Writing, Vulnerability, and Our Souls

Rachelle Gardner

Blogger: Rachelle Gardner

“Writing makes a person very vulnerable. It opens you to public criticism, to ridicule, to rejection. But it also opens conversation and thought. It stirs minds, and touches hearts. It brings us into contact with our souls. So how can it possibly be a waste of time, an idle act, a mistake, a betrayal of truth? Who can possibly tell us not to do it?”

~Joan Chittister, Order of Saint Benedict

called to question

How does writing “bring you into contact with your soul”? Have you been tempted to believe it’s all a waste of time? Has anybody ever told you not to do it?


Writing “brings us into contact with our souls.” Agree? Click to Tweet.

Has anyone told you writing was a waste of time? Or told you not to do it? Click to Tweet.


26 Responses

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  1. Hello, Rachelle. I have never felt writing was a waste of time, but I have been told that. Writing for my blog, I’ve been told I shouldn’t bother … I should be trying to find other ways to write to make money. Only write for pay, in other words. While I understand that thinking … I write on my blog when I feel something impressed on my heart … and that happens fairly often. Ha!
    And I also know the more I write, the more I hone the craft. That is not a waste of time.

    And the public ridicule … every time I press “publish” I get scared. The more you open your mouth, the more likely you are to get into trouble. But I try to let it rest on God. I only know and share what I believe God is teaching me, and I know there will always be someone to disagree.

    I wrote two poems recently on Mary and Martha … had someone tell me it was a complete waste of time. My response? This writing is hiding God’s Word in my heart forever.

    • Just wanted to add … I am a missions writer, as well. I have discovered, unless there is a glitch on my website, that I have a rather large group of readers in Malaysia. If they are being encouraged even in the slightest … that can’t be a waste of time.

    • Dear Rachelle: Critical words that are somewhat constructive can still be painful but there is a chance of seeing your own work in a new light. Criticism that is just negative is just someone’s opinion. As a writer you really do not need to appeal to everyone. Chances are you won’t. In all honesty you don’t want to. You want to have your niche. When you hear criticism consider the source. And weigh that in your emotional intake.

      Writing is never a waste of time. And anyone who suggests you should stop might better word it you should continue and improve…

      Jacqueline Gillam Fairchild

  2. Jeanne T says:

    I think the writing that brings me into the deepest part of my soul is the writing I pour into my personal journal. No one sees that. 🙂 I write in there when my heart is struggling through something. Something happens when words bypass my mouth and go from heart to pen.

    As for writing others see? My soul shows up there too, but I’m still learning how to express more of the depths knowing others are reading. 🙂

    I’ve never had anyone tell me in words that my writing is a waste of time.
    I have seen it in the reactions of some though, when I talk about my writing. I’ve learned that God is the One who gave me this gift, and He will use it as He knows is best. That thought reminds me that the time and effort I put into writing is never a waste of time.

    • I agree with what you said about your personal journal. It’s a safe place where the words can pour forth unedited, and the emotions as well.

      When I read back on the journals I kept as a HS student, I almost cringe at the depth of sentiment that exposed what was really taking place beneath the layers of hairspray and makeup, the real me that I was trying to define and refine.

  3. A waste of time? It’s all a matter of perspective, and it can be difficult to sort through the thicket of prisms to find the one that shows the truth.

    For the Sudanese refugee whose family has been killed, and whose pain is not assuaged but is the actual goal of his enemies – yeah, my writing’s a waste of time.

    But I would like to think that what I write enlarges the heart of compassion in my readers, and that the compassion will spread out and magnify, to inspire them to reach a hand to the tortured denizens of a vicious land.

    I hope that writing is a lever for the soul, long enough to help me move something larger than I could ever hope to lift on my own.

  4. Sondra Kraak says:

    This is such a beautiful, thought-provoking quote, and from a wonderful source. Writing is like music for me. I can’t separate my writing or piano playing from worship. It flows out from a joy and contentment knowing that God has called me to this. Though the vulnerability can be daunting, and sometimes cause me to hold back, the rewards of sharing yourself with others are worth it.

    • Sondra … I love “God has called me to this” … most everywhere I go, everything I am a part of … I always ask God to show me what He wants me to walk away with. Lord, let me hear from you. He’s faithful. And then, it’s hard not to share it!

  5. Michelle Ule says:

    Maybe, but if I never wrote, I’d never figure out what I really think about a whole list of things! 🙂

  6. I’ve not been as content for most of my adult life as I have been in the last 2 years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a happy person by nature, but happiness and contentment are two different things.

    The contentment comes from writing. Finally finding the nerve to start what God has been nudging my way for years. When the initial “holy cow, I’m actually doing it!” wore off, and the “holy cow, WHAT am I doing?” kicked in, I realized a few things. One, I have to work extremely hard. Two, I have to work extremely hard. And three, I have to work extremely hard.

    But the weird thing is, I don’t mind. Oh sure, there are days I want to shoot the computer, but most of the time, I love this gig. I’ve met so many truly amazing and Godly people. SOME for whom I have a free kidney, should they need it. Sorry, AB-S, the pancreas stays…)

    No one has told me my work is a waste of time, although some have said it tanked. Some have even suggested I insert things into my MS that are so ridiculous I weep with laughter. Like making non-Anglos sound like their English is pretty much exactly like a 1950’s cowboy and Indian movie. Umm. No. Or, as my husband says, “Why not a hail of bullets? That book needs more gunfights.”

    The only thing wasted are the years I refused to listen to God’s whispers of “you can do this”. But I know He’ll do as He sees fit to redeem those years and make my work do what it needs to do, which is to lift up His name and make His mercy known.

    • Ah, well, thanks for the thought.

      I disagree about ‘needs more gunfights’. They are almost impossible to write well; in thinking about it, I suspect it’s because very few people have successfully integrated the action of the immediate event and the denouement of emotion that follows it.

      A firefight is cathartic, and an unspeakably wrenching trip beyond the pale. At the same time ennobling and debasing, these events become singular in a participant’s life. Ninety seconds in a ‘hail of bullets’ and you’ll never be the same – and you won’t be able to articulate why.

      ‘Show, rather than tell’ is of course operative, but action that doesn’t ring true). can undo a lot of the work that went into character-building. Too easy to introduce action that sets a false note, and turn nuanced characters into 2D comic-book action heroes (OR hypersensitive, whiny antiheroes).

  7. Great quote, Rachelle. While my hubby isn’t a huge fan of my writing, I’ve learned so much about myself in the process: I can have patience when I realize it’s all under God’s control, people enjoy my writing, when you follow God’s plan you are blessed in many ways.

  8. Skye Taylor says:

    Great post. Thanks for the reaffirmation.

  9. Elissa says:

    Rachelle, I so needed to hear the sentiment expressed in that quote.

    My mother thought anything that wasn’t productive (put food on the table) was a waste of time. Music, art, and/or writing are all fine, as long as you make money with them.

    It’s been a struggle for me to justify “wasting time” on my writing. Now I realize justification is unnecessary.

    Thank you.

  10. Reba says:

    Well, now that was a very interesting post. Made me think.
    I really cannot truly express how it feels to ‘need’ to paint a painting, nor how it truly feels to have a story inside you that ‘needs’ to be written. But, I can say this, it is a feeling that aches inside you until you get it out, either on canvas or on paper.
    Reba Stanley

  11. I consider the Holy Spirit to be my muse – so any time I’m writing, I’m spending time with Him.

  12. I can’t remember where I read this quote, but it speaks to what you asked us here today.
    “I write because without expressing myself my soul is restless, and as soon as my pen comes in contact with my paper, bits and pieces of my soul seep out and explain themselves to me.”
    When we expose our real selves through our writing, we give fodder to the public. They can throw it back in our face, but if they see authenticity in it, they may thank us for giving voice to something they couldn’t articulate themselves.

  13. Lynn Hare says:

    Rachelle, thank you for the great questions. Writing is the absolute best use of the gift of words – God blesses our obedience to His quickening. Writing brings me into contact with my own perspective about forgiveness, which I pray will give readers pause to meditate, sort out, and give words to their own God-encounters.

    What’s the most unique story God asked you to share, and how did it inspire others?

  14. I first became confident in writing by keeping a journal. Not every day, but more like every crisis or every confusion would bring me to pen and paper. I was often the best way for me to find my own soul, to figure out what I actually thought and felt so that I could bring myself more fully to God and hear what God is trying to nudge me about.

    I’ve always thought the great role model in this is Augustine who wrote his spiritual autobiography the “Confessions” as a book-length prayer. In my practice, though, my journal is rarely a direct address to God. I’m more like John Ames in Marilyn Robinson’s “Gilead” who said that writing was like prayer, or a form of prayer, or something, because he always had the sense that someone was listening.

  15. Sue Harrison says:

    Oh my goodness, I have had so many people tell me not to write, including a publisher, but the joy is so worth the angst! Loved the post, Rachelle!

  16. I realize I’m a day late responding, but I wanted to anyway. When we know we are called by God to do something, it is never a waste of time. But I once struggled with wondering if I was called or if my desire to write came just from myself. While time I spent writing benefitted me, there were so many things demanding my time, I feared that time I spent writing kept me from doing something else God had called me to do. What if I wasn’t doing His plan for me because writing took too much time, time He wanted me to spend doing something else? So many, many “good” works from which to choose! Sometimes I’d feel guilty about the hours I spent writing knowing the laundry didn’t get folded, a child didn’t get read to, a friend didn’t get called. But our God promises peace, so I asked Him to make it clear to me. He knows my heart, that nothing matters more to me than following His will. He also knew that unless He made it completely obvious, I’d continue to question. He responded to that prayer at a Christian writer’s conference with such a sense of humor, and such clarity, that I knew beyond a doubt His will. I wish that meant I knew beyond a doubt that I’d enjoy amazing success as a published, well-known writer, but all He made clear was His intention for me to write. And that is enough. The results are up to Him.

  17. Carol March says:

    Thanks for much for the lovely quote. Writing has saved my life more than once, and helped me connect clearly to my own spirit. I did listen to the negative messages when I was young, and that’s the only regret I have in life. Writing is a big part of my spiritual practice, and my fiction helps me understand what I’m really doing in this life.