By Jean Bloom
As a writer and editor, I’m especially afforded the opportunity to consider what makes writers tick.
If you think some writers are merely seeking fame and fortune, you are probably right. But I don’t know any of them. Very few writers gain celebrity or wealth. Highly successful authors like J. K. Rowling and John Grisham, as well as Christian authors like Jen Hatmaker and Max Lucado, have been given a special albeit well-deserved place on bestseller lists. But most writers write without any or much compensation, without a guarantee of accolades. This is the case for the contributors to this very blog.
So why do writers work so hard? What’s in it for them?
The answer is in their hearts. Most of them . . .
- Can’t not write. I confess, although I love to write, I can not write. Yet I know many writers absolutely must put their thoughts and stories in writing. God planted a desire to express themselves with the written word on a consistent basis, and to ever be denied the opportunity is frustrating, and sometimes emotionally painful. It’s like they’re struggling for breath.
- Write because they believe they have something worthwhile (even God-inspired) to say. From blog posts to essays to short stories or novels, most writers aren’t seeking to merely entertain potential readers. They yearn to inform, inspire, encourage. And deep inside, they know a calling that won’t be brushed away.
- Write to discover or confirm what they think and what they believe. This is certainly not an original thought. Author Joan Didion has been quoted, “We write to discover what we think.” Flannery O’Connor said, “I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” I wonder if—although his writing was, I believe, God-inspired—the apostle Paul was even more convinced of his convictions once he transferred them to the written word.
What else does this tell us about a writer’s heart?
Writers care about their readers. Most of us work hard to develop our craft. Eventually we are brave enough to subject ourselves to the reactions (or non-reactions) of readers. Or maybe to critique from beta readers, agents, editors—all primed to suggest ways we can improve what we’ve written to more successfully connect to readers.
Writers care about their messages. By messages, I mean the messages in novels, the messages in devotionals, the messages in essays, the messages in memoirs, the messages in blog posts. The messages conveyed through humor, instruction, confession, heartfelt sharing, story, poetry. All the messages. You know it’s true—writing that reaches into your heart with a message that resonates is the writing you most love and remember.
Writers need—crave, if you want to know the truth—support and encouragement. We come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities, but most of us have well-developed sensitive sides, even if we don’t show them. Indifference, criticism, and especially outright rejection of our writing can hurt. Yes, we must develop thick skins, but our hearts remain tender. (More than one author has practically apologized to me for errors in his or her manuscript. What? No writer creates perfectly. We have no writer “gods” or “goddesses.” Every New York Times bestseller needed editing.)
If you personally know an author, or like a particular author’s work, consider how you can support and encourage him or her. Even “successful” authors are not immune to doubt about their writing. With likes and shares on social media, honest reviews on Amazon, website or Facebook page follows, personal notes, or some other creative means unique to you, you can support and encourage a writer, maybe when they are thinking about giving it up! (I’m also preaching to myself and to writers on behalf of other writers now).
No need to go overboard. And I’m not suggesting you lie; sometimes writers miss the mark or their writing isn’t your cup of tea. Maybe a writer is in the beginning stages of developing the craft and it shows. But if you read words you like, if the message is meaningful or even merely satisfying, consider saying so.
Poet William Wordsworth said, “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.” Trust me, most writers are doing just that.
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Alvaro Serrano, used with permission