Monday, October 1, 2012

The Catalyst of Your Story

Why do you write?

Are your stories really that important? They're just fiction, right?

Who do you write for anyway? Seems a self-centered task when you get so much joy out of writing stories from your head. Are you really writing for God...or are you just writing for you?

You may never get published...isn't it a waste of time?

I ask myself these questions often. And when I do, I tiptoe along the edge of doubt, scared that I will fall into a realization that this dream is simply a fabrication of my heart--an exciting way to convince myself that I am doing something bigger with my life than vacuuming and cooking dinner.

Up until last week, I fumbled in the dark, searching for light on God's truth in my calling. I struggled to commit to the hoped-for answers to the above questions.
On Flickr by Leucippus

      And then...
I discovered that writing really isn't my calling after all.

I sat in a workshop, exhausted from networking, trying to ignore the what-ifs of a writer's conference, and listened to a vibrant Karen Ball pour forth her wisdom:

There is one calling in life: "To reflect Christ to a broken world. "

 And a writer's task is to fulfill that calling by writing.

Wow. This really takes the writing and puts it in it's rightful a means to get to Christ.

With this humbling perspective on our craft, literary agent, Karen Ball, facilitated discussion with one question more eloquent than the ones I pondered above....

What's your catalyst?

She opened the mic to the many authors in the room, and I heard fabulous stories about their catalysts which spurred their stories. I searched myself, allowing Karen's explanation to scare away the darkness of not knowing, and welcoming a wash of light in my very core.

She had explained that a Christian writer's catalyst is nothing less than God-inspired. That at the very core of Christian writers who have been given the task to write to fulfill our Great Calling, is God using a story that is uniquely their own. If God is at your core, then His whisper is your catalyst for your stories. You cannot simply walk away from that, but you must be a good steward of your passion initiated by God...AND WRITE!
On Flickr by ErinKPhoto

Tears poured down my face when the wash of light became a bright shine in my core, revealing my very catalyst for writing.

Ok. I'll share.

 Having grown up in a rich cultural heritage, one that can be all-consuming, defining not only my favorite foods and precious traditions, but also defining God within the realm of the culture, I finally had to break free and find God outside of the cultural box. A process over several years of searching and heart-ache and self-discovery.

And you know what? Every single one of my stories--no matter if they are set in Texas or Utah, the Amazon or Germany--illustrate a culture and a piercing through the boundaries of that culture with a universal truth about God.

My catalyst is finding God regardless of culture or man-made boundaries. I always knew I wrote about cultures for a reason, and I attributed it to my involvement in women's ministry and outreach. But I didn't realize it went further than that. I hadn't made it personal, until Karen made me search for it.

God has been inspiring specific stories based uniquely on me, without my knowledge of His reason, until now. How uniquely Him to work without my understanding, right?

The definition of catalyst is: In Chemistry, a substance that causes or accelerates a chemical reaction without itself being affected. (from

Think of the Holy Spirit as that substance...He is never affected, never changing...but causes or accelerates a reaction in the spirit of man.

On Flickr by Velo Steve
God is working through us, to gain reaction. God is breathing His everlasting, never- changing truth in our stories to cause a spiritual reaction in the reader...or even in ourselves. He stirs up passion within us, that accelerates our stories to reflect Christ to a broken world...our very calling.

In the workshop, we also focused on that passion which comes from our catalyst. Karen spurred on conversation among the group, and came up with these points:

  • Passion to write should never come before our Family and Scripture. 

  • Be leery of things that kill passion: Shame, expectations, guilt, worry, fear, busyness, discouragement (and stay in the Scriptures to combat these things!)

  • Nurture that passion to grow in a God-ordained way: Spend time with like-minded people, read, get away from writing when you need to, worship.

Search yourself. Discover your own catalyst. Seek the very reason God has accelerated your story to change lives of those around you. And kindle that passion. God can use your writing in many ways: before, during, and after publishing. He may choose to use it to reach a large readership, or put it in front of an editor who might need your words to cross their desk--an example pointed out by Karen. There are endless ways God will use your words.

 Above all else, know that the very reason you formed those words in the first place is for Him. 

So. What's your catalyst?
Angie Dicken first began writing fiction as a creative outlet during the monotonous days of diapers and temper tantrums. She is passionate to impress God's love on women regardless of their background or belief. This desire serves as a catalyst for Angie's fiction, which weaves salvation and grace themes across cultures. She is an ACFW member and CEO of a family of six.



Karen @ a house full of sunshine said...

I soooooooo needed to read that, Angie. Thank you!!! So much meat in this to chew over. I love the central premise, that our job is to reflect Christ to a broken world. My catalyst is reaching the lost. I have such a hunger for that. But I've often let myself get waylaid by those things Karen listed. I'm challenged and encouraged.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Angie, that was beautifully written, with such wisdom and truths to make us think. I love it!

writingsofrosie said...

Really needed this post! Thanks, Angie. :)

Anonymous said...

I didn't attend this year instead I took that time to search myself and seek God for the purpose in why I write. (This post is very timely.)

In the end, He brought me back around to what I've known all along but had let distractions (etc.) cloud and crowd my view.

We all need this reminder - thank you for saying it in such a way that it reaches deep into those hidden places where doubt is rooted.

Pepper said...

I'm sitting here in awe at the revelation of the post.

I'm trying to figure out what my catalyst is.
Probably - finding healing through the grace of God.
All of my books deal with people who are trying to heal from deep wounds, and God's grace is the only balm of complete healing.

Wow...never thought about it before

Joanne Sher said...

Just WOW, Angie. Goosebumps.
Like everyone else (in the world - seriously!), I needed this. Pondering right now.

Anonymous said...

Angie--fabulous. You've got my Monday-fuzzy brain thinking. In an initial answer to your question, I would say my catalyst is to encourage women in difficult life situations and marriages to trust God with them. Does that make sense?

Thanks for sharing a piece of your heart here today!

Cindy R. Wilson said...

Cool post, Angie! I write romantic comedy, so a lot of it is to entertain but I write also to show new Christians or even non-Christians that Christians are real people, too. They go through real life challenges and have real-life thoughts, and yet they have a center point to rest those troubles.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Enjoyed this post! Part of that mission is figuring out the genre that's the best vehicle for our message. Even if it's comedy, like Cindy said above. But I do think you can search your books and find a uniting theme. For me, it's love AFTER marriage--married romance, if you will. (Which isn't categorized in the CBA as romance at ALL! AGH!)

Angie Dicken said...

Hey Karen! I love how you said you "have a hunger" for your catalyst...that is such a great way to describe that passion in us. It reveals our need for Someone to satiate us, and God is doing that for you, through your words.

Angie Dicken said...

Thanks Sherrinda and Rosie! Hope you have a great Monday!

Angie Dicken said...

B.B.- I am always at awe at God's timing...glad the post met you where you are. Hope that doubt shrivels away and gives you room to shine!

Angie Dicken said...

Pepper- I can totally see that as your could go further and say that your catalyst shows the fallibility of people and their ability to inflict emotional wounds, and the awesome perfection of God as the might healer. It seems that close relationships of the past have a lot to do with the unveiling of spiritual truths.

Angie Dicken said...

Joanne- Thanks! Glad this post reached you. :)

Angie Dicken said...

Jeanne- After hearing your pitch for your story, I can totally see that! Do you have other stories in the works, that have the same theme?

Angie Dicken said...

Cindy-- Sounds like a great catalyst! I love the term "center point" anchors your entertaining stories with a deeper spiritual thread! :)

Angie Dicken said...

Heather- isn't that funny...seems to me that the bigger difficulty is continuing romance in marriage...a great conflict for a story!

Ashley Clark said...

Angie, this post brought tears to my eyes! What an inspired post, something that all of us need to read. I am so glad you had this experience at the conference! I think finding our catalyst is so important because when distractions come, we need something bigger than those distractions to keep us going. Love what you said about passion killers. How often do I get a great creative idea, then allow it to be smothered by fear, negativity, etc.?

Angie Dicken said...

Ash- Those distractions can consume us, can't they? You know I battle them often!

Unknown said...

Thank you for this, Angie. How timely! It is where I am with my writing...questioning God's will in it all. God Bless.

Keli Gwyn said...

I heard great things about Karen's workshop. What a powerful message she had to share, one that can speak to the hearts of all writers of Christian fiction. I love hearing how the Lord used Karen's words to minister to you--and I love how you've used yours today to minister to many of us. Thanks!

Angie Dicken said...

Susan- glad that this spoke to you. Hope that you stand firm in God's will for your writing!

Keli- Karen is an amazing lady! Glad that this ministered to some of you!

Pepper said...

Thanks for that comment. It meant a lot to me.

Amy Leigh Simpson said...

Ang, Great post and wonderfully wise encouragement! Whenever I start to get frustrated in my writing I have to take a step back and remember the purpose of it all. It's not about me or even about my story really. It's about God, His grace that is so often underestimated, and His love that is infinitely powerful and life-altering. When I remember that, it all falls back into place. Yes, we hope our words reach and impact others, but in all honesty, we have an audience of one. :) Thanks for the reminder!

PS... I blogged about you :)

Ruth Douthitt said...

Sounds like a great workshop!

It can be discouraging at times, this writing journey.

Thanks for the reminders to never let writing take precedence over family and time with the Lord. Amen!

My catalyst was my son. I wanted to write a story that would inspire him. I distinctly remember when the Lord took over the story.

Ironically, my son is now 17 and has never read my book, but many kids have read it and enjoy it.

So, I praise the Lord that He is glorified in my story.

Unknown said...

Like all the other commenters - thank you. A very timely reminder of where our focus should be.

I was discussing my own frustrations and having a moment of doubt with a writing friend on Monday, until she started pointing out some of the themes in my fantasy WIP: redemption after making a big mistake; being stuck between two cultures; being focussed on worldly goals.

I suddenly realised how much God is in my writing.

Angie Dicken said...

So true, Amy! God is the reason for all we do! If it doesn't point to Him then what's the point? Loved your post by the way! :)

Angie Dicken said...

Ruth- What a blessing that your son is your catalyst! I am so glad that your story has already begun to bless the lives of our youth!

Angie Dicken said...

Raewyn- It's a little breath-taking to discover God's fingerprints in our writing, isn't it? So glad you have a friend that has helped you see them along the way!

Anonymous said...

Angie, loved what you wrote! Thanks so much for the kind comments about my workshop, but more than that, thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom with us!

Blessings to you.

Karen Ball

Steve said...

One word.

The Steve Laube Agency

Angie Dicken said...

Thank you so much for stopping by. You are such an inspiration. I am so glad I was able to attend your workshop! Can't wait until next year!!

Angie Dicken said...

I really appreciate your kind word(s). :) You have given me so much direction in the writing industry through your website, as well as listening to you speak at ACFW over the past couple of years. Thank you so much for your comment.