I wrote my first novel in 1997. It is still on the shelf in my office, yellowed with age, pages torn. I wrote it on a word processor. I was so proud of that machine and its thirteen-inch screen.
The novel was a sort of Max Lucado attempt. I was deeply involved in church back then and I wanted to write about the wisdom, knowledge and understanding I gained from studying the Bible. It was a joy to write. I dove deep into my subject matter, spending hours at the library and attending various churches. It was a very nice story for a nice Christian girl to write.
The writing of my current novel has not been much fun. Oh, the story is fun and the characters are written honestly. Which means of course, they do not always talk nice and they do all sorts of immoral things. Consequently, my church, and others in this town will want to stone me once this novel hits bookstore shelves. It is not a story a good Christian girl ought to write. Knowing all of this rather takes the fun out of writing it.
With every cuss word and love scene I create, I hear another rock whizzing by. I will be used by pastors around here as an example to the congregation of what is wrong with the world today. I will be a contributor to corruption. And I will be asked to leave my church. Yep, heartbreak ahead.
Steven King, of all people, is the proprietor of the words that are empowering me, helping me come to terms with the choice I had to make. He said in his book, “On Writing”, that polite society and what it thinks should be the “least of a writers concerns”. He says that “if we intend to write truthfully our days as members of polite society are numbered”.
There is a heaviness in my heart as I write the new novel, because I know that along with the joy of having a book published will come the pain of losing so many of the things I love. I know that my days in polite society are numbered.
Are you struggling with this? Playing tug of war with God, and/ or society on one end and your dream on the other? Talk it over with someone you love and get your fears out. You need someone to stand by you if you find yourself faced with retribution for your work. Also, take comfort in knowing that you are only one in a very long and distinguished line of writers who have paid a dear price for their art.
I think I now understand the dynamics behind the term ‘suffering for your art’. I can see the road ahead with clarity. I know that when I succeed I will also go through a time of heartbreak. So be it. I have made my choice.
Oh, and it helps me when I remind myself that Jesus wasn’t too fond of polite society either.