The Most Unexpected Truth About Writing

My guest today is Lazarus Barnhill, author of the wonderful and profound Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People, available from Second Wind Publishing. Laz talks about destiny, which is a perfect topic for his guest appearance here on my blog. We met in November 2007 during an online writing contest (TruTV Search For the Next Great Crime Writer Contest on Gather.com) where we finished consecutively  — 10th and 11th — out of over three hundred entries. Now we are colleagues again — this time at Second Wind Publishing. Lazarus says:

“We are not accustomed to thinking that God’s will for us and our own inner dreams can coincide.”  –Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way

It was Monday, August, 20, 2007, and I was driving home from down east North Carolina in a driving rainstorm.  After I dropped off my daughter at her home, I turned on the local NPR station.  As it happened, I tuned in precisely in the middle of an interview.  It became clear within a few seconds that I was listening to an author who had just had his first book published.  Because I was trying to catch up on the information in the report, I paid especially close attention and was able to piece together that there had been an online contest, the winner of which received a contract to have his book published by a major house.  As an aside, the interviewer concluded the report by saying that the same literary website was about to host a second contest.  This second one was for romance novels.

At that particular moment, I was sitting at a stoplight.  I remembered how, a few months before, I had finished a novel that-if you closed one eye and squinted just right-could be considered a romance: Lacey Took a Holiday. The light was still red, so I took out my extra fine point felt tip pen and scribbled the site on the back of my hand: “Gather”.

This commenced a twenty-month string of the most unlikely events: the following day was the last day to enter the romance contest and I made it in just under the wire; in the process of reading the romance chapters of almost 300 other authors, I became well acquainted with a number of them and for the first time recognized a “great miscarriage of publishing justice” (there were far, far more worthy romance novels than there were agents and publishers to snatch them up); many of the quality writers began to coalesce into writing groups and I was actually invited to join in with them; a third Gather contest — crime/mystery novels — commenced soon after the conclusion of the romance competition and I had, only days before, finished a crime novel (The Medicine People); once again I encountered and befriended a number of outstanding writers and experienced the reality that only one of them was going to receive a book contract; at the end of that contest, a blended group of romance and crime authors decided to take matter into their hands and start up a publishing company; that company (Second Wind Publishing), ten months after its inception, has twenty books available for purchase in multiple venues with another twenty waiting in queue.

The other day I was marveling at the uncanny string of events that brought me so many wonderful new friends (by the way — thanks, Pat, for the invitation to be here!), saw the publication of my first two novels and empowered me to express my artistic vision in ways that I never imagined.  Ironically, as I participated in the Gather contests, I had assumed I would be one of those writers who might pen a worthy story, but never get picked up by an agent or contracted by a major publishing house.  In retrospect, I’ve gotten to the point where I feel pretty lucky that I didn’t.  In fact, as I read Julia Cameron’s remarks in her wonderful book, The Artist’s Way, I began to wonder if in fact what I saw as a lucky string of chance events was really a matter of listening to a still, small voice that has always intended better for me than I could have imagined for myself.  If Julia Cameron is right, that same little voice has something to say to all of us.

My premise is this: whatever force there is out there in creation (call it God, destiny, a Higher Power or whatever you want) actually wants you to write. When you write, you are fulfilling an essential aspect of your truest purpose for existing. What do you think?

Here is another far out, mystical question: for the sake of argument, let’s say the universe wants you (in fact the whole perverse group of us literary creative people) to write. Is there such a thing as praying for help with your writing? What would you pray? “Get me unstuck, O literary angel”? What about this, “Let my writing muse guide me to express my truest self as a writer, and trust the outcome to be in greater hands than mine”?

What if your literary angel has a purpose and story in mind for your writing that is greater than anything you can currently imagine? Of course that implies that being on the NY Times bestseller list may not be the greatest destiny.

See also: Pat Bertram And Lazarus Barnhill Discuss Writing as Destiny

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12 Responses to “The Most Unexpected Truth About Writing”

  1. Marilyn Says:

    An interesting thought…but those who do not believe in ‘God’s Will”, well that kind of shuts them out.

    “There is no blackboard in the sky…” N Walsh

  2. Adina Says:

    Someone said some time ago :
    “The cure for writer’s cramp is writer’s block.”
    I am not a religious person, so i do not pray, at least not in the traditional way…But what i do is write everyday and it seems painless because it turns out I am a very selfish writer, I write for myself first and foremost thus writing becomes my form of therapy..

  3. Sheila Deeth Says:

    Okay, so no NYT Bestsellers list. But I’d still like my writing to be read. Sounds like maybe I should look out for Julia Cameron’s book.

  4. A. F. Stewart Says:

    I’ll buy the premise the universe wants literary creative people to write; there is a certain compulsion involved in the writing process. Or, maybe, we’re all a bit insane.

  5. Sherrie Hansen Says:

    I’m a believer – in inspiration, in destiny, in doing what you’re meant to do, in “all things working together for good”… I think we were all created with a purpose, and if we’re open to what fate / God has for us, great things can happen. All you really have to do is to believe in yourself and be patient until the time is right.

  6. mickeyhoffman Says:

    Although I don’t “get” the angel thing or believe in any purposeful universe, I do think that humans are possessed with a capacity for what I’d call Wonder. I think that, in some people, the creative ones, this quest to get close to the unknown can lead to inspiration, frustration, anger and other emotions that fuel creativity. Creativity is trying to fill some hole in our brains, but everyone has a different sort of filling they’re using. Some just want 15 minutes of fame, some might want to explain their past, some might want to communicate a great idea. Sometimes you can tell which it is from reading but sometimes, you can’t.

  7. shawnedamarks Says:

    I do believe in God and all that encompasses. This is an interesting event I’m glad I came!

  8. Danna Wilberg Says:

    At birth, we are given a Divine gift. I”magi”nation. How we choose to use this gift is part of our journey. Words are a form of soul energy that guide us. Like ships in the night, writers set sail for ports unknown. On shore, our words are received, and recycled into thought. Thought energy replenishes the imagination, feeds the soul and touches the heart. As in nature, and universal law, writing is part of the plan. I am inspired by all.
    Thank you Pat and Lazarus for this stimulating topic.

  9. Sue Reifsnider Says:

    God is good all the time. All the time, God is good. He is sending me on one great adventure!

  10. Elaine Cantrell Says:

    Good discussion. I do believe in God, but I don’t know that I’d ever ask my literary angel to get me unstuck. However, I do believe that writing is a part of my destiny.

  11. Malcolm Says:

    It’s nice to think that the universe wants each of us to fulfill the missions we came here to fulfill. For many of us, it’s writing. For others, it might be song or dance. And yet for others, it might be driving a tractor trailer or building houses.

    One meditates, I think, to be in tune with their mission. It’s easy to see an idea and get psyched up about it and then presume that’s our direction. But maybe not. Maybe it’s a hope or an excuse or a way of avoiding what we really ought to be writing. Our higher selves know our true intentions and will keep us on track when we listen to them.

    My two cents.

    Malcolm

  12. Pat Bertram Says:

    Malcolm, That reminds me of something Joseph Campbell said: “Sometimes we must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”


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