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)