Why Writing Must Not Be Used for Love

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"Don't Use Writing to Get Love"

The title comes from Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg. Not a bad book, and several of her thoughts are useful. One is something I've seen in writers, especially of fiction, obviously because I've seen it in myself, this idea that we writers are curious creatures who can't live the way others do. Some of us come to believe we don't give and receive love like normal people and our best relationships should be pretend, inner worlds often substituting for the outer. It can be easy to forget that everyone has to eat real food, even writers, and that means finding the real food of love in the real world.

"Writers get confused," Goldberg says. "We think writing gives us an excuse for being alive. We forget…that life and writing are two separate entities. Often we use writing as a way to receive notice, attention, love. 'See what I wrote. I must be a good person.'"

Where do successful writers find the love that says, "You are of value, regardless of what you do?" The same place all fully nourished humans do. But writers are special and many times this leaves us without a guide to remind us that we aren't any different in this basic human need, or where it is and how it's found.

Most guides aren't much help on this point, I'm afraid. But the great truth is, this fuel doesn't automatically come from inside you. And that's a great truth because the source of that love frees you from any responsibility. You don't have to muster it up or perform well, or even wait until you understand it. No, you don't have to write to be worthy of love.

I'm pondering that today. It's meant for me and all writers. The love you need, to be happy and whole and free of using writing to get it, is bigger than you, beyond your understanding, in that real place you can only travel to by faith. Where our minds leave off, the heart picks up and while writing can help train our minds to escape into that world through faith, it can't bring us the food our hearts ultimately need for the journey.

Writing must not be used for love because it isn't the food. It's your bowl.

Everyone has a bowl. And when you know you're a writer, the words are how you share the food of love. But you receive it by simply accepting it from God as he fills the bowl  and makes it more, a hundred times over. And with that love, you can hold out your bowl as it's filled and pours overflowing, always more, never empty. Yes, you will find your hands full and it will become hard to carry. And yes, you may even find yours so full you can't carry it alone. But as you learn to adjust and walk with care not to spill it, he'll still be there to help you handle what's poured out. He decides how much to give and as long as you keep giving it away, there's always more when it's needed.

Don't try to hold your writing hostage to bring you love. Trust and be all there in the writing today and simply let yourself be filled. Don't work hard to reason out the process logically, just believe.

And hold out your bowl.

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3 thoughts on “Why Writing Must Not Be Used for Love”

  1. I would guess that many of us have used our writing either as part of our Christian “performance” or to glean affirmation – “Oh, you have such a way with words.” But as we’ve continued to write, and the writing has changed us, we find we aren’t so hungry for all those comments. We just want to write well. We want to know we touched someone in a place where they were hurting; where our pain counted for something. In the end, writing heals us and we aren’t the same as when we started. That’s a really lovely thing, don’t you think?

  2. I received this post in my email just before one that described how God used a simple devotion I wrote six years ago to become an entire theme for a women’s ministry a thousand miles away from me. I cried. How I have doubted the words that pour out of that bowl and even wondered if I should stop because I didn’t know if they were making any difference. I wanted some love in return for the words. I unexpectedly received some today, but I know it’s not what I am to live on, it’s just a confirmation that I’m supposed to keep holding out my bowl.
    Thanks Mick, for another inspiring and challenging post.

  3. Cathee, absolutely writing heals. It’s the way out for so many authors and of the books that are written by them, the readers are the beneficiaries of an incredible gift.
    Linda, keep that bowl held out! You’re an inspiration to others as you do…

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