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Friday, May 08, 2015

The Doors Every #Writer Must Choose Between

The Doors Every Writer Must Choose Between
by Allen Arnold

Every writer enters into their creative gifting through one of two doors.

Door #1 is With God.

Door #2 is Without God.

If this were a multiple-choice test, the answer would be pretty simple. 100% of us would check the box labeled Door #1.

The problem is – Door #2 draws an enormous amount of actual traffic. I believe that’s because humans like formulas, techniques, and measurable goals they can set, control and achieve. And Door #2 thrives on those aspects.

The only way to enter Door #2 is through self-effort. This door focuses almost exclusively on tangible, external performance metrics such as hitting a daily word count or increasing social media buzz. Validation comes through what is achieved – awards, number of books sold, ranking on Amazon, or growth of one’s tribe. Yet God never confines himself to formulas or human expectations.

None of Door #2’s external measurements are inherently wrong. But let’s be honest, people can achieve them without God. In fact, sometimes we get so busy with all the things associated with Door #2  because we believe they are the keys to our success. And in those moments, it’s hard to tell when God has left the building because our eyes are no longer on him.

A sure sign of spending too much time at Door #2 is you regularly find yourself overwhelmed, disheartened, or burnt-out as a writer. You either are consumed by your desire for success or feel like a complete failure...sometimes both in the same hour. Unfortunately, those are the fruits of self-effort.

On the other hand, the only way to enter Door #1 is with God. It involves the internal, mysterious, unpredictable path of entering the creative playground with him. Signs of spending most of your time at Door #1 is that you take your cues from God more than the market, you savor the writing time with him each day, and you sense his purpose and pleasure in what you are doing.

Door #1 doesn’t always lead to commercial success. In fact, that’s not even the focus of this door. But it does lead to your transformation as you spend time creating with the Creator. And it is the only way your writing will ever have eternal value. Remember – the reason God gave you the gift of writing wasn’t so you could write books about him or for him. It’s so you could write books with him.

And here’s a secret. If you start each day walking through Door #1, you can always visit Door #2. But if you start at Door #2, it’s extremely hard to find much meaningful time in Door #1. That is because God wants to be your primary focus as you pursue the calling he gave you – not an add-on or enhancement. He’s the Creator who loves to reveal himself through story and art and imagination and ideas. But only to those who hunger and thirst for his presence over their own productivity.

If you aren’t sure which is your door of choice, here are some questions that will help bring clarity:
  • What does writing with God look like for you? Describe it in tangible terms. I’m not asking whether you say a prayer before you write but rather how you engage with God actively as you write. 
  • In Scripture, Moses was so dependent on God that he once said he’d call the entire trip off if God didn’t show up (Exodus 33:12 – 18). If you don’t sense God’s presence when you sit down to create, do you push forward on your own or do you wait on him? Does waiting like Moses did seem realistic for your schedule as a writer? 
  • What determines if you have a good or bad day as a writer? Is it mostly based on external or eternal issues? 
  • What does God think of your writing? Have you ever asked him this question and listened to his thoughts? 
  • What do you spend the most time as a writer talking and thinking about? Are they things that draw you closer to God and his desires for your creativity or more the metrics, industry, and craft aspects of the business? Why is that? 
At the end of the day, we spend more time in either Door #1 or Door #2. The right door makes all the difference. Choose wisely. 

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. 


  1. I love what you've written, Allen. You always bring just the right message for us to encourage, admonish, and strengthen us in our journey as writers. Thanks you!

  2. Great questions and post, Allen. Thank you so much!

  3. Allen,

    As always, your posts on this subject give me pause and make me consider my own writing journey.

    Up until late last year, I lived behind Door #2. Word count, goal setting, goals achieved. I took a great deal of encouragement from all that.

    Then I was put in a place of creative silence sometime in September 2014. Nothing came easy.

    Then nothing came at all.

    In January, I officially resigned myself to being in a creative silence, at least with fiction.

    I've written no fiction since, but have been becoming increasingly more aware that it's been a good thing with the increasing awareness that it's been God's doing. Most likely as a result of my overweening self-sufficiency.

    A very good thing.

    This post strikes particularly close to home today because I'm waiting outside Door #1.

    Yes. Another God thing--for which I give Him praise.

    Thank You for continuing to share your thoughts on this subject. I look forward to each of your posts.

    Best wishes,


  4. For me it's more than writing with God but living every day for and with Him. I don't think I can separate the two.

    It's not a matter of engaging Him as I write -- a lot of times He engages me! But engaging Him from the heart out, not my head, but my heart, toward every aspect of my life. Letting Him change me and renew me from the very words I speak to my actions and beliefs.

    I have to constantly lean on Him in this writing gig. It's chocked full of disappointment as well as successes!!

    But this is my job and I think there is reward for it like any job, and so I pray for the practical rewards as well as the spiritual.

    I don't believe I have to write for pennies because God's teaching me some sort of lesson. If that's the case, everyone would be working their job for pennies! LOL

    This is a long haul business. And like you say Allen, we really need to lean into Jesus to make it. Whether a writer comes out hot, wowing everyone, or whether they come out slow, building over the years, it takes Him to get us through.

    Thanks for the reminder to constantly lean into Jesus!


  5. Rachel, you sure got that right! And we can't compare ourselves with any other writer, either. And I love your comment that often Jesus engages you. I've found that so true! It's His mercy and grace. :)

  6. I have a new sticky note on my computer. It reads:
    Choose Door #1.

    As always, Allen, you cut to the core of what we do and I'm always encouraged by your words. And ironically, they always come at a time I need them the most! Thank you!

  7. It's so easy to forget and slide back through Door #1. Thanks for the reminder. As I prepare for another week of work, I will try to focus on writing with God.

  8. Thanks for this great reminder. I started out walking through door #1 and got a wee bit sidetracked. Time to get back on the right path!


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