When Writing Feels Like a Waste of Time

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Leslie Verner -Words are a Testament3

On a rough day, my husband will cheer me up with a dozen yellow roses. For some reason, it’s often before we go out of town, so I immediately think how we will receive a sad, wilted welcome when we return from our trip. It feels like a waste of beauty.

How many days and months go into cultivating a single yellow rose? Daily sunlight, water and fertilizer encourage it to grow. At just the right moment, it is snipped, sold and carried from the store by some well-meaning suitor or lover (or more likely, a female who treats herself to this little luxury every once in a while). All for what? To sit on our crumb-laden kitchen tables for a few days, splashing our rooms with color and assaulting our senses with scent only to be thrown in the trash within the week?

Sometimes this is how publishing a piece of writing feels. When I think about the days, months and years that have preceded putting my thoughts into words, then the hours of molding and shaping them, coaxing out the beauty, the grace, the deeper meaning, it reminds me of these roses. I am the gardener and yet I also decide when my words are ready to be cut and offered to the world. When my offering of words is welcomed, I smile. And yet how quickly the glory fades as my article is overlapped by another, then another, then another article until what felt like vibrant, fresh and life-breathing words become faded and forgotten.

So is writing (without monetary compensation) even worth it?

***

Last night I tried out a complicated new recipe. I sipped red wine, dancing between the recipe on my computer screen and turning up the volume of the “evening acoustic” album on Pandora. My husband wrestled with the kids on the rug in the living room while I chopped onions, garlic and peppers to toss into the simmering oil in the pan. He took the kids out for a dusk walk and I relaxed into the smells, sounds and feel of a kitchen in use. When they returned, we washed tiny hands, strapped kids into high chairs and bowed heads to pray in spite of spoons banging and feet kicking.

If you’re a parent, then you know what came after this seemingly magical moment.

“Yuck,” my son said, pushing his dish away. My daughter picked out a few pieces of food, but also declared my meticulously prepared meal “yucky.” My husband and I finished eating in less than 15 minutes and just like that—after nearly an hour of preparation–it was over.

But here’s the thing. Even though the food was underappreciated, consumed quickly and the process will need to be repeated tomorrow and the next day, it was still worth it. Why?

Because the process of preparation fed my soul. The meal gave us a reason to sit down together as a family. And it provided nourishment for the hungry ones at the table.

Just like your writing.

As you write, God is working out what He is working in you. You will experience the Holy Spirit as you muse and marvel at the images He hands you, saying, “Take these and give them away.” Like those dozen yellow roses, your words will be welcomed by the ones who need them most. It would be a shame not to share your story with the world just as it would be a shame to grow roses behind the rusty shed in your backyard where no one would ever see them. Your words are a testament to God’s presence at work in ordinary human beings like you.

I, too, get concerned with the seeming “waste” of it all. (And hear me when I say that it is fantastic to be paid for your lovely words if someone is willing to pay you.)  

But some metaphors from the Bible come rushing to mind as I think about giving away our words. You are Mary Magdalene breaking—not reserving—her precious alabaster jar at the feet of Jesus in an act of pure worship. You are the widow of Zaraphath wanting to clutch your last bit of flour and oil to your chest instead of giving it away to a man who needs it (and so providing the impetus for a daily refilling). You are the little boy offering loaves and fish to be multiplied for the nourishment of thousands. Or the widow who gives her last two mites—all she has to live on. You are the Israelites gathering, preparing and eating their daily manna—no more and no less than they need—only to do it again the next day.

If we are lovers of Jesus, then hoarding our gifts is not an option. We are to give freely, generously and wildly, because we never know how the miracles will play out. Our little may become much, or it may be consumed immediately only to be needed again tomorrow. We never know how many will be fed or if it will only feed our soul, but we can know God will keep on giving as we keep on doling out our portion to any who ask for it (and even to some who don’t).

The heart of living a Jesus-centered life is selfless sacrifice. And if you have been given the gift of words, then you are meant to share them.

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Leslie Verner
I am a goer who is learning how to stay. I’ve traveled all over the world and lived in northwest China for five years before God U-turned my life and brought me back to the U.S. to get married to an actor in Chicago. I’m a former middle school teacher, mama to three little ones and like American cuisine the least. I currently live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado and write regularly about faith, justice, family and cross-cultural issues at Scraping Raisins.
Leslie Verner
Leslie Verner

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  • Nichole Bilcowski Forbes

    So lovely! So true!
    “If we are lovers of Jesus, then hoarding our gifts is not an option. We are to give freely, generously and wildly, because we never know how the miracles will play out. Our little may become much, or it may be consumed immediately only to be needed again tomorrow. We never know how many will be fed or if it will only feed our soul, but we can know God will keep on giving as we keep on doling out our portion to any who ask for it (and even to some who don’t).”

    These are words I am savouring and digesting slowly. These are words that bring nourishment and encouragement and life.

    I often joke that writing online feels like screaming into a dark room … you’re just never sure if there’s anyone in there listening. But you’re right. Writing is a gift that is meant to be shared.

    Thank you for this sweet reminder!

    • Nichole, Thanks so much for your encouragement! And yes, there are many times I feel like I’m screaming into a dark room (though not as much on SheLoves, because there are usually a few kind commenters to make you not feel so alone in your angst!). I hope you keep sharing your gift of writing as well!;-)

  • yes, yes, yes! I have given up waiting to be invited or to be in the “right job” and have just been trying to give freely, and it has been freeing to me too.

    • Oh so true. Serving and giving are so much more satisfying in the long run than hoarding and withholding. What a great attitude you have!

  • ” . . . .freely, generously, wildly.”
    Saying a quiet amen to this.
    Thank you, Leslie.

  • Megan Gahan

    The imagery in this piece is so stunning Leslie . . I know I’m going to be turning your words over in my mind all day. They’re obviously words that speak to writers, but also to anyone who isn’t sure what they hold in their hand is enough. I reeeallllly needed the reminder (and push!) today, so thank you for so freely offering your gift to encourage and release others to do the same. Sending you all the love-and energy!-in the world today. p.s. Yellow roses are also my absolute favorite flower 🙂

    • Thanks, friend.That means a lot coming from you. YOUR words are always a treasure, so I hope you keep them coming!

  • I needed these words, Leslie. I can so easily get bogged down in the “lack of…” readers/comments/status/etc of writing. But at the core, it is for me and God to grapple and sort out, right? We’re in the midst of tax season, which means that dinners are just me and the girls. So many nights, I just want to do the bare minimum (and, sometimes I do) but on the nights I actually make myself a wholesome, multi-stepped, healthy meal, I’m so glad for it. Even if it’s just me enjoying it. Thank you for this profound reminder!

    • Annie, It’s so easy to get caught up in numbers when you write on the internet. I think anyone who writes wants to feel like at least one person is reading their words (and finding them helpful). So I’ve had to just be content with reaching one. And yet writing can be like prayer–so often I am the one changed in the process of writing! And yes to good meals (but I don’t do them if my husband isn’t around, so good for you!;-) )

  • You are one that encourages! Thank you for your uplifting words and wisdom shared. I really feel your words: ” It would be a shame not to share your story with the world just as it would be a shame to grow roses behind the rusty shed in your backyard where no one would ever see them.” — YES INDEED! It takes a courageous spirit and bravery to be like Mary Magdalene giving of her treasures…the widows offering giving all of herself. Yes, I love this so much, “If we are lovers of Jesus, then hoarding our gifts is not an option. We are to give freely, generously and wildly, because we never know how the miracles will play out.” If we have the gifts of words, we must use it. — Your gift of words has lifted my soul today! Much love to you.

    • Jenny, Thanks so much for your encouraging comment. I really think we are called to err on the side of generosity–even in the realm of words and art;-)

  • Sharon McCuistian

    Oh my goodness! I loved this. I have just recently made my blog public, but I have already had a few days where I feel this way. Your words are so encouraging and TRUE!! Thanks for this insight. I am saving this for those days when I feel the negative slipping in. I’m thinking of sharing your post on my blog if you don’t mind. Your words apply to so much in our lives that may seem unimportant!! Thank you!!
    http://www.nowchooselife.net/

    • Hi Sharon! Congratulations on making your blog public! That can be so scary and exciting! And you can for sure link to this post and probably even publish a bit of it, but I think SheLoves prefer it not be republished in its entirety. Thanks for wanting to share it, though. That’s an honor. Write on, sister.

  • Oh Leslie! This brought me to tears. Just yesterday, I had a babysitter over and an hour to myself. I had planned to clean the house but opted instead to write for that hour. OH was it good for my soul! Thank you for reminding me of all those who have gone before us in the path of radical generosity. Xoxo

    • Olive, I’m so glad you spent that time writing! It’s so similar to exercising, isn’t it? It’s so hard to be disciplined and get started, but so rewarding once you actually do it! Glad for more of your words in the world!

  • Pingback: When Writing Feels Like a Waste of Time {for SheLoves} – Scraping Raisins()

  • Amy Chumbley

    Great words of encouragement! Thank you!

  • So true! It’s a labor of love, that you give out in trust. But, for me, it is also an act of faith. That whatever stories or words that I am spending or sending out, God will give more. He will replenish the stores, even of our words, as we offer them up and share them in faith.

    • Yeah, it’s hard to trust that more words will come, but so far at least, they always do!

  • Thanks for sharing these words! I completely agree. Sometimes you put your writing out there and you wonder if anyone has read it at all. Weeks of writing can go by. But then there will be just that one person who comments and says that a certain post encouraged her and you realize, even if just for that one person and that one moment, that is what God intended me to do. Best wishes!

    • Joanna, I love those times. And it reminds me to go ahead and write that comment or send that email every once in a while, too!

  • I love this: “As you write, God is working out what He is working in you.” I too struggle with the worth it questions. Today, this is my yellow bouquet.

  • Andrea Christiansen

    Wow! I just read this today and the timing seems amazing. I feel like I am on the cusp of God doing *something* with my writing… it’s the kind of compelling that smacks of a calling. I have yet to take that first step of submitting a piece. Your post reminds me that it is my call to authentically follow God’s voice to my best ability. It is not my concern, to be prevented by how it might be received. Truly, for me, the purpose of writing is because it is such a powerful conduit to our relational God. It encourages me to be brave … the willingness to be vulnerable is such a gift to others!

    • Andrea, Do it! Check out my blog for places I’ve been published–there’s no reason you can’t submit there, too! (Though of course you should start with SheLoves–due on or around the 15h of every month–next month’s theme is “solidarity”;-) )

      • Andrea Christiansen

        Bless your heart!!! I will! Your encouragement is priceless!

  • M.T

    “If you have been given the gift of words, you are meant to share them.” I need to ponder what this looks like for me. Writing is something I love and do have a gift for, but I’m grappling with the question of how do I pour so much time into something that feels, especially bc I have little to no readers, so pointless sometimes? I am grateful for this article and for the words you have written before to encourage writers and speak of writing as a calling.

    • That’s how I felt for years. It felt so pointless to put so much time into something that no one would read. But you know what, God brought some readers! So similar to the loaves and fish parable, I just needed to offer and God did the rest. You should go for it!;-)

  • fiona lynne

    Og this is so good and just what i needed to hear today. Thank you xxx