Thursday, March 15, 2007

My Writing Journey

Beware those who don't want to read a long post or see me lay bare the wounds of my all-but-shattered not-yet-existent writing career. What follows is my saga.

Enjoy.

Some people are born knowing they will be writers. I am not one of those people. However, I’m definitely a born reader—been perusing newspapers since I was four, or so I’m told. Soon after, I graduated to Nancy Drew and Narnia.

Fast-forward to 2002. Engrossed as I had been in fiction, I discovered my all-time hero, Ted Dekker. My emergence into writing can’t be told without mentioning him. His stories made me realize my love for suspense, biblical allegory and the supernatural.

Two years later, I put away the childlike poetry I’d been creating and started on devotionals and short stories. I found the Faithwriters.com website, the first writing site I had ever been involved in. It helped me get my start in the Christian writing world. Fellow writers there were very helpful and encouraging to me, and I even placed in the Weekly Writing Challenge’s Editor’s Choice twice.

Meanwhile, the urge inside me to write a novel (to be like Ted!) grew like an insatiable puppy. I wrote some very short stories and articles, joined another writing group, started reviewing fiction, and eventually got some ideas together for a novel.

Last year, my idea well went dry. I never got past character sketches and a skeleton outline for my first novel-in-progress. Reading books on writing helped me gain invaluable knowledge as did reading posts from other authors on writing loops. There was so much information in my head, but I couldn’t get it out on paper or computer screen. I kept reviewing, enjoying that aspect of writing immensely. But I wasn’t progressing toward my elusive goal of finishing a novel.

As an aside, I don’t even care if the novel gets published. Truly, I just want to be able to say I did it. To be able to create exciting plots, eternal themes and memorable characters as so many others do. To be a part of something good, something I believe God gave me a natural bent toward.

Yes, I’ve been published with reviews, a few devotionals and poetry—but not for pay, nothing to say I’m a professional, save one book review. So I’ve had some successes, especially with the resources I’ve found and friends I’ve made in the writing world.

But for me, writer’s block may not be something I can just get over. People talk about their “call” to writing like pastors talk about their “call” to ministry. I can’t say I have that call. I have other talents I use for God. Very recently, I decided it was time I figure out if writing (specifically, working on a novel) is something God really wants me to pour my life into. Because, as you writers know, it takes hours and hours of hard work. It’s not something you can just pick up and put down on a whim. It is life-absorbing.

In my quest for the meaning of my writing life, I seek answers in prayer. I compare this period of my life and the seeking of my dream to the stages Ordinary experiences in Bruce Wilkinson’s haunting and inspiring allegory The Dream Giver. My husband made a huge, life-changing decision last year partially based on this book. He hasn’t regretted it for a minute. I have already read the book, but I’m now going back through it, using its applications for my own life.

Wilkinson tells the story of a Nobody named Ordinary who leaves the Land of Familiar to pursue his Big Dream, given by the Dream Giver. Once Ordinary leaves his Comfort Zone, he must overcome Border Bullies who threaten him not to leave, who are overly concerned for his safety and return to normalness. Then he navigates the Wasteland, a dry place where he is starving and lost, certain that the Dream Giver has forgotten him. But he perseveres and reaches Sanctuary, a time of refreshment and rest where Ordinary can actually see the Land of Promise. It’s close at hand. Yet, the Dream Giver asks Ordinary to give back his dream—to lay it down, proving that he wants the Dream Giver more than the dream. When Ordinary finally succumbed, he received peace and got his dream back as well. But that’s not the end. Ordinary must win victory over the Giants in the Land and only the Dream Giver’s power can help him. Eventually he beats the giants of Moneyless, Corruption, Rejection and Darkness, finally able to enter the Land of Promise and find his dream.

That’s not the whole story, but it’s enough. I am Ordinary. I have a dream, one I can’t accomplish on my own. God gave it to me and He can take it away. But I know that if God has truly given me writing as my dream, I will encounter obstacles and tests of faith. I will have to lay down my dream and trust that He will either give it back or give me something bigger and better.

See, I’ve laid it down. For all intents and purposes, I’ve quit writing, given up the struggle of wordsmithing. But I know that God has a purpose for me, and whether or not it be writing, I trust Him to tell me what it is and lead me into the land of plenty where I can joyfully serve Him doing my dream.

So that’s where I am. But that’s not all.

For months I’ve been asking God to rearrange my priorities, to help me figure out the writing dilemma. I’ve heard nothing. I’m still confused. However, it has been less than a week since I gave up my dream. And what did I get in my Inbox yesterday? A publication that had previously rejected a devotional I submitted reconsidered and accepted it. (Whoa!) I teared up and nearly fell out of my swivel chair.

What does this mean? Is God giving me back my dream? After all, it’s not like I poured out 5,000 words of a blockbuster novel. Just a very small acceptance. But it’s an acceptance. A paid acceptance. Is this confirmation? Or something to add more confusion to my life?

The jury is still out on this, in my estimation. But I’m open to whatever God wants to do. I’m still not actively writing anything but reviews, but if a great idea for a novel comes to mind or a scene is played out in my head, you better believe I’ll write it down.
~~
The above is cross-posted at The Lost Genre Guild Blog.

1 comment:

  1. shannon9:13 AM

    Writing is an act of faith - in yourself, as much as in God. You have put your foot forward in trust, and God provided a stair of reassurance for you when you needed it. This was no idle coincidence. It is now up to you to be brave enough and committed enough to press onwards, taking further steps and trusting that the way forward will reveal itself as you move along.

    In practical terms, all writing is essentially about suspending our fears, quelling our doubts, and moving ahead with our inspirations. My advice is to start small. Set aside your regular time for writing, free yourself from worry and expectations, and just let the output come from within. Writer's block is often merely a fear of scope. Rather than heaping the burden of writing the next Big Novel on yourself right away, or trying to compare yourself against an ideal, write instead from a joyous place of discovery.

    It may be a devotional, it may be a poem. A short story may unfold over several sessions, or even just a meaningful isolated scene. You might jot down ideas in point form to use later, or explode with productivity for a night and and write the first chapter of a novel that never proceeds. It doesn't really matter, what's important is that you strengthen your writing muscle through regular use. Every timeless writer started out writing experimental rubbish. The best miracles are crafted lovingly and tirelessly, and with patience.

    I hope you will take some positive encouragement from this message. In reading the language of your blog posts and hearing your passion, it is clear that you do have the writer's mark. Also, it is curious for me in that I felt strangely compelled to spend the time to offer these thoughts, and that doesn't happen often. Perhaps that too is another sign that God wants you to continue to explore your dream.

    Best of luck with your muse,
    Shannon

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