Tuesday, January 15, 2013

So How Did You Start Your Writing Journey?

by Rachael Phillips
Are you one of those people who knew, the moment you picked up a pencil in first grade and wrote your first ABC’s, that you would become a writer?
I’m not.
I wanted to be a singer. And a missionary. And a ballerina wearing a poofy tutu.

In second grade, I did like writing poems and constructed little books of my poetry out of construction paper. For a few years, I produced a flurry of poems, plays and stories.
But I never envisioned being a writer. Perhaps because, in my mind, real books were written by exalted human beings only a notch or two below godhood. And because writing was too much fun. At the ripe age of nine, I already had applied flawless evangelical logic to the possibility, namely: if you really liked doing something, God didn’t want you to do it.

So writing and wearing a poofy tutu went out the window. Singing could be rated as far more spiritual, so I figured God was okay with that—even if it was fun.
Fast forward several decades. At that time, I was serving as a worship coordinator at a church with typical pastoral staff and administrative board—and a secretary who comprised the real power behind the outfit. She lined up all of us and decreed we each would produce an article for the new church newsletter by the tenth of each month.

Or else.
No one wanted to spend his eternity locked in the deep, dark furnace room with Satan’s creepy-crawlies, so they complied. Me? I loved writing. The people in my congregation seemed to know I loved it. They passed my articles on to family and friends, patted me on the back, and told me I should write a book.

A writing workshop flyer from a local college, a hometown editor in desperate need of articles so he wouldn’t have to write them, and encouraging friends all played a part in jump-starting my writing career, as well as the church secretary with a .45 in her desk drawer.

As I devoted increasing time and effort to writing, a few friends regarded it as a sort of mysterious disease I’d contracted. Before long, I’d feel better, get over it, and carry on life as usual.
Fortunately, my husband didn’t see it that way. “God has given you a gift,” he said. “He’s made you a writer.”

He called me a writer.
I couldn’t—even after I’d published four biographies. Somehow the word caught in my throat like a double negative.

Maybe because writing was too much fun, and if I actually called myself that, God might notice.
He did. And He clapped for me.

He’s also offered plenty of constructive criticism. And plenty of life experience—much of it not so pleasant—that translated into writing fodder.
But He has walked beside me every step of this writing journey.

How about you? How did your writing journey begin?      






  1. Yes. I think I was born with a pencil in my hand. But, like you, I had other aspirations as well. I also wanted to be a meteorologist-ballerina-singer-orchestra conductor-actress. But I was winning writing contests in grade school. However, it wasn't until my children were grown that the time was "write" for me to follow this dream. (I never became any of the above except a pastor's wife/teacher/Mom.) (Aren't you glad I'm not a ballerina?)

    1. Karla,
      I thought I had replied earlier to your comment, but it seems to have vanished! Anyway, the image of a ballerina doing the weather is memorable, without adding the rest! So glad that God gave you--as He did me--the opportunity to follow the dreams He nurtured in your heart during those child-raising years.

      And maybe it's better for the world that we didn't end up in pink tutus.

  2. Hi Rachael. What a great blog post idea. For me, it started out writing fantasy adventures (swashbuckling sword type adventures). In fact, I stil have some of the ones I penned on notebook paper back in 6th grade. Then, I converted into more traditional science fiction. Only in the last couple of years have I attempted to blend my love of sci fi with Christian fiction.

    1. What fun, Darren! It might be a hoot if we all brought a sample of our childhood writing to a meeting sometime to read aloud. Amazing how those little seeds from sixth grade grew up with you :-) Blessings on your sci-fi.

  3. First, Rachael, EXCELLENT BLOG!!!

    As for me, I came up with songs and stories in my head since fourth grade. I wrote some short stories in high school (including a couple I thought were book material -- if I used 3x5 cards, it may have gotten into the triple digits of pages, just barely.

    I had taken creative writing courses both in high school and community college. Then, I switched to a Bible college, and except for songs my writing disappeared until in '83/'84 I decided to write a novel. And I completed it! Completely uncommercial (a Christian James Bond style adventure too Christian for JB fans and vice versa), but still it was a completed 200 + page novel! (Handwritten, BTW).

    But with little blips of fiction and a book on edification I did nothing with, I didn't do any fiction writing until '07. I wanted to write a NF book promoting apologetics when a fact and a thought hit me. FACT: Existentialist Jean Paul Satre influenced more people with his novels than his philosophic writings. THOUGHT: What about a murder mystery that takes place at an apologetics conference.

    Thanks for giving me a place to ramble.


    1. Jeff, How neat that your creativity emerged so early. Interesting how our writing seemed to dry up for a number of years and how God jump-started it again. Particularly interesting how Jean Paul Satre was part of that electricity! Love the idea of a murder mystery at an apologetics conference! (That could take place at Taylor University here in my town.) Blessings.

  4. I had already tried to write a book and decided I must not be a writer. That was 5th grade and, inspired by Frank and Joe Hardy, I decided to pen my own mystery. Three paragraphs later, inspiration wilted. I had nothing else to say. No clue how to continue. Nope, I wasn't a writer after all.

    Fast forward to my freshman year of college: Over spring break, I had some time on my hands. For fun, I wrote a short article for a magazine's writing contest. I didn't win, but they wrote back offering to buy my piece anyway. I realized that back in 5th grade I hadn't lived long enough to provide fuel for my imagination. Now I've had a couple hundred articles and short stories sold, plus 2 novels. More to come, by God's grace!

    1. Rick, I can't believe you guys, attempting BOOKS during grade school. Didn't even occur to me. I definitely took the shortcuts.
      LOL, I loved Frank and Joe Hardy almost as much as I loved Nancy Drew (even though as a girl, I wasn't supposed to).

      But you caught the writing bug in a major way while in college! I wish I had--mine bit so late, and I sometimes wonder why I didn't begin before my late 40s. But God's timing is the best timing, and since He manages the universe, I imagine my writing career hasn't messed with His mind.
      Praise God for the wonderful ways He's used your talent!