Wednesday, November 07, 2007

What's a Writer to Do?

Yes, that's my book cover (as Marcus always says, shameless self promotion). Anyway the book has me thinking, "What's a writer to do?" Or, to put it another way, why in the world do we writers write?

When I was halfway through writing Stone Crossings, I almost gave up. I could no longer answer that question, of why I was writing. I was tired, disillusioned, wordless, ready to quit.

I even told God so. "I can't write! I can't teach!" I complained silently, as I opened the fridge to find some consolation. Upon going back to the dining room to absorb that consolation, I saw my bible, open to this passage from Isaiah 50:4...

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

What's a writer to do. Sustain others? Listen? Be teachable?

Howard Gardner, in his book Changing Minds, suggests that effective leaders should not be "reluctant to share their own visions, putting forth their own answers to fundamental questions about life, death, the meaning of the past, the prospects of the future." (p.108)

Somehow, I think this also applies to the writer. What's a writer to do? Sustain others, listen, be teachable, yes. And put forth answers to fundamental questions, yes. As for this writer, I hope the answers aren't just mine, but rather my Teacher's too.

Book cover photo, courtesy InterVarsity Press. Seedlings Invitation: If you write a post related to this post and Link It Back Here, let me know and I'll link to yours.

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Blogger Maria said...

So when's the book coming out?

5:38 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Your book comes marching out in... well, March. Right?

5:43 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

Oops. My friends at your publishers say April.

6:06 PM  
Blogger Llama Momma said...

I love the cover. And your thoughts on writing...oh, so true.

I can't wait to read your book!

DO promote it shamelessly so none of us miss it! :-)

6:26 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Maria... well, I was going to say March. But Craver says it's April. Read on to discover the mysterious discrepancy.

Craver... yes. And, I guess, no.

Craver... I see. Well, little secret, I'm taking some copies in March to Mount Hermon. So there'll be advance copies out there somewhere!

Llama... thanks for your encouragement. I'll try to be shameless, but that's not my best suit.

6:31 PM  
Blogger christianne said...

Your thoughts will definitely be your Teacher's. What we know is what we have received.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, I so wish I was going to MH this year so I could meet you (and perhaps see the actual book in person! alas, I'll have to wait to order my own copy). I love the cover - it's gorgeous! Can't wait to read it, and am so glad that you pressed on.

11:19 PM  
Blogger Lynet said...

The cover looks great!

"Sustain the weary with a word"... what a phrase! And indeed, by those words, perhaps, you were sustained? For such a dream would be sustaining indeed!

Seriously, LL, I can think of many words that have sustained me. And I'm sure you would be capable of writing such :-)

11:23 PM  
Blogger Inihtar said...

Congratulations! I will make sure I get a hold of a copy, even here on the other side of the rock.

And if your blog is anything to go by, I have no doubt that you have answered your calling as a writer in your book!

I just saw that you tagged me for a meme over a week ago! Will do it, even though I'm a bit late. . . still, better late than never! :)

1:28 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L., I love your words at the end. Great thoughts here.

So much look forward to reading your book. And having my own copy of it. Hope more is to come from you.

1:40 AM  
Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Oh, yes. Great book cover, too!

1:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, YAY! The cover is beautiful. And so are your words and heart on desiring to have His thoughts. I know that through your writings He will provide sustainance for many. Rejoicing with you, L.L.!

10:50 AM  
Blogger Every Square Inch said...

The book has a beautiful cover and I suspect that the words contained therein will be no less inspiring.

It's your blog, it's your book - promote shamelessly!

11:13 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christianne... Thanks for your encouragement. And that's an interesting thought. Do we always teach what we have received? Just musing...

Spaghettiepie... oh, yes, that would have been nice to meet. Someday, perhaps. As for pressing on, I imagine that many writers get stuck in the middle of a work that large. I know how I got through, but I'm interested in other people's stories too. How to get past those doldrums... not a simple matter.

Lynet... isn't that a great phrase though? In a way, it has come to define how I view my mission as a writer. Indeed, in the Author Interview my publisher just did with me, I found myself telling them that I don't love to write, but that I write to love. It was strange to suddenly realize that about myself. As for the phrase coming at the time it did, why, yes, it was sustaining. Jolting even. Tender. Promising. The fact that the verse mirrored my own words back to me in an empowered form... that was shocking, overwhelming, an arrow to the center of my complaining, tired heart.

Ini... it will be a fun project to see how we get you a book! As for the meme, I'm always way behind on them too. Take your time. No problem at all.

Ted... indeed, I too am looking forward to a copy of my own. :) Thanks for your constant enthusiasm. It warms my heart.

Miriam... thanks for your encouragements. As for bringing His words, that's always a balancing act in my mind. I know I can push my own way and he will let me (like Moses at the rock). But I'm always asking that He'll gently guide me out of such error.

Every Square... It is fun to finally have a cover to look at. Now, when there's something to put in it, what a celebration there'll be. (And, yes, maybe I'll throw a small, tasteful party here in the Seedlings living room. :)

12:24 PM  
Blogger Craver Vii said...

A "small, tasteful party?" Why break tradition?

1:24 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Craver... be good, now. I just got rid of the last stray nacho from under the couch, you know? (It definitely pays to vacuum under one's couch every few years.)

4:19 PM  
Blogger Christine A. Scheller said...

Timely words for me, L.L. I've been asking myself these same questions.

9:04 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Christine... as Pooh (or was it Piglet) would say, "And what have you been answering yourself?"

9:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i did not know there was a book!
how exciting!

10:14 PM  
Blogger kirsten said...

Congratulations!! I love the cover & cannot wait to snatch up a copy.

I know that lately I have certainly found grace in the writings of those who, while they may not have concrete answers, can give shape to what is a formless and confusing blob of thought in my own mind. Even if there's no answer that is tied up neatly at the conclusion, when someone with that very special gift of writing can articulate her own journey in such an honest & articulate way, I feel much less alone. The world seems less cold, & God that much closer. My dilemma isn't so unique & impossible after all. Others have walked the same path, felt the same fire.

Obviously I have not read your book & have only picked up bits & pieces of your story. But I'm willing to bet your book will do the same.

1:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL -- I just love it. This is such a wonderful milestone.

12:55 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

Woo hoo! So did you do a celebratory, "look, it's my book" dance? I think that's a what writer's to do when they see their cover for the first time (or the second or third for that matter).
Can't wait to see & read the real thing. Will you be going to the Festival of Faith & Writing in April (hoping you say, "yes")?

5:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LL -- I was wondering about the Festival of Faith and Writing as well? I am going to make every effort to be there again this year. AMM -- You're going? Anyone else? (Seedlings Road Trip!)

7:02 AM  
Blogger Jim Martin said...

What a great cover! I look forward to reading your book.

A very good post as well. What you say about writing is very true.

9:40 AM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Nancy... most days it seems to me too that there is not a book. But then something like this cover comes to my attention and I remember yet again... oh, yes, I've put something all in one place. And it makes me pleased to have left something for my children and perhaps other people too.

Kirsten... I agree about the not feeling so alone thing. The best writers help us feel like we have a companion.

Charity... thank you so much. And as for the Festival, I'm 90 percent sure I'll be there. Seedlings Road Trip. You're too funny.

A Musing... you must teach me the dance. (Or maybe Craver knows it? Rumor has it that he knows some celebratory dances.) I think actually I was more animated when I got the contract. It's interesting to be going through this process and to hear how I am the same and different from other writers who have gone before.

Jim... thanks!

9:55 AM  
Blogger Marcus Goodyear said...

I'm late as usual. That is some fantastic verse from Isaiah! I do wonder how many books the prophets would have sold (in their lifetime).

I'm very excited about the book!

10:05 AM  
Blogger Kim said...

Another late entry,

It's tricky business putting forth one's own answers to fundamental questions without sounding arrogant and remaining truly teachable.

Never avoiding controversy, I hope it doesn't come across too sexist to say that I believe that God has gifted women more than men with the ability to remain teachable and that men are more willing to put forward their own answers to fundamental questions than women.

Obviously, there are exceptions, but we wouldn't have stereotypes of the sort that we have for men (i.e. won't ask for directions) if these ideas had no validity.

Peace, Kim

3:09 PM  
Blogger Llama Momma said...

I also plan to go to the festival, and am excited that so many kindred spirits plan to be there!

6:50 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

I stumbled across the blog for your book today and read every entry. I confess that I feel positively teased. I am not one who has been good at waiting patiently (though the waiting part is inevitable) for anything in my life. I almost prefer not to see movie previews and before-the-fact book reviews lest I should burst with longing in the vast wasteland between the initial tease and the release. I much prefer, as I sometimes get to do in my day job, reviewing advance copies before the rest of the world gets to see the fruits of an author's labor. So, I hope you will understand if I endeavor to forget that you have written for another month or two. Really, (I tell myself) it's for the best.

4:22 PM  
Blogger L.L. Barkat said...

Mark... well, I guess that's why they came up with that saying, "Better late than never." ;-) No problem! I'm just glad you stop by. And I laughed about your prophets observation. No, they probably wouldn't have even earned out their advances.

Kim... I'm going to have to press you on this one. As a writer, I do aim to discuss the fundamental questions. I'm thinking that means that gender may not be a big factor.

Llama... so we will have to have a blogger's reunion (or would that be "union", since most of us have never met face to face?)

Nikki... oh, so you found me. I'm still developing that site, so I haven't formally "rolled it out" yet. But it's there for clever hunters I guess. Sorry to put you in that wasteland of waiting! Tell me, what's your day job? My first guess was newspaper industry... but perhaps you'll surprise me with something completely unexpected.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Nikki said...

Excellent guess. You are quite close. I work for a niche print magazine associated with a rather sizable medical/support-themed Website, so I do Web and print writing/editing. My trajectory has been a bit unusual in that I went from receptionist to staff writer to copy editor to managing editor to Editor-in-Chief (as of a few days ago) in about three years, so while I have quite a lot of responsibility, I am still a rookie. I took the receptionist position for this company in order to have some sort of income while I figured out what I wanted to do with my life, and fell into writing in the process.

I have since been told any number of times that I will/must/should write a book, and I guess some part of me believes that enough that I aspire to be a "real" writer someday. It is inspiring for me to quietly watch others achieve that goal -- and that well.

9:17 PM  
Blogger Real Live Preacher said...

Who can know the heart of a writer, what moves her to action. It is enough that you move and lay words on paper. congratulations.

4:32 PM  
Blogger Dianne said...

I am way late here but just reading through some previous posts in Google Reader on my lunch, and this really struck me: Isaiah 50:4... The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

I just needed to hear that today. (months later!) Blessings as your words go forth in book form!

12:30 PM  

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