in half the words. Ah ha! Two more useless words deleted. High five it! And all joking aside, I so agree that my writing helps me process my understanding of the bible, my maturation in Christ, and my relationships with other people. Sometimes I wonder if part of my brain migrated to my fingers.
Thanks for a great and timely article.
Thank you for articles like this. I write a lot of stuff that I don’t think gets read. I also needed this encouragement today, and it’s good to know that I’m not alone in this quest.
Writing strengthens my marriage. When in my study at the keyboard, I’m not in my wife’s “hair.” Like they say, “she took me for better or worse, but not for lunch!”
Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D.
Boy, am I avoiding dementia!!
I struggle a lot with why I am writing a novel. This is such a challenging project for me because I want it to have meaning. I’m not in it for the money and never have been. Even when I wrote and published my first one. Below I have those two Bible verses in the King James Version which sums it up so much better. It’s sad they removed the word “patience” from the new translations.
“And not only so but we glory in tribulations also knowing that tribulation worketh patience and patience experience and experience, hope.” Romans 5:3-4 KJV
“Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have its perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:3-4 KJV
Jan Rogers Wimberley
Been thinking of much the same as I have taken five years to write my life thesis, research, and challenge! How many good things I let go by the wayside (probably “waste-side”) for the craft, the thinking, the creativity, and the goal of blessing others with my personal deepening walk with God in his Word and His answered prayers in my life.
I keep thinking of Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and they did it all to the glory of God without computers!
Good reminder, Bob. In addition to all that you mentioned, writing (and editing) teaches me humility, which falls under #6, spiritual maturity, but I thought it merited a mention anyway. Working with words reminds me how dependent I am on God to give me the words and help me hone them.
Writing is a step toward making goals, or even wishes, happen. Many times I have looked back at a journaled prayed asking God for a change in my life or help with a challenge, and it came to be. Writing is almost like etching it in concrete.
My life’s rhythm is formed by the beat of words. Staccato passages have me digging deeply into research, cutting, pasting or truncating well loved prose.
As I currently cross the Pacific, I flooded by waves of words forming Haikus. It is as if I’m sitting in the violin section of a renowned orchestra and letting the music send me unfamiliar territory.
Jazz, 40’s big band music or blues can be set to words that draw readers to a place of settled peace or chaos.
I write because I can’t not write. And, yeah, it sure helps preserve my sanity.
I also write because murder is wrong. (I think that’s what you meant by #9, right?)