I just returned from my third writers conference in a month...logged about 7000 miles from the east coast to the Rockies and back to the mid-west. I found myself interviewing hundreds of potential authors, but all WRITERS! It seemed a little unfair that so many have such deep dreams to write but only a handful have a passion.
Writing is hard. It's not the glorious avenue some tend to think it is, rather it's a lonely place to reside. We close ourselves in a room, sometimes smaller than an jail cell and only talk to our imagination. In a way, we're a reclusive bunch.
But what I've discovered in this past month of travel and teaching is that these writers, whether their passion is deep or not, all seem to bear one thing in mind. That is, their love for Christ.
We all have stories to tell..some of us far more gifted at telling than others. (Seasoned writers would say, SHOW don't TELL), others and speak their tale but need someone else to write it. Still, the reigning truth is...the writers I saw all love Christ.
Their zeal to learn the craft of writing is strong, their willingness to be shown their flaws--amazing. And most would say, "Why would you go to a place where folks criticize what you love to do?" And again I remind you of their deep love of Christ.
There's a world of difference in a Christian Writers Conference and a Secular Writers Conference...and though the market is equally as tough in both venues, the love of their fellow writers supersedes the competitiveness of the market. Once again, the prominent difference -- Christ.
I've been to both types of conferences, seen the way writers are perceived and treated, and I can say without hesitation, there is a marked difference in the two.
I spoke to a man who'd attended a secular conference in Ohio, he sat before me, tears in his eyes as he slipped a page of his writing into my hand. The prose was beautiful, the thoughts well constructed, the writing mechanics pristine and when I patted his hand and complimented his work - he sobbed.
At bit taken back, I apologized. I didn't know what else to do. Here sat a football player-sized man, blubbering like a baby. What do you do other than apologize? I tried to ignore his tears and continue with the interview, pointing out spots that especially touched me as I read. Oh there was a couple of things he could had polished - but we all know writing is subjective. Over all, his work was excellent. When I'd finished talking, he swiped the tears from his cheeks and said, "You saw the passion of Christ in the work. Thank you. At the secular conference, editors tore apart the subject matter, slashed away my words calling them trite. But you saw the passion of Christ."
I realized at that moment the defining point of being a Christian was not in calling myself a Christian but in that deep-rooted passion of example. The encouragement Christ offered to us, we can offer to others and the result...is a changed life.
When the conference was ending, this man met me outside the main conference hall and walked with me. He nudged against my shoulder and remarked, "I told my wife about your gentleness, about your encouragement. And I told her that I was ready to quit. Give up. I took the last of our savings to come here, searching for something. I wasn't sure it was publication, I think it was simply encouragement...hope. And I found that in you."
Now, I'm not the greatest Christian in the world. I'm full of flaws if you look deep enough, but I definitely related to this man's remark. Because we all need encouragement, validation that the efforts we make are important. Even if they may not be, well written...the effort, the attempt to follow a story that Christ has placed in their hearts is so VERY, VERY important.
Sure, some of us are better at it than others, and there are some who should just hand their story over to a writer who can do it for them, but the fact remains, the passion of the obedience to make the attempt. Who are we to fail to encourage? Who are we to slam and tear apart the story God has placed in the hearts of others?
Our responsibility is to be honest with compassion. To guide, not destroy. To encourage not discourage. Just as Christ did.
There in....lays the passion.
A writer once said, "Don't write just for the sake of writing. Write if you have something to say."
I have mixed feelings about that remark because some of us journal our stories the best our untrained talents allow. But we all have something to say, we all have stories and it's up to us to listen.
My friend, Alton Gansky said, "When you write for God you need to understand your work may never be found in the pages of a book on the Lifeway Bookstore shelves, but it may only be meant for the guy sitting next to you." Now THAT, my friends is true encouragement. It's truth spoken in love and nestled between the love of Christ and encouragement. I wrote that down. It hangs on my computer so that I am reminded daily WHO I write for and that I understand it's okay to pursue a dream of being published as long as I continually work to hone the craft, but that even my best work may only be meant for the guy sitting next to me.
In other words, I have a story to tell...I have something to say and when I say it the best way I know how, then God will work with that. Does that mean to do shotty work? ABSOLUTELY NOT--it's my responsibility to learn the craft well! But it puts into perspective what the truth is.
So my thoughts are: We all have something to say. What is important to me may not be important to a publisher but it may move the person sitting in the pew next to me. Who knows how God works? But I care...don't you?
I received a devotion from a PhD recently. Her devotion submission had great content but academia screamed from the page. So I called her. We chatted and I guided her toward listening to her heart. Her devotion really did have great value...it just needed to be tweaked so that the average Joe could understand the message. When we were done, she said, "Why didn't you just toss this in the rejection pile? Kill it. What did you see in this devotion that made you willing to call me? I was stunned.
"I pray that God will give me eyes of purity when I read. That He will show me the message and not allow me to judge the message on the writing. And then that He will lead me to helping you find the message yourself." That's the truth. That's what I do. That's what God has called ME to do.
Work at being an encourager not a destroyer. Your encouragement might take a poor writer and spur them into greatness. But more so, it may take a message hidden in the rough and spring it across the world.