by Jane Kirkpatrick
Some months ago a reader wrote the following: “My children are happy and nearly grown, my husband loves the fact that I’m writing, I’m organized enough that my home nearly runs itself, our church is healthy and thriving with or without me. But giving myself permission to do this thing that I love so much – writing – seems to be a daily spiritual struggle. Does this ever happen to you?”
Yes, it does but I work my way through it.
I’m of the opinion that even as writers, we are called to live abundantly. How can we experience that abundance if we deny the very passions of our hearts, if we fail to reach for that fruit on the vine?
Once, when I spoke at a writer’s conference, a woman stood and said she’d come that night because she hoped I’d have some answers to whether she should continue to write her novel when she’d just learned that afternoon that her cancer was no longer in remission. “When do you feel the most alive?” I asked. “When I’m writing,” she said but wondered if she was depriving her family of last days with her. “Writing can be healing,” I said. “Who’s to say how long you might live, especially if you’re doing what you love?” If she told her family how she felt they’d probably be pleased beyond measure to see her doing what she loved. We know now that the act of writing increases the T-cells that are the immune cells fighting off infection. Writing is healing.
If I had only a few months to live would I want to spend the time writing? Yes. For me writing is a prayer.
I’ve made my peace most of the time with the struggle to write or “do something really important” by trusting that God has called me to write late in my life (I didn’t publish my first book until the day before I turned 45) and he’s given me the resources to serve him in this way. The Hebrew word for command means “deed”. I think we’re commanded to use our gifts and talents to perform deeds and that enjoying those deeds is part of the abundance promised. Writer Kathleen Norris in her book about sloth says it is not Christian laziness that keeps us from doing what we love but rather “the perverse unwillingness to accept the possibility of a present joy.”
I told my reader/writer that this was her time to receive the present joy given to her in the writing life. And in doing so I reminded myself of the privilege I’ve been given to tell the stories the best way I know how and to trust that I’m not alone in the telling. And neither are any of us who write as part of the command we’re given.
Jane Kirkpatrick’s 25th book and 21st novel, One Glorious Ambition: The Compassionate Crusade of Dorothea Dix will be released in April. Jane is a mental health professional and award-winning novelist who lives with her husband of 36 years on small acreage in Central Oregon.