Confidential for writers: What is the Point?

Remain in me, and I will remain in you. A branch can’t produce fruit by itself, but must remain in the vine. Likewise, you can’t produce fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, then you will produce much fruit. Without me, you can’t do anything. 

John 15:4-5
– writer Derek Maul

Once in a while, and especially when I get in a slump, I find it useful to think about the “why” of my writing. Being “a writer” is an important part of how I identify, so it makes sense for me to dig around once in a while and remind myself of who I am.

It’s really another version of the social exercise of “describe yourself in a couple of sentences,” or (and I really enjoy this when strangers are thrown together at a retreat or a seminar) pairing off, talking for a few minutes, and then being tasked with introducing the other person to the group.

Here goes:

I know myself as a child of God, someone who is exploring life and faith through the lens of the Christian tradition, committed to engaging This Great Adventure with energy, curiosity, imagination, and wonder. I am marked and still being shaped by my sixty-six amazing years as a human, forty-three years as a partner with Rebekah, forty years as a parent, and eleven years as a grandparent. Professionally, I am a writer, a teacher, a communicator, and a consultant. I believe I exist because of the will and the purpose of God, and that reality frames not only this paragraph but the entirety of my life.

When I write, I feel His pleasure:

Now I have articulated – in a nutshell – who I am, I can do a better job of understanding “why” it is that I write. First, I write because expressing myself in this way is essential to who I am.

Remember the 1981 movie “Chariots of Fire”? Runner Eric Liddell (a deeply committed Christian who went to China as a missionary) responded to criticism from people who felt that running was frivolous and a distraction from faith. “I believe God made me for a purpose,” Liddell said, “but He also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

– movie still from “Chariots of Fire”

I understand exactly what Liddell was talking about. When I write I feel the life of God run through my mind and my heart, and out through my fingers onto the keyboard. I believe God made me for a purpose, but God also gave me the gift of words. When I write I feel His pleasure.

Then, and because of the first answer, I write because I feel compelled to share the irrepressible truth and life that comes from following Jesus. The word “evangelism” has a lot of negative baggage attached nowadays, but my understanding is simply this: When I am so filled with life and light and love then the truth of it cannot help but spill over and get loose.

I write, then, because this is how some of the light spills over and gets loose.

So What?

Rebekah’s trademark transition in many sermons has always been asking the (rhetorical) question “So what?” Well, the so what of the last few paragraphs is the simple fact that I should have no difficulty in writing so long as I am, first, attending to the critically important discipline of nurturing my relationship to/with God.

Note the framing of the third paragraph in my opening.

It makes no sense to sit at my computer attempting to grind out content when what I need to be doing is attending to my primary relationship.

“Without me,” Jesus points out, “you can’t do anything.” Well, nothing of any substance.

Writer, teacher, communicator, photographer, fellow-traveller, child of God – DEREK


  1. Tour “Describe Yourself” makes me want to write something like that for myself. Its been a long time since I’ve written that kind of thing down and life has change me so much since that last time I can remember. Thanks for the reminder. Another bookmarked Derek blog.

    Liked by 1 person

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