Monday, 15 May 2017

Faith, Hope and Love, by Mark Anderson Smith

Many of us were born to be writers—that is my belief. Just as some are born to be musicians, or artists, or dancers, we were born to write.

Yet for me, I struggled to believe it was true. I had wanted to be a writer since around aged Eight, when I realised I wanted to be the person writing the stories I was reading.

Wanting to be a writer will never cut it though. You can’t want to be a dancer—you have to get off your seat and dance. You can’t want to be a singer—you have to open your mouth and sing.

It’s no different with writers—if you want to be a poet or novelist or writer of prose, there is no way to achieve that other than to write.

I’ve struggled with self-belief for most of my life. Can I do what I want to do? Should I be writing? Will anyone else think what I write is worth reading?

That lack of belief in myself has held me back, has caused me to give up far too many times. I’ve had several ideas for novels, one that is now over thirty years old and still only ten pages long…

Without a doubt, writing a novel or non-fiction book is a big project when you’ve never done it before. Our best ideas are often far bigger than we are capable of tackling. One reason why so many people start novels and fail to finish them.

Yet, if we persevere with tasks that are beyond us, we often find that we grow into the challenge. We become the people we need to be, to overcome the problems we couldn’t tackle before.

I started my latest novel—Fallen Warriors—back in 2007. It was an incredibly foolish concept for someone who’d never even managed to publish a short story. A story about a group of strangers, drawn together as miraculous events occurred. They say (those mysterious “They”) that new writers should stick to simple plots. That dealing with multi-layered story lines is likely to end in disaster.

Perhaps “They” are right. Seven years into writing Fallen Warriors, I had all but given up on the story several times. Too complicated, too confusing even for me as the writer. Yet what can you do when a burning idea won’t leave you, when it keeps you up late at night?

I had a breakthrough a few years ago when I realised I was being paid to be a writer. That I had been for years and just hadn’t realised. A mid-life crisis a decade before had prompted me to seek God’s guidance. After much searching I decided to try and build a career, something I’d never had. I went back to school. Graduated from college with my first Higher Education certificate and found that writing wasn’t my only passion. I also had a thing for databases. And an undervalued programming language—Visual Basic for Applications (VBA). From 2004 till 2014 I wrote code and created databases using Structured Query Language (also known as SQL.) I built up a decent reputation writing business applications for quite well known organisations.

After one six month project, out of curiosity, I worked out how many words I’d written over the project. By the time I’d reviewed the user guides, technical documentation, SQL queries and VBA code, I realised I’d effectively written the equivalent of a novel…

It was one of those lightbulb moments. I was already getting paid to write. People were not just reading what I wrote, but were interacting with those applications on a daily basis. And those applications were complex. At least as complex as the novel that was still very much on the back burner.

To be sure, a novel is a very different beast to an application or a dry technical manual, but the realisation that I was using writing skills—drafting, brainstorming, creative thinking, editing, formatting—every single day, was empowering.

It took three years from that point to finish Fallen Warriors, but I’m positive that was the point I went from doubt to hope, when my uncertainty over whether I could transformed into belief that I must keep trying.

Quite rightly, we often focus on the emphasis on love in the statement by Paul: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love.” Yet without faith and hope, is there any point to love?

If I do not have faith there is a God that loves me, what use is that love to me? If I do not have hope that my sins are forgiven, how can I trust God will accept me?

Yet, somewhere else it is written, it is God’s very kindness that leads us to repentance. Without God choosing first to love us, would we be able to have faith or hope?

I choose to believe that God created us to hope, to have faith, to believe as well as to love. For some of us that journey is easier than for others. Realising that God calls us to follow him and acting on that is not the end of the struggle. Yet the words of Jesus make it clear that God wants to give good gifts to each of us, gifts to serve others with, even the gift of writing.

I know that I was holding myself back for much of my life, but even when it is us ourselves holding us back, I believe God can work a change in us if we ask, seek and keep knocking on whatever door is in our way.

God has given you a gift, perhaps many gifts... He’s given this gift to you freely for you to choose how to use. I know that as I’ve allowed myself to express the gift of writing, I’ve been blessed. May you know what gifts God has given you and may your eyes be opened to see how you can use them.

About the Author

Mark Anderson Smith is a Scottish author who for ten years lived in York, England—the setting for his Christian thriller: Fallen Warriors (

Mark confesses he had the initial idea for Fallen Warriors while daydreaming through a church service. He longs to see the Church return to the passion and power the early apostles displayed.

He is also the author of The Great Scottish Land Grab (, a contemporary political tale of one man's fight to reverse the Highland Clearances and transform Scotland, first published in 2014.

Married with three children, he works as an IT Consultant in Scotland, developing applications for businesses, databases and reports. Mark is passionate about goals and a few years ago accepted a challenge to write down 100 goals. To date he still hasn't stood on a new planet or learned to fly, but insists there is still time…

Visit his Facebook page:

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  1. Thanks, Mark, for your very honest post. If we are all being equally honest I am sure we have all felt the same at times. Very helpful.

  2. 'Yet, if we persevere with tasks that are beyond us, we often find that we grow into the challenge. We become the people we need to be, to overcome the problems we couldn’t tackle before.' Such wise words! I love the story of how you came to realise you already were a writer through your coding. My husband is a software developer and a musician. He was once a semi-professional musician, but gave it up for a more secure career. As a creative myself, I found it difficult to understand (money issues aside, of course). I asked him how he could give up something creative for something non-creative. He said I was wrong, writing computer programmes was very creative. He said he applies the same principles to it as he does to composing a musical score. And he enjoys it just as much. Well, that was me told!

    1. Thank you, Fiona! There is something wonderful about completing a software development project, the beauty of complex code solving a difficult problem, of seeing a process run in seconds that previously took hours, days or even weeks.

      I still prefer writing fiction, but software has been a Godsend!

  3. Great post - thanks for the encouragement :)

  4. Thank God that you had that light bulb moment, Mark ... for you, and for your readers! Having read Fallen Warriors, I'm eagerly awaiting the follow-up to it. Thank you for sharing your motivation and also your insight into faith, hope and love - that was beautifully put.

    1. Thank you, Agatha! That is really good to know!

  5. Interesting and encouraging piece. On the creativity of writing code, yes, our older son trained as a book designer/typographer and has like Fiona's hubby moved on into software engineering - he keeps a hands-on hobby of traditional printing going now, and has a trad press in his 'kitchen/family room (having no family as yet to fill the space ...)

    1. Thank you, Mari! My father was a printer throughout my childhood. I learned proof-reading as he would read out print while I looked at the original to check it matched! Quite a satisfying trade as you're always producing.