Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Why Write?

This was recently posted to a listserve I belong to -

"As part of my job, I wrote for a paycheque - but I had a hard time justifying the time used to write Christian fiction. To write for God, but not publish...I could not figure out nor justify that writing time as working in God's service."

I have struggled with this issue too much over the years, as I've looked at the stack of paper sitting on my shelf that may never see a publisher's stamp of approval. I used to just remind myself that I'm still apprenticing, but that often didn't help much. But then I started coming across some quotes - like this one by Henri Nouwen -

"Writing is a process in which we discover what lives within us. The writing, itself, reveals what is alive! The deepest satisfaction of writing is precisely that it opens up new spaces within us of which we were not aware before we started to write. To write is to embark on a journey whose final destination we do not know."

That rang so true for me. And then there' s this one by Diane Ackerman -
"Writing, which is my form of celebration and prayer, is also my way of inquiry."

God has taught me so much about Himself as I've written. It's kind of like the day I had to go and teach a class in Religious Ed. to a bunch of grade five kids, when I hadn't slept at all the night before because I'd discovered that my daughter had put herself in a life-threatening situation. I was angry at God and told him so all the way to the school. I'd tried to cancel the class, but God wouldn't let me, which perversely made me even more angry. Then, when I got there, the kids fired questions at me from the minute I stepped in the door. They were basic questions - Does God see us? Does He care? Does He really help us? And as I answered, as my lips formed the words that my mind knew were true, my heart was awakened to that reality again and I left there rejoicing at His mercy and grace and goodness.

Writing does the same thing for me, whether I'm writing a short devotional or a novel - it reveals to my heart what I know to be true but too often forget. It's kind of like this quote from George Bowering in The Brick Reader -

"I guess I want to trick reality into revealing itself."

I also like this one by Madeleine L'Engle - "Why do we make art? It is not that what is, is not enough, for it is; it is that what is has been disarranged, and is crying out to be put in place." That one is especially true in terms of the novel I'm working on, whose main character has suffered through his first 21 years of life. Some of what I've put down on the page echoes my own experience and it has helped me to understand it all in a new light, a wider light.

I firmly believe this one - "There are a thousand thoughts lying within a man that he does not know till he takes up a pen to write." --William Makepeace Thackeray. And God wants to teach us as we are faithful to the gift He's given us - we may never be published, but we are obeying him as we write and discover those things in ourselves that are part of Him.

Joyce Carol Oates said - (the writer) "creates himself, imagines himself, sometimes renames himself as one might name a fictitious character in a work of art. And the impulse can rise to the level of a sacred obligation ."

So, I write because I believe it's His way of dealing with me, changing me, drawing me into His presence and reforming me into His image. It's life to me for that reason.