Reflections on a writing life

“Many words do not satisfy the soul;
but a good life comforts the mind,
and a pure conscience gives great confidence toward God.”
– Thomas A Kempis

Today I’m participating in a blog hop started by Ellen Barone about the writing life. I was invited by Rachel Pieh Jones and invited three writers I enjoy to participate next week. I’m excited to introduce Between Worlds readers to these amazing women, in case you are looking for new reading material, be sure to check out their bios and work.


What am I writing or working on? 

I’ve spent a lot of time writing about developing a global perspective, deepening understanding of race relations and living the historic Christian spiritual disciplines.  My writing pace ebbs and flows, depending on how much space other parts of my life consume. I’m currently in a slower writing season as other commitments have taken up more of my time.

While I’m prone to agree with À Kempis that ‘many words don’t satisfy the soul’, I’d also add that a few really good ones definitely influence me toward a better life. Even when the words are less frequent, they remain quietly present in the pursuit and formation of a ‘good life’ that leads toward ‘a pure conscious and great confidence toward God’.

How does my work differ from others of its genre? 

I grew up in a cornfield and then married someone from halfway around the world. I’ve spent my days teaching new languages to both immigrants and native speakers. I’m raising children with one set of grandparents in Midwestern cornfields and the other set on an island in the Indian Ocean. These clashing realities significantly influence my writing. They allow me to hear from, understand and respect people from many perspectives who might not be able to easily understand each other.

Why do I write what I do? 

Every so often, the lack of mass-popularity tempts me toward trashing the whole writing-thing. If it’s not the hottest-thing that everyone’s reading, I muse, it must not be valuable.  Perhaps this is the case, but I also must entertain the idea that there’s another option. What if mass-readership doesn’t matter? Would the internet-friends turned real-life-pals exist? Would the real-life friends have turned toward more honest and vulnerable conversations without the starting point of that-one-particular-post? Would the meaningful conversations and connections I’ve made have occurred otherwise?

These questions remind me of the reasons why I write, the least of which is to become a New York Times bestseller or actually make some money (though I do admit that would be nice!).  Primarily, I write to connect to others, to hold out a hand that says this is where I am, any chance you’ve been there before?  It’s my way of keeping myself honest and vulnerable.

Recently, I’ve realized that I also write because I believe deeply that ideas should be accessible. Working in academia, I come across plenty of ideas that only make sense to academics, and I love the challenge of taking some of these ideas and translating them to language where everyone else lives. I do this in my paycheck-job by teaching immigrants to speak English and find so many other areas of overlap where my heart longs to help bridge in disconnected spaces.

How does my writing process work? 

While I’ve always written, it’s taken me some time to grow comfortable with the title of ‘writer’.  Somehow, I feel like to legitimately use the term for myself, I need to actually make money writing or publish a book or write a monthly column for a well-known magazine or website. If I were a real writer, I tell myself, I’d sit alone in a cabin for a week working feverishly on a book or typing away on my laptop into the wee hours of the night.  

The problem is, this couldn’t be farther from reality. My primary jobs right now are teacher, mother, wife (and for the sake of full disclosure, over-enthusiastic-beach-goer). Writing exists in the margins of my life – sometimes regular, sometimes not-so-much – on a quiet blog with a small but steady readership and an occasional kinda-popular post.  While for some writers, writing is their primary endeavor, for me it is a secondary outcome that stems from my primary work and other life commitments. I wouldn’t have anything to write about if I weren’t also living a life full of so many other things.


Check out these great women!

Part of the blog hop is featuring other writers I’ve enjoyed.  I’m delighted to share the three women below with you. They’ll be answering the same questions next week on their blogs and sharing their own favorite writers as well.

Marilyn Gardner is an adult third culture kid who grew up in Pakistan and then lived as an adult in Pakistan and Egypt. She currently lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts 15 minutes from the international terminal where she flies to the Middle East & Pakistan as often as possible. Marilyn’s writing appears in the book What a Woman is Worth Civitas Press published 2014, Among Worlds Magazine, and A Life Overseas – The Missions Conversation . You can find her blogging at http://communicatingacrossboundariesblog.com/ and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/marilyngard

Bringing a lifetime of wisdom and diverse experience to the table, Marilyn brings a wise and valuable voice to the blogging world.  I deeply appreciate her willingness to process her ideas in the public sphere so that the rest of us can learn from her perspectives. Some of my favorite posts include her simple reflections about change and growth like this one, Restoration and Return.

bronlea outlineBronwyn Lea is a writer-mama, latte-sipper, laughter-seeker and Jesus-junkie. Once upon a time she dabbled in law and studied theology, but these days her claims to fame include speed-diapering and bad puns. She has an unnatural love for excavators and the color teal. She writes about all things holy and hilarious at her blog and various other online publications. She’d be tickled pink if you stopped by to say hello at her www.bronlea.com, on facebook or on twitter.

I’m particularly found of Bronwyn’s honesty and willingness to consider other perspectives. She’s thoughtful, fair-handed, and wise, tackling a wide range of topics from gay marriage to honest reflections about ‘average epiphanies’.


A few other writers you’ll enjoy as well…

These writers aren’t participating in the bloghop, but I can’t pass on the opportunity to also recommend their work. 

Kathy Khang: More than Serving Tea. Director of Intervarsity’s Multiethnic Ministries, Kathy brings a bold and vibrant perspective to the Christian world. The perspective she shares is both bold and humble, strong and vulnerable and we would all do well to listen closely to her heart. She is a contributing author to the book More than Serving Tea: Asian American women on Expectations, Relationships, Leadership and Faith.

Osheta Moore: Shalom in the City.  A church planter, Osheta writes with candor, humor, and grace. She tackles tough topics with wit and honesty, leaving readers feeling both prodded and hugged all at the same time.  Speaking fear, praying shalom is one of my favorite posts of hers.

Ruthie Johnson: Embracing Hybrity.   Ruthie is an Indian adoptee who grew up with white parents amongst Cubans in Miami. She writes about multiethnic identity and navigating cross-cultural worlds. This is one of her recent insightful posts about how diversity in church is essential to God’s mission.

Christena Cleveland: A social psychologist and new professor at Bethel University, Christena is a leading Christian voice today. Her most recent book Disunity in Christ: Uncovering the Hidden Forces that keep us apart was a winner of the Leadership Journal book award and her blog includes a vast array of resources for people seeking to understand the gaps that exist in the Western evangelical church.



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