Martin Luther is famously quoted as saying, “If you would change the world, pick up your pen and write.” The German reformer even brashly said one day, “I simply taught, preached, wrote God's Word: otherwise I did nothing. And then, while I slept . . . the Word so greatly weakened the papacy.” The battles of the reformation were fought not on the plain with shield and sword but in the study with the paper and pen.
With the pen, men throughout the centuries have been able to express their imagination, reflect on their lives, and had their thoughts endure. For this reason the pen has outlived the advances of warfare. The sling, the scythe and the sword have all been surpassed. But the pen has endured.
Oliver Cromwell: A Contemporary of Luther's
In contrast to the success of Luther’s writing ministry consider the reform attempted by the English Protestants under Oliver Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell was a second generation reformer who led the protestant parliamentary forces in the English Civil War. After signing off the execution of Charles I, the king of England, he was invited to become Lord Protector of England. Cromwell and his puritan advisors leveraged this opportunity to bring puritan reforms to the Church of England.
Cromwell’s reforms were short-lived. He died five years after gaining victory in the civil war, leaving the protectorate under the control of his less competent son, Richard Cromwell. By 1660, just ten years after Cromwell had begun reforming England, the protectorate was dissolved and Charles II ascended to the throne over the British Isles. Charles did not share his vision for England religiously or socially. The reforms brought to the English church were abandoned. A small comparison of Cromwell and Reformers, like Luther, who fought with a pen, hints at the mighty power ink possesses.
Ink and the Inklings
Switching time periods. Let's look at the power of the pen in the life of C.S. Lewis.The pen enables the versatile expression of an author’s imagination. The songwriter uses the pen to develop rhythm and rhyme. The novelist uses the pen to create characters and stories that move the soul.
C.S. Lewis has said, “You can make anything by writing.” He is right. Stories shape a culture. Lewis’ Narnia has captivated the hearts of children on both shores of the Atlantic. In capturing their hearts, with talking animals and a curious lamppost, he has shaped their hearts. JRR Tolkien is another man whose life was spent writing. In “The Lord of the Rings” he uses Frodo and Sam to shape our idea of true friendship. We learn to cherish courageous adventure by the admonition of Gandalf, “It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Not all of us will be like Luther or Lewis. Our words may not endure generations or centuries, but they still contain power. So whether it is for your personal benefit or the benefit of an audience, may your grow in your personal writing endeavors.
Here’s 5 tips to start writing for your own personal gain:
1. Start Small: The marathon runner begins training in small intervals. Set your sights on a small project like a short story or personal blog before attempting to tackle your first three part novel series.
2. Get Away: Writing is the flow of ideas from your mind onto paper. Limit distractions by finding somewhere quiet and secret to write. Escape to a small-town café or create a secret spot in a corner of your bedroom.
3. Invest in longevity: Your pen and paper are necessities without which you cannot write, but they also affect the longevity of your writing. Invest in a quality pen and some acid-free paper so that your writings will be preserved.
4. Organization: Be intentional before you write to organize and clarify your thoughts, so that when you write you transcend mediocrity. With any skill, spontaneity only comes with discipline.
5. Share your Work: We write for ourselves at first; but life is a community project. Share your thoughts with others. Let them hear the things you are passionate about, along with the ideas that you bring to the table. Allow them to enjoy your writing by forwarding them one of your writing projects or publishing a blog.