Thursday, March 26, 2015

What's the Purpose of Your Story?

Let's face it. There are a lot of stories in the world that are cute, or entertaining, or suspenseful, or even well-written. Yet when we come away from them, we find no "take away" value. Same thing with movies and tv shows. How many times have we consumed stories that are just a standard sweet romance or edge-of-your-seat adventure?

Now, there's nothing wrong with these stories. We can definitely all use some just-plain-old-entertainment movies or books from time to time. Think of how heartwarming Hallmark movies are during the stress of Christmas preparations, for instance. They serve a particular function that I, for one, think can be very valuable.

But many of us-- here on the Alley and our dear Alley friends-- are called to something different. We are called to stories with a purpose. We are called to stories as a ministry.

Photo by nuchylee at
And with that calling comes a great responsibility.

A couple years ago at the ACFW conference, Robin Jones Gunn shared during one of her keynotes that she always prays before she starts a story-- not only that she will catch God's vision for the book(s), but also that her readers would be receptive to what God wants to say to them. Such a simple concept, and yet I found it profoundly challenging.

To pray for readers, in particular, is challenging to me because it presumes there may be readers, and that takes a heart-level investment to do. But let me ask you this. What would happen if we became so intentional about our books that we asked God not only for the right publishing house, or the right agent, or even the right concept/foundation/theme? What if, instead, we prayed for our readership? That God would make their hearts sensitive to His message, and guide our own fingers over the keyboard? That each book would challenge and leave a lasting effect not only on ourselves, but on others? And not for our own interests, either, but for God's?

In that paradigm, something shifts. Stories are no longer bound up in our own interests; they become intertwined with ministry. Readership. Encouragement. God's purpose. And that greater purpose helps carry us through the ups and downs the writing life brings along.

Let me ask you this. When was the last time you ardently sought God for clarity and direction of His calling in your writing life? Are you going about aimlessly, hoping He blesses your efforts? Or are you creating with Him, enjoying the process? Are you praying for your future readers and vision-casting for your stories, or have you lost hope anyone will ever really read them, let alone be challenged by them? It's so easy to become disheartened, especially the longer we write, as a coping mechanism to all the inevitable rejection and criticism we come across. Ask God to renew your vision today, and watch where He leads-- in your stories and in your life.


Ashley Clark writes romance with southern grace. She's dreamed of being a writer ever since the thumbprint-cookie-days of library story hour. Ashley has an M.A. in English and enjoys teaching literature courses at her local university. She's an active member of ACFW and runs their newcomer's loop. When she's not writing, Ashley's usually busy rescuing stray animals and finding charming new towns. You can find Ashley on her personal blog, Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. She is represented by Karen Solem.


kaybee said...

Ashley, this is deep and is going to change the way I look at things.
Kathy Bailey

Krista Phillips said...

LOVE LOVE LOVE! I wholeheartedly agree.

Now, I do think there is a lot of value in an entertaining story. I've always felt compelled to write that story that would, in a way, make someone smile. life is ROUGH sometimes and I totally think there is places for feel-good fiction that helps brighten a day and give a good, happy sigh when life is anything but smile-worthy.

When I was in the hospital with Annabelle, I started reading this book that was super deep and about threw it across the room. I totally could NOT handle that on top of my real-life problems. A writer friend of mine sent me a copy of her to-be-released book, and it was all funny with very little message, but was a balm to my soul and a bit of happy when I needed it most.

Okay, so that said, there is so much wisdom in this Ashley! While I do pray over each of my books and pray while I write it, i KNOW I need to be more intentional about it and do a better job! And praying for my READERS to hear the message... yeah. Profound.

Thank you for sharing!!!!!

Ashley Clark said...

Kathy, I am so glad it encouraged you! Thanks for coming by today!

Ashley Clark said...

Krista, I completely agree! That's why I listed Hallmark movies as a great example-- sometimes you just need a littl escape from life for a while! And I also think the two aren't mutually exclusive-- you can absolutely be called to purposely writing a fun, lighthearted story. It's when we're called to something deeper and get lazy (as I know I often do!) that the problem comes into play.

Krista Phillips said...

YUP!!! Exactly!!!