Monday, April 02, 2007

Suffering for your art..

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.



Jean said...

You a preacher's wife, I've struggled with this issue too. In fact, I considered a pen name for a while.

I have decided there are some things I just won't write even I could probably do them well.


Laura said...


This is quite a thought provoking post. I guess we each have to determine our own boundary lines.

As far as the bad things characters do or say, well that happens in polite society too. They just don't want anyone to know that they do or say things like that! Like when I was younger and went on rampages and screamed like a's not a pretty picture of me but it's still an honest account of me at my worst.

I'm a Christian and I'm willing to read a book that includes love scenes or even borderline lust. When it's over done with too much discription, then I think it looses it's power.

I hope you don't face too much heartache for your choices and I can't wait to read your book!


Cheryl said...

Hmmm...had to come back to this a day later and reread it. I am a Christian, wife, mother, sister, daughter, writer, and Sunday School Teacher. In all those roles I do my best to perform the work I feel God calls me to. I do, however, feel that my role as a writer is where He gives me the most freedom.

I once said that I would never write a steamy LHOP story because it is a family show and that would go against the basic premise of the show and the values it portrayed. But I have written several at this point.

Why? Because I don't see it as exploring physical relationships. It is more about understanding the emotional connection between two people.

All fiction writing--in my not so humble opinion--comes from finding out what motivates the characters to act the way they do, thus allowing the writer to provide their readers with a deeper understanding of the world population as a whole. And in another not so humble opinion, I believe that understanding people's motivations is what allows us to see things from a different POV. Not that we necessarily accept those actions, but at least we can see why a person acted the way he did.

Stephen King is a staunch supporter of freedom of speech. And while this right can be manipulated at times, it is important to realize how vital this particular right is to American freedom. Some people would kill to have it.

And I think the people in the Bible Belt--while good intentioned--have forgotten one important thing--God gave us free will. He didn't put conditions on it; He gave it to us to use in any way we see fit. To stiffle a writer is like trying to take free will away...and I don't think we should start messing with the gifts God gives us.

I'm sorry to hear of your struggles Gwanny, but I am glad you are plugging away in spite of them.

Good luck!


Lorrie said...
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Lorrie said...
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Lorrie said...

[Lorrie will try again . . . and will NOT delete any more comments!]

You could have been dictating for me, Sherry. I don't live physcially in an area like yours, but I certainly do mentally. I wouldn't consider myself a 'baby Christian', but obviously I'm early enough on my journey to lack confidence about my "permissions" when it comes to writing. On the StoryCrafters board you mentioned how life as a Christian has hindered your writing, even your imagination . . . that's just how I feel.

I thank you for sharing this. It's really hit home for me and I pray that I will reach a working level of acceptance within myself as you have found in yourself.

Many blessings to you, Sherry.