I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Audience of One


“It was the best of times; it was the worst of times…”

One of literature’s greatest opening lines, and ironically, an apt description of my writing journey over the past year. It has been a fabulous year in which I have had amazing opportunities to learn writing from some truly gifted teachers, and I have been blessed to forge lifelong friendships with an amazing group of women writers.

On the other hand, I have struggled for every word and sentence I have written. While my fellow writers were posting hundreds and thousands in word count, I was seeing numbers like 51 and 79. I would sit in my chair and watch that wretched cursor mock me with its blinking until I gave in to check my facebook. It should have been so easy; I had an entire story line mapped out in front of me. All I had to do was write it. And yet I just couldn’t seem to move it forward.

And as I sat, with nothing to show for the time at my computer, I began to wonder if I had gotten it wrong. Maybe I wasn’t a writer after all. Well, at least not a writer of novels. I had no problem writing a 400 word response to a facebook status, or a novella in the My Book Therapy forum.

And yet, I was stuck. And I hated it. My deepest desire was to complete a novel, a work that would be powerful and life changing to all who read it. I wanted to prove to that college professor at Eastern Washington University in 1988 that I wasn’t shallow and I could write something worthwhile. I wanted to publish a great work of art that would once and for all erase the stigma of dropping out of college to go to Beauty School. It was the worst of times.

So I did what I always do when I want some semi-guilt-free procrastination: I went to the bookshelf that is laden with what I can only imagine is every book ever written on the subject of writing a novel. My eye was drawn to the bright orange spine with the image of an inviting cup of coffee at the top. The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction by Jeff Gerke.

Imagine my surprise to find the first chapter, or “mastery” as the author calls it, entitled “An (Accepting) Audience of One.” Here is the first sentence of that chapter:

“I want to start this book out by giving you the best counsel of all: be sure you understand Who you’re writing for and why you’re writing for Him.”

Wow. I had to read that one a couple of times to really let it sink in. Who am I writing for? A cranky college professor? My own fragile ego? I know I started writing out of a desire to glorify God, but somewhere along the road, I went my own way. As I read on, I began to understand that I was crippled by my need to impress God and all of the people I perceived to be my judges. And it was quickly becoming an idol. As Jeff Gerke points out, if you are not writing to genuinely glorify God, then you are not writing for the right reasons. Ouch!

So as I repent for seeking to glorify myself in my writing, I will begin each writing session with prayer and a desire to glorify the original Artist and Author of All, and I believe the best of times lay ahead.

“God is your audience. He is your target reader. But He’s not a hostile critic. He holds you on His lap while He delights to hear you read the story you wrote for Him.” ~Jeff Gerke, The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction

~Heidi Larson Geis

31 comments:

  1. What a lovely, lovely post, Heidi. And one I needed to hear. Thank you. I'm definitely adding that book to my buy list.

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  2. Ahhhh...good to know I'm not the only one who gets a little selfish sometimes.

    Even after praying it can sometimes feel fake, but the last time I did that, I sat there staring at a blank screen...after deleting several attempts at making sense of what was in my head.

    We definately have an audience of One. I love that even after we mess up and make it selfish, that He can take it am make it pure again.

    Thanks for the post.
    I'll be repeating this next time I sit down with my computer.

    ...aaaaaaand it looks like I need to purchase that book!
    Thanks!

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  3. My writing friend, Mary Agius, co-wrote a workbook for high schoolers that complements Jeff's book! http://www.marcherlordpress.com/New_Store/Product--Art_and_Craft_Workbook.htm

    Loved your first post, Heidi--but I had no doubt I would. And thanks for the much-needed reminder.

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  4. Thanks for the post. This is something that I'll be thinking about every time I sit down to write. I really appreciate your transparency.

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  5. Hey - just ordered that book on my Kindle :)

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  6. Beautiful post and so true. My pastor gave me the same encouragement when I first started writing. He said always remember I write for an Audience of One. When I'm stuck, confused, disappointed, that's what I remember.

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  7. Absolutely beautiful, Heidi. Thanks for being vulnerable and letting us glimpse your heart. You are a sweetheart. There is truly much to ponder and thank God for here.

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  8. Heidi, A great post and a timely reminder for me. Thanks for being so transparent!

    Please sign your name next time (and maybe go back and add it now.) Plus, we need your bio at the top.

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  9. I agree completely, Heidi! I think writing for an audience of one also frees our voice--that illusive quality agents and editors always say they're looking for.

    If I write for my college professor, I'll try to make it sound a certain way--maybe be afraid of fragments or other writing rules. If I write for my own ego, the prose will probably be bloated or turn purple.

    Writing for an audience of one frees me to be the unique writer God made me to be.

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

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  10. Oh, Heidi, you have such a beautiful heart. Thank you for sharing it with each of us.

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  11. Several commenters (commentees, commentators?) have used the word "beautiful" to describe your post, Heidi. And I echo them...it's the perfect word. Thanks for the reminder!

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  12. Greetings to Renelle and Brenda.
    Brenda had an interesting post linking to author Eric Wilson's view on Christian publishing & Christian fiction.
    http://noveljourney.blogspot.com/2010/07/eric-wilsons-open-letter-to-readers.html

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  13. Ah, Beth, I read that article the other day. Really interesting!

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  14. Thanks for sharing this. I really needed to hear it.
    And I absolutely loved Jeff's book. It's a good investment for any writer.

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  15. Kelly, that's the perfect description...fake. I can't tell you how many times (and not just in writing) I feel FAKE! And I desperately want to be genuine!

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  16. Renelle! Thanks for checking out the blog. I loved seeing your name here this morning!

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  17. To all of you who are going to get Jeff's book, you won't be sorry! And Beth, I am going to get a few copies of that workbook and go through it with my boys for school this year! Thanks for the heads up!

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  18. And thank you for the compliments, ladies! I really wanted to write something light and fun, about cooking and how it relates to writing...and you know, maybe include a fabulous scone recipe. But in the end, I knew I was supposed to share this struggle. I think it will help keep me accountable.

    And Rox and Beth, I figured out how to sign my name and add those hot links, lol.

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  19. Teri, I hadn't thought about how writing for God preserves our voice, but it's so true.

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  20. Brenda, your pastor is very wise. =) And thank you for the link to that great article. Talk about food for thought!

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  21. Kelly, Evangeline and Edie, I'm glad I could encourage you. This morning after I finished posting this, I printed that last quote out and hung it up on my writing bulletin board so that as I will be reminded to sit in God's lap and tell HIM the story! Thanks!

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  22. I'm going to add one more beautiful!! Your post truly touched my heart and reminded me of why I write. Seems I've lost sight of that lately. What an encouragement.

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  23. That's a beautiful quote, Heidi. Thanks for sharing it!

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  24. Oh Heidi, what a wonderful reminder. Writing for an audience of One instead of every other critique in our lives is like the difference between a believer and a disciple.

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  25. Heidi, okay, I'm not going to try to be original. The thoughts in your post truly are beautiful! And sweet, and genuine and "real." In the beginning stages of the writing journey, I know there will be times when I will have to ponder (and remember) who my audience is. I, too, have a tendency to take my eyes off of my Abba, the One who loves me and has gifted me, and think I must prove myself to simple man. Thanks for the gentle reminder to always keep my eyes looking up!

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  26. Thanks for this timely reminder.
    One of my favorite quotes from Oswald Chambers is:
    "Every time you preach make sure you look God in the face about the message first, then the glory will remain through all of it. A Christian servant is one who perpetually looks into the face of God and then goes forth to talk to others."
    When I think about this quote, I substitute "write" for "preach," then put my own agenda aside and start writing for His glory alone!

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  27. Pat~ thank you for the lovely feedback! I'm glad I could encourage you...I know I certainly had lost sight lately!

    Jenness~ I had to share that quote...I just LOVED that picture of sitting in God's lap with His undivided attention.

    G~ You are SO right! Believing is the easy part...being a disciple is the hard part!

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  28. Jeanne~ your words are a blessing to me! I am also in the beginning stages of my writing journey (at least this leg of it, after two decades away) but I imagine that it could become even more difficult to keep my eyes on my Abba when I am subject to the opinion of experts (agents, editors, and critics). So I am kind of glad for the preparation this past year has afforded me! And I am glad you found the MBT Ponderers...they are an AMAZING support group!

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  29. Ava~ I love that quote!! Oswald Chambers always hits me right where I live! Every time I find a quote like this one, I print it out and hang it on the bulletin board above my writing desk. Thanks for sharing it...I want to perpetually look into the face of God!!

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  30. I heard a sermon once about the first verse in the Bible, only the pastor didn't read the whole thing. He read..."In the beginning, God."

    What? No creation message? No 'Thou shalt rest on the Sabbath'?

    The message was simple and has had a profound affect on me in the two decades since. With everything, in all things, for every purpose, on every day...In the beginning, God!

    When we keep that focus, we can do the impossible.

    Wonderful, wonderful post! Thank you for encouraging me to step back and regain my focus.

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  31. As I struggle to produce even one chapter in my non-fiction book, this blog has given me much to ponder, because truly, my goal is to glorify God. It's so easy to get side-tracked though, it's it? I bought a book a year or so ago called For the Write Reason. Think I might pull it out and read a chapter today. Thanks for your honesty.

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