when i was a little girl, i remember penning poems. one morning i wrote something down and with great anticipation ran into the kitchen to share my latest masterpiece with my mom & dad. "mom! look! i wrote another poem!"
i remember her smile, her taking my paper, and then her worried gaze as she quickly read through what i wrote and glanced up at me.
"honey. we don't write about sad stuff, okay? we write about Jesus."
now, i doubt my mom said those words thinking she would forever alter my writing. honestly, if my daughter were to come and show me a poem she wrote - and it contained negative feelings - i would be concerned as well. who isn't? i'm grateful for parents who tried to protect me from those little crevices depression and self-loathing like to lurk. there were plenty of moments where they spoke INTO the gift of writing - encouraging me to pursue these words pent up inside.
from that moment on, however, it was pretty difficult for me to write anything less than puppies and rainbows. and maybe this was for my own benefit because it wasn't until i got into college and started studying classics where i realized there was a certain beauty in the grittiness of life's tough situations. i fell in love with steinbeck's ability to create a villain i absolutely abhore and fear. i admired kingsolver's way of mixing the tangled web of religion and pride within her characters...
i realized with pain...comes truth.
last year i started writing a novel. i got pretty far, too. my character lived & breathed with me - i fought for her & cried for her & wrestled with the knowledge of her pain. and then...i just stopped.
part of it was life. part of it was my busyness getting in the way. a huge chunk was my fear of disappointing people. i thought to myself, "this story...it's too...raw. no one will ever publish it & if it DOES get published...what will people think of me?"
the fact of the matter: this story needs to be told. it's not my story. every time i sat at the computer, i prayed for God to give me words. every time, more words than i could ever create on my own filled the pages. until i started thinking too much.
it's not like i've completely ignored her. there have been plenty of moments where i startled awake with a thought of how to wriggle her free from her prison or moments i could implant within the story. the siren calls whether we're ready or not...and she's done a good job of reminding me she's still here.
when i went to STORY, andrew klavan spoke about some of the more darker & twisted themes of faith - how these are the stories which led him to faith. sitting there listening to him, i could feel my heartbeat increasing. the questions from others about whether or not my manuscript would be a "Christian" novel slowly fell away. the tension of balance gave way to this freedom of expression to just be as an artist - and to allow truth to reveal itself through my words.
I didn't need to write about puppies and Jesus. The truth? Jesus would shine - His truth would shine - whether I mention his name or not. THIS is His power of hope.
I could write about pain and suffering and allow my characters to wrestle through some tough situations. I could showcase doubt & fear & anger...
and still reveal the power of redemption through my story.
i'll be honest. i haven't worked on my manuscript since the conference. but i plan to - and soon. for the first time in a long time, i have the strength to let my characters wade through the messiness and disappointment in order to find healing - and even though my main character may not experience a moment where she walks forward during an altar call or prays on the doorstep of a church, her rescue is just as powerful because it's real.
...even with the grit.
This post is part of Imperfect Prose on Thursdays.