May 17, 2011

What to Write? - Bryan Norford

Writing to writers raises a level of self-consciousness less present for other readers. It particularly raises the question: Who am I writing for? Are you reading this blog, and does it gain your curiosity? There’s no point in writing if you simply read it out of duty, or give up in disinterest

Most advice to writers is to research a probable audience, although researching a group as varied as other writers could be challenging. At first glance, it would seem that correct, creative and engaging material would be the first imperative. That I try to do.

But even granted that, I’m still not sure what content will capture your attention. Some suggest sharing challenges, as most of us share common difficulties and probably identify with them. But I’m not sure I want to parade my impairments and deficiencies before you, I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve easily. And besides, you probably have enough challenges of your own.

I could boast about my success as a writer, but that would give me an arrogant reputation that I seek to avoid—even if I am that. But really, I don’t have much success to write about. Besides, I find listening to a procession of others’ victories mostly makes me feel inadequate.

Of course, hints and tips are invaluable, and I glean much help from ideas and websites, but as a relatively new writer, I have little to offer beyond common knowledge and experience.

All this leaves me with a blank page, except it seems to be filling up already. Amazing how much space just musing takes up.

This leads to a final idea. Perhaps I should be writing to myself. That sounds introverted and selfish I know, but I find writing to order, instead of what I feel like writing, diffuses inspiration and develops mechanical writing. I don’t want to bore you.

I‘m not alone in that idea. Our widely accepted authority, Strunk and White, suggests we should be concerned for the reader’s plight, but not his wants: “Your whole duty as a writer is to please and satisfy yourself.” Passion will more likely gain an audience anyway, as it arises from deeply held beliefs and values that Christian writers share.

However, I’m sure of one thing: I cannot be sure of my own ideas. Frequently, I find God’s perspective on things quite different to mine. That drives me to pray for His wisdom to guide my thoughts when writing. That is first priority.

And I guess that also answers the dilemma: I need His guidance on what to write in the first place. And, of course—how did I miss it?—I write for Him; He is the first and final reader.


  1. I read your post, mostly because I share your dilemma. I'm scheduled to write a post at "Canadian Writers Who are Christian." Thanks for your words. I wish I had written them. You deal with the subject in an engaging and honest way.

  2. You said it well. We need to thinking about all of these 'audiences' - others, ourselves, and the almighty.

  3. Your little musing is illustration of how even the best advice conflicts. Strunk and White may say to write for yourself, but Sol Stein in Stein on Writing says: "...the correct intention is to provide the reader with an experience that is superior to the experiences the reader encounters in everyday life." In other words, be concerned about the reader's experience. So whatever you do, you're right!

  4. Anonymous5:15 am GMT-7

    I remember when I first started Under the Cover of Prayer - a blog with guest bloggers trying to discover about prayer - Ann Voskamp suggested not to put comments as this was a blog for reflection and prayer. I have stuck with that and as I post my writings and others I pray that they will touch the readers. And I leave it at that. In my new blog called A Better Way, I allowed comments - not sure yet whether I will change this. I again write as God inspires me, hoping His Spirit will touch someone.

  5. You have give us what we writers want to say or need to hear. Your touch of humor further beautifies your style of writing. Good Work!

  6. Thanks to all of you who responded to my dilemma! I doubt there is a final answer for everyone; we each need to hear the Holy Spirit and respond.

    If we do, our words will have meaning for someone.

  7. So enjoyed your piece! And I love how your musings have led you to the real conclusion......

    As you mention in the comments, 'if we do, our words will have meaning for someone.'

    BTW, loved the Calvin and Hobbes cartoon -- that one is going up on my bulletin board alongside his 'higher math' cartoon (my favorite).


Thank you for taking the time to join in the conversation. Our writers appreciate receiving your feedback on posts you have found helpful or meaningful in some way.