Thursday, October 11, 2007

Guest Blogger Dan Case: Writing, Speaking, and Crocuses

I’ve witnessed a lot of email discussion lately on the topic of writers speaking. It’s fascinating to watch these threads and see the diversity among my fellow word-wranglers. Some approach the idea of public speaking with the fear and trembling; others approach it with the wriggling enthusiasm of a loving family dog greeting his too-long-gone master. Regardless of where you stand on the issue, the reality comes through clearly: if you’re going to write, sooner or later you’ll speak in front of a group. Love it or hate it, it’s a fact of the writing life.

I don't suppose that it comes as a surprise to anyone who's met me that I’m in the “wriggling, enthusiastic dog” category. I love to speak and teach. Believe it or not, I’m actually a bit on the shy, withdrawn side by nature. But put me on a stage in front of an audience, and even if I don’t have anything prepared, I’m raring to go. Who needs notes or scripts? I’ll improvise. I know a few writers who are just like me in that regard, and I know others who are wonderfully gifted writers but would pass out if pushed onto a stage without warning, so scared they’d forget to breathe. And that’s okay. We’re all different, with different gifts and different styles. It’s good to know how you’re wired so you can prepare in the way that works for you.

Like many things in life, speaking has been a seasonal activity for me. A few years ago, I worked for a couple of Christian radio stations in St. Louis and had a bulging calendar of speaking engagements. I changed jobs and moved to Little Rock, and for whatever reason the Lord blocked every attempt I made to rebuild a speaking platform. I can see now that it was a season of being taught rather than teaching, listening rather than speaking. I think that for those of us who love to speak, these dormant seasons of growth can be the toughest seasons of all. I’ve learned the hard way that the only thing worse than not speaking when God gives you the opportunity is trying to speak when He’s called you to a season of silence.

The dormancy of winter is a critical part of the life cycle of a tree. While the tree may appear to be inactive, important things are happening in places we can’t see, things that are necessary, things that prepare the tree to sprout fresh leaves and new growth come springtime. Likewise, periods of dormancy in our writing and speaking lives are normal and necessary. They may seem cold and bleak and endless at times, but without those days and the inner growth that God is accomplishing in us, when the next opportunity appears we’ll have nothing to say. When I’m out of sync with God’s plans for me, it’s amazing how many words I can write or speak without saying anything.

There have been times when I thought that the bleak winter of my writing and speaking life would never end. But on the dreariest days of our dormant seasons, you and I can take comfort in one of the constants of the universe.

Seasons do change.

I’ve seen the signs. Longer, warmer days. Bleak trees once seemingly devoid of life, reaching toward the sun, their dormant buds swelling with hope. I’ve seen my first crocus pop its head through the crusty snow, defying the icy blanket, refusing to be held back another day.

And my first instinct is to jump in and help God get those seasons changed as soon as possible. Yet, the change of season will neither be hurried nor delayed. The seasons will follow no agenda but God’s divine timetable. I think there have been times when He was ready for me to move forward, but I was not. I left him waiting patiently while I did what I wanted to do, too busy with my own vision to catch His. Had I been paying attention, I would have heard Him say “Hey, are you ready? Let’s go!” But I didn’t, and I missed an opportunity.

And so I wait expectantly, watching the God of second, third, and millionth chances sprout fresh leaves on my old, weathered branches. One leaf at a time. And I don’t mind that it’s not happening all at once. I’m learning to enjoy every new leaf in all its intricate and unique detail as I watch His plan unfold before me. His plan for me as a communicator. Not just a speaker or just a writer, but a communicator, melding the two forms. And in that plan are some remarkable surprises.

I've found a deep passion inside my heart for teaching and mentoring other writers, something that surprised me because in a real sense I don't feel qualified. But one thing the Lord taught me at this year’s ACFW conference is that I don't have to be Jim Bell or Deb Raney to reach behind me and help others move ahead. All I have to do is—check out this bit of deep revelation—reach behind me and help others move ahead. Duh!

I don't know exactly what this new season will mean for me, what shape it will take or where its focus will lie. The leaves are still emerging, and I’m finally willing to let them emerge as He sees fit, even if it takes a while. What I know for certain is that the same Lord who made me the way I am will give me everything I need to fulfill his calling. Legendary missionary Hudson Taylor said it best: “God’s work, done God’s way, will never lack God’s supply.”

My biggest problem has always been that “done God’s way” thing. I’ve had times when I felt it necessary to counsel Him on his calendar management, ridiculous though it sounds. But, I think (and hope) that I’ve finally learned to get out of His way and let Him work, to listen and prepare and be ready when He says "Go." His schedule, not mine.

If your writing life is in the midst of winter, take heart. Sit by the fire, next to the Master of your seasons, and let him prepare you for your next steps. Learn. Listen. Look to Him for your source and strength. Pray. Prepare. Pay attention and be ready.

Watch for the first crocus. It’s almost Spring.

Dan Case is a seasoned radio broadcasting professional, published author, and speaker who lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with his wife Sharon and the three cats who employ them. His publishing credits include Marriage Partnership, Christian Single, and several local/regional newspapers and magazines around the country.


When asked if he was an “outside the box” thinker, Dan adamantly refused to acknowledge the existence of the box, much less get inside. You’ll find him online at http://www.dancaseblog.com and http://www.case-studies.com.

2 comments:

Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Dan, great blog. And what a great quote from Hudson Taylor! (Not me, of course) Hope you are doing well. I'm an introvert, but give me a platform and I'll get up in front of an audience and do my thing.

LoveMyStarr said...

Wow! I'm not a writer by profession, but I've had a dream to write locked away for awhile. So, I started a couple of blogs.

A friend sent this post to me. She had no idea that I stayed up way too late last night writing and trying to make since of the dream I have to write and speak.

I feel I'm in a holding period, and I question if this dream is really God's will. And your post was as if God was speaking to me. Thank you.