I think we all, sometime in life, feel a draw, or even a calling, to do something that we feel unqualified to do. I’m talking specifically about writing here but if God calls you to do something you need to be more concerned about obedience than how that obedience makes you feel.
A reader emailed me to ask this question:
“How do you have the guts to share your writing if you feel like you aren’t really wise enough yet to say anything that would be helpful to other people? Have you ever struggled with that?”
Please know that if you email me about a struggle, there’s a good chance I struggle with it too. My first response was to wonder if perhaps she has been listening to conversations with my husband or a few friends. I think we are all innately aware of our own shortcomings. We know how far we have to go and we know that there are wiser people that surround us. But perhaps we have that itch to write and we can’t kill it. Or we don’t want to. Or we don’t believe we should no matter how strong the urge is. Here are a few ideas I’ve picked up that might help.
Have your audience in mind
I’ve wanted to stop writing publicly. I love to write and I have notebooks going back to childhood but there is a great temptation to keep it to myself. The only thing that stops me is wondering what my life would be like if Elisabeth Elliot had kept her writing to herself or Elizabeth George had never picked up a pen or any of the other writers that have affected my life so greatly kept their words to themselves for their own comfort. Where would I be?
There are always people coming along behind me. I don’t write on the blog for women in their 40s because I need those women to write to me, to teach me. I write for those women in their 20s who are stepping into motherhood and diving into their walk with Jesus and might benefit from a few things that took me a long time to learn. I want to save them a few steps. It’s not a prescriptive everyone-has-to-do-this to be right. Instead it’s a this-helped-me-maybe-it-could-help-you.
Sometimes this looks like writing to my past self. What did I need to know five years ago? What did I need to know last week when I was tired and I wanted to explode at the kids? There are other women who find themselves in these situations and I love that I can contribute to their idea bank. I’ve read widely for 12 or 15 years about some of these topics and I have a great wealth of ideas that I use in my own life. I don’t use them all every day but I pull from what I’ve learned every single day. Because those people took the time to write it down.
Write as a foundation
I try to always acknowledge that there is so much I don’t know. I hope that in ten years I will disagree with some things that I’ve written because that means I will have grown. My attitude toward writing is big sister to little sister. I’m wrapping my hands around my coffee, sitting on my couch with you, listening to your journey and sharing my own, knowing we can both learn from each other. I don’t share ideas because I don’t struggle in that area but because I do. I feel robbed when other women won’t share their experiences or their insights into how they have made their lives work. I don’t want to keep an idea from someone else because I’m afraid of what they will think of me. That’s actually very self-centered.
Writing is a skill and like any other skill, you get better at it the more you do it. I’ve never tried to grow my platform greatly because right now I look at this as foundation work. I’m learning to write. I’m learning about life. I’m learning more of my Bible and how that translates into how I live. Writing now, even if it doesn’t benefit one single other person, is adding a layer to my writing abilities in ten years. It’s an investment and viewing it as an investment keeps me from worrying if perhaps I have nothing to say. Maybe I don’t. That’s ok.
Writing also makes me think through concepts and topics much more deeply than I would without it. It’s much harder to get a coherent train of thought down on paper where someone else with no context can make sense of it. I can ramble in conversations and the other person can ask questions and make clarifying statements until they understand what I mean. That’s not how it works when I’m writing.
Commit to the work
I had to commit to writing regularly in spite of my fears. I still have to do this. A few years ago I stopped just writing whenever I felt like it and started writing because it was time to write. That changed my writing process and my writing life. It also changed my skill level because I was writing from discipline and not just whenever I felt like it. I ignore how I feel about writing. I ignore my worries about how others will receive my writing. I even write when I think I have nothing to say. I keep a list of topic ideas that I pull from or I answer a question or I write about what’s going on in life.
I’ve published on a blog for six years now. That’s my motivation to keep up the work. If I don’t write my writing skills will be rusty. If I don’t write, I have much less to say. If I don’t write, there is nothing to hit “publish” on. And that accountability has made a bigger difference than anything else. I started with a free blog and I’m glad I did. I didn’t promote it on social media or share it with my friends but I did shape an online space that I could be proud of. It was a record of how far I had come and what I was learning that had nothing to do with anyone else for years really. I established writing as a personal project instead of worrying about what someone else could get from it. Other people make poor motivation.
I still struggle with that same question. And I’m guessing that even if this woman writes for the next ten years she will still wonder about it occasionally. I do the work in spite of my fears, just like I mother my children in spite of my fears. Fears cannot drive life.