Who are you doing this for?

When we go about to write a novel we have a lot of questions that we need to ask ourselves. We should know what we want to write about, what situations will occur in the story and where we want the story to be set. All of these are essential for good story telling. We also may ask ourselves how we want the story to be distributed, where we’re going to promote it, and even if we’re going to do this more than one time and how regular we want to do this if we do it more than once. But ultimately, the first question you should ask yourself before you begin to write a novel is:

Who are you doing this for?

This is very basic. You need to know who you are doing this for. I’ve heard and read a lot of reasons. Are you doing this because your mom and dad saw your talent as a kid and always told you to develop this “gift”? If so, are you doing this for mom and dad? Are you doing this because you believe in God and you want to do it as an act to Him? Are you doing this because your wife thinks those things you write are so cute that you could sell them on Amazon? Just who are you doing this for?

Now, I’ve got no problem with a mom and dad recognizing talent and fostering that talent. Really, if more parents were that attentive, that would be one more step to the world being a better place. And as a person who puts my faith in Jesus as the Christ, I totally get wanting to do something for God. And all spouses should be behind their partner if they have any artistic talent that they want to pursue. All of those are good things. Definitely.

But they can’t be WHO you are doing this for.

“Aha!” you may now say. “I’ve got it! It’s for the customer!”


Wrong again, but we have some lovely parting gifts for you on your way out.

If you are doing it for anyone other than yourself, you are doing the art a great disservice and the customers will notice.

If you aren’t doing it because you absolutely LOVE what you are doing and are enjoying every minute of it regardless of whether you get paid or not, then DON’T DO IT!!!

Find some other way to express yourself, but get out of writing.

As this joint blog is a blog done by Christians for Christians, let me clarify: Even if you want to do your writing as an act of worship to God, HE can’t be WHO you are doing this for. You HAVE to be doing it for YOU first and foremost. If you aren’t, then are you really giving Him your best? If you aren’t doing it because YOU absolutely love and enjoy every minute of it, then just what act of worship are you giving Him? It’s like Cain putting “some” of the harvest on the alter instead of his “first fruits” as Abel did by putting the firstborn lamb on the alter. Abel didn’t give God second best, Cain did. Perhaps Cain didn’t enjoy being a farmer as much as Abel enjoyed being a shepherd? In either case, which of those two do you want to be like? Do it for you first, and then from what you do give God your best. If you can’t, then find something else to do to give Him.

Growing up, I always enjoyed looking at sculptures and pots formed from clay and just marveled at how human hands could shape such things. Then as I got older, I was in art class where we were allowed to do these things. I found out real quick I didn’t like getting wet clay all over my hands and clothes even with a nasty used apron on. And I also found out just how dangerous a chisel can be if you don’t keep a tight grip on it. But that’s another story.

The point is, even if I may WANT to create sculptures and pots formed from clay, the reality is that I never ENJOYED it, no matter how many art classes I took. Other forms of art I enjoyed, and perhaps in the future I’ll focus on those just as I am now focused on writing a novel, but those two will never be in my future, although I will still always admire what other people create with their hands using wet clay or a chisel.

The key here is to write the kind of story that you can do for yourself and that you can totally put yourself into. And don’t stop until you find it, or if you go through all options, review them all again. If none satisfies you, maybe you just aren’t cut out for writing? Let’s face it, some people just aren’t. And that’s okay. They enjoy reading and may WANT to do something (just like I WANTED to create a clay pot or chisel a block of wood), but in the end they don’t ENJOY it when they do it.

It’s very important to know that you have to be doing this for yourself first. A truth from Jesus that has become the “Golden Rule” comes into play here. “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.” If you can’t enjoy what you are doing, then how can you expect anyone else to? Don’t do to them what you can’t enjoy your own self. You’re just doing both a disservice. So do this for you. You are the one who you need to do this for.

Remember Shakespeare? “To thine own self be true.” Do it for yourself. If you enjoy it, then chances are others that read it later will too.

(The above is a brief excerpt from an upcoming book on marketing I am working on; it was altered slightly in some key areas to focus just on writing and a paragraph added to work with this blog)

About David James

David James is a man of many attributes: He's a believer in Jesus as the Christ. He's a family man with a wife and two children. He's an entrepreneur with a fledgling business called Beyond the Charts, an Independent Marketer with Manna From Heaven, a writer of both speculative fiction and some spiritual matters. He's a listener of heavy metal with techno, goth, and industrial sounds preferred. He doesn't listen to "Christian radio" and can't stand most "Praise and Worship" music because it comes across so staged and more for entertainment than worship, but he loves the worship coming out of MorningStar Ministries because of the raw intensity of it. He loves scary movies whether it's a creepy ghost story or an intense slasher film, as well as strange humor films, and just loves the spoof films that have come out over the past decade. He thinks Kevin Smith films are very funny, but doesn't care for it when they speak bad of Jesus. His favorite novelist of all time is Stephen King. His favorite sci-fi novelist is Kevin J. Anderson. Other novelists he enjoys are too numerous to mention here. For Spiritual reading he turns to Billy Graham, Mike Murdock, Rick Joyner, John Bunyan, Ellen White, Herbert Armstrong, Martin Zender, and R.A. Torrey. He enjoys financial and self-help books ranging from Dale Carnegie to Zig Ziglar to Donald Trump to Robert Kiyosaki. The one thing that irritates him is when people don't show respect, yet want respect from those they don't show it to.

9 comments on “Who are you doing this for?

  1. “AINK!” hehe! Love the sound effects.

    Since I am “all about me,” I very much relate to this post. And I can agree that a turtle dragged to water cannot be made to drink (just ask my mother). It would be hard to write well without the desire to do so.

    I don’t always enjoy every day, but I certainly don’t want to quit. Inward and upward!

  2. I’m the first to say you do have to be in this business for the love of it above all other reasons. And doing stuff for God can certainly be wrongly valued (from my songwriting days, the joke was that if someone said “God gave me this song,” the answer was “Yeah, because he didn’t want it.”) but the way you word this almost seems to cut God out from the equation entirely. That maybe takes it a bit too far. He does need to be involved in some way, just like any job: “do it as unto the Lord.”

    I think the key is, God wants us to BE, not DO. We need to focus on our personal development and the character of God, rather than obsessing with tasks. See, instead of your dichotomy of doing it for God or for yourself, I’d rather think of it as a whole: Be all of what you are meant to be – which is wrapped up within God’s being – and the motivation for any DOING will flow from that as it should.

    But I absolutely agree you’ve got to write something that excites your passion [which comes from God 😉 ], or there’s no point at all.

    • Beautifully said, Grace.

    • I think either a misunderstanding of what was being covered overall has occurred or a misunderstanding of the one point where I was clarifying for the sake of this blog, but perhaps I didn’t clarify enough.

      One thing to point out is the little bit put at the end that mentions this is an excerpt of something greater that I’m working on. And that book isn’t a religious book or one that’s a “Christian” version of anything, so for the parts where I already had mentioned how some people do things for God and that, along with other examples both named and unnamed, this wasn’t the WHO you needed to do it for, I felt for my putting it here in this blog I should clarify that and added the paragraph accordingly.

      Maybe some more clarification needs to take place.

      First of all, whether you recognize God or not, what I’ve outlined is the very way God has designed things whether you want to write a book, be a doctor, teach a class, join the army, or whatever in life. For us as Believers we recognize God and His design, for non-believers they won’t recognize it, or at least not coming from God. Now, are there writers, doctors, teachers, and soldiers out there that would rather not be or just don’t enjoy it even if they thought they wanted to be? Yes, of course, and there’s some that no matter what they do just don’t do the job right. Eventually those switch carreers. But for those that enjoy it and do the job to their best, then they usually stick things out and keep at it for most if not all of their lives.

      If it seems like I’ve “cut God from the equation”, it’s because to a certain extent I sure have. Yet ultimately, not really. Let me tell you why and how.

      It’s not that for believers we shouldn’t acknowledge God or in the things we do should leave God out and not do something for Him. The thing is this:

      If what you are doing isn’t your best and it isn’t what you enjoy, then quite frankly it probably isn’t what God designed you for to begin with. A computer has a fan inside, but it ain’t there to cool you off on a hot summer day. That’s what an occillating or ceiling fan is for. Or better yet good air conditioning. If you were to try to use the computer fan to cool you off you would be using it outside of the function it is designed for. And if you are doing something outside what you are designed for – even if it’s similar – then you won’t enjoy it (because you have emotions attached to you to let you know if something is for you or against you) and you should be looking elsewhere.

      But let’s say that you enjoy what you are doing, but you aren’t doing your best. Again, that is not worthy to God. If you are not offering your best to Him, then you are falling short of your potential.

      The point I am making is that whether we acknowledge God or not in our lives, and as Believers (which those following this blog mainly are Believers) we tend to acknowledge Him so much that it either gets religious for the non-believers or seem like vain repetition or false humility for Believers that are not “with it” as others are. I mean have you ever encountered someone that literally says “Thank you, Jesus” for just about everything that goes on all day long every day of the week? I know I have. But whether we acknowledge God or not, it starts with us. That’s it really.

      The thing is, for those that don’t recognize God they need to start somewhere with what they are doing, and for those of us that already recognize God we need to start where God would have us start, even if the end result is that we are doing it as an act of worship because we need to be enjoying what we do and giving Him our best when we do it.

      I remember reading a book about investing one time where the writer recounted where his mentor in life had told him that there are three things most people focus on when they seek to make money through investments:

      To be secure
      To be comfortable
      To be rich

      and he was asked by his mentor which of the three was the one he wanted to focus on. The answer given was “To be rich”. The mentor accepted this answer and then taught him how To be secure first because if he wasn’t Secure, then he couldn’t make it To be comfortable, and if he wasn’t Comfortable, then he couldn’t make it to his goal To be rich. So even though we may have a goal in mind which is more than what we look at as small, we still need to make those small steps because they come FIRST before our goal. Even the Bible says “Do not despise small beginnings”.

      Do you really believe God cared which team won the SuperBowl tonight? Yet the first guy from the Green Bay Packers interviewed said “To God be the glory” at the beginning and the end of his interview. He and his team gave their best and won. Once that occurred they can give it to God. They put the work in and had to do it for themselves first because they were the one doing it. And as there’s nothing like going to the SuperBowl, you gotta’ know that they loved what they were doing. They put their best forward and won the game. So the Believers on the team decide to give glory to God for the win. That’s appropriate, but it didn’t come first even if that was the goal.

      We’re supposed to tithe our income 10% and then give offerings above that. How many Believers do you know that work their job all week long rejoicing every hour of every day they’re on the job that they are doing this for God because they are going to give 10% off the top? Not many I’d wager a bet on. Maybe one here or there, but I bet their thoughts are more about that bill they have to pay come payday and are there enough groceries in the fridge and cupboard and stuff like that. If they do think about the tithe, it would occur once they get to church on Sunday, and then if they actually give the full tithe of 10% to God, are they doing that off the gross or the net? So many factors there, yet we are all supposed to give the full tithe to God as part of our worship to Him and do it joyfully because the Lord loves a cheerful giver. And from that we are to even give offerings above and beyond the tithe. So when we’re at our “regular” job are we as altruistic about involving God as we want to be as artists writing a novel?

      I’m not ever going to cut God out of my life, but I am going to have the order of operation straight in my head and I know that if I don’t enjoy what I’m doing to do it to the best of my ability and then give that best to God, then when I give to God anything less it is not worthy of Him who deserves so much more from me. So before I concentrate on “I will do this as an act of worship to Him” I will determine if I enjoy it or can do my best with it. As mentioned, I’m not going to enjoy getting my hands messed up with wet clay or use a chisel, so I won’t go there as an act of worship to God because it’s not my best and anything I do there is unworthy of giving to Him.

      As I mentioned at the top, this was a small excerpt from an upcoming marketing book I’m working on, and I am not doing it with a “Christian” slant on it as it’s to be for anyone to pick up and read and learn something from. So I am writing it for the general market and with it I am putting my best into it. Now just because I’m not doing a “Christian” slant on it doesn’t mean I’m just cutting Christ out. For me, even writing this book the way I am doing it will wind up being an act of worship to Him, but for me to do it and not enjoy it and only offer it to Him half heartedly is not worthy of Him. It doesn’t matter if I mention Jesus on every other page or put a tacky “I dedicate this to my Lord, Jesus” at the beginning of the book just to “make it so” as it were, it would be unworthy of Him if I’m not enjoying it and doing my best.

      And for those that truly do dedicate things to our Lord and put that at the beginning of a book or other item worked on, I am not criticizing you or the act of doing that. If you did that because you truly meant it, then no, it’s not “tacky”. I’m just saying that for ME to do it after some half-hearted attempt would be tacky. So please understand, I do embrace dedicating things to our God if that is what you choose to do with your dedication written down or spoken of. I’m not at all against that.

      I’m just saying that just because I plaster Jesus all over something doesn’t make it “my best” for Him or even worth something for those I want to pick it up and read it. What I have to do is do my best and make sure it’s something I can enjoy doing so that I know it’s what He designed me for and therefore can know that I can focus on that for Him. It’s not a matter of just “doing it for Him” and not considering whether I SHOULD do it. I am looking at what it takes to determine the SHOULD factor. And that just happens to be the way God designed it and is how we do it with so many other things anyway, and that’s whether we are saved or not, we just look at things and determine, “Am I going to enjoy this? Can I do my best with this? Is this going to be worthwhile? SHOULD I even do this?” and the answers to those questions determine what we do with whatever we are presented.

      Finally, does that mean that we are always going to wind up doing things we enjoy? Does that mean we always wind up with things that we can offer our best at? My experience has shown that even with the best of intentions that it’s not always possible, but as with all things in life it’s a matter of our choices and what choices we make bring the events into our lives that offer us other choices.

      Jesus told us to do two things that all the law and prophets hang on. One was to love the Lord with all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds. Then the other was to love our neighbor as ourselves. Now with both of these it starts with us and not God or our neighbor. See, if we are to do the first, then we need to make sure that whatever we are doing lines up with three things: our hearts, our souls, and our minds. If any one of these is out of line with what we are doing, then how can what we “do unto God” possibly be with “all our hearts, all our souls, and all our minds”? It simply cannot. So whatever we do unto Him HAS to start with US first. This isn’t being selfish or “putting ourselves before God”, but just doing things in the correct order. To do the second thing we need to love ourselves first. If we don’t love ourselves to begin with, then how in the world can you show proper love to your neighbor if you are indeed “loving your neighbor as you love yourself”? If you are literally doing that and you don’t love yourself first, then you aren’t showing much love to your neighbor. So with both it has to start with us as individuals or with you, yourself, and that’s all I was saying when I made that clarification for the purposes of this blog when I posted this excerpt.

      I hope that this brings further clarification for any that may still be confused on the matter. If not, then feel free to ask any question you desire and if I can answer it, then I shall. Just realize that the more specific the question, the shorter the answer will be (and don’t think that just because I can and will say a lot means that I always “enjoy” doing so. 😉 )

  3. My dearest Teddy Bear,
    I totally agree with what you are saying. I believe that we must love ourselves before we can love anything or anyone else but——— I believe we need God’s help with this. First, we must love God with all our heart and soul. Then and only then are we able to see the worth in ourselves. If we love God with all our hearts and soul, then we will trust Him to present the right path for us. The only duty we have then is to follow that path and not stray. He will present the want to. He will present the time for recognition in his time, not ours. We are so eager to please the Lord, that sometimes we jump in front of Him and block his path. Follow the Lord down the path. Don’t try to show him that you know the way. For the Lord knows our hearts and our souls, even before we do. I call you Teddy Bear because you are such a kind and loving person that it makes me want to hug you. God knows your heart David, don’t worry about whether anyone else does. Just stay on the path that He has opened up for you and do not stray. I tell you this in a loving spirit.

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