Some time ago I laid in silence and stared up at the ceiling, which I could hardly make out through my white, sheet-like mosquito net.
Temporarily sleepless nights are no strangers to me. More than once I've laid awake past midnight while wrestling over some question, whether it be spiritual, theological, or having to do with some hitch in my writing. This time it was the latter.
And I was asking the question, “Can God really use my fiction writing?”
Honestly, I had hit something of a rut with Tornado C. I saw where I was, and where I needed to be, but I couldn't seem to get up the inspiration and drive to get there. Instead, I found myself working on my Will Vullerman edits, or doing nothing at all. (When unable to write, I find it much easier to revise – and procrastination is easier than both.) I didn't want to work on Tornado C.
These thoughts are common to me, and probably to you too. Usually I can plow through this problem. However, there was another factor contributing to my sleepless state of mind.
That day I had started re-reading one of my favorite books, one I hadn't picked up for some time; it had been over a year, in fact, since I had last read it.
And there was a problem. I recognized some of the same elements in that story that were in my current novel. Little things here and there were almost identical to some of the themes and concepts in my own novel. While there was nothing blatantly plagiaristic – much of my novel was as original as a your run-of-the-mill swords-and-battles fantasy tale – there were parts of the novel, especially in theme, that sounded eerily similar to my own.
This is a problem I've struggled with since my very first novel. How can I write with originality? I've read killer plots before, and loved incredible characters; why couldn't I write the same?
Mentally, this discovery was rather crushing. If this novel – which has been one of my best ideas yet – wasn't totally original, how could I ever write something truly good?
Thus, midnight found me awake again, my hands folded behind my head and my elbows splayed out over my pillow, my legs crossed, my eyes staring blankly into the darkness above the circular plastic rods that held up my net. Inside, I was wrestling with this problem, looking at it from every angle and trying to make sense of the mess.
Finally, as what usually happens, I brought it before God. I laid out all of my frustration, both at the story and at my own negligence and procrastination. I let Him have it. Here's what I said, in short:
“Okay, God, I know you gave me this novel. And this concept. And especially this theme. But I don't know what to do anymore. The novel is flawed. I can't convey what I want to – it's not even original. I want to write this novel for Your glory, but how can I do that? How can you even use this novel? I'm not even a hundred pages into it, and it's riddled with problems and holes and characters that don't do what I want them to. At times, I don't even want to write the story anymore. Do you really want me to do this? Should I give it up altogether and work on something that actually seems to work – like my Will Vullerman stories? How can you even work with such a flawed story?”
I don't claim to hear from God. I didn't hear an audible voice; but to my spirit, I heard Him say, “If I want to use this novel for My glory, what is it to you? Don't you believe that I can use the most flawed vessel?”
And that answer left me speechless.
Did I believe that God could use Tornado C, despite how flawed it was, despite how flawed I was? Didn't I believe in a God who can do anything and everything He wanted? And if He wanted to use Tornado C...was I, a fallible mortal, going to stand in His way?
And eventually, I answered. And the answer was yes, I did believe that God could use anyone and anything.
What logically follows from this, then, is the question: “Then why aren't I writing my novel like I believe God can use it?”
To disobey His call to write my novel – to even procrastinate and do nothing when I know I should be writing – that is a sin. We are to do everything to His glory; so if we have dedicated something like a novel to His glory and we don't continue in it, we are keeping for ourselves the glory that rightfully belongs to God.
I'm writing this to encourage you, blog reader. If you're writing, and you're stuck, and you don't know if you can continue on writing this story...just remember.
Remember this: that if you have dedicated your novel to God, unless you hear otherwise from Him, you are to write in that novel and make it the best it can be. And He who has started this work will finish it. To do otherwise is to keep from giving God the glory.
And write with the knowledge that God is behind it, directing it, fueling it, and writing it. And guess what? When God is in charge of things, He can do it so much better than we can on our own.
Isn't that incredible? That the God of the universe – He who is infinitely creative – can create through us? That He can illustrate His own attributes and give Himself glory through our flawed writings?
That's a good God! And that's a good thought, is it not?
Soli Deo gloria. Glory to God alone!