Words that Matter: The Friday Five with Jennifer Schuchmann

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JenSchuchmanJennifer Schuchmann is a bestselling author and speaker. Her recent work includes a collaboration with former NFL MVP, Kurt Warner on his New York Times Bestseller, First Things First, and a collaboration with Brenda Warner on her latest, One Call Away.

Jennifer has written or co-written numerous books, has contributed articles to leading evangelical publications and has garnered several prestigious writing awards. She is also a personal friend. Today I asked her to stop by and answer some questions about the writing life.

How did your writing journey begin?

From the time I was very young, my mother recognized that I had a talent for writing, so she took me to professional writing conferences even while I was still in elementary school. At those conferences, I met a lot of middle-aged women who wore purple and overflowed with story ideas. I was young, didn't like purple, and wasn't overflowing with ideas to write about. In fact, I didn't have any ideas. I did want to accomplish something big, but I didn't see doing that as a writer. So while some people were late-blooming writers because they didn't have a role model, from an early age, I chose not to be a writer because I didn't think I had much in common with my role models.

Although I didn't see a future as a writer, I did continue to write. Throughout my academic career I entered writing competitions and often won prizes (money, trips, awards, etc.). At work I often offered to write press releases, sales copy, and presentations. As a volunteer, I wrote curriculum for churches and non-profit organizations. And as a mom, I ended up writing the school musicals at my son's school.

I even wrote and published some articles "just for resume fodder," but despite all the professional work I did, I refused to call myself a writer. When people said I should write professionally, my flippant answer was, "If God wants me to write, he'll send an editor to my front door." By now I knew God was calling me to write, but I refused to follow his call without some sort of divine "proof." Looking back it might have even been a fear of failure (or perhaps even of success). In either case, I was flagrantly disobedient because I knew what He was asking and I refused.

One day when I had finished packing up costumes from the musical at my son's school and I had a few days of free time on my hands, I prayed at my desk. I told God that I would do whatever he wanted. If he wanted me to be a better wife and iron the baskets of clean laundry accumulating in my bedroom (as if that made me a good wife), I would. If he wanted me to get more involved in my son's school, I would. And if he wanted me to be a writer, well, okay, I would—but I wouldn't like it.

During that prayer, I got an idea for an article. That was rather significant since a lack of ideas was one of the reasons I wouldn't call myself a writer. So I turned on the computer to write it down. As soon I did, I got an unexpected e-mail from a magazine editor with an assignment. Apparently, he had written the e-mail just as I was praying. I knew that was more than a coincidence, so I stopped and prayed again. I told God that if he wanted me to be a writer, I promised to work hard and always grow in my craft. I also promised that if he sent mentors to me I would mentor others who wanted to write. 

Since then, I've received many confirmations that this is God's plan for my life. At a writer's conference not long after I prayed that prayer, I felt like God said to me, "I don't always need writers with lots of ideas. Sometimes I just need writers who will take assignments."

That has been my vision for my writing career since then. I am a writer who takes assignments. Although I started writing out of obedience and a clear sense of calling, I have found tremendous joy in what I do. It is clear that I am doing what God called me to do. And I discovered something else— those passionate, purple-wearing women who overflowed with creative ideas were very different from me. But that didn't mean we weren't all writers. The difference was, they were fiction writers and I focused on non-fiction. I didn't have to be just like them in order to be a writer.