The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Received

Donald Miller

I’ve a shelf at home devoted to books about writing. I’d say I might even have two shelves devoted to those books now. I’ve read most of them and some are better than others. But the best writing advice I’ve ever received didn’t come from a book. It actually occurred to me one morning when I was lying in bed, not wanting to get up and do my job. Maybe it came from heaven, I don’t know. But the advice was this: Love your reader.

It sounds simple, but it isn’t so easy, actually.

Writing is something most of us do alone. We might collaborate on a screenplay or something, but with a book or a blog, we are alone in front of our computers, tapping out our thoughts. It’s not like the reader is sitting behind us, looking over our shoulder making comments. We’re pretty disconnected from whoever it might be who will ultimately be benefited by our work. For this reason, it’s hard to remember that, well, people will actually be benefited by our work.

Add to this, most writers don’t think there work really matters. I’ve met writers who have sold thousands of books and still don’t think anybody’s life has been changed by their efforts. There’s an enemy whispering in their ear, I think.

I wrote four books and sold millions before I realized I was helping anybody. Sure I knew people were reading my stuff, but I didn’t realize they were making better decisions because we’d sat down for a few hours and I shared my heart.

But these days, that’s about all that’s keeping me going. Just the thought that somebody out there might not leave their spouse, or quit on that book they’re writing, or change their career or find God. In all those books about writing filled with tips and tricks, I think loving the reader is the best motivator I’ve found. And it keeps the quality up, too. We do tend to put our best foot forward when we care about somebody.

So the next time you sit down to write a blog, just remember somebody is going to read it and be encouraged.

 

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller is all about story. He helps people live a better story at creatingyourlifeplan.com and grow their business at storybrand.com. Follow Don on Twitter (@donaldmiller). To read more of his posts on the Storyline Blog, click here.

  • Jerry

    Don,

    A few days after I finished your book, ‘A Thousand Miles in A Million Years’, I was laid off from my long time job. Your book connected the dots of my past…forward.. and I experienced a reawakening of sorts, to what might be deemed important, again. Thanks.

    Welcome, O life, I go to encounter for the millionth time the reality of experience and to forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated conscience of my race. Old father, old artificer, stand me now and ever in good stead.

    —A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

  • http://caseytabitha@gmail.com Tabitha Casey

    I have a friend who is most likely your soulmate. She writes incredible stuff and absolutely loves your writing. She is 36 and incredibly creative and fun. She has never been married and is definitely looking for her soulmate!! She really has an idea that you might be the one but doesn’t know how to get a hold of you. I know this sounds crazy and “legally blondish”, but crazier things have happened to bring two incredible people together. I’d do about anything to help her out – she is a great friend and a true Christian!! Would you even consider responding to me and I could give you her email address to contact? If for nothing else, reading her poems,songs ,plays, etc and giving her some tips would be awesome. Thanks, Tabitha

  • Suesanne

    Love the idea of “Love your reader!” we find ‘love’ to be the greatest motivator for doing good and living well, even in the Bigger story of God, who sent His only Son, Jesus, because he loved ‘me’! ‘love’ is powerful, and for whatever your reasons, love is a ‘great’ motivator!

    Thanks Don! BTW, I keep praying for you young man, and have a strong sense, something a lot bigger than you will take place in your life for God’s glory!

  • beth

    Through Painted Deserts helped make it OK to be me, to think the thoughts and ponder the questions that I do.

    What’s even better is that the book is well-written.

  • Lesley

    Don—

    I’m just now reading this. Thank you. I love this. I needed to hear this.

    I am a writer who doesn’t write. Some years ago, I took my first manuscript draft to a publisher and was encouraged to finish it. I never did. I was afraid, I think. Like the PhD candidate who does all but the dissertation, I came close but never saw it through.

    Not that long ago, a friend asked me why I don’t write. She loves my letters and stories. I said I didn’t see the purpose. In the big cosmos, my voice doesn’t matter much and I prefer to keep my writing something to enjoy between me and God. I also love my day job, which is not as a writer. I think that’s all true but I also think there’s still fear.

    I love what you say about loving your reader. I love what you shared about how it took you 4 books to realize that what you say matters to others and they are helped. I was touched at Christmas when you shared on your blog that your friend gave you a pen because he wanted to support your calling. I know from reading the comments on your blog that your voice matters.

    To me, writing is a solitary thing, private, and other-wordly. But lately, I’ve had quite a few people tell me that they value my voice; that they stopped and thought, re-evaluated, or just enjoyed the beauty around them a bit more because of something I said. I don’t want to be motivated by external validation. But being motivated by love to share is beautiful. That’s something that hits deep. I love the ability to be an encourager. I love the idea that my voice can help someone. I love that writing, though solitary, can foster community. I never thought of it that way until recently and reading your words here helps reaffirm that thought. It’s inspiration to be bold, dust of that manuscript, and see the thing through.

    Thank you, Don, for being generous with your talent, for listening to God, and for sharing your voice.

    – Lesley

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  • http://eyesoftheheart.com J. Michael McDade

    Thanks so much for this post. My heart needed to be reminded why I do what I do this morning. The encourager was encouraged. Thanks Donald. Hope to make it to Storyline this year.

  • http://sandcastlesandsnowforts.blogspot.com/ Vanessa Hancock

    Thanks for that reminder. It still seems strange to me when people say they have enjoyed something I’ve written. It’s true, you’ll never know what lives you’ve touched this side of Heaven. Thank you for your continual obedience in your writing.

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