When You’re Afraid to Write the Wrong Thing

By Randy Petersen

I have no words. For a writer, that’s a strange place to be. Maybe you’re feeling something similar.

This is no “writer’s block.” We know all about those cerebral deserts. Channel some bad Hemingway, laugh about it, and you can usually write your way out.

But there’s no laughing now. Just a deep sadness over injustice. Frustration that we have not changed things more. Despair over the human condition—fighting injustice with more injustice. Fear that I’ll write the wrong thing.

I cling to the belief that there is power in a word fitly spoken, or written. The pen should be mightier than the sword, shouldn’t it? But right now I’ve got nothing.

Except for you, my comrades in communication. Except for this.

Do justice.
Love mercy.
Walk humbly with your God.

A prophet gathered all of God’s requirements into this triptych (Micah 6:8), and it matches the current crisis well.

Let’s start with humility. If only everybody would think as I think, we wouldn’t have these problems! Oops. When we start directing traffic, we’ll get run over.

Mercy is a huge word it takes a lifetime to understand and even longer to practice. Let me suggest that it operates best on a small scale, in your personal relationships. How can we invest our lives in the people we know, people who are just as imperfect as we are?

And in this time we’re all being confronted with matters of justice. This quickly gets into societal structures and systemic issues. Are we, intentionally or not, abetting injustice? What can we do about that?

We writers will not change the world, except when we do. We can carry on the work we’ve always done—nudging hearts, shining the light on truth, suggesting redemptive scenarios people might not have imagined yet. We’re just wordsmiths, and yet language might be the lever that budges the planet into a different orbit.

Listen to the Holy Spirit’s whispers. Invest in relationships. Investigate injustice, even if you don’t like what you find. And keep writing.

Randy Petersen is the former Director of Scripture Engagement Content for American Bible Society, and he is a writer/editor/consultant with more than sixty books to his credit. Learn more at randypetersen.com.

Published with permission from the Christian Freelance Writers Network.

Posted Sept. 14, 2020