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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Equipped or Called?

An aspiring writer emailed me for help in getting her novel published. I asked if she had a critique group. She told me, "No. God called me to write this story, so it doesn't need any critiquing."

Why do we do that to ourselves? Jesus called the disciples, too, but He didn't tell them to go out and preach right away. For three long years, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, He taught them. They were clumsy at first but learned how to do what they'd been called to do.

I believe talent is a gift from God. But it comes with some assembly required. I may have been called to write, but I had to learn the craft and how to do it well.

The day my husband told me to quit trying to find a new job and write a book, I thought the man had lost his marbles. Me? Write a whole book? Sure, I'd written and published a bunch of plays, but those were all dialogue. I knew nothing about writing a novel. But he insisted I could. So,
I sat down and listed my skills—what I did know:

• I took a creative writing class in high school.
• I acted in community theatre (that just made me an amateur actor)
• I'm a whiz at making props (give me a glue gun and some duct tape and I can make anything!)
• I'd been a lobbyist (that only meant I could talk, and that was no surprise)
• I'd been a hairdresser (did John the Baptist ever use one?)

I looked at my pitiful credentials and asked God, "Whatever are you thinking?" The only thing on that list that I could see as useful was the creative writing class. Too bad I didn't remember anything about it. However, I'd always heard that God equipped the called. I just wish someone had told me sooner how to find the equipment room.

After some anguished and angst filled prayers, I sat my behind in a chair at the computer and started writing. I joined an online critique group and took advantage of every conference and workshop I could. I learned, I wrote and edited and rewrote. I progressed from those first desperate prayers to honing my craft into something readable. Whodda thunk it?

My talent is the gift of storytelling. It's a talent I was born with. Of course, back in my childhood, the principal of my elementary school called it lying. I called it creative embellishment. But my love of telling stories never died. And once I began to write, I found what I'd been created to do.

A church drama-director friend of mine, the late Betty Hamm, said, "Drama brings life to our stories. Drama brings Christ's stories to our eyes. Drama uses our senses and draws us in, and when we least expect it, touches, teaches and transforms us."

It's true. People let down their guard when they think they're being entertained. A well-written novel is pure entertainment just like drama, and within its pages, we can weave life-changing truths.

It's our job to constantly strive to improve our craft. Just because that young writer was called doesn't mean her work is ready. It takes most authors an average of four novels in their computer before they publish.

So, join a critique group, go to conferences, get a mentor, and hone your craft. After all, God deserves our best, right? So write on!

8 comments:

Elizabeth Ludwig said...

Love it! Great truths, here. Thank you for putting into words what I knew, but hadn't found the words to speak.

Ane Mulligan said...

I'm glad I could do it, Lisa. Thanks!

Anita Mellott said...

Well said, Ane.

Gina Holmes said...

Excellent post, Ane.

Mary Hawkins said...

A great post, Ane! Thank you for sharing it. Your quote from your friend Betty Hamm really stood out to me. Can I have your permission to put it on the favourite quote section on my Facebook wall? This is sure what I pray God will be able to do with my novels!

Hope Chastain said...

Oh, yes! Excellent! It's a hard truth to learn, whether it applies to writing novels, stories, plays...or songs! Thanks for sharing this with us!
After many more than four novels in my computer, I'm now (I think!) to the polishing stage. Maybe I'll get a critique again soon. (My first was a dilly! :D )

Ane Mulligan said...

Hope, get those critiques! When I got my first ever critique, I did everything but the dialogue wrong. I mean everything!! But I sure grew from those crits. And one of my first mentors and critiquers ... well be watching this Saturday for an announcement about her!

Dina Sleiman said...

Hi Ane. Great article. I started out writing mostly plays and poems. I had a lot of learning to do too.