Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Is Writing a Gift or a Honed Skill? by Diana Flegal

You’ve all seen the tryouts for the Voice or American Idol. The painful ones where the Mother pushes her child that has absolutely no talent to seek an opportunity to sing? Lying to your child- building hopes into him/ her that will never be actualized is child abuse.  Singing is not their ‘gift’. Anyone with an ear can discern that.

A really well known singer I love with incredible pipes gets very angry when people say= wow you have an incredible gift from God. He say’s–no- I have practiced 8 hours a day for 19 years. That is why I can do what I can do.

I was disappointed when I heard that. Even if I practiced all that time, I doubt I could sing as he does.

I’ve received many submissions from people who have no writing skills. When I reject their material, inferring gently that the writing is not at the level it needs to be to shop it around to publishers, they respond saying everyone else that read it thinks it is wonderful. Obviously someone is not telling the truth.

I am currently involved in a cool small group study on the redemptive gifts listed in Romans 12. I had taken the Meyers Briggs test years back, and at my age have a fair idea of what my strengths are, but this study using Arthur Burk’s videos and led by group facilitator Matt Tommey at The WorshipStudio, has knocked my socks off. I look at it as one of the most important business classes I have taken.

My Pastor Nick Honerkamp is beginning a 4 week study on the redemptive gifts as well and in this week’s prelude to the series he said, ‘Our problem is our perspective’. We only know what we know and we come to that conclusion by what we see. God knows all about us. He speaks from what he knows and sees. We judge God’s word based on what we can produce and speak from what we see. We need new dreams and visions.
So what is the truth? And as a writer, is it merely enough to hope to write a novel because you have a decent story idea?

Before I was formed in my mother’s womb He knew me, formed me, sanctified me, and ordained me. We come into the world with gifts; some prophets, servants, teachers, exhorters, givers, rulers, and those full of mercy. Then our parents ‘raise’ us, our teachers place us in our boxes and organized denominations further aid them. Could it be that some conform to the ‘system’ and let go of their early dreams? Is it time for you to consider them again, to seek God on what specific gift or talent you have and revive it?

Writing can be learned but not if you have no inherent ear for it. If you have a lasting desire to write, I believe there is a gift inside of you to do so. But you need to be honest and write from your gifting. Do not conform and try on another’s genre or style. Be uniquely you. Speak from your voice.

In the next couple weeks I would like to look at the writing styles of those with different gifts. It is something I have been mulling over. A teacher will write nonfiction and historical fiction from a heavily researched perspective. They have a high need to get all the facts right. Where a prophet might skim over the facts - wanting to impart the bigger picture to their reader. It explains why one authors writing might not be your particular cup of tea. We gravitate to those that think like us- and therefore write for us.

I think it will be fun to look at our particular gifting in a fresh way. I hope it will release you from trying to write like someone else. Celebrate and enjoy your uniqueness. After all, You were born that way!!







Sheila Hollinghead said...

I've actually written about this, and I'll quote myself: On occasion, people have told me God has given me the "gift" of writing. While I agree God has given me great and wondrous gifts, I don't think God gave me the gift of writing. Instead, these are the gifts I believe I've been given.

1. God gave me the gift of the love for reading. Most of us love "stories," and I am no exception to that.

2. God gave me the opportunity to develop my reading ability. When we moved into a house in Toul, France, isolated from other Americans and with a basement full of books, I spent over a year immersed in (almost) nonstop reading.

3. God gave me the gift of parents who instilled a work ethic in me. Both were raised on farms and knew the value of hard work.

4. God gave me the gift of people who have encouraged and helped me on my journey.

5. God gave me the gift of curiosity, a desire to learn. Sometimes my progress could have been measured in inches and, yet, I have progressed.

If you do not step forward, you will always be in the same place. ~Nora Roberts

Going forward is the only way to succeed. By using God's gifts, surrendering to his will, he transforms us into what he wants us to be. I pray he continues to form me as I rely on his power and strength.

Kimber Britner said...


You might also like The Path Elements Profile by author Laurie Beth Jones. It is the assessment I use with all of my clients and my favorite out of the many personality assessments out there. I think they are even offering a special on it. Great stuff! Thanks for your insight.

jill said...

I struggle with this in Christian writing groups all the time. "God gave me a story/message." We want to be encouraging and loving, so we tell people what they want to hear--that their writing is great. Even though we know it's not, at all. I want to say, "If God gave you a message, he also gave you the ability to learn and work and take the time to make it good."

It's a problem because it raises false hopes when people should be using their time for what God may really want them to do. It also creates a problem for me when I'm expected to promote their work, but I'm trying to build trust with my own social media audience and can't violate that trust by recommending something less than great.

It would be so hard to have your job.

Diana said...

Thanks Kimber, I will check it out. Jill, it is difficult at times :-)

Lora Zill said...

I have read where M.F.A. programs are replacing (to an extent) psychotherapy because people have a chance to "get their story out" in these programs. Too often folks confuse the "story" with the "call." They are experiencing the "felt need" of having someone acknowledge their suffering, a place we've all been. They don't understand the demands of the profession.
Just because I have a problem with my toilet and really, really want to fix it with a twist tie doesn't mean I'm a plumber. The rub, of course, is how to convey that truth in love.

Robin Gilbert Luftig said...

I find the statement, "Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect". A person can try over and over again, but if there aren't proper changes along the way, then the practice doesn't matter.

I also think that if you have an ear for a story, chances are you can learn to tell a story.

I think this is a fascinating subject. Keep us posted!

Lisa Lawmaster Hess said...

As a singer and a writer, I like your vocalist analogy. I'm a firm believer that God gives us the gifts, but it's up to us to make the most of them. An unpracticed voice is like an unwrapped present; you've been given the gift -- the opportunity -- but if you never unwrap it and put it to use, it stays just as it is. It may be beautiful in its own right, but it's not being used to its full advantage. Once the gift is unwrapped and put to use, it can even exceed the expectations you had for it.

I also believe that if we've been given gifts, it's our responsibility to use them in a way that is pleasing to God. But that's a whole other post :-)

Jeff Miller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jeff Miller said...

Excellent post. Thank you. I believe writing is like anything else-you might have a knack for it, but it needs to be developed, just like a carpenter or plumber who may have a knack for what they do, but take the time to become apprentices and practice their skills so they can work at a professional level.

Karen Nolan Bell said...

This is a subject I know well. I have several "talents" in the arts. My degree is in music and theatre. I also express myself through art, writing, photography, and a few other venues. I know that I was born with "gifts." However, with hard work and study, those gifts grew.

I am not a famous artist, actress, or anything else who is praised for being a genius. Is it because I don't have that much talent or because I am not willing to work hard enough to achieve the desired level?

I know I have not worked hard enough to reach my potential, mainly because of a lack of self-confidence. But, I can't help but believe God can use my best effort to fulfill His plan for me. In the play/movie AMADEUS, Mozart was depicted as the musical genius (with quirks). Soliari recognized the genius but was not able to compete with it. He considered himself the Patron Saint of Mediocrity. At times, I feel the same way. However, I must realize, as must we all, that whatever gift God has given us is enough, when combined with hard work. No excellent gift is a natural gift. God always leaves room for us to work at it.

I am working at my writing. Some days I do okay. Some days I doubt myself. But, I keep working at it. I am certain that is all He requires. He will use it beyond my wildest dreams.

Anonymous said...

I've always felt that writing is both--a gift and something that has to be developed. The unwrapped gift analogy was wonderful. But, something I've been thinking a lot about is the fact that the gifts we're not given can also be gifts. I cannot draw, anything. Growing up, no amount of practice or art classes in school could change that. But the ideas and images in my heart needed expressed. When I finally gave up putting my energy into drawing, and put it all into writing, I found my place.

Audrey said...

Thanks for sharing these thought provoking ideas. The issue of gifts and what we do with them is both simple and complex. Likewise, I'm sure that your job is both wonderful and frustrating at the same time. Wonderful when you unwrap that interesting, well writtten manuscript. Frustrating when you unwrap that ill conceived, poorly written one. Yet, there is no way to find the good ones without wading through the bad ones. Maybe that is the essence of living this life. We have to get through the bad moments gracefully, so that we will still be around to enjoy the good ones! Thanks for prodding me to think about this.

Amanda Stephan said...

An absolutely fantastic post, thank you, Diana! I've been kicking this whole issue around for quite a while now. Do I have this gift? If I do, I want to be better at it, but still, self-doubt rears its ugly head whenever I sit down to write. Should I stop now, or is this just my introverted nature rebelling at coming out of my comfort zone?

Sigh. I understand no one likes to be told they don't have a particular gift. A gift that they truly want. But it's worse to be told this by an honest stranger when your dearest friends have told you otherwise.

I look forward to what your next posts have to say!

Marlene Banks said...

Excellent subject Diana,if someone is called to write, they have the gift. If they have the gift to write then they will be called to use it in some way. God determines that way and we as writers must yield to that divine guidance and not to the clamor of the people. Yes, many people think they have a story to tell or have the desire to write. It's human. I have a desire to sing but I know better. In the shower or my kitchen is about it for me crooning any kind of tune. But I'd love to belt out a soulful tune like Aretha Franklin or love song like Whitney. But once again...I know better. I might want to sound like them but I don't. I am not a singer extraordinaire. On a good day I can maybe hold a tune good enough for you to recognize the song. people fantasize all the time about writing novels, singing, acting and such. If not called, leave it alone. Get in YOUR lane!