By Abbi Langille
Have you ever been tempted to tear pages from your notebooks, toss the crumpled wads into the trash, and vow to never write again because it isn’t worth your time? Some days, the words refuse to come. On other days, people insist that playing around with imaginary characters and places isn’t a real job. And every day in between, you stare at the gaping whiteness in front of you and wonder, “Why do I bother?”
Every writer has tripped over that question—sometimes repeatedly. But let me try rephrasing it to more effectively achieve an answer: Are you writing purely for fun, or does the act of creating mean more to you than that?
I once ran across an article about a woman who loved Monopoly so much that she spent every spare hour and penny searching for each version of the game in existence. What if, after losing the bid for a rare edition on eBay, she slumped in her seat and mumbled, “Why do I bother?” I’m sure that, beyond the fact that Monopoly fascinated her, she wouldn’t have been able to name a reason. Her collection impacted no one and helped no one. She had a passion without a purpose.
But, as a writer, you do. Your stories have the potential to change lives, including your own.
A Purpose to Your Passion
One of my favorite encouraging quotes comes from Steven Pressfield’s book The War of Art: “If you find yourself asking, ‘Am I really a writer? Am I really an artist?’ Chances are, you are. The counterfeit innovator is wildly self confident. The real one is scared to death.”
I’m scared to death, as you probably are too. But I also enjoy reading books by authors who overcame that fear. They will never realize how they’ve touched my heart, strengthened my spirit, and showed me truths I was blind to. Whether the genre is fantasy, suspense, historical fiction, or romance, I’m swept into portrayals of grief and hope that reflect the reality I experience every day.
The author I credit with teaching me the importance of storytelling (and inspiring my dream to become a writer) is C. S. Lewis. The Chronicles of Narnia captured me as a small child, and the closing chapters of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader exposed me to the power of a magical world woven from golden threads that were spun in the mind of an author who worships God. Aslan tells the youngest Pevensies that they won’t be returning to Narnia, and Edmund asks if they’ll meet him in their world. Aslan assures him that they will and explains, “But there I have another name. You must learn to know me by that name. This was the very reason why you were brought to Narnia, that by knowing me here for a little, you may know me better there.”
If you’re writing explicitly Christian fiction, set that as your goal: carve a world in which you depict God so vividly that, when readers drift back to their couches, they leave with a sense of who He is. Don’t give up when you could be someone’s Narnia, the person who introduces them to Christ. Focus on glorifying God, and you’ll never need to doubt that your writing has value.
Write for Others
When you write from your soul, letting your sorrows, joys, and the lessons you’re learning trickle into your stories, you can make tears dampen the pages. Readers may believe that no one could possibly understand their circumstances—until they see fictional characters bearing the same burdens. And even if they’re not currently going through trials, the story may linger with them so that years later, when they’re in a dark valley, it brings them comfort.
Author and songwriter Andrew Peterson addresses this relationship in his song “To All the Poets.” When writers use their struggles to empathize with others, it’s like turning tears into pearls. “When there was mud and blood and tears, you sang a song at night to calm our fears. You made a moment last a thousand years.”
Some children never have good role models or hear about Jesus. Peterson’s song describes writers as heroes who stay by your side when the people who should’ve cared about you the most desert you. During seasons of loneliness, books have been my closest friends, full of characters so real that I feel I know them and so honorable that I strive to emulate them.
Peterson’s song demonstrates that stories aren’t just for children, however. They’re rejuvenating to adults too. “In every man you saw the boy; the hidden heart the dark could not destroy.” As writers, we should seek to reach the hidden child inside every person. Stories awaken wonder, ignite imagination, and keep hearts young. Jesus urges His disciples to nurture this mentality in Matthew 18:3–4: “Truly, I say to you, unless you become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
People who are captivated by tales of far-off lands, mystical creatures, and bygone eras should never harbor guilt, whether they’re readers or writers. They can follow in stride with C. S. Lewis, who said: “When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty, I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
The chorus of Peterson’s song declares that writers keep dreaming and praying when readers can’t anymore. With a sword forged from words and the armor of music, they fight dragons bent on consuming readers’ hearts. God has introduced me to authors who are the stars that guide a girl with a broken compass, and He can lead you toward His grace the same way.
I recently had the privilege of seeing firsthand how a writer can affect a reader. A young person commented on an article of mine that a friend had recommended they read, and they thanked me for putting into words how they felt. Nothing can compare to the news that your work has uplifted someone—even just one person.
Write for You
Not only can your writing transform someone else’s life, it can also transform yours. Genesis 32 recounts how Jacob wrestled with God, and God blessed him. For a writer, shaping ideas into a story is how you often wrestle with God—and how He often bestows His blessing.
The more I write, the more I use it to process my own doubts and growth. My characters echo my questions, my dreams, my battles. And God’s whisper becomes louder.
Readers will pick up on your level of honesty and authenticity. If you have anxiety and so does your protagonist, a reader with anxiety will connect with her. But if you don’t, your portrayal may seem flat—or worse, inaccurate. Whether the topic is depression, confusion, grief, love, faith, or bravery, if you’re personally wrestling with similar problems or virtues, you’ll leave a stronger impression on readers. The fact that you have struggles doesn’t make you unqualified to be a writer. It equips you to craft stories that are raw, real, and relatable.
Whenever you feel like throwing aside your pen, deleting yet another draft, or burning the latest rejection letter, listen to Andrew Peterson’s “To All the Poets.” Remember that readers may view you as their hero someday because you carried them through their darkest nights and protected their childlike hearts from Satan’s knife. When they can’t express their pain in a prayer, your story could offer them hope of a new day.
God spoke the world into being, and the Word became flesh to save us from our sins. Music artist Jason Gray (one of my guiding stars) says, “Words make worlds and heal hearts.” Your passion for writing is God calling you to imitate Him. What an honor. That’s why you bother. Make worlds, heal hearts, and keep on dreaming.
Abbi Langille is a young writer from Nova Scotia, Canada. She enjoys writing both fiction and nonfiction, taking every spare moment to jot down ideas on her laptop or a handy scrap of paper. She is a self-proclaimed nerd and has an addiction to story, whether that means getting lost in someone else’s or creating her own. In her free time, you will be hard pressed to find her without a book, paintbrush, or camera in hand.