on helping new writers

I recently posted the following on the group discussion of writers who are represented by my literary agent, Janet Grant. I thought you’d like to “eavesdrop” on some thoughts:

As a writer, I’ve felt (because people told me so) that it was my
obligation to help people who wanted to write. I went through a
period of time where I was trying to help several people who, though
they had a desire to write (as evidenced by several bulky
manuscripts), nonetheless weren’t writers. And they never will be–
they were not willing to pay the price (financial for classes nor the
intangible prices one pays to learn to write and revise.) They just
wanted me to “fix” their aimless prose. For free. And meanwhile, the
books or articles or poems I could have been writing went unwritten. . .

What did I learn from that experience? First of all, I’m not equipped
to teach writing. I’m no good at it! Second of all, I was spending
the time God gave me on earth to write the things that only I can
write, trying to give advice to people who weren’t willing to take
that advice. Hard advice — like, pay for and complete writing
courses, and be willing to work on projects for months and years
before getting published.

I know my limitations now. And one of the great battles published
Christian writers face is the pandemic impression that since what we
do doesn’t cost us anything, so we should be willing to not only give
it away, but also fix other people’s writing so that they can become
rich and famous. (Like we are all rich and famous from Christian
books, right? Ha!)

I wholeheartedly salute and admire those of you who can and do mentor
other writers. I think that’s wonderful. But if our gift and calling from God is writing first and foremost, we must be true to that calling.

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