The Writer Who Wasn’t

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Unlike many writers, I wasn’t born with a pen in hand or books on my brain. Not like Louisa May Alcott and her character, Jo, or Lucy Maud Montgomery and her creation, Emily. Yes, I started a novel or two as a teenager, but my list of life dreams didn’t include writing. Instead it came quietly in the back door.

Perhaps it began with the fact that my love language is words. It got fed by the rich and steady diet of good books I read growing up. As a teen, I wrote enough letters that I began to think that it had become, in a small way, my ministry.

In high school, I took a course that taught me how (in bite-sized pieces) to make my writing vivid, but it did nothing to help my stunted imagination. I wrote a few stories, but the characters were sweet and flat, even to me.

One year I was required to submit a journal entry every school day. I filled it with the boring events of my life and, as often as I dared, with nonsense poetry. I hardly even kept a personal diary. It took a girls’ meeting and a tiny notebook to get me started on that. Perfectionism evasion tactic: only write five sentences a day.

Then I got to Bible School, where I had major writer’s block. I remember sitting on the top step of the basement steps in the dark in an effort to get my brain to focus enough to write an assigned essay. Perfectionism buster: pretend I was writing a letter to my teacher.

Fast forward past the end of Bible School, when someone suggested that I should continue to grow academically in some way. I didn’t know what to study, but I kept it in mind. It turns out that my sister Katie had had a writing aptitude test in her drawer for years. On the phone to order a new one for herself one day, she turned to me. “You want one too?”

Me? I shrugged. “Sure.”

And from there it went like the house that Jack built. I took the test; I was accepted. I was terrified that I’d never have the discipline to complete two years of writing assignments. I’m the girl who can’t keep a diary unless it’s baby-sized! But I put out a fleece – unexpected provision of money – and within a few weeks, I was offered a job.

I took the course.

Faithfully, God provided the grace I needed. I changed location five or six times, and my writing came too. I had to grit my teeth and make myself sit down to write, but once I got absorbed in the process, I had fun! In fact, I began to feel a sense of rightness when I wrote. This, I thought, is what I was meant to do. 

I have to live life before I can write it.

I even came up with another novel idea. There’s no way I’m ready to write a book, I thought, but this is my chance to pretend I can – while I’ve got a teacher. And so a story grew out of a chance thought: How would someone whom Jesus had raised from the dead respond to His death? 

Soon I’d soon be able to do on-the-spot research. Yes, right after I finished my writing course, I went to Israel. That was on my list of life dreams, and it was so life-changing that I just had to write about it. I had an audience (my friends at home) and I had something to describe, at last. As I experienced Israel, I wanted to put my readers in my shoes, give them all my senses, and let them enjoy my adventures for themselves. As I wrote, I fell in love with painting pictures with words.

And at last, my writing dreams made it onto my list of things to do with my life. What are they? I want to write like Elisabeth Elliot – with a down-to-earth, honest view of life and a voice that sounds like a friend’s. I want to make people laugh. I want them to realize they’re not alone.

Maybe I can even paint a picture of life with Jesus that makes them want to dive into the adventure of knowing Him. That takes time: I have to live that life before I can write it, and that’s challenging. But meanwhile, I can practice by telling what I do know and what I have lived.

These days, I have something more to say. Nonsense poetry is, of course, necessary from time to time, but thanks to a few more years of walking with Jesus, I have something deeper to talk about. That’s what truly fires my heart to sit down and begin stringing words together.

And so – “Surprise!” says God I’m a writer.


  1. Elisabeth Elliot is a wonderful woman to emulate, both in life and in writing style. In fact, I’m reading one of her books right now!

    Great article.

  2. Inspirational!

    I feel like I have been perpetually suffering from writer’s block. Ideas are really hard to find and work around.I’ve had my share of boring stories too.Praying for ideas to write about!;)

    Many thanks for this lovely post Elisabeth.

  3. Yes, please, sit down and write … those questions (how would someone Jesus raised from the dead respond to His death) aroused my curiosity!


  4. Lois,
    No, I haven’t finished my novel yet. My writing course only required 3 chapters, which I completed just before I went to Israel the first time. After I’d been there a while, I learned enough to revise them…and the more I study in Israel, the more material I have.

    Maybe I ought to sit back down now and write! :O)

  5. Interesting to read how you started to love writing. I too have loved writing letters.

    You mentioned a novel idea about someone Jesus raised from the dead…did you ever finish and publish it? Is it possible to buy it somewhere online? Sounds interesting!


  6. I really enjoyed your post, Elisabeth! Your perfectionist breakers were definitely true- I had to smile! I especially liked-“splat those words onto the computer screen and rearrange them like puzzle pieces until the picture is just right.” That was a good way to explain it! Once the perfectionist tendency flies out the window, (it sometimes has to be dismissed every time I sit down to write!) writing becomes so soothing and so enjoyable.

  7. So, I’ve never commented on here, but I’ve been reading it for a while. Excellent post! Growing up, I always wanted to be a writer, and never really had anything to write about…and I still don’t. I’ve gone through a couple different blogs (I just started one yesterday, that I hope to actually use), and that’s about the extent of it. Excellent post. I thoroughly enjoyed it! You are an *excellent* writer.

    ><>Mary Jo

  8. I understand how it is to write! I wasn’t much of a writer until I became 13 when life became so hard for me. I found that keeping a journal and writing to Jesus really helpd me get through the hard times. Wrting helps me sort out my daliy problems, my belssings and victories.I simply just pour out my heart to him! I think God gave me the gift of wrting about myself and others. I hope one day to use my journals as books!

  9. Elizabeth:

    Your writing is great, i thoroughly enjoyed your post. It was wonderful hearing about your experiences as a writer.
    Thanks for such a wonderful and enjoyable post.
    I love your writing style. It matches Lanier’s. You both are wonderful writers that i look up to!
    Thank you for doing this post again, and keep them coming 🙂

    Have a wonderful day!
    May God Bless you and keep you safe!


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