I’ve read so many blog posts on writing that I’m liable to turn into a blog post on writing. No joke.
Now, in all the hours I’ve spent pouring over blog posts on writing, there are a few things that I’ve never seen addressed, and today, I’ve decided to speak to one of them: when writing becomes your idol. Before you “pft” to yourself and stop reading, hear me out.
What do you think of when you hear the word idol?
Personally, I think of some weird looking, little bronze statue, and I think to myself with an indignant sniff, “I have no household gods.” Seriously, an idol—really? Don’t be absurd. Idols are things you literally worship, things you bow to, things you offer sacrifices to, and I don’t worship anything besides God. Trust me, I don’t. *insert nervous laughter* Right?
But I do. Writing used to be one of my idols (it sometimes still is), and I didn’t realize it for a long time, several years in fact. Since the Holy Spirit showed me this has been an area where I sin, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and praying about it, and here is what I’ve found: four signs that writing is your idol and four ways to cut it down.
Sign #1: You think about writing all the time.
Writing consumes your thoughts. You constantly think about how you’re going to plug this plot hole or kill that story thread, if Character X is fleshed out enough, if Character A and Character B should be shipped, if the tension is nail-biting enough, and so forth.
You’re in a constant state of cackling over your darlings and all the “feels”. In the shower. On the drive to work. In the lunch room. During the sermon on Sunday. Right before you fall asleep. While you do dishes. On your morning run (wait, writers run??). When you’re “doing homework”. During family prayer before bed. When you’re making your morning smoothie. In the middle of cleaning the fish bowl.
Nine times out of ten, if someone asked you what you’re thinking about, you’d say it was something writing related.
Sign #2: You invest countless hours into writing-related blogs, books, and advice.
There is something to be said for learning and knowing your craft, but there is a point when this goes too far… like when you’re liable to turn into a blog post on writing, like me.
When you’re studying your craft more than you’re studying God, it’s bad. When you’re more concerned about developing your mad writing skills than you are in developing a deeper love of Christ, it’s bad. You invest the most time and effort in what’s most important to you.
Sign #3: You flip out if something (or someone) infringes on sacred writing time.
You’ve decided that you’re going to write tonight, but then the family decides to go out to eat or invite people over for dinner. The whole evening is shot, and you are mad because you were going to write and now you’ll have to stay up till 2 am to get your writing in.
I fall into this trap often. I was planning on writing one night around 9:30 (I believe it was a Friday). But then my siblings had the audacity to want to hang out. How dare they!? I was going to write, but no, they decided to hang out in my room and actually have a fun time chatting and trying to engage a sullen me. It took a full half an hour for me to cool off and get some perspective. My brother was heading back to college in just a few short weeks, and my sister won’t always live with me.
Yeah, writing is important to me, but when I value it more than my family—family that will very soon be gone for a long time—that’s when there’s a problem, that’s when there’s the sign that it’s getting too important. I value writing, but writing won’t last for eternity. The souls of my siblings will though.
Sign #4: You spend time writing before you’ve spent time in God’s Word.
You haven’t opened your Bible at all today, maybe even not even in three days, but there you go, plopping down at the computer or whipping out the notebook to punch out another daily word count.
Or, you have to be at work at 7:00 am, and so you decide to get up at 5:00 to write for an hour before you get ready to go. You don’t spare a second thought to meeting with God and learning from His Word.
Or, maybe it’s 11:30 pm, and you’re getting ready for some prime writing time because you haven’t been able to write all day, and so this is your chance to get your word count in! But guess what, you also haven’t been able to do a quiet time in Scripture all day either, but writing is what’s important. Oh, and you might fall asleep if you try to do some Bible reading! But somehow you manage to stay up until 3:00 am for a writing marathon.
Before you take this lightly, consider how God has an incredibly intense reaction to idolatry in particular. Yes, He hates all sin, but it was the first of His ten commandments to the Israelites. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” – Exodus 20:3. He said Himself that He is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5). So while you may not have a statue that you make sacrifices to and worship, whatever your idol is, you cannot, I repeat, you cannot take it lightly (you can take a trip down memory lane in the Old Testament to see how He handles it).
I think this quote from J.D. Greear sums it up all up nicely: “When something becomes so important to you that it drives your behavior and commands your emotions, you are worshipping it.”
Cut Down #1: Confession
Just like any other sin, it is so, so important to confess idolatry to God. 1 John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” It’s that simple.
Cut Down #2: Repentance
Repentance means to turn away from one thing and to another thing. In this case, it’s turning away from your writing and to the living God. When you repent, you don’t just continue on as you have, and you don’t just try to “stop” pouring all your thought, affection, and attention into writing. You replace the things that lead you toward sin with things that lead you toward God.
For instance, instead of spending four hours on Pinterest filling up an aesthetic board for your new story (come on, writing peeps—you know four hours is not an exaggeration), you could listen to a sermon. Or, instead of cruising around the internet for blogs on writing, you could spend that time (or some of it) reading Scripture or checking out websites like Desiring God.
Cut Down #3: Write only after you’ve spent time in prayer and Bible study.
Even if you don’t feel like it, even if you’re tired, even if you’re just plain not in the mood to crack open your Bible, do it anyway. I have been in that boat so many times. I’m not in the mood to do a devotion. If my heart’s not in it, why even bother?
But if you and I can push through not wanting to write or not having inspiration but penning 1200 words anyway, we can push through not wanting to spend time with God and do it anyway. And more often than not, even if you had to drag your heart every step of the way, the Holy Spirit will do a beautiful, gracious work and give you fruit in your time with Him.
But why study the Bible before we write? Because it’s a simple act that shows where your affections and worship truly lie
Cut Down #4: Get accountability.
I highly recommend getting accountability. It’s not wise to have another Christian writer as your accountability partner because you both would be struggling with the same thing. When it comes to accountability, you have to find someone who is strong where you’re weak. Now, I know that non-writers don’t usually understand how/why you might be struggling with writing being an idol, but you just have to pray that God will give them enough understanding to help you overcome idolatry.
Let’s put a bookend on this post.
It’s easy to idolize writing when you’re passionate about it. You want to do it well, and so you study and toil and write. The next thing you know, writing has displaced God again. I suffer from this, on a daily level sometimes. I get so caught up in fulfilling my dream that I take my eyes of my God, and then my dream becomes my god.
Writing can and should be an act of worship. We simply must be sure that we’re worshipping the One Who gave us the gift of writing, not the gift itself.