As a child, I loved to write. One of my first prized possessions was a diary…you know the kind, with a lock and key intended to keep your younger sibling from reading your deepest darkest secrets, but so flimsy a squirrel could probably open it. In that diary, I wrote my greatest fears, my deepest longings, and my sweetest joys.

I also delighted in writing short stories and essays, pondering the world from an inexperienced young pre-teen and teen perspective. I frequently submitted my pieces to youth writing contests — some I won, some I didn’t. But it didn’t matter because I did it out of a passion to write.

When I went to graduate school, however, I became convinced I couldn’t write, when my graduate school professors beat every ounce of self-esteem out of us, forgetting to build us back up. I quit writing except for what was required for my vocation.

Surprisingly, a few years later I registered for a writer’s retreat (quite ironic for someone who no longer considered herself a writer). While there, one of the instructors had us take 10–15 minutes to go pray and ask God what He wanted us to know before we embarked on our first real writing assignment. As I prayed, I sensed in my heart that God was saying, “You can either continue to believe the lie that others have told you that you can’t write, or you can trust the One who gave you the gift and the desire to write in the first place.”

Talk about a wake-up call and a shift in perspective. From then on, I identified myself as a writer. But I had to ask the important question, “Why do we write?”

Over the next several years, I realized that at least for me, I write out of obedience to God’s call. He instilled in me the talent and the desire to write, but not just for myself, so that I could share with others His faithfulness.

In just about any writing class, instructors will encourage us to “know your reader” so that we can write for those who will read what we have penned. While I understand this notion, and even agree with it to a large extent, when I sit down to write, it is for an audience of One. God is my first and most important audience.

When I write in response to God’s prompting or leading, it is an offering from my heart to Him.

If I write out of obedience to God, and consider Him first in everything I write, then He will ultimately provide the audience who needs to hear my message. That takes so much pressure off, and lets me enjoy the process of crafting words to inspire whomever He leads others to read my work.

Have you ever asked yourself the first and most important question, “Why do you write?” I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Visit Michelle at DrMichelleBengston.com.