A Writer’s Most Difficult Challenge

If you want to be a writer, the most difficult challenge you’re going to face isn’t writer’s block. It isn’t learning how to properly use a semi colon or write a lead or interview a source. It isn’t even getting an agent or making enough money to pay the bills.

If you want to be a writer, the most difficult challenge you’ll face comes when someone you love says one of the following things about your career:

“You need to start making better decisions.”

“It’s time you grew up and acted like a responsible adult.”

“You can still write as a hobby, but you need to get a real job.”

You want them to recognize how hard you work and how worthwhile your job is. More than that, you want them to be proud of you. Their words hurt.

If they keep at it long enough or if you hear it from enough people, the pain crescendos to a level where you can’t ignore it anymore. You start to doubt yourself and the decisions you’ve made. You’re forced into doing one of two things. Either you build a protective wall around that part of your life, perhaps even your whole life, and you exclude them from it, or you give up the career you love for something more acceptable.

Neither is a good solution.

So next time you face these joy-stealing, dream-killing, confidence-shaking falsehoods, here’s how to survive.

Remind Yourself that the World Needs Writers

When I was growing up, a lot of people pushed for me to become a veterinarian or a teacher, despite the fact that I faint at the sight of blood and don’t have the patience to deal with a roomful of children or teenagers (hey, at least I’m honest about my limitations). They told me (in not so many words) that becoming a writer was a waste of my potential. Why would I throw my future away?

The world needs writers.

Without writers, we wouldn’t have classic literature or textbooks to study. We wouldn’t have the books, journal articles, and other written resources teachers use to learn their subjects and prepare their lesson plans.

Without writers, the millions of people whose favorite pastime is curling up with a book or magazine would have to fall back on watching TV or movies . . . except that without writers, we wouldn’t have TV shows or movies.

Without writers, politicians would become a lot less eloquent. (You don’t really think they write their speeches themselves do you?)

Without writers, both print and online newspapers would have no content.

Without writers, we’d have to revert to preserving all the new advances in knowledge through oral traditions. Any student of history will tell you what a flawed method that is.

Ask for Clarification on What It Means to Have a Real Job

Some well-meaning relatives may go so far as to suggest you should have gotten a job at a fast food place long ago. I believe that all law-abiding work is honorable, but don’t understand why a minimum-wage job is a “real job” while writing isn’t. What does having a “real job” mean?

Does it mean helping people?

A few months ago, after publication of an article that Lisa and I co-wrote on pornography addiction, we received an email thanking us and telling us that we might have saved a marriage. Is that not just as important as serving someone their coffee and donut?

Does it mean fighting traffic?

Seems to me that telecommuting and home offices are a growing trend because people don’t want to fight traffic, burn increasingly expensive gas, and worry about bad weather.

Does it mean someone else needs to sign your paychecks?

Someone else does sign my checks. Unless I have a split personality, I can guarantee the checks I receive don’t have my signature on them.

Does it mean putting on a tie, or khakis and a polo shirt/blouse, or a uniform?

I could put those on to sit at home if I really wanted, though I’m not sure why I would when I can work in sweats.

Does it mean having the respect of clients and colleagues?

If you’re professional, you can build good relationships, a good reputation, and develop regular clients regardless of your job title.

Find Some Allies

This world will always have people who feel that they know better than you what you should do with your life. It’ll always have people who find it easy to judge you for your choices even though they’ve never been in your position. It’ll always have people who draw attention to your failures and weaknesses rather than your successes and strengths.

Find yourself some people who’ll call you out on sin rather than on personal preference, who have your back, and who will fight harder for you than you do for yourself. You need the support. Even Batman had Robin and Superman had Lois Lane.

Keep In Mind Who You Really Need to Please

The Apostle Paul writes, “Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

When it comes right down to it, other people’s opinions don’t matter. You have to make your own decisions and follow your own conscience. You are accountable only to God.

So have a good cry and some chocolate. Realize that it’s always going to sting. And then pick yourself up off the floor, sit your bottom back down in your computer chair, and meet that deadline . . . and the one after that . . . and the one after that . . .

5 comments on “A Writer’s Most Difficult Challenge

  1. Without writers who are Christian, we abandon contemporary culture.

    We allow others — those who do not write from a Christian worldview, and more importantly, those who do everything they can to undermine, ridicule and marginalize a Christian worldview — to tell the powerful stories that persuade individuals, influence public opinion, and permeate entire societies.

    Without writers who are Christian working in ALL genres, media, formats, styles, venues, we abdicate our God-given responsibilities to share and give reason for the hope that is within us, and we allow others to take over the intellectual, artistic and moral leadership of Canada.

    Is this what the naysayers want? Probably not.

    But attempting to be a professional writer who is a Christian because (a) you believe you are following God’s will for how you invest your time on earth and (b) you want to impact individuals and the culture around you is too nebulous, “artsy,” impractical, impoverishing, and “unrealistic” for some people to grasp, alas. It’s a lot easier to understand slinging double doubles and artery-clogging doughnuts as as useful, money-earning “real job” in society.

    Keep the faith, girls with pens (and boys with pens too), and keep writing.

    Wendy Nelles
    Co-Founder, The Word Guild
    A nationwide community connecting, developing and promoting Canadian writers and editors who are Christian

    • Wendy,
      You make an important point. I hope that everyone who reads this post will also read your comment. The world needs writers working from a Christian worldview even more than they just need writers. Otherwise we lose valuable opportunities to share the truth. Thanks for posting this reply.

    • You’re welcome 🙂 Sometimes it’s easy to feel like you’re the only one . . . until someone speaks up and let’s you know it’s normal. That’s part of why we’re writing this blog.

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