Don't Create Alone
I didn’t discover (and often forget to return to) inviting God into my writing space until a period of struggle, toil, and despair. This culminates with a declaration of “Fine! You’re the one who told me to write. I’m trying. It’s not working. You do it!” And my Father, with a gentle but knowing grin, then says what I say to my kids, “I won’t do it for you. I’ll do it with you.”
And we begin, first with pleasantries and obligatory statements that soon evolve, as with any good meeting with those you trust and can confide in, to a genuine conversation. This is the part where I realize what has really been missing. Sure, I can write words, come up with scenes and dialogue, and make characters on my own. I can force moments together and make stories make sense. But that’s not creating the way I am meant to create. It’s not living the way I am meant to live.
The alternative begins with an invitation. Making the space free from interruptions, ready to put away all the things of the day, I can focus on what I’m doing and who I’m with. I can embrace the importance of my writing, the importance of me, that I am delightful to him, exactly as I am, and that he’s excited to see what’s about to happen.
EVERY. OTHER. VOICE is told to be quiet. Whatever Karen said, “You can’t write that,” or whatever critic said “This is how real art works,” those thoughts aren’t welcome in these moments of pure, wild, creativity.
That is why TRUST is such an important factor. I need to trust that I can make moves and change them later, that I’m in a safe place to exercise my God-given gifts. I’m trusting that it’s okay to create without boundaries and that Dad will help me out if I go too far. He’ll let me know if I make a mistake, and he’ll reveal boundaries as I revise. But there’s nothing and nobody else to stop me or hold me back. Fear isn’t allowed in my writing space.
(I should note, if it’s been a while or a particularly rough day, the conversation may turn into an hour of crucial reminders rather than extended word-counts. If all that comes out of my writing sessions, like only the best business meetings, is a deeper and better understanding of God’s love and excitement for how I was created, that’s enough progress for that hour and a half. Writing WILL resume tomorrow.)
Like a child sitting in the grass under the warm sun, I can let my imagination run without hindrance. The underlying question of these writing sessions isn’t, “What do you want me to create?” Rather, it’s him asking, “What did you come up with?” And no matter how many times I ask for approval, I often don’t get an answer until after I’ve put the idea to paper. Just like I don’t want to tell my kids how and what to paint, God wants to see what I can do and what I love. He delights in ME. (More on this in Creating for the Father.)
With this process, scenes have gone from four pages in ninety minutes to six pages in an hour. Blocks of dialogue that felt clunky and cobbled together suddenly flow seamlessly from one to the next. And certain turns and deviations from my carefully-devised plot map aren’t so scary. Some actually lead to squee-inducing fits of excitement to write the next day.
This is creating.
So many times, I’m asked about the “message” God told me to write into my story to share the gospel. To be honest, that type of question paralyzed my writing for nearly a decade between high school and motherhood—the time when fiction COULD have been my foremost mental occupation. I was so hell-bent on begging God for an assignment, I was scared that anything I wrote would hinder rather than grow the Kingdom, convinced that anything from me would only be garbage.
What I’ve found through this trust and intimacy-based writing space is that stories aren’t messages. They can HAVE messages. And the best way (for me) to find them is to start writing and let them inevitably appear. Every character needs some truth, every plot needs some redemption. Even in the stories where the gospel isn’t as obvious, it makes its way in there. When beginning a story that seems to have no message, I’m able to TRUST (there it is again) that God will bring it forward. If I start with a serious purpose and message in mind, I can trust that God will direct the best way to fit it in.
In the quiet, with freedom and trust, the words that pour out have life and fire. I can be reminded of their value, MY value, as a creator and as a beloved child. It still sometimes feels like work, and I’m not always in the mood. I can still get caught up in deadlines and word-counts and doubt if it’s worth the effort. But then I always have someone there to remind me that my creativity deserves to run free. I’m reminded, above everything, that I’m loved.
And then I keep writing.