Step Four – Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves as writers and of our writing.
Our writing is a direct reflection of the way we live our life. It doesn’t matter whether we write science fiction or theology books, the way we think and the way we live is reflected in our work. Many of us, including myself, had a renewal of faith after a fall from grace. Even those of us who never wavered in our faith have grown in strength and grace over the years. None of us are perfect and we carry our patterns of sin and our past with us. We pray to be good examples to others. We ask God to give us the grace to be a reflection of His Love. However, as humans we often fail. Why? It is often because instead of looking at our past mistakes and our questionable character traits, we push them down. We want to forget our sins and our sorry ways. We think we should just move on and try to do better. While this might be true in one sense, it is a mistake. We should forget the shame that we feel about our behavior and take a good hard look at it. That is the way to learn. Examining our patterns is the only way to change them. “An unexamined life is not worth living” was first published in Plato’s work “Apology.” Spoken by Socrates, it still holds true today. So let’s examine our life as writers.
First let’s look at our behavior as writers. Next post we will examine our writing itself. Let’s take a look at the harms that we may have done because of our resentments and fears. In a step by step fashion, let’s examine the harms that our sins of admission and sins of omission may have done to others. It is amazing how taking the harm we admit, and the harm we have buried, into the light helps us heal. Putting our failings on paper opens our hearts to the truth. It works if we look at our life since childhood to the present, leading us to see ourselves and our failings in the light. I highly recommend that with guidance we all do this. However, for our purpose here we will stick to our writing life. It is not easy to face the truth about our past and our leanings to non-Christian conduct. However, we will never grow spiritually if we don’t examine our patterns of behavior. You cannot be a spiritual writer if you are not a spiritual person. You cannot be a Christian author if you don’t live what you write.
As writers, we use words, both for good and for evil. Let’s look at examples of how our words may have harmed others. You may wonder how you, as a writer, could have hurt another. I found that I did it, both being aware and unaware of the harm I was doing. I found that I, just as any non-Christian writer, was drawn by the temptations for recognition, money and success. I could easily fall into the trap of thinking that I was in charge of my own writing career. I need to be better than that. I stumble. I fail. But at least I now try to be brutally honest with myself. It has helped me to admit my mistakes and recognize my sin patterns. I hope it has helped me become a better person. Let’s look at our sins of admission first. Here are a few examples for you to think about.
- Have you ever given another writer a low rating on Amazon when you knew they deserved a better score?
- Have you given a tough review to another writer because you were jealous?
- Do you ever talk against another’s work, or dismiss their work as uninspired?
- Have you ever talked against someone to a publisher or distributer to promote your own career?
- Have you ever plagiarized? Or stolen another writer’s idea or inspiration?
- Have you ignored the needs of other writers or denied them the promotion or help they may want?
- Do you talk against editors who offered honest and constructive criticisms of your work?
- Do you talk against publishers who turned your writing down?
- Do you routinely give negative feedback to young aspirating writers, hoping to discourage competition or natural talent?
These are just some of the actual harms we may have done consciously or unconsciously. Then there are the harms of omission.
- Have you ignored the needs of others, never promoting or writing the reviews that all writers need?
- Have you shared your gifts at seminars or writing groups to help new writers or those who need encouragement or advice?
- Have you gone out of your way to network for another author?
- Have you given publication news or advice to those who were searching?
- Have you ever recommended another writer to a publisher?
- Did you take the time to write “comments” on the blogs of writers who are struggling to create a following?
- Have you taken the time to ‘like’ another writer’s webpage or blog?
- Have you excluded another writer from a social gathering of writers or failed to offer a simple invitation to join in conversation?
- Did you ever fail to praise or encourage other writers because you were too busy trying to promote yourself?
- Have you promised reviews that you failed to deliver?
- Do you routinely fail to “share” the promotional news of others because you just want to promote yourself?
- Do you criticize or nitpick other artists to sooth your own sense of insecurity?
Wow! It’s not easy to take a truthful look at yourself as a writer! It is not easy to see or admit our own failings. How do we change? Of course we can’t change ourselves. We need the grace of God and prayer to change. The first step is being brutally honest.
Here is an easy form to use as you examine what harms you have done in your writing life:
- I harmed (who)
- By doing (what)
- I did it because this action added to (My self esteem, pocketbook, emotional security, ambition, personal relations)
- What should I have done differently, and what will I do in the future?
- The character defect that allowed me to do the harm in #2 was because I was – (Selfish, dishonest, self-seeking, frightened, inconsiderate, or others)
Pray about this, meditate each morning. Ask God to show you your failings. Then burn the papers and go to confession. Confession gives us the strength we need to do better the next time that situation comes up. Next week we will move on to the resentments, fears and harms that affect our writing itself.
Karen Kelly Boyce is a mother of two and grandmother of two who lives on a farm in N.J. with her retired husband. She and her husband love to camp and take ‘road trips’ around the country. She has published four novels and three children’s books. Her website is www.karenkellyboyce.com