How to Build a Ship by Marcia Lee Laycock

Antoine de St. Exupery is purported to have said, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them task and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”

That quote draws me in, puts images in my mind of the vastness of the ocean, the vastness of our world and universe, the infinite vastness of God Himself. This I believe is what we aim for as writers of faith, to delve into that longing in our own being and to express it in ways that will draw others with us.

Think of a book you read that did that for you. It will live in your heart and mind for a very long time because it goes to the root of your being, your longing to be ever in the presence of God, your longing for truth.

The genius and the gift of art is that it can take us there. I remember feeling it in an art history class many years ago as I stared at the slides our instructor flashed on a large screen. “Just take these in,” he said. I did and was never the same. That art changed me, made me more aware, more ready to receive, even though, at that stage in my life, I had no idea what I wanted or needed. Viewing those representations of artwork wrought centuries before took me a step closer to searching for God.

The frustration of every artist is the limitation of his/her own self that blocks the genius, prevents us from reaching into that longing and embracing it. But there is hope. There is Christ, who always beckons, always encourages, always leads us to Truth because He is Truth. Though we are flawed and incapable, He is able to reach through our words and draw the hearts to Him.

I love the quote from Exupery because I imagine the people, my audience – people whose minds and hearts and souls have been touched by art in a way that makes them want to build and launch their own ships, to begin the journey to God that will take them deep into His presence. And I love the journey of my writing craft, because it takes me there too.

“Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. Psalm 43:3


Marcia Lee Laycock writes from central Alberta Canada where she is a pastor’s wife and mother of three adult daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone and also has two devotional books in print. Her work has been endorsed by Sigmund Brouwer, Janette Oke, Phil Callaway and Mark Buchanan. The sequel to One Smooth Stone will be released in 2011. A collection of devotionals for writers has just been released here. Visit Marcia’s website

An Exciting Discovery

Marcia Laycock is a pastor’s wife and mother of three grown daughters. She was the winner of The Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone, and has published two devotional books, Spur of the Moment, and Focused Reflections. Visit her website –

I made an exciting discovery one day. I got so excited about it I called my husband into the office so I could show him. He smiled indulgently but looked like he thought I was overreacting just a bit. I’d been critiquing and editing manuscripts for writers for some time. I would usually do the edits on a hard copy of the manuscript, then transfer them onto the computer and send the finished product to the writer.
The task was laborious since it is important for the writer to see the changes I make and in some cases, understand my reasoning. I used the highlight feature as well as the font color feature on the computer, making the changes as I went, then highlighting and putting comments in red. This required continually clicking buttons and using the mouse.

Then I joined an online critique group. Each person was to submit a story and all the others critique it. As we got started someone asked how to put the changes right into the manuscript. I was about to send a message explaining my method when I read a message from another group member. He explained that all you have to do is hit the Tools button and click on ‘track changes.’ The computer does everything for you! I immediately pulled up an old manuscript and tried it. That’s when I got excited. I knew this little discovery would save me a lot of time and ‘fiddling.’

In my own defense I must explain that I am self-taught on the computer. I have never taken a course, but learned by doing. For the most part that has worked fine, but when I discovered this tracking feature it made me wonder what else I’ve been missing. Maybe it was time I investigated all the features the program designers put into my computer. Maybe it was time I discovered how it’s meant to be used. There were probably a few other things I’d been doing the hard way.

Sometimes we go through life the same way. We are self-made, self-taught and self-focused. Usually, that means we’ve been doing things the hard way. Maybe it’s time we discovered our designer had a different plan. Maybe it’s time we discovered what that plan is. God has provided everything we need to live our lives according to His purposes. The Apostle Paul knew this when he wrote to the Philippians – “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

Did you notice that last phrase? That’s the important part, the part that can mean the difference between living life the hard way, and living life with abundant joy. In Christ Jesus. Why do things the hard way?

Questions and Answers

Marcia Lee Laycock is the winner of the best New Canadian Christian Author Award from Castle Quay Books. Her novel, One Smooth Stone is endorsed by Marc Buchanan, Phil Callaway and Sigmund Brouwer.

In Bill Roorbach’s book Writing Life Stories, he tells an anecdote about one of his elderly students, a woman of 85. He asked her a flippant question, a question he did not expect her to answer. He asked, “Jane, tell us, what’s the secret to life?”
Roorbach writes –
“Jane smiled benignly, forgiving me my sardonic nature, tilted her head and said without the slightest pause: “Searching.”
An indignant Chuck (another student), said, “Not finding?” quite sure he had it right. “No, no, no,” Jane said emphatically, letting her beatific smile spread, “Searching.” (Writing Life Stories by Bill Roorbach p.53-54)

Frans Kafka once said – “One reads in order to ask questions.” Perhaps one should also write from that perspective, not to provide, but to seek the answers, those answers that will resonate deep and long as they touch that central part of our being where God resides; those answers that will lead us and our readers to more questions.
The trap of pride lurks, ready to ensnare us. It is in arrogance that we write believing we possess the complete unadulterated truth. Jesus is the only One who lives in that place. Jesus is truth. We are merely those, as J. Hudson Taylor says, who are seeking to bring our own souls under its influence.

Oswald Chambers, who has written one of the most popular devotional books ever written, said – “The author who benefits you most is not the one who tells you something you did not know before, but the one who gives expression to the truth that has been dumbly struggling in you for utterance.”

I think the author who is most true to himself, and his readers, is the one who admits that truth has been dumbly struggling in her, as well. It is when we as writers struggle to give utterance, struggle toward that wholeness, that holiness, that we succeed, no matter whether the result is published in the New Yorker with an audience of millions or in a local newsletter with an audience of a few hundred.

John 14:6 – “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Bio – Marcia Lee Laycock

Marcia’s writing began in the attic of her parents’ home where she wrote poetry and short stories for her dolls. She says they never complained so she kept it up. Since those humble beginnings, God has led and blessed her with publication in magazines, newspapers, and on the web. Her work has been heard on CBC radio and has won many prizes, garnering praise from writers like Janette Oke, Mark Buchanan and Phil Callaway. She has self published two devotional books and in 2006 won the Best New Canadian Christian Author Award for her novel, One Smooth Stone.

Marcia has been on the executive of Inscribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship for several years and has taught writing workshops for Inscribe and The Word Guild as well as other organizations across the country. She is a sought-after speaker for women’s groups.

Marcia leads a busy life as a pastor’s wife, mother of three girls, and handler of two adolescent Golden Retrievers and a six-toed cat.

To contact Marcia see her website at