The Unspectacular Holy Work of Writing {Christianity and creativity series}

Whenever Ed Cyzeswki talks about creativity, I listen up. His short book on creativity played a key part in shaping my thinking on creativity and Christianity, and at £0.77 is well worth investing in. He studied to be a pastor and is now a writer, and the author of several books. It’s great to have him here:

When I didn’t know what to do for a career, I tried becoming a pastor.

As virtuous as that career choice sounded at the time, I can only describe the personal struggles that followed as “shutting down.” I struggled with my confidence, I couldn’t share my faith, and I worried about the future.

While working at a church, I tried to attend conferences and to talk about ministry with pastors, but nothing ever felt right. I felt like a complete imposter. I kept trying to push through.

When we moved to Vermont and I left my church job, I spent two years floundering before I began to finally entertain an idea: “What if I’m not cut out to be a pastor?”

Left with no other identity for myself, I began asking God some hard questions like this: “What now?”

Like most Christians, I believed God had given me gifts that he could use. My problem was that I had pastoral gifts, but I didn’t fit into leadership or pastoral ministry in any way.

Left with only a blog and a book deal in the works, I began to entertain the possibility that I could be a writer. I even attended a small writing conference in Vermont.

While chatting among a room full of writers and wanna-be writers who hadn’t yet made the commitment, I found everything I’d been looking for: an identity that displaced all of my fear and insecurity.

I started to believe that God may actually have a calling on my life to write.

It wasn’t that I had doubts about my ability to write. I just flat out never considered it. When you grow up in the Christian subculture where a man’s ability to provide for his family is what makes him desirable, you just can’t consider a topsy turvy career as a writer.

And so in my late twenties, I finally started to believe that God had called me to write.

While writers are always insecure about their writing, I stopped feeling out of place. I knew that I belonged as a creative writer. I could talk about my craft with other writers, knowing that we fought the same demons and channeled the same angels.

When I write, I can sense that I’m doing the one thing I was made to do. Whether I’ve searched high and low for words to jostle into each sentence fragment or I’m tapping out 1,000 words in an hour, I often feel the affirmation of God in my writing.

Once I ran out of options for a career, I started to believe that God made me to do the one thing I wouldn’t even let myself consider. Dead ends have a way of pointing us to God.

Some days my writing work doesn’t feel all that holy. I’m just cranking out a pile of blog posts for a client. Other days I’m writing about some of the most pressing questions I hear from Christians, and I can sense the joy of God.

I don’t see writing or creative work as something that is always consciously done as worship. The worship of writing is quite different from the worship I do on Sundays. Once I accepted that my creative abilities have been given as a gift from God, the best thing I can do during the work day is to use them well.

Without overselling the joy or underestimating the drudgery, writing is the plot of land that God has sent me to cultivate.

I have frustrating days.

I hit walls.

I wonder if I’ll think of something clever to write.

A calling from God sends us into more conflict, not less.

God doesn’t promise us smooth sailing as disciples, and that has been especially true as a creative writer.

Some days I enjoy the hard work of creating, but the difference for me doesn’t necessarily come from the process. Any job you do will be hard work, breaking up hard soil and hauling out the unyielding rocks.

A bad day as a writer does not negate my calling.

The difference for my creative calling comes from the joy that follows a day of hauling rocks and breaking up soil. It doesn’t feel endless or useless. There is delight in creating clarity for a client or communicating important ideas in one of my books.

We all have to break soil and haul rocks, and I’ve found that my creative calling as a writer is where I feel called to break up soil and haul rocks. Some days the work is enjoyable, but the results are often where I find the greatest difference.

A good day of writing sends me back to God, thanking him for his calling on my life and for helping me find it and use it.

I don’t believe that God owes us joy or personal fulfillment. However, God has clearly gifted us with special talents and skills that bring fulfillment and lead us to worship when we use them. This joy is not easily won, and that is part of the delight.

Ed cyzewskiEd Cyzewski is the author of Coffeehouse Theology: Reflecting on God in Everyday LifeCreating Space: The Case for Everyday Creativity and several forthcoming books, including: Unfollowers: The Doubters, Detractors, and Dropouts Who Didn’t Follow Jesus (with Derek Cooper) and The Good News of Revelation (with LarryHelyer).

He blogs at and is the co-founder of the Renew & Refine Retreat for Writers, and he’s on Twitter at @edcyzewski and Facebook at

Over to you:

  • Have you ever felt like you were strongly called to something, that something just ‘fit’ you?

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7 Responses to The Unspectacular Holy Work of Writing {Christianity and creativity series}

  1. Herm 17th July, 2013 at 3:44 pm #

    Thank you Tanya for sharing Ed! Ed, you know me, I can’t write and He, also, made it clear He did not want me to witness for Him via the restrictive profession of clergy. I can fake prose and deliver a passable sermon but in each application I remain an amateur.

    God, since I was 17, has opened and closed doors as we have openly conversed for 52 years now. When He opens a door I tend to stumble first when sucked in by the vacuum and when He closes a door I very often bang my nose as it slams in my face. There’s been a lot of doors graced me in my short tenure on this Earth.

    We are all creative as that is the first door Man came through in His image. My productive creative struggle has been applied to three sciences; physical, social and spiritual. Open doors have allowed me to become an experienced and trained troubleshooter in all three and I can with confidence lead out to fix anything with God’s oversight … I still can’t write.

    Talk about conflict, how am I to honor my parents and hate them or love my neighbor as myself and at the very same time hate myself to follow Jesus? There isn’t one of my professional clergy neighbors who were free to fix that troubling biblical paradox when asked. God has managed to ease my conflict aided considerably by your writing skills living in His creative image and relationship. Thank you Tanya and Ed.

    There you have it, as you can see I still can’t write … yet. Maybe, by the end of eternity, you think?

  2. Stephanie 17th July, 2013 at 4:20 am #

    This was timely. Our oldest son just graduated from high school with high SAT scores, lots of open doors, and a lot of pressure from the outside world to go ‘make something of himself’. The thing is, he doesn’t see himself doing any of the things young men with his particular skills and abilities are told they should do. He has the heart and passion of a writer, but also didn’t consider it as an option. His Dad and I have encouraged him to explore that drive and pray that he will find the way that is right for him. Thank you for sharing your experience.

    • ed cyzewski 17th July, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      I’m so glad you’re encouraging him to be open to this path. Freelancing doesn’t have to be quite so hard if he gets some training in copywriting or corporate writing that can help pay the bills while he figures out the direction he wants to pursue for his creative work.

  3. David Lamb 16th July, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    A helpful post. I’m struggling right now working on two books, slowly, not meeting my goals, easily distracted, but still trying to push on and be faithful. The co-author of Ed’s new book on Unfollowers, Derek Cooper, is a colleague here at Biblical. In fact his office is underneath mine. Thanks.

    • ed cyzewski 17th July, 2013 at 1:05 pm #

      I’ve certainly been there David. The hard part is that many of the “distractions” are good things. I’m looking forward to your next books. God Behaving Badly was a great, thought-provoking book.

  4. Amy Young 16th July, 2013 at 5:28 pm #

    “A calling from God sends us into more conflict, not less.” I forget that the conflict is as likely to be internal as external. Thanks for the reminder Ed (and Tanya!)

    • ed cyzewski 17th July, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

      It will certainly be in your head and in your inbox. Although you certainly know what the external conflict of writing can look like! Ha!

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