The name of Eugene Peterson’s classic book on discipleship A Long Obedience in the Same Direction describes exactly how we become the writers God called us to be.
C. S. Lewis, writing about character development, mentioned the importance of not just being on the right road but facing the right direction and moving, be it ever so slowly, in that direction.
What can we do to keep obeying the One who called us to be writers?
How do we practice that long obedience in the same direction? At its core, it means deliberately making time every day to write or at least do something writerly such as the following:
Ernest Hemingway spent three hours every day reading in a soundproof room. Never mind the three hours or the soundproof room, but note the phrase every day.
I tend to have a variety of books in different genres on the go at any one time. I read mostly paper books, but ebooks are great for reading in bed when my spouse is sleeping since I can read in the dark and there are no pages to rustle.
By editing, correcting, and revising, we become better writers. We can even read someone else’s manuscripts and make recommendations for improvement. That, too, is traveling on the right road in the right direction.
Marketing articles, stories or books we have written is another action that will develop us as writers. We need to sell ourselves and our products constantly. It is part of a writer’s life. Persistently, through emails, website, blogs, and personal appearances, we need to push along the road of writing excellence.
Collecting ideas for articles, stories, plots, characters, etc., develops us as writers. Reading is a great source, as is watching people and situations. Observe and then immediately make note of the idea that springs to mind.
Ideas are birds that never perch. And, as I get older, they seem to flit by faster! I now state the new idea out loud to myself as I am reaching for my notebook, since holding it in my mind alone, even for three seconds, simply doesn’t work consistently. I use a micro recorder when I’m driving.
Writing is a craft that we need to continually study, through analyzing the writings of others, through courses, books, writers’ group feedback, and learning from the corrections of professional editors.
Then there is the incessant job of getting work published . . . hiring an editor, writing proposals, sending out articles, keeping track of submissions, etc. If self-publishing, there’s the learning and special formatting required for an ebook. Plus, we need to stay in business. Keep good accounts. Record tax deductible expenses and taxable income. This is also writerly work.
Novelist Sinclair Lewis had been invited to deliver a lecture on writing. He strode into the lecture hall and asked, “How many of you want to be writers?” Every hand went up. “Then what are you doing sitting here?” he asked. “Go home and write!” He then strode from the hall.
We need to keep writing—a diary, a letter, a description, an article, an opinion, a family story. I’ve been writing out my prayers nearly every day. Even a mere 300 words a day mounts up to 100,000 words annually. Write every day, even if it is not on the current main project. Write!
We can do everything else, take classes in writing, even go to InScribe conferences, but eventually nothing takes the place of writing . . . every day.