By Elizabeth Musser
We’ve all heard the quip, when starting out on the writing journey, ‘don’t quit your day job.’ It is usually offered by a caring friend (or editor) who knows that making a living in the writing world can be daunting. But I’ve found that keeping my day job has not only put food on the table, but has also blessed my writing. For the past twenty years, my day job-serving as a missionary in France with International Teams-has inspired my ‘other job’ of writing ‘entertainment with a soul.’ Paying attention to daily experiences, whatever that may include, can certainly provide us writers with great content for our stories.
How? Here are few ways I’ve found beneficial:
In my missions’ work, I have the privilege of walking with others through heartache. As I listen and care, I develop an empathy which spills over into my stories, creating characters who ‘feel’ real.
I’ve interviewed soldiers who fought in Algeria, refugees fleeing from Iran and Afghanistan and an artist in Provence and many others whose lives are vastly different than mine—simply because I’ve met them in my day-job. This personal contact is another way to add a feeling of ‘truth’ to our stories. But you don’t have to live overseas to meet people with fascinating lives and stories. You just have to pay attention to life around you.
I journal about (and take lots of photos of) places I visit. I jot down history nuggets that tickle my ears and things the Lord has taught me during an interaction with a colleague or a seeker. Otherwise, I’ll forget the details. Later, I can go back to these journal entries and be reminded of something that, in turn, inspires a story.
Hold it up to the Lord
For the past few years, my husband and I have visited with missionaries who serve at a Christian welcome center for refugees called The Oasis. The Oasis is a five-minute-walk from the government refugee housing camp in the town of Traiskirchen, Austria. The stories I heard of refugees coming to faith in Jesus Christ as they learned of Him at The Oasis inspired my novel The Long Highway Home, which came out in Dutch this past April. (Coming in English in 2016).
This summer, more than 5000 refugees poured into this camp in Traiskirchen which has a capacity of housing 800. In the midst of this crisis, our team of missionaries watched God work in powerful ways. And my readers saw displayed on their TV screens the very refugee camp they were reading about in The Long Highway Home.
Obviously, only the Lord can orchestrate that timing. My job is to pay attention. Ultimately the Lord knows all about the many experiences in our ‘other’ life, whether we’re wiping snotty noses, helping refugees or crunching numbers for a firm. Trust Him to use all of life’s experiences to give your writing more depth.
And thank Him for that ‘day job’, whatever it is.
Elizabeth Musser writes ‘entertainment with a soul’ from her writing chalet-tool shed-outside Lyon, France. For over twenty-five years, Elizabeth and her husband, Paul, have been involved in missions work with International Teams. The Mussers have two sons, a daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Find more about Elizabeth’s novels at www.elizabethmusser.com and on Facebook and Twitter.