An item in Guideposts caught my attention some years ago by reporting that author Isabel Champ was helping her husband build a house on their property in Mulino, Oregon. Their house features a writing room with a view of a hillside spring. Isabel declared, “If I can’t write in that room, I’m not a writer.”
Reading about that writing room made me envious, but I soon learned better. Even with the highest of callings to write, we need much more than a writing room to become writers.
First must come a degree of ability and something to write about. You may not need to be a born writer if you have something really urgent to share. You’ll never find that in a writing room. It comes while you live and work, suffer and endure. Without such experiences, you can write only for yourself, if at all. Work and pressure help you to perfect the know-how to write something useful for other people who are struggling. In the midst of difficulties we receive the grace to be able to comfort others.
Ida Nell Elder, a Houston author, told me that she was at her most productive while she had a houseful of teenage daughters with all their rows and messes. She turned their crises into personal experience stories before they could cool off—without a writing room.
Then who would imagine a hospital room as the place to launch a literary career? Yvonne Wilson spent over a year hospitalized in Lafayette, Louisiana paralyzed by Guillaun-Barré syndrome. She began work on her book Sifted Gold as soon as she regained the use of her hands, and she typed the final chapters herself. Her book helped other patients to discover the power of the Author of healing and the Father of mercies. And what could have been less like a writing room than the Soviet prison camps in Siberia? They gave us writers like Solzenitsyn and Muravin, whose work opened the eyes of the world and hastened the demise of the Soviet system.
Ralph Langley, a former pastor of ours, told me about a colleague who lost his father and son within the same week to illness and an accident. He told Dr. Langley afterward that he really began to preach at this time. Before then, his preaching had been academic. His experiences with death brought the issues of life and death, sin and guilt, love and faith so close that he would always be able to put himself in the place of other people.
This sort of experience applies to writers in general and doubly for Christian writers because they have a ministry. I don’t suggest looking for trouble if you don’t already have enough. I simply emphasize that to minister as Jesus did, even in writing, we must go out into the world of shadows and its cities of pain.
I have always enjoyed participating in civic, environmental, and professional groups. Before long, someone will assign you a task that uses your writing skill and provides opportunities for personal growth. I also recommend serving in other worthwhile organizations outside strictly church activities. Don’t neglect those but apply what you learn there to your work in the wider community. Your work will do credit to your church and draw others to it. In the process, you will find more grist for your writing mill plus unexpected avenues for publication. One assignment for a special publication earned me my first writing award.
Isabel Champ understands all this, naturally, and she earned her writing room with full honors. She probably began writing with a typewriter balanced on an ironing board while tending toddlers. My point is that we need an apprenticeship in life to become writers, not a writing room or the latest equipment. So I say, “If I can’t write without that room, that perfect room with a view, I’ll never be a writer.”
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Thank you for this article. I recently became a part of Faith Writers at the encouragement of others. While reading much of the writings on FaithWriters I felt 'I AM WAY OUT OF MY LEAGUE' My writings have always been from my experiences and/or from the heart. THANKS AGAIN, YOU HAVE ENCOURAGED ME. GOD BLESS AND KEEP YOU.
Beautiful Article and so true...Writing, especially as a ministry seems to have more power to help others when we can relate to our own lives...I think most of us dream of that "perfect" writing room with windows looking out at the beauty of creation, but as you said that doesn't make us writers. Well done...