Sunday, 9 January 2011

Writing and sacrifice: a (Christian) writer's dilemma

All the books on writing that I've read lately have said so, and my experience would certainly concur: if you really want to be a writer, it takes time. You will have to sacrifice hobbies. Other things may have to fall by the wayside. It's also been said many times that to be an expert at anything takes 10,000 hours: that's 10,000 hours spent not doing something else.

How does that work, when you believe your primary purpose on earth is to build the Church? If writing a novel really *did* take a year, or a few months, then maybe, maybe you could take a few months out of the teams you're serving on: after all, the Earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, and having quality fiction written by Christians is an important aspect of our being salt and light. But it doesn't take a year. It takes, like, forever, and during that forever, you eat, sleep and breathe it. And are you not making an idol of your writing if you put it first?

Or, and yes, I know you're all getting tired of the pregnancy analogy, but is it a "season of life" thing - stepping back for several years to give yourself to something worthwhile? Great. (Except that it's quite possibly not just a "season". You're probably a gonner forever.) But everyone understands that babies are important and time-consuming and take over your life. I think most non-writers don't really understand that novels also do that. That they almost have to, if they're going to be any good. Does it matter what others think, whether they understand? No, of course it doesn't - if you have rock-solid self-confidence and a mandate written across the sky. For the rest of us, it matters hugely.

If you have a baby, everyone understands that you are busy, not sleeping much, and that any conversation with you is going to involve the kind of minutiae that others, in particular non-parents, are not necessarily enthralled by. But can you really say, well, I'm taking time out from such-and-such for a few months while I get my novel written? Or, worse, I'm really sorry, I don't have much spare time to meet up, and I probably won't for the next few months, since whenever I have a chunk of uninterrupted time I sit down and write, and that's what I'm prioritising? I mean, it sounds so cold, so callous. Not to mention a little dysfunctional.

All the books give you permission to do that. More than permission - they seem to require it of you. But the problem is, writing is a less common occupation than having babies, so most people probably don't get it. So you risk offending people. You risk people thinking you don't care about their friendship. You risk people misunderstanding you, or judging you, or thinking that building Church is not supremely important to you. You risk worrying that yourself.

If you've met me in the last couple of years, you could be forgiven for thinking that I'm some kind of introverted hermit, uninterested in friendships, and obsessed with spending as much time at home with my West Wing DVDs as possible. But ask people who've lived with me: believe it or not, before I remembered I was a writer, I would panic at the thought of an evening in by myself. I would hang around at Church till the very last person had gone. I would meet up with as many people as possible for lunch and coffee and dinner.

It's just that my priorities are different for now. I don't know how that works long-term. I keep hoping for the rich husband or the lottery win that will enable me to quit my job, so I have time to write and be sociable and serve on all the teams I can shake a stick at and engage meaningfully wtih the country I live in and help my friend check his thesis for grammar errors, but short of that something has to give. And that something is not going to be, cannot be, my writing, not because it's an idol, but because it's what I was made for. To paraphrase Eric Liddle, God made me to love words, and I feel His pleasure when I write.

1 comment:

BloggerGirl26 said...

I'm Christian also and a single mom, above all what I like to do is spend time with our Lord and Savior...I also love to right about Him or too Him through my blog or my personal journal.

I've been writing since I was twelve only for fun and I have never thought of it as a career, but I agree with you writing is a sacrifice just like parenting is. Sometimes, I have to give up church for a night if my son falls asleep and since he's only three it can be hard to wake him up. Anyway, I make it a priority to attend church on a regular basis and spend time with God daily.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, I'm trying to branch out and find other bloggers like myself who love the Lord and love sharing their daily lives.

It's nice to read your entry and I hope to read more :)