When I first arrived, the internet felt wide open with possibility. I staked out a quiet corner where I established my blog Little House in the Suburb. (It seemed a fitting name for a blog written by someone named Laura.) I took great care with each post, wanting to capture a sense of poetry and profundity with each piece.
The longer I stayed, however, the internet began to feel pretty crowded. I started reading more online articles, noticing that many women seemed to be saying things similar to what I was saying. I had come to the internet thinking perhaps my voice was needed, but soon felt my voice just added to the noise. I questioned the validity of my voice if it wasn’t unique.
Seeing the mass of women writers, I realized my writing was easily duplicated. I don’t have a particularly interesting testimony that would make me a leading voice on a certain topic. I don’t have a degree or a book or a specialty subject that I write about regularly. I’m just another woman with an internet connection and a head full of words.
Instead of seeing that as a reason to stop, though, I began to see it as a reason to rejoice. What if God has placed women all over the world with a hunger for Scripture and a passion for clear communication? What if every church needs a writer like that? What if, instead of competing with other women writers or seeking a larger platform for my writing, I became the “village poet” for my friends and neighbors and began to see other writers as my peers and friends?
Friends, not Followers
Social media has influenced how I understand success as a writer. The shift from the Facebook model of adding friends (a two-way relationship in which you see one another’s posts) to the Twitter model of gaining followers (a one-way relationship in which your posts are seen by your followers but you don’t see their posts) makes the internet feel like a popularity contest. Because Twitter is a primary online space for writers to share their work, counting followers has become a shorthand for measuring importance.
As a writer, it can often feel like your words are wasted if they aren’t being read widely enough. My own audience is mostly people who know me in real life: relatives, ladies from church, neighbors and friends in town. I used to feel like this made me less legitimate as a writer, but I’ve since come to realize that this is my ministry! Perhaps there are other writers who can write what I’m writing, but my audience isn’t likely to read their words. Maybe I am called to be the poet for my village.
As a village poet, I decided not to use social media as a means to gain influence or to compete with other writers by enlarging my platform. I wanted to use it mainly to meet other writers who were doing what I was doing: writing pieces that were mainly read by their friends and family members. I like to read their pieces and cheer on their work. This does not come naturally to me. I’m a terribly competitive person. But community is not built by outdoing one another in talent but by outdoing one another in love. I try to “do unto others” as I would have them do unto me by reading their work, giving specific praise to things I love, and honoring the writer’s talent and sincere faith. Tilly Dillehay speaks about witnessing the glory of God in other people’s work and thanking God for their success. Envy stirs up trouble more often than I care to admit, but I am dedicated to using social media to love my neighbors and honor the Lord. I seek out writers whose work I admire and let them know I enjoyed it. I do not want to see my online friends as potential fans who might reshare my work if I reshare theirs. I want to encourage them to bless their friends and neighbors with their writing, offering any encouragement I can to help them keep up their spirits in the lonely role as a village poet. These are not my competitors; they are women like me who are obeying God’s call on their time and talents. I pray God is glorified by my interactions with other writers.
Small, but faithful
Instead of looking for external indicators of success, as writers we obey our Lord. If we are inclined to write and willing to write for God’s glory, then we do it regardless of the size of our influence. Like the parable of the talents in Matthew 25, we must decide to take what we’ve been given and invest it wisely. If we feel an impulse to write, a willingness to receive correction, and a desire to honor God with our words, why shouldn’t we write? As my friend Christy Britton reminds me, “Calling requires commitment. It doesn’t require a crowd.”
Perhaps many of us will never have a book published. Perhaps we’ll never get a piece posted by one of our favorite websites or an invite to speak on our favorite podcast. We can still serve those who read our words and serve the Lord with our words.
Most of my pieces don’t get a lot of attention but every once in awhile a piece seems to offer what others need to hear. I pray the gospel of grace seasons every piece I write so that whoever reads my words develops an appetite for the goodness of God. Who knows? In many cases, it is better for me NOT to know the true influence of my words lest I became arrogant or despondent. I entrust my words to God’s care, often realizing that the person who most benefits from the writing process is me. I study the Scriptures, consider my words, pray over my intentions, and publish my piece. Each part of this process accelerates my growth in the Lord.
Doors, not platforms
Instead of looking for platforms to lift me up, I look for doors of opportunity. Instead of a national platform that would allow me to design my own ministry, I usually get profoundly local opportunities to teach or participate in discussions that others have designed. I want to do all of these things well. The point is not to grow my personal ministry but to bring glory to God. Some days that means getting to write. Most days that means taking up the challenge of my own words and loving my neighbors in tangible, practical ways.
My writing has not turned into a career. It’s mostly a hobby and a privilege. As a village poet I recognize that my writing is only one aspect of a larger ministry. Writing gives me a chance to order my thoughts about Scripture, but the ultimate goal is not to write well about these things but to live them out in obedience and humility. My ongoing prayer has been that I won’t write about things that I’m not willing to put into practice, and that means that as much as I enjoy writing I will not use it to pretend to be something I’m not or as an excuse to bail on my other callings.
I have sometimes felt discouraged about my small corner of the internet, but I have never been able to give up on my writing. I enjoy it. My life is filled with small talk, but rarely do I get the chance to deep-dive into a conversation on a subject I am passionate about or fully articulate some treasure I’ve uncovered in scripture. Writing gives me the opportunity to organize my thoughts, carry forth on topics that excite me, and sparks my further curiosity, all of which energizes my faith.
But as a village poet, my ministry remains profoundly local. As a pastor’s wife and a mom, the majority of my life takes place offline. Learning to see myself as a village poet has helped me to see my writing as a service to my neighbors rather than a pathway to personal fame.
I am grateful for the friends who read my words and call me out when I’m not living up to my lofty ideals. I am glad when friends who don’t read scripture on their own read my words and hopefully get a chance to see how the gospel is relevant to our everyday lives. As a village poet I fight to be less concerned with the size of my audience and more concerned that my words and my deeds display gospel integrity