the one big reason I want to quit writing

You cannot possibly know how many times in the past few months that I have wanted to quit writing. Keep the social, scrap the media. You would think it’s because of the critics. Being a woman who still has good girl flesh lingering within me, the idea that people could tear me to shreds at any moment has been uncomfortable, to an extent.

The critics still linger and it’s true, we still don’t always see eye to eye. Obviously. But I have made peace with the threat of them in my head. That’s where most of them live, anyway. The idea of critics isn’t enough to make me want to quit.

Another reason why I have (in the past) thought about quitting is because of the fear. What if I have nothing new to say? What if I look like a fool? What if my teeth fall out? In many ways, I learned to counter that voice last year by focusing on making art – not the kind that hangs in museums, but the kind that comes from brave hands in the midst of the messy living. So fear isn’t enough to make me want quit.

You would perhaps think that the reasons that would drive me to want to put it all away and never look back would be because of something dark and ominous. But the fruit in the garden was, I’m sure, a most lovely shade of red. No, the longing to walk away and daydream about setting my laptop on fire did not come because of the critics or because of the fear.

The number one reason I have been tempted to quit writing is because sometimes I’m afraid I love it too much. Love makes people do crazy things.

What has remained after releasing one book and writing a second is a deep and abiding love for writing. I believe God has made me to worship him this way. I believe God created the world with words alone and he creates with words still, through us. But what if I start to worship the created thing rather than the Creator? What if my art-making starts to be a little too much big-brave and not enough small-dependence?

And so there has been this part of me that has been tempted to turn the writing all the way to zero so I won’t be held responsible for it. I have feared if I go all in, I will love it more than God or family or anything. That I will so desire this time and space for writing that I will forsake all in search of it.

In all the talk of making art, of being brave, of living full, there has been an invisible understanding within me how capable I am of making the writing an idol.

Sometimes it feels like a longing so deep that the only way to keep it from ruining my life is to kill it. One week after Easter, I’m beginning to think that is exactly true.

But if I were to shut it all down and kill it myself, that’s saying Christ’s sacrifice may have been enough to reconcile the world to himself, but it was not possibly sufficient to free me from hoarding my time to write. It feels more natural to come to him with shaky knees and broken hands while acknowledging my disappointments. But what of those things I love? Was his death not sufficient for even these? It’s easier to release my fear into the hands of God than it is to release my loves.

Christ died for my obsessions. Love makes God do crazy things.

If it’s true that Christ died and I died with him, then all that I am is now hidden within him. This writing is a gift, one I am not entitled to. And as I surrender it to him, as I surrender myself, it’s his job to spin me back out into the world the way he sees fit. And for now, he has handed the writing back to me in spite of myself.

I am not saying we should feel guilty for those things we love to do. If you think I’m saying that, perhaps you’re new around here. Instead, I’m saying we are free. And sometimes I need to remember that I’m not only free from the critics and the fear, but I’m free from being entangled by those things I love. I am free to express and to write and to love it without fear that I will wreck it all up with loving it too much.

Is there a thing you worry you might love too much?


  1. says

    Because of the struggle with infertility for years when we were finally blessed with our first baby, I had that fear. And every baby since then (including a grandbaby) has sparked the question again, “Do I love them more than God?” The answer is no. I love the creator. He’s the cause of the blessing in the first place. I love your honesty, Emily. You’re brave and dependent at the same time.

  2. says

    I really needed to read this today as I too have been struggling with wanting to just quit. I haven’t thought it through like you did in this post and you have helped me very much. Thank you for your honest sharing.

  3. says

    The great thing about God is that He is the Good Shepherd and we can trust Him to correct our path even when we are dangerously close to letting something become an idol to our heart. I find I am too often over-evaluating my actions, my motives…well, pretty much EVERYTHING…and He almost daily has to remind me to relax and rest in His shepherding care.

    I can definitely relate to the fear. I’m just getting rolling on this writing expression of what He has/is teaching me. I’m trusting the Shepherd there for protection; I certainly can’t protect myself! And for the guidance as to where and when and how to proceed.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post. I am new to your blog and feel I have found a kindred spirit!

  4. Michelle says

    “I am free to express and to write and to love it without fear that I will wreck it all up with loving it too much.”

    I didn’t even know that I needed to hear that. And I still don’t know what that means for me, but it’s working on me. Thank you.

  5. says

    I didn’t think you were going to say that Emily. It took my breath away a little because it is so true of me. I slip so easily into making idols of the things I love. It is this dying to self and the giving it back. Thank you for so honestly sharing your heart and in the process finding that we are not alone.

  6. says

    This is so good. I’ve wanted to quit writing for all of these reasons, but I didn’t realize it could be because I love it too much. Because of His love, I’m hid in Him. I am free. It’s all about Him. Thanks! Love, Traci

  7. says

    Sometimes I feel that way about writing, designing, drawing and reading. Once I go down that creative path, it takes up so much of my brain. I also feel that way about my kids sometimes. It’s hard not to love too much, if there is such a thing. You have no idea how many times I come back to the message of your book, Emily. The good girl stuff is a daily struggle. And, I agree, you do worship the Creator with your wonderful words.

  8. says

    When I’m having a good creative day, ideas and writing energize me so much that I’ve wondered the same thing. I remember an exercise we did at prayer retreat – we wrote down our personal gifts and prayerfully gave them back to the Lord by laying them at the feet of the cross.

    When our hearts beat faster and we feel more alive, I think the Lord is smiling with us and encouraging us to go on…

    • says

      I agree, Deanna. As I started getting certified in strengths coaching w/Gallup, they asked a question that stopped me short. After “where do you live your strengths?” and “with whom do you live your strengths?” they asked “how do you live your strengths with God?” WITH God, not only FOR Him. How amazing that as we step out into the raging sea of exhilaration in doing what we’re good at (that we could just as easily drown in!) He is exhilarated with us. He’s beaming that we’re being who He made us to be and that when we really let ourselves do it – it pushes us into synch with His heartbeat. We can’t sustain it otherwise! What an amazing God we serve!!

  9. says

    I love good stuff. The marriage and love I share with my husband. The gifts God has given me in my family, my daughters, my friends, my home. And, yes, I go through phases when I worry that I love them more. I love the comfort, the love, the homey-ness of where I live. And then I wonder what if God were to rip it all away from me right now. Because — well, what if it’s all just too good? I hate admitting this, because in all truth I don’t want to love or trust in or hope in ANYthing more than God. He alone is the Giver of good gifts. But as I admit it, to Him especially, I always find that He already knew my fears and I remember that what He gives is ALWAYS better than what He might take away. It’s a regular processing for me, can you tell? :) Thanks for your thoughts, Emily. Truly.

  10. Melody says

    I just needed to hear that I am not alone. Not alone in giving into the voices to just give up, give up on the calling, the art, the love. Thank you. With brave hands I will show up again…for the gift to co-create WITH Presence.

  11. Kerry says

    oh my! you could substitute “friends/relationships” for “writing,” in your post, and it totally sums up how i feel and what i am afraid of lately. i have spent a lot of years feeling so little deep love towards my family and friends (long story), all the while asking God to please do something about it. And He’s answered my prayers…but it scares me! i am so afraid of loving them more than i “should”…i want healthy relationships…and i so do NOT want to worship the created over the Creator, just as you said! i hope that i can soon be convinced of the freedom to love without wrecking it all up, because the alternative is turning everything off again, and that is a hellish way to live, if you don’t mind me saying so. 😉

  12. says

    I am guilty of the self-love that comes with writing. But you named it for me, described it in a way I couldn’t have, and I’m so full of thanks right now God died for my obesessions and handed me back the gift in spite of myself. Keep writing Emily! For God and for all of us.

  13. says

    emily, again, WOW. I am stirred deeply by this post. It hits in all the places it needed to hit. With just the right amount of tender truth. Walking it back to the cross and giving it all back to Him today is a place I shall go. It is all HIS anyway. And thank you for being the messenger today, this day, of these thoughts.

  14. says

    I’ve read that Robert E. Lee (one of my heroes, along with Stonewall Jackson) once said, “It is good that war is so terrible, else we should grow too fond of it.” Now, war is a terrible thing and writing is a good thing, so I don’t mean to stretch the comparison too far, but I think that just about anything can become too much for an attraction for us. We just LOVE what we love, don’t we? And sometimes those things can be too costly.

    Like, say, just to pick a wild example, blogging.


  15. says

    Words straight to the heart this morning, Emily. Wow. Blogging every day this year has made me realize how much I love writing, maybe too much at times. I sometimes feel guilty for doing it too much, thinking about it too much, reading about it too much. But then God reminds that it’s from Him, this passion. And it’s kinda my thing. And maybe it makes Him smile.

  16. says

    I barely have words to write in response. I fret about this a lot, the stuff I love “too much.” And I have never thought about it in terms of Christ and how he frees me from this too. I’ll be pondering this one for a while…

    Personally, I’m glad you decided to write in freedom rather than just kill the thing. Thanks for that. : )

  17. says

    Such good thoughts for me to read this morning, as I have been questioning a bit if I am loving writing/blogging a bit too much. And yes, He died for this struggle in me, too. And He is sufficient. Thanks for these thoughts.

  18. says

    I really appreciate your honesty. I am sure that we all have at least one thing that we love too much. It is always good to evaluate what we do and why we do it. Since giving God glory is the bottom line, asking the hard questions of whether that takes place is important. Encouraging others and giving glory to God are what you are doing when you write. Keep writing….I imagine God smiling each time you put the words that are running around in your head out there for the world to see.

  19. says

    I am afraid that I love my low self-esteem too much. Fortunately, this is not something I”l be remiss to find it slowly passing away. Do you think you “love” what’s left of your “good girls” tendancies sometimes? …I suppose the “letting go” of the love of our vices is a bit easier than surrendering true “loves” as we worship our maker and surrender our wills to His

  20. says

    I was on a trip with my husband to England recently when I realized the imbalance. I just wanted to walk around with my camera and write about everything I was seeing, which meant not spending time with him. And he made me aware of it. I have been trying to find balance ever since. And your point about how it is easier to give up things we struggle with than things we love, that shed some convicting light. Thanks.

  21. says

    Yes! I get this! I totally get this. It’s been year of heart “reconstruction” for me and it’s both exciting and scary to be a bonafide creative person again after years of neglect. Now that the art and the heart is back in my life, I don’t want this renewed passion to lead me to I worship the gift more than the Giver. Please keep writing your thoughts about this!!!

  22. says

    You have no idea how much I needed to read this post today. I haven’t written a blog post in two weeks for the wrestling. I will have to digest this some more to see what it means for me. Thank you, though, so much.

  23. says

    I deal with this all the time. I want to be set apart for Him…yet I’m pretty obsessive about what I’m passionate about, especially writing.

    What you wrote reminded me of Chariots of Fire (my family’s favorite movie). In it, Eric Liddel takes a walk with his sister who is trying to get him to quit running and come to China to work with the family’s ministry. He turns to her, (cue music…cue wind machine, cue gorgeous green hills,) and says, “But Annie, when I run, I feel God’s pleasure.”

    Your piece reminded me to listen for His joy.

  24. says

    I’m not sure if the line between love and too much is a fine and fuzzy one, or simply a daily choice to stay to one side. I often think I’m too in love with my own words – perfecting them, focusing on them – but then if they come from God, maybe time spent with my words is actually sweet communion with Him. Do you think? Thank you as always for an honest, thought-provoking post. And I am glad you’re not actually giving up writing. :)

  25. says

    Sometimes it is hard to find the balance, isn’t it. But it is a God given talent, don’t stop…Forget the critics, although I know it is hard, they are just a bunch of crabby people that don’t have anything better to do than nit pick others. They deserve grace and forgiveness, too.

    • says

      Sometimes they are just crabby people, but often they aren’t. I’ve learned that the critics can actually be gifts to us, and sometimes the reason we fear what they say is because their words carry a percentage of truth.

      But yes, the destructive criticism is unhelpful, to be sure.

  26. says

    I think the fear of the things becoming an idol is the first step. Only when we realize the depth of our frailties can we be on guard to keep God on the throne in those areas. I really relate to this fear. My writing is worship and I am amazed at how God meets me in the midst. My continual prayer is that God would shut me down if I ever take the reins for myself.

  27. Megan Sayer says

    Thank you! I so needed to read that right now. Right. Now. Christ died for my obsessions. Love makes God do crazy things. That was the voice of God for me. Amen!

  28. says

    My children … definitely my children! I hold on soooo tight, as if they were really mine to keep. As I resign to letting go, I draw nearer to God–where I should have been all along. Thanks for your thoughts, Emily.

  29. says

    lovely, friend. “But what if I start to worship the created thing rather than the Creator? What if my art-making starts to be a little too much big-brave and not enough small-dependence?” so well said. i think each of us would venture to say the same about the things we hold too tightly. but, yes, the freedom to know that He is able to carry us to Himself…that it’s not up to us to get us there. oh, praise God for that. we would have never come in the first place. xoxo

  30. Terri says

    I totally made writing my idol, especially through my thirties. My writing goals were about self-glorification. I felt conflicted at times, of course. I asked myself if it was OK to write. Or, if it was OK for C.S. Lewis (for example) to write fiction, why not me? Why did I have these nigglings of conscience?

    Somewhere deep down I knew that I was worshiping Writing. But if that knowledge surfaced, I pushed it down again.

    At 40 I sold my first short story. It even won a minor award. But my marriage was on the rocks, my life sucked, and it turned out that becoming a published writer did not transform any of that. The result: I completely lost all desire to write. And that’s where I was for nearly a decade.

    My marriage recovered, and my life doesn’t suck like it did, but in the last year or so I’ve been feeling the lack. I know God gave me this talent. What I don’t know is whether I completely spoiled everything. Am I capable of worshiping God through writing? Or will the temptation overcome me again?

    I’m dipping a toe in the water by composing thoughtful replies to blog posts that speak to me (as opposed to just dashing off a comment). We’ll see if the Lord leads me somewhere from there.

  31. Jeannie S says

    Hi Emily,
    I finished your book and I loved it. It had so many things I needed to hear and apply to my life. I will be re-reading key segments to stay on track. Keep doing what you love! Blessings on you!

  32. says

    Amen – Truth! Sometimes I just want to quit and write for Him – to Him. I don’t say my prayers, I write them. Sometimes I just want to pour out, but then I wonder if I’m babbling, or if anyone can relate.

    But either way, writing is my passion and my act of worship.

    Love the way you write, please don’t stop.


  33. says

    Yes…I fear that my new goals of opening a business will become reality and that I will become obsessed with it. I fear that it will all be ripped from under me. Yet I know that’s not how God works. He gives the talent so we can use it. Here is a quote I’m sure you’ll like, and I’ve been making it the focus of all my days lately:
    “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.’ ”
    -Emma Bombeck

  34. says

    Don’t you quit! You write like l’engle about art and we all need to hear it!

    Well, I enjoy my writing, too, and other ways I make art. And I’ve worried about them shoving everything else out. I’m also a physician, and loved caring for people’s ills. I stepped back from my practice when my kids were born for the very reason that I knew I couldn’t balance it all well. Now I’m on the verge of returning very very part time, in a free clinic. And it’s terrifying for a number of reasons. But Perfect Love drives out fear, and he uses our different gifts in their appropriate seasons.

  35. says

    Keep writing.

    I get what you’re saying here. I do. I do. I do.

    I’ve muttered the same thoughts under my breath. Have shook my tear-dripping head, vowing never to type another sentence.

    But we’ve got to do this thing, sister.

    One life. We’ve got it. This one life, right here. Now. One life to use the gifts He’s given. And He’s been generous with you, Ms. Emily Freeman.

    Write, friend. Keep at it. It matters. A lot. Your words point to the Creator. And I know you know that. But I’m going to say it anyway:

    Write. Write. Write.

    With much love and understanding … and a good measure of bossiness to drive home a point – :) Jennifer

  36. says

    God certainly made you worship him through your writing. I understand your points, but please: go on! It’s such a pleasure to read here! Blessings, Martina

  37. Charlotte says

    I am soooooooo struggling with this right now… Trying to find the balance and finding it so difficult… I thought of giving away all my paints and brushes and design opportunities so I would focus on them less…and focus on God more… I thought I had to stop creating to focus on Him…but, perhaps I find more of Him when creating…

    Thank you for writing and sharing a new perspective and letting me know I am not alone in this battle…

  38. says

    How is it that you ALWAYS manage to write exactly what’s on my heart, exactly what I am struggling with at the moment?! You are anointed my dear friend! Absolutely anointed and don’t even think about quitting writing 😉

    I’ve been grasping onto what ever time I have to write. With homeschooling and working from home and doing all the mundane tasks of life, it seems like I never have enough time to sit down and do what I absolutely love. And because of this anxiety over not enough time, I have foolishly started compromising my time with the Lord.

    Then I hop on over to your site and read this post.

    Oh and this line is SO profound! It’s drenched in truth!

    “It’s easier to release my fears into the hands of God than it is my loves.”

    Wow. Major conviction going on here and I need it :)

  39. says

    This so reminds me of the parable of the 3 servants {Matthew 25:14-30}…

    It is so hard to not cross the line between worshipping the gift over the Giver.

  40. C says

    Yesterday my four year old asked me “Mommy, do you love me more than God?” & without thinking I answered “No, I love God more than you” . He looked so disappointed, need-less-to-say I had some explaining to do. But, I think the real answer was/is “I love you because of God”. It seems to me you love it (writing) because of God.

  41. says

    Emily, this is so great for me to read because I am just getting started with my own blog. I myself fear that people will not accept it and I will fail at my goal of reaching out to people. But one thing that is keeping me going is that I truly believe that the reason I love writing so much is because it is a gift given to me by God. He chooses special gifts for everyone, and only some are chosen to be writers. I feel that if I don’t try, if I don’t take the chance to put myself out there, then I will be disobeying Him. You love writing so much because God chose you as a writer and you love God. You are doing it for Him. You are obeying His plan for you.

  42. says

    Emily, this is so great for me to read right now because I am just getting started on my own blog. I fear that it will not be well received and I will not be able to reach out to people. But the one thing that keeps me going is that I truly believe the reason I love to write so much is because it has been chosen for me by God. Every person has been given a special talent by God and only some of us have been chosen to be writers. If I choose not to write, not to take a chance and put myself out there, then I am disobeying God. You love to write because God has chosen it for you and you love God. You are listening to him. That is he wants from you.

    Thank you for your insightful words!

  43. June says

    I’ve had to come back to this a couple of times. I think/feel that you have to ask yourself: 1) are you being obedient to the Lord in all things? 2) Remember the parable of the talents and 3) When you use your gift, are you encouraging, instructing, feeding someone’s need?

    When you are obedient to God, all other things fall into place. Easy to type, not so easy to do.

    Your words encourage me. I really don’t want you to stop writing!!

  44. says

    I’m a high school English teacher, and my class just finished reading C.S. Lewis’s “The Great Divorce.” Your fears of learning to love the art more than the source of inspiration reminded me of a character in the book. As I’ve pursued writing and gained some momentum lately, that character’s voice has popped into my head from time to time and I’ve wondered, “Am I becoming like him? Am I so focused on the tools of the craft, and the craft itself, that I can no longer see my Source of inspiration?”

    I don’t believe I am, and like you I believe we are free in Christ and that our passions and gifts have their source in Him. But this is a valid problem to guard against. Like any sin, it’s a twisting of something very good. The enemy would love for us either to worship our art rather than its Creator…and he would also love for us to throw out our art because we’re afraid.

    • Terri says

      “The enemy would love for us either to worship our art rather than its Creator…and he would also love for us to throw out our art because we’re afraid.”

      Wow. Thanks for that.

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