Last Year’s Word

A lot of my writer friends do a thing at the start of the year where they get their “word” for that year from God.

It’s a bit baffling and I can’t say that I’ve ever fully understood it. Maybe this reveals some of my cynicism towards hearing God’s voice confidently. Maybe I’m just afraid of committing to one thing for that whole year. (“But what happens if I want to change my word in the middle June?”)

Regardless of my feelings on the “one word” idea, looking back I can tell you pretty confidently what my word was for 2014.

“Writer”

Blindingly obvious you might think, but I’ve wrestled with this word for a very long time.

Occasionally I’ve been brave enough to tell people that I write, but it usually with some trepidation. I’ve been writing stuff since I was in 6th grade and telling stories since before then, but I’ve never had a whole heck of a lot to show for it.

I’ve always been afraid of being called out as a fraud or just getting a sarcastic remark like “well what have you written?” Or worse, that polite but disinterested smile that people give you when they just don’t care what you’re saying.

When asked about it, I’d usually add a bunch of qualifiers like “I kinda want to write” or “I dabble in it” just to keep a safe distance between me and the label of “writer”.

I’ve even wrestled with God over it.

My first career plan was to get a degree in film and become a screen writer in L.A. or New York, but God took hold of my plans and “altered” them as He does. He kept me in Southern Illinois at my local church here in Carbondale, telling me that His plan was more important than my career path.

That bit about “the plan” always stuck with me. I’d wanted to be a writer as long as I could remember. It was the only career path that I’d had any kind of passion for. And now all that talk of being a screen writer was kind of lost. (Southern Illinois isn’t really the place to be if you want to make connections in the film world.) If I wasn’t supposed to go to L.A., was I supposed to write at all?

I had never really consulted God on what my career path was supposed to look like. I’d always just assumed the writing thing would pan out. Was this writing thing just an idea leftover from childhood that needed to be discarded, along with my old dreams of being a Zoo keeper or playing center for the Chicago Bulls?

For years I lived in that awkward “who-am-I-really” stage, wondering if writing was something I would have to surrender in exchange for something more practical. Even as I checked out writers conferences and got started on my own book, I still squirmed when people asked if I was writing anything.

"There is a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend writing and the number of  selfies I take of me drinking coffee."

“There is a direct correlation between the amount of time I spend writing and the number of selfies I take of me drinking coffee.” – @WittySwearWords

But then something happened. I don’t know when exactly when. Like so many important things in life, something changed in me when I wasn’t quite paying attention.

Maybe it was when the people in my critique group started asking eagerly when I was going to turn in the next chapter in my book.

Maybe it was after the seventh or eighth successful comedy sketch I wrote for my church’s kids’ program.

But I realized that my staying in Illinois didn’t mean I needed to stop writing. If anything it only improved things by putting my hopes and ambitions in line with everything else God had planned.

My stories weren’t just day dreams, but gifts from God. He is the original Storyteller after all and He was inviting me to join in with the tale that He started telling all those countless centuries back.

So I stopped saying that I wanted to be a writer. Stopped saying that I “dabbled”. I started telling people “I am a writer.”

Now to clarify, God never promised a best selling YA book series. Nor have I gotten any indication that I’ll write that one amazing book that changes peoples’ lives and leads millions to faith. He didn’t even promise publication. My books might end up being bed time stories for my kids.

No matter the result, God has called me a writer. It will never be the most important thing I do with my life, but I’m still supposed to do it.

As for the next part of this “plan”, well that’s my next chapter and the Author hasn’t revealed what happens…not yet.

If you want to read more on God’s invitation toward writers and other creative people, you really should read this post that Allen Arnold of Ransomed Heart wrote on the Writer’s Alley on this same subject about a year ago.

His words have encouraged me many times and he is much more eloquent in doing so than I am. You should really check it out.

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