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Denyse O’Leary
Guest columnist for Spur Ottawa

A lot of people dream of being a writer, or at least of getting something published. Maybe that’s you. You want to write, maybe you even feel God leading you in that direction, but you don’t know where to start. Maybe you struggle with self-doubt, fear of failure, or naysayers. There will always be reasons not to step out in faith. Professional Christian writers offer advice to help you recognize if God is calling you to write and how to take the first steps.

Are you called? Blogger, speaker, and author, Mary DeMuth gives the first clue: People you don’t know tell you that something you wrote made a difference to them.

When people do this, they are not just trying to encourage you. They really mean it. Look at what specifically you were writing when they were impacted. Chances are, that’s your calling.

Do you want to write, but responsibilities always get in the way? Don’t feel discouraged just because you waited so long, says C. J. Darlington, author of Thicker Than Blood and Jupiter Winds. Your life experience is hidden treasure you can incorporate into your writing.

In my experience, new writers sometimes assume that the “hidden treasure” needs to be a dramatic testimony, but alas, their own journey has been a call to quiet, daily faithfulness. If that’s you, don’t fret. Those dutiful years, logged as a nurse, teacher, or police officer, give you a solid foundation to build on. The faithfulness you learned is a treasure you can help unlock in the lives of others.

Can you accept a learning curve? Jerry Jenkins, author of the bestselling Left Behind series, advises, “Accept that you will be bad at first, just like we all are, at everything we try, for the first time. Humility is a good starting point.”

It’s true. Humility is a good ending point, too, especially for Christians.

Some new writers I meet are petrified that early flubs and flops prove that they’re no good. Here’s the key: Don’t focus on how steep your learning curve is. Focus on actually learning from your mistakes. Identify the problems with your writing. Figure out what you need to do differently. Then check with others to make sure the changes you make are helping you communicate more effectively.

Can you accept the rocky road? Jim Denney, who writes science fiction for young adults, reminds us that a vocation in writing has its ups and downs, like a marriage. That’s just as true for famous writers as it is for amateurs.

By the way, as any Word Guild veteran will tell you, the fame and glamour one hears about are grossly overstated—unless, of course, you think battling a snowstorm to host a panel discussion at the library is fame, or that glamour looks like pulling all-nighters, pouring over revisions from your critique group.

How do I start? Beth Ziarnik, who writes romantic suspense fiction, says start by setting up a dedicated work area, including whatever supplies you need. Then start reading the kind of work you want to write. Set aside a small budget for handbooks, courses, memberships, and conventions. Join a community of writers, like the Word Guild, and attend conferences to learn the craft.

If you want to take writing seriously, make time for it. Stay home and write. The more time you invest honing your skill and connecting with other Christian writers, the better you’ll be able to use your talents to serve God.

Writing isn’t much different from any other job (or second job). You have to sense a need, make it a priority, risk failure, weather the bad times, and keep learning. You also need to pray a lot—really, a lot.

On April 2, the Ottawa Christian Writers’ Fellowship is holding a conference at Greenbelt Church, on Shefford Road. If you are interested, we’d love to hear from you. Check out our website or email me at denyseoleary@gmail.com.

Denyse O’Leary is a Canadian Christian journalist, author, and blogger.