Marcia Laycock suggested this quote by E.B. White as a starting point for entries in this month's Christian Fiction Celebration: “Writing is an act of faith, not a trick of grammar.”
I can see the truth in that. It is by faith that I live. Faith and creativity seem closely intertwined — creativity allows me to partake of one aspect of the nature of God. Another aspect of this truth is that as I write, I clarify my thoughts and understandings of a subject. If I’m meditating on a passage of scripture, writing about it can help me deepen my understanding of it. In some mysterious way, God uses the act of writing about his word to teach me more about his word.
But for me, the deepest act of faith in writing isn’t in the actual writing. It’s in the sending out. Writing is a solitary act and it falls very neatly into my comfort zone. I could always write for an assignment: You need 15 inches on a new business in town? No problem (except for the actual calling up and talking to people part of the process, which is one reason I’m not still a reporter).
The difficult part comes AFTER the piece is written. Giving it to someone else to read; putting it in the envelope to the publisher and taking it to the post office and putting postage on it and actually mailing it; hitting the send button on the e-mail containing the short story — those thing are an act of faith for me. Once a piece of writing leaves my hands, I really have to let go of it and let God do with it what he will.
I read a short story* recently and one of the characters is a guy who's sort of stuck in adolescence. He writes stories and performs them, accompanied by guitar, in a little club. And in the story he says that an agent wanted him to send her his stories. But he never did. Why? Because he's afraid of rejection. He lets his fear and lack of faith in himself keep him from doing something he really wants to do.
I’ve been where that guy in the story is. I used to let my lack of confidence, which is really a selfish lack of trust in God, hold me back. But I’ve learned that if I want to be a published writer, I can’t just let my stories sit on my computer. I have to send them out into the world. So, I’ve had some rejection and discovered it wasn’t a catastrophic blow to my ego. I’ve also found encouragement in unexpected places.
Writing seems to encourage the needy part of my nature. I want approval, I want people to enjoy what I’ve written, I want God to use my writing for his service. But I’ve learned that my value is not dependent on what someone thinks of my writing. It’s not dependent on whether or not I ever get published.
Remember the part in Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail where Indy has to follow the directions in his dad’s diary to find the Grail? He comes to a precipice, with a wide chasm between himself and what he seeks. There appears to be no bridge. But there has to be a bridge. He follows the directions and takes that step out into what appears to be thin air. Except the bridge is there, just as the diary said. (A former pastor loved this scene and used to show it to illustrate sermons on faith!)
Sometimes sending out something I’ve written feels like stepping over the edge of that precipice. But the support is already there for me to walk on.
I always think of the following verse in the King James version because it’s quoted in a hymn we sang a lot when I was growing up: “For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I’ve committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12)
I commit my writing to God. He will use it in the way he sees fit. But for him to use it, I can’t be like the servant in the parable who was afraid and buried his one talent. I have to do my part to get my talent — my writing — out into the world and let God do the rest.
(*The story was How to Paint a Naked Man by Melissa Bank and it appears in the June issue of Glamour magazine. It’s an excerpt from Bank’s book The Wonder Spot.)