Friday, January 19, 2007

The Great American Novel

I once told a friend as we were discussing writing, that fiction writing seemed so trivial and meaningless, and I couldn't see using my gift or talents writing it. She replied that she would love to write a good novel, because she loved escaping into a good novel herself and would love to be able to give others that same satisfaction.

When I first spoke those words almost two years ago, God was impressing upon me that I should be writing, specifically writing Bible studies or something with life-changing discipling content. In my zeal, I forgot that one person's call is not the same as another's. I forgot that in the beginning an impression might be stronger or more singly-focused. I also forgot that I don't know everything, and that little sensitivity and silence on a subject can go a long way. Those careless words haunt me. I know that my friend doesn't hold them against me, but they make me feel as foolish as those pre-parenting absolutes: "I'll never let my child ______ (fill in the blank here with whatever you now regularly let your child do).

At the time I had this conversation, I was also a little bit out of the fiction reading habit, and had forgotten the wonder of a created character, or a world, or just a thought or a conversation in that character's world. I still don't know if I'll try to pen the Great American Novel, but I'm back to reading fiction as voraciously as possible while taking care of a house and two kids and nurturing a writing habit. In feeding the habits of reading and writing, I've learned that words resonate and take on lives of their own, sometimes to instruct or exhort or inform and other times just to entertain. Sometimes if you don't capture them on paper quickly, they die. Other times the process of taking them captive renders them lifeless.

I still enjoy writing essays and articles and Bible truths, but there are voices inside who won't be totally silenced. They have stories to tell, complete with personality quirks and noble or ignoble character. The truth is that while I can hear conversations and internal dialogue, I can't imagine actually plotting a novel from the introductory scenes through a crisis or two while building suspense and an eventual climax and resolution and conclusion. Yes, I have ideas. Yes, I've written a page (or twenty), but do I have that burning desire to get a specific story or any story down on paper? No, not right now. But just as I resolved after having children, I've learned never to say never.

12 comments:

org junkie said...

That is my motto too...never say never! I couldn't imagine myself writing blog entries everyday never mind a novel and here I am. It is always so interesting to see where God's hand will lead us next.
Have a great weekend!
Laura

Chris said...

Jennifer,
My interest in writing is similar to yours. I find that I am most comfortable writing things that encourage or teach God's truths. Like Laura, I never dreamed I would write a blog post 4-5 days a week. Yet, it has been a wonderful, creative and fun place to exercise the desire I have had for many years to write. I replaced writing in journals, to typing at the computer.
Like you, I don't see myself writing fiction anytime soon, but I will never say never.

Susanne said...

I cannot imagine how difficult writing a good fiction novel can be. My eyes have been opened a lot by reading some authors blogs. But I love how God does not call us all to the same thing and that he doesn't just spring something on us but he leads us step by step into it.

Big Mama said...

I would love to be able to write a fiction novel, but I'm like you, the thought of the plot development, climax and resolution is just overwhelming.

I think I better stick to blogging. : )

e-Mom said...

Excellent thoughts. Story is powerful, and Jesus used many forms. I confess I'm more in the "former Jennifer" camp (non-fiction) than in the "latter Jennifer" camp (fiction)... funny thing is, I used to love creative writing and novels. What happened? :~)

Dianne said...

Good post. Like you, I feel more impressed to write the non-fiction stuff. But I do hold in high regard those authors who can craft a great novel. Having read some author's blogs too has made me appreciate even more what goes into writing fiction.

Jennifer said...

Hi Jennifer,

"I also forgot that I don't know everything, and that little sensitivity and silence on a subject can go a long way. Those careless words haunt me. I know that my friend doesn't hold them against me, but they make me feel as foolish" Your words capture exactly how I feel on a pretty regular basis. At last night's Bible study the topic was parenting and I literally had to write on my paper "keep my mouth shut". Thanks for capturing in words what I can't express.

"You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry." James 1:19

Jennifer

Beck said...

Too, too often I've done that open mouth, insert foot thing, so I definitely hear you! My dad is a writer, so I've never thought of writing fiction as a frivolous thing - it's like building houses, just out of words, I guess.

Heather said...

When I first decided to follow this yellow brick road, I did the eh-hem "serious" stuff, mostly because I had just graduated seminary and that's what I had been writing. Now, I still love doing that, but these characters kept jumping rope in my mind. So here I am working on my second novel. Here's the thing I've learned: fiction can encourage and teach God's truth, too. After all, Jesus used parables.

Carrie said...

Like Susanne (and the others) I cannot imagine how hard it woudl be complete a story. A good one, anyway. The more I read, the more I feel like all the good stories have been taken. And yet I think everyone has a story. Someone I know said (or quoted someone else as saying) "Everyone has a book in them." Just so few of us write it out.

It's definitely a challenge! But not unthinkable.

Katrina said...

Blogger clearly hates me - I've left a comment on this post several times over the last couple days and it looks like it shows up but then it's not there.

ANYWAY, I, for one, am always saying things that I have to take back later. I need to learn that lesson of never saying never. And while I would love to write an engaging novel, I'm not sure I'd be able to see a project that big through to the end. I'm a good "starter." Not such a great "finisher."

Rebecca said...

I think it's fascinating that people can think of stories like that. Clearly if I ever write a book it will be non-fiction (and I'll need alot of help with commas).

But I am so grateful there are so many novels with a Biblical worldview for my daughters to enjoy. It definitely makes a difference.

Speaking of writing, I did what I could with the handbag thing. Hope it's helpful!