Tuesday, 12 July 2016

The Writer's Identity by Andrew J Chamberlain

Last month I talked about what I’d learnt from a little book called ‘The Person Vocation’ by Father Herbert Alphonso. One important lesson was that each of us finds our identity through who we are, not what we do.
What this means for us as Christians is that we have our identity in Christ, through what He has done for us, and our simple response to Him. What it means for us as writers is something very similar. In the book Fr Alphonso says this:
“Now the level of function, or doing, is bound to enter in to crisis someday…but if in such a crisis I can fall back on my resources of ‘being’…I need have no fear.”
This speaks to the heart of our identity as writers. It’s easy for our worries to overwhelm us when we operate at the level of “doing”. We worry about how others will perceive our work, we worry about whether anyone will buy our books, we worry if we don’t get around to writing for a few days, or weeks.
The act of writing exposes us. We present ourselves to the world, and the world judges us. The process can present us with some probing and difficult questions. Are you really a writer? Will anyone read what you write? If you really are a writer, why haven’t you: finished that book / written a bestseller / built up a fan following?

These questions remind me of the tone used by satan in his temptation of Jesus in the wilderness. Questioning our identity is one of the devil’s tricks, and if we place our identity as writers in what we do and how we perform, then we will fall prey to the kinds of self-doubt that are so easily exposed by hardship, failure, setbacks and difficulties.
But we are not writers by function, or performance; we are writers by being and calling. We are writers by identity.
Therefore we should measure ourselves against God's standards, not the world's or our own. He gives us our identity as a writer. He calls us to write. We don’t prove that we are writers by writing or selling books, we prove we are writers by simply exercising the calling that God gives us.
And for those of us who have this identity, when things are tough we can “fall back on our resources of being” as Father Alphonso says. There will be times when I may not do very well as a writer, but I will still carry on being the writer that God has called us to be. 

Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories. Andrew will be speaking at the ACW event in October, and at the First Page Courses Lakes writing course in November.


  1. This reminds me of the saying, "You are a human being not a human doing." Sue

  2. That was so wise and encouraging. Thank you. When I started to write about 10 years ago, I asked God if he wanted me to be a 'Christian writer' or a writer who is a Christian. I got clear guidance: just start writing and when I'm ready to use you I will. So I did. And now, after several years of learning my craft, he is using me in many ways.