When I was in college, one of my writing professors rushed into class looking harried and almost delusional. He was under a deadline for his book, and it wasn’t going well. To top that off, his wife’s father had just passed away and his family was grieving. He burst through the door, set down his pile of papers and books, looked at us, and said very solemnly: “If you guys want to be writers, you’re gonna have to make some serious sacrifices.” He went on to tell us how he wasn’t able to travel to his father-in-law’s funeral because of his upcoming deadline.
I’ve never forgotten that. I was horrified. He couldn’t be there for his wife when she needed him because of a book deadline? I didn’t understand, still have a hard time with that one, but at least now I’ve been writing long enough to understand more about the sacrifices writers must make.
For some of us it’s a financial sacrifice. We could be making more money (or at least some money) at a real job. Then there’s the whole sacrifice of time. We’re traveling to conferences, hulling ourselves up in the basement or the office or the local Starbucks laboring over our stories and articles.
The time and money is hard to give up, but for me the most difficult sacrifice is the results—the manifestation of what I’m striving for, of what I’m longing to communicate. I really struggle with sacrificing my dreams and letting God recreate them to be what he wants to fulfill his purposes.
It’s hard. I have a vision for those stories. Hopes and dreams for what they will accomplish. How they will change lives. They are so dear to me and I want to make sure they reach their full potential. Like Madeline L’Engle says in her book Walking on Water, “Art is communication, and if there is no communication it is as though the work has been stillborn.”
But even stillborn stories have a purpose. That’s why we have to take the words we write, the love and passion and purpose behind them, and lay them down at God’s feet. We don’t know what will come of them, whether they will ever amount to anything other than a reflection of what’s in our hearts. We can’t control who reads them, or if anyone ever does, but a story does not have to be published to glorify God. When we write those words and tell the stories that burn within us, we are being obedient. We are glorifying God. The most painful sacrifice is largely internal. We must offer up our pride, our sense of wanting to accomplish something, of wanting to hold a printed book in our hands, and let God own our stories just like he owns us. Maybe they won’t get published, but they will serve a divine purpose. They already are.