I’ve been telling stories since I was eight years old…and some of them were true. All those imaginary friends I kept tucked away in my closet, under my bed, or inside my light fixtures came out at the oddest times and created the most amazing stories that no one believed except me. Of course, as I grew up, I modified the stories a bit, the imaginary friends developed into more three dimensional beings, and finally made their ways into novels.
When I was 19 I finished my first novel and knew it was brilliant (of course, to most 19 year olds, everything they accomplish is brilliant). It wouldn’t be until 10 years later that I would add the ‘craft’ of writing to my passion for it. Now, as a professional, pastor’s wife, and mom of five, I wonder how on earth I’ll fulfill the dream to create memorable stories. Fortunately, God reminds me that everyday I’m living them.
Recently, in the middle of one of those chaotic ‘why-am-I-here’ moments, I asked God what He wanted me to do with my writing. I have five unpublished novels on my computer, a growing pile of rejections, and an increasing awareness of how much I still have to learn about the art of writing. Fumbling through the five books I’m currently reading, I picked up The Fire in Fiction by Donald Maas and reread the Introduction (yes, I actually read those – I know, I’m a geek). Though the book isn’t written from a Christian world-view, he makes a poignant implication.
There are two types of authors: status seekers and storytellers.
In short, status seekers are authors whose bottom line is publication, publicity, and payment. What can I get from this book? Storytellers are concerned with consistently telling a good story. They look to themselves to make the story fantastic instead of others to make it saleable.
Why do you write? Why do I? To be honest, most people think I’m close to insane because I write novels in what little spare time I etch into my life, but I can’t help it. I have stories to tell. It’s the itch I can’t scratch unless I get it on paper…into words.
If God has given us a story to write, then we must write it; and because we are called by His name, anything we do should be a reflection of Him. Donald Maas’ question carries more gravity for the Christian writer, because we bring the only true Hope to the world through our stories. It’s writing with an amazing mission.
Storytelling has been going on for thousands of years and the greatest Storyteller of all shared truth through stories. He’s our mentor, example, and inspiration. He is where I find my encouragement, when I’m looking at another email which politely rejects my novel forged through blood, tears, and peanut-butter & jelly sandwiches. Knowing God has placed this specific desire and calling on my life, gives me strength when I have to write dialogue on a dinner napkin at the restaurant because it’s the only chance I’ll have to write that day. Trusting in His timing, I keep sneaking writing books into my ‘private room’ while five kids beat on or slip notes under the door until I emerge.
So, I must write. There are stories I have to tell, characters readers need to meet, and lessons about God people have to learn…and someday, the hard work, wondering, daydreaming, and late nights might end in publication. Even if they don’t, I’ll still tell stories. I just can’t leave my poor imaginary friends wandering about my fictional dream on their own.And in the meantime, between this unpublished dream and the possibilities, I’ll take baby steps toward learning more about the craft and art of writing.
As my agent reminds me, “Becoming a published author is a marathon not a sprint,” so I’m going to enjoy the scenery along the way and pick up a few more imaginary friends…maybe even some real ones.God’s plans and timing are perfect. The desires and stories He places on our hearts serve a purpose, and whether that purpose is to bless thousands or just ourselves, it provides exactly what it was supposed to…and (to quote an old Keith Green song) “Jesus takes care of the rest.”