How to Know if You’re Called to Be a Writer

by CJ Darlington

How
can you know if God’s calling you to be a writer? Finding out doesn’t have to
be mysterious or hard. But you won’t find the answer in your head, because
God’s calling lives in our hearts.

Child’s Play
What
did you love to do for fun as a kid? Often God will give us natural
inclinations as children that coincide with our calling as adults. Have you
always had a fascination with stories, books or writing? Chances are God’s put
that in your heart. It’s not about skill. You can develop skills, but you can’t
fabricate a calling.

I
remember as a teen I begged God to show me what I was supposed to do with my
life. I prayed and yearned to know. Right then. But if I had looked closely, I
would’ve seen He was already leading and guiding me through my childhood
dreams. I loved to read as a kid. One of my favorite activities was visiting
the library, and I’d come home with bags full of books. I loved writing little
stories about animals. My sister and I started a newspaper/magazine we peddled
around the neighborhood for fifty cents.

When
I was fifteen I started writing a story about two sisters. I had no idea that
story would eventually become my first published novel, Thicker than Blood,
or that the book would become the first in a series. Those initial pages were
horrible, but I kept at it because it was something I couldn’t not do. That’s
another way to recognize a God-given dream. Does it burn within you? I asked
Jerry B. Jenkins once how beginning writers could know they were called to
write, and he said if you can’t not write you may be called to write.

God
puts desires and dreams in our hearts at an early age to guide us into our
calling. 

And why wouldn’t He? Doesn’t it make sense He’d plant ideas in our
hearts as children? As Psalms 139 says, “All the days ordained for me were
written in your book before one of them came to be.” It’s only as we get older
that those dreams begin to fade due to the distractions and pressures of life.
Take time and look back. Remember what you dreamed about as a kid. Maybe you’ll
discover God’s been calling you for longer than you think.

It’s Never
Too Late



You
might be wondering, “Did I miss my calling? Have I wasted years of my life when
I should’ve been writing?”

Even
if you were supposed to start writing sooner, don’t despair. I like to think of
life’s journey as walking down a road. The easiest way would be to stay on the
straight path. But many of us veer off course. We might take a turn that wasn’t
God’s direction for us. Note to self—don’t sweat it. God’s a God of love,
forgiveness and grace. All we have to do is ask Him to get us back on track.
And you know what? He will. No matter how many wrong turns you take, God can
reprogram your life’s GPS and still get you to that final destination… the
fulfillment of your dreams and His plans.

Here’s
something I’m learning—nothing is ever wasted by God. Did you dream of being a
writer but for whatever reason became a lawyer instead? Great! Maybe you can
write a legal thriller. Your life experiences can help you create a character
you might not have written otherwise. Did you become a nurse instead of writing
the next Great American novel? Maybe you’ll share your knowledge and experience
writing nonfiction articles about health. Or maybe you’ll write a historical
novel, featuring a struggling doctor serving in the Vietnam War.

Even
though I wrote stories when I was young and dreamed of someday publishing a
book, writing wasn’t exactly paying the bills. So I followed another interest
of mine—rare books. I became a book scout and sold used and rare books to local
bookstores before eventually co-founding my own online bookstore with my
sister, Tracy.

I
was able to incorporate a lot of what I learned about rare books and the book
business into my stories. A first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the
Bell Tolls
plays an important role in Thicker than Blood, and that
was one of the very first rare books I learned about. It might not have looked
like I was on track for reaching my dreams during those grueling book scouting
years, but God knew all along the experiences I’d need to write the novels I’m
writing today. It was all part of God’s plan for my life after all.

Why write?


You’re
sitting at the computer staring at a blank screen. The words aren’t coming. You
start to think about everything else you could be doing, what you want for
lunch, and the question flits through your mind, “How can I possibly impact the
world with stories? What good is writing anyway?”

Think
about this—God could’ve imparted his Word to us in many ways. He could’ve
branded it on our minds or invented the iPad sooner. But what did He choose? He
wrote His words down in a book. How many lives have been changed by that one
Book alone? Do you think God would’ve chosen writing as his medium for
conveying the gospel if there were something more powerful?

One
day a couple years ago (or was it yesterday?) I was lamenting how hard writing
is and the worth of it all. My mom asked me a question I’ve never forgotten.
She said, “If everything you ever wrote reached only one person for the Lord,
would you still do it?”
Maybe
that’s a question we all need to ask ourselves. Your lifetime of words will
impact at least one. When people read novels their defenses go down. They might
not listen to a preacher or a family member or even their best friend. But
stories are powerful. Jesus himself used stories liberally in his teachings.
The Prodigal Son. The Good Samaritan. If anyone would know the most effective
way to win people for the Lord, it would be the Lord Himself, don’t you think?

Writing novels is a vital calling. You can be called to write a novel the same
way a preacher is called to preach. In the book Writer to Writer
(originally published by Bethany House) by Bodie and Brock Thoene write:

“You
have a unique perspective! No one has the combination of gifts of the Spirit in
the same proportion that you do. No one! What’s more, God has been leading you
through experiences and circumstances that contribute to you being you and no
one else. No one has all your memories. Even identical twins have some
experiences they haven’t shared. 

“If
God is calling you to be a writer, then He will lead you from this point on.
And you will soon discover that He has known all along that you’d have this
desire and has been building into your life a whole set of unique events from
which you’ll be able to draw your own one-of-a-kind perspective.”

Don’t Give
Up

Maybe you do believe God’s calling you to pursue writing. You’re banging out
the story of your heart at the keyboard, and you’d love to see it published.
You figure you’ll finish it and send it off to a publisher, or slap it up on
Amazon, and the rest will be history. Isn’t that the way it works? Well . . .
not always. It wasn’t that way for me. It took fourteen very long years before
my first book was published.

This
is where trusting God comes in. If it was up to us we’d be published in months,
not years. But you know the Scripture that says God’s ways are higher than our
ways? It comes in really handy to remember that when it seems like our writing
dreams are never going to come true.

I’m
very glad I didn’t get published right away. As I look back I see God’s hand
guiding me all those years ago opening some doors, closing others, leading me
to where I am today. But it wasn’t easy to see then. I had a plan all figured
out. If it had come true like I envisioned, it would’ve been a lot harder
journey. God knew that.

Don’t
give up on the discouraging days, because they will come. Proverbs 16:3 says,
“Commit your work to the Lord and your plans will succeed.” If you do, then you
can’t fail. He’ll make sure you get where you need to be at just the right
time.

C.
J. Darlington has just released her fifth novel, Running on Empty. C. J.
has loved to read since she was a kid dragging home bags of books from the
library. When she was twelve she started dreaming about becoming a published
author. That dream came true when her first novel Thicker than Blood won
the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel
contest. It became the first book in the Thicker than Blood series, which also
includes Bound by Guilt, Ties that Bind, and now Running on
Empty
. She has also written Jupiter Winds, the first book in a teen
space adventure series. C. J. lives in Pennsylvania with her family and their
menagerie of dogs and a Paint mare named Sky.