Woman, Why Do You Write?

Last night our writing group met around my dining table to encourage and cheer each other on. The topic of discussion for the evening was about figuring out our individual mission statements and who we write for. 

Why do I write? It goes beyond the “I can’t help myself,” although there is an element of that in there. It is more than “It makes me happy,” even though that is true as well. 

My mother says I made up stories as soon as I could speak. I remember the joy of creating new worlds and people and putting them onto paper in the early school years. I wrote to entertain myself, and was thrilled if it was appreciated by anyone else. I attempted to copy styles of writing from books I read. The Black Stallion and The Black Stallion Returns started off a rash of children and pet stories. Mark Twain challenged me to try to vary my voice and play with sarcasm and wit. The Robe and The Big Fisherman got me to thinking of Biblical stories from the imagination side.

I wrote for the danger of writing. My father did not approve of fiction, being of the old school of thought that fiction was the same as telling a lie, since it wasn’t true. He never could see past the fiction aspect to see the truth so beautifully told in a well-turned tale. So I had to write secretly, because if Dad found my false prose, it was taken from me and I would never see it again. Being one who never appreciated rules that made no sense, I determined to write all the more. While writing, I was free.

As I grew up and became busy with other aspects of life, my writing fell to the side. Occasionally I would tinker with the words, but the focus wasn’t there, and I told myself, “Someday when the kids are big, I will write my stories.” 

I wanted to write for the same reason I had always written—because of how it made me feel.

My passion for reading remained intense, devouring books with every free moment. Then one day I discovered Francine Rivers’ book, A Voice in the Wind.

It changed my life.

I have loved God as long as I remember. Included in my earliest childhood memories, my parents surrounded me with stories from the Bible. I knew I was a child of God and I longed to serve Him. Still, reading the story in Rivers’ book about a young Jewish girl surviving the terrible loss of everyone she loved as Jerusalem fell to the Romans in 70 AD, my heart broke and was reshaped in inexplicable ways. This story spoke to me of a truth I had yet to learn, one of a young woman, Hadasah, who could speak to God from the darkest places on earth, and whose relationship with God freed her to love the unlovable, to serve with joy amidst sorrow, to funnel God’s love through her life. It was real. So very real, and I wanted a relationship like that.

That is also when I knew why I should write.

I decided then and there that I would not write again if the purpose was solely for my own benefit. If I could not write to show a bit of God’s love, to encourage someone else in their walk with God, then I would remain silent.

And I did. I remained silent for years. You see, I wanted to BE Francine Rivers. I wanted to write with the power she has, and I knew I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t good enough. So I didn’t write.

The desire never left me, this drive to create and form something out of nothing. Bit by bit, I stepped out and played with words, studied the craft, immersed myself in figuring out what made one book superior to another. With tentative steps I wrote and joined critique groups. 

My first professional critique sent me crying to my corner, thinking I had no talent whatsoever. Weeks later I decided to be a big girl and revisit the red-marked sheets of criticism and was shocked that on further study at least half the remarks were positive. Someone thought I could do this!

I joke that I want to be Francine Rivers when I grow up, but that’s not true. I will never be like her. That’s not who God created me to be. What I do want to be is the best Brenda Gates possible, to be open to God’s leading, to let his Spirit inspire my imagination and the words I choose. Little by little, my mission has clarified.

Woman, why do you write? 

I write because I must. I may not be good at spoken words, but if these written words can form a story that whispers the truth of God’s love, grace and forgiveness to those who choose to read them, then I must write.

What is it God has called you to do? If God asked why you do what you do, what would be your answer?

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