Passion: though its current definition involves "any strong feeling," it has its roots in pain. Passion comes straight from the Latin passio, which means, quite simply, "suffering."
So our English idea of being passionate about something...it means not just something we feel strongly about, but something we're willing to suffer for.
Susan Meissner pointed this out in a great class at ACFW one year, along with the question of "Are we really willing to suffer for our writing? Are we passionate about it?" And went on to say that for many writers, herself included, the answer was no. She was willing to work really hard at it, but it was a career. She loved it, but it didn't deserve the word passion.
Another writer, very well respected and often ground-breaking, just said something similar. That when it came down to it, there's not much she'd give up for writing.
It made me realize anew that I'm not in that camp. Susan Meissner began that aforementioned class by breaking down writers into 3 groups--those who write as a hobby, those who write as a job, and those who write as a ministry. She was speaking to the middle group.
I belong to the ministry group. Neither is right or wrong, they're just different. But I've recently heard a lot of voices talking very wisely and thoroughly about the Career group, and I wanted to take some time to examine the Ministry aspect.
I have said many times that I write for the same reason that I breathe: because I must. I have written before about "Being a Writer and Zombies" LOL and how even if the world as I knew it was obliterated and I was on the run for years at a time, I would write (albeit just in my head, telling stories around the campfire). If writing fiction became illegal, I would write. It isn't a choice to me, it isn't a job, it isn't something I do--it's who I am. It's how I process. It's how I think.
More, it's how I fulfill the Great Commission.
I had the honor and pleasure of speaking at a MOPS group two weeks ago, which is something I've done before and always love. I'm about the same age as most of the women there, my kids are just recently out of that "pre-schoolers" age, and I can relate to them on a lot of different levels. I love talking to them about juggling their home life with other passions, which is what I was talking about this time too, and about my publishing story.
Afterwards, one of the ladies said something to me that I've heard before, LOL. "It's so fun hearing you talk about this--you're so passionate about it!" (When I'm speaking to older crowds, that often gets paired with "It's so adorable how excited you are!")
But that's me. I get excited about writing, about books, about the stories I get to tell. I get excited about how God has worked in my life to bring me to this point, and the ways He has used my books in the lives of His children. I get excited about what's to come.
And yes--I'm willing to suffer for it. Because the written word is my mission field. Telling stories is how I spread the Gospel and share God's truths. Yes, I had to learn the career side--how to follow the rules of writing, how to appeal to readers and editors, how to get my books out into those readers' hands (otherwise it's not much of a mission field!), and I work hard at it. But if that were taken away from me, if I could no longer get books out there, I'd still write stories--and I'd still get them to as many people as I could.
There are so many reasons to write. So many ways to treat it. So many things it can be even to someone like me who considers it a ministry, a calling. Yes, I want it to entertain. Yes, I want to write the best I possibly can. Yes, I want to keep learning how to make my books successful. No, I certainly don't want my stories to ever come across as an agenda.
But that's the beauty, to me. If I pursue this thing I'm called to wholeheartedly, I know that God will give me those truths to write into my stories. I know I'll continue to understand God's love better and better by exploring relationship and family through writing. I know my stories will get better and better as stories, and that the better they get, the more they'll be able to fulfill their purpose on a spiritual level too.
For those of us whose writing is a ministry, the question of "Why do we do it?" always comes back to "Because that's how we serve Him." And because that's my reason, it makes me view things like low sales and setbacks in a whole different light. Obviously I want my books to be successful--as in, reach lots of people--but more, I want them to be used by Him. Ideally, the two will go hand in hand. But if not, if my sales are awful but I'm still getting notes from people telling me how my books opened their eyes or touched their hearts or made them redefine their faith...well then, I'm doing my job.
It's not always easy. It doesn't always seem worthwhile. It certainly isn't always logical. It can't always be quantified. But that's true of most ministries, isn't it? We serve, we give, we fight for the right to do so. We falter, we weep, we wonder if it will ever make a difference. Then we get up again and keep serving. Because it's part of who we are.
It's a little odd that writing is something you can do for so many different reasons--after all, not many people choose "missionary" as a career simply because they think they have a way with people and words and it seems like a good career choice. That's one that most people will do only as a calling, a ministry. But writing can be a talent, a gift much like good math skills or engineering acumen. It can be a job that goes hand-in-hand with ministry. It can be so many different things.
But if you're pursuing it, it's a good idea to identify why you are. What it means to you. What you're willing to give up for it, and what you're not. For many fabulous writers, they're not willing to give up much to pursue writing. For others, there's not much they won't give up to pursue writing. How awesome that God can use us all. =)