Out of the Creative Desert ~ by Allen Arnold

Allen Arnold loves the epic adventure God has set before him.
From the mountains of Colorado, he leads Content & Resources for Ransomed
Heart Ministries (led by John Eldredge). Before that, he spent 20 years in Christian
Publishing – overseeing the development of more than 500 novels as founder
and Publisher of Thomas Nelson Fiction. He was awarded the ACFW Lifetime
Achievement Award in 2012. But that doesn’t really describe the man. Allen
savors time with his family, craves the beach, drinks salsa by the glass, is
hooked on the TV series “Once Upon a Time” and is passionate about
helping storytellers tell better stories from an awakened heart.
~ Out of the Creative Desert ~
I was in a
Mexican restaurant, savoring the salsa when I saw it.
The children’s menu
was a coloring page with illustrations of scrub brush, cactus, and sand. And
this headline:

“Draw Yourself in the Desert”
I did a double
What kind of
depressing invitation is that?
Who would spend
creative energy to purposely draw themselves into such a dry and desolate
Then it hit me.
We do.
Our imagination
is stirred by an idea and we set out to chase it on our own…because, well,
creating is mostly done in isolation, right? We get busy and do. Then ask God
to bless it.

We forget that the process of creation is actually an invitation
into fellowship. An invitation for us not to simply write about God or even for him. But with him. Together.
So we spend hours,
days and months on our solo journey. And then we look
up to find ourselves lost, parched and alone. We’ve drawn
ourselves into a desert. Thankfully, God draws
as well. He is constantly
drawing us out of the desert… to
I live in
Colorado – home of many famous mountain peaks that are at least 14,000 feet
high. I climbed one a few years ago and can definitively tell you – it’s
impossible to accidentally climb up a mountain. It requires intention.
But it’s easy to
unintentionally find yourself in the desert…especially these creative dead
#1: Desert of
Lost Dreams
This is the
desert for those unable to gain traction with their stories. It is a dry land
of frustration, doubt, envy and weariness. In the blistering sun, it is easy to
believe you are alone and forgotten…that all hope is lost. So remember – God
loves finding what was once lost. Especially when what you’ve lost is his original
dream for you.
#2: Desert of Striving
It begins with this
subtle agreement: the success of my calling is all up to me. Industry experts
state you’ll never be a success unless you become a marketing expert, master
countless tips and techniques, and transform into a social media guru. In
essence, spend less time creating with God and more time making it happen. But
these are never the main things. If God has called you to write…do you really
think it all hinges on your continual self-promotion? Create with God and then
watch as he prepares the way – a way that is never paved with striving, fear or
#3: Desert of
You aren’t
promised endless stories…or a career of steadily increasing sales. Does that
make you uneasy? Feel negative? I’ve seen many writers with more books on their
contract than stories God has given them. Many books written to hit a deadline
more than out of desire. It’s a nightmare to wake up and realize your next book
is due in 60 days and you have no idea what to write. When creating, don’t
commit to more than God has committed to you. Live expectantly – without
expectations – to avoid this desert. 
Whether the path
that drew you into the desert was one of immense success, failure or simply striving,
the end result is you find yourself weary in the burning sand.
And when you’re
in the desert, the sense of isolation only intensifies. Desperation sets in.
Some give up their calling. Others scribble a story identical to what they’ve
written many times before…a safe formula. And many just hunker down, hit
their daily word count and try to make it out alive.
But the world
doesn’t need more of those books.
A friend of mine
was recently thirty days from her manuscript deadline. She had already been
given multiple extensions and was filled with stress and worry. There was
little joy or creative fellowship. As gently as possible, I told her I didn’t
think I wanted to read her book when it was done. I couldn’t imagine spending
300 pages in a book born under such a stressful, cold, rushed manner. How could
the words on a page possibly bring life that she herself didn’t seem to have?
But there is a
way out of the desert…a way back to life. 
An author
recently said, “It’s sometimes easy to forget why you’re writing in the first
So we must
This story is my
touchstone that reminds me
why we do what
we do.
I have a big
And I have an
eight-year-old son who loves to
ride with me.
He doesn’t sit
in the back seat – where there’s
plenty of room.
He doesn’t even sit
in the passenger seat.
No, he pulls
himself in and immediately flips up the console / drink holder between the two
main front seats.
He slides over
to sit right next to me. Leg touching
leg. Arm touching arm.
It’s funny…he
doesn’t care where we go. Doesn’t even
He’s there for
the shared adventure. He knows I’m the driver. So he doesn’t ask if I have
enough gas. Or know the directions. Or remembered my wallet.
He is content to
be with me and ride.
God has a much
bigger truck. And he’s here to
take you out of the desert. Please don’t try
to grab the wheel. You don’t know
the best way home.
Just remember.
The reason God
invited you into this calling is not primarily about your talent or because the
world needs more stories.
It is so you can
play together, ride together, create together. So you can walk in the garden
and experience intimacy and awe with your Father.
The Creator and
his creation creating together.
Jump in his
truck, slide in close and enjoy the ride as he draws you
out of the desert and into your best
story yet.
The story you
come up with together.
The story of
creative fellowship.