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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