The Dancing Puritan

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

5 Helps for Writers

Census Report

I am writing a book. I should say that I am trying to write a book. All that is required of me to do so is to open up a vein every morning. That's all. Just a vein. Its not just writing and research that presents challenges, the rest of life doesn't just neatly clean up its problems so that I can work. A few minutes ago, comforted by soft piano music on Pandora, I read an article in The Atlantic titled, "The Book He Wasn't Supposed to Write" by Thomas Ricks (language alert). Ricks describes an encounter with his editor:
At one point on an earlier book, when I told him [editor] how stressed I was feeling, he had replied, a bit airily, I thought, 'Oh, every good book has at least one nervous breakdown in it.' 
What if you are having a nervous breakdown every day?

I am not a famous author. I am small potatoes, struggling to craft even one grammatically correct sentence that makes sense.  I have no visions of grandeur. However, I do understand nervous breakdowns.

During today's Bible reading, I sought to apply the text to my writing challenges. I found this a helpful exercise; maybe it will help you also. Here are my five helps for writers:


1. Remember that there is a God. The fool says, "There is no God." I don't want to be a fool. The chief end of writing is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Therefore I must: A. Tell the truth. B. Pursue excellence. C. Craft creative sentences. D. Find ways to make God known as I dip my quill into the inkwell and press its nib to paper.

2. Christ Succeeded For Me. I have failed. Christ has not and will not fail. I am chosen, accepted, loved, forgiven, and adopted into his family. The success of Christ is not a motivation for me to be content with failure, but to remember that when I fail, Christ is sufficient. I can trust him. My worth is in Christ alone. I tend to forget that truth.

3. Seek God. I need his help. Behind me is a whiteboard marked with names, dates, and places of dead folks. I am finding that those dead, who left no record, do not offer up much information. I prod and bribe them to no avail. For weeks I have immersed myself in census reports, land records, hospital registers, and old newspaper articles just trying to piece together parts of a story that are missing from other published accounts. I need for God to strengthen me, to help me to see Jesus, remember my purpose in writing, and to lead me to truth. He can awaken the dead!

4. Love Others. What do I owe Susannah Spurgeon (the subject of my biography)? I owe her memory the honor she deserves. To love her is to "write the truth in love." I also owe love to those who will read the book. That means that as I write the narrative that I must help my readers to: A. See the beauty and greatness of God. B. Learn from Susannah's life. C. Enjoy the ride. I want everyone who spends his or her hard earned money to purchase Susie: The Life and Legacy of Susannah Spurgeon to have a great time reading her story.

5. Rejoice! I have a God-given opportunity to write Susie's story. My family, church, and friends are supporting me. God is constantly reminding me: "Fret not, Fret not, Fret not." (Psalm 37) Not one page in the book will be more interesting by my fretting. My message to me (as I am having a nervous breakdown) is, "Rejoice, enjoy, have fun, be thankful, and fret not."


Ray Rhodes is president of Nourished in the Word Ministries where he leads Bible conferences, marriage retreats, and teaches about Charles and Susannah Spurgeon.  He is the author of several books and numerous articles. To schedule Ray, contact him here.