The Power of Writing Fear
Spare time isn’t such a good thing for me. If I have too much of it, worry completely takes over my entire being. I start thinking about everything that can and will go wrong. I say will, because as soon as this thought forms in my head, it’s like it’s already happened.
Is that you? Do you ever find yourself stressing over something small to the point that it consumes you?
We all know what the Bible says about this. Matthew 6:25 tells us not to be anxious about our life, and 6:34 reminds us that today’s trouble is sufficient–we need not worry about tomorrow’s trouble.
Well, confession. This past school year, after three weeks of snow days, I was worried about my students and the ACT. They hadn’t been engaged in focused classroom work. And I feared my really awesome, well-deserving kids would possibly score lower than they would have normally because of this. It was on my mind so much that I had nightmares about it days before the test.
Dream 1: We had to take the test in a raging hot attic. They kept forgetting to bring us things like pencils and such, so a lot of kids ran out of time because they had to share the handful of pencils I had.
Dream 2: My amazing angel students (They really were the best kids) turned into little ACT-shirking demon children. They were talking the whole time, wouldn’t stay in their seats, ran outside between sessions. It was a disaster.
Dream 3: We’re in the middle of the test and a tornado hits
See what I mean? Thing is, intellectually, I already knew what would happen. My well-behaved students would arrive at school early that day, because they’d be nervous, too. They’d be in their seats fidgeting, straightening their pencils, praying they could remember how to do all the math problems. And they’d try really, really hard, because they normally do. And guess what? They did fine!
So, why all the worry?
I read a blog post or heard a sermon once about how Satan is like a thief. It talked about how he stole our faith and placed thoughts of fear, doubt, and disbelief instead. And also, how these thoughts come from his deception. The idea was basically how we need to blame the right person for our worry, and realize that even though it’s a somewhat involuntary, physical reaction, it’s still sin.
If this is the case, then it seems we’d need some way to process our worry and make it easier to see the flaws in our logic. At the beginning of this year, I started a prayer journal. The plan was to physically write my fears every day in a notebook. I stopped, because my children got into the notebook for paper, and it bothered me that they might read my fears and become insecure themselves. So, I took to my computer, and now type them out in a file that I don’t save.
The simple practice of getting my irrationalities on paper has made a lot of difference. Just as I can go through a scene with a character and find holes in the plot, I can also spot holes in my logic about who’s in control.
Then, it becomes a very easy process. Pray about it, wait for God’s outcome, accept it as His will.
What do you do to ease your worries?
Platitudes in Christian Fiction?
Sometimes when reading Scripture, I come across words that make me curious about their origin, and then, once I find their initial meaning, I try to understand how I can relate it to life and writing. Take “platitude,” for example. A platitude is some kind of statement that usually has a moral or religious intent, but it’s been used so often it’s become boring or trite.
I didn’t dig too deep this time (wrapping up soccer!), but Google’s dictionary told me it originated in France, from the word plat, meaning flat, and it’s usage peaked somewhere around the mid 1920’s. In today’s society where people get paid to babble about whatever they choose on blogs and national TV, maybe it should make a comeback.
I came across the word in Job 13, where Job is talking to his critics. After questioning them and asking them if it will be well for them when God searches them out, he says this:
Your proverbs are platitudes of ashes; your defenses are defenses of clay.
Trite, flat, boring, and overused. Hollow, empty words.
To the modern world, many Biblical themes might be considered platitudes. Though we, as Christians, all know that God’s message is timeless and those moral statements are treasures, those outside of the faith might consider them old-fashioned and trite.
Still, I believe wholeheartedly that God’s moral wisdom belongs in our stories, and his themes should be resounded over and over. At the same time, there are certain themes that become our pet issues and we often beat them into the ground to the point that they become rote. How can we continue relaying the same simple truths time and time again without making them seem like platitudes to the secular world?
I think the answer, both in writing and in life, lies within relationships and attitudes. All the time, I hear people complain that they try to talk to someone about their faith and “they just won’t listen.” This just makes me wonder how the message is being given.
I’m not saying I think we need to sugar coat God’s truth, but I do think the delivery needs to come from compelling characters that people want to read or be around. In life, are we that person, serving others and forging friendships to open doors for conversations about faith? Or, are we that pushy, “my way or the highway” person, who forces the conversation whenever possible, as if it’s the only reason we have to talk to a particular person. In writing, do we interject our message to the point that it feels contrived, rather than the natural flow of the story? Do we throw a Christian message into the plot just to call it inspirational fiction?
I’ve learned this from teaching–the same general fact can be delivered to a class of students. From one perspective/attitude, they dismiss it. From another, they embrace it. And the perspective they embrace ends up being the one that requires the most effort, the one that makes it the most meaningful to them.
So, there you have it. We’ve come back to grit, which seems to be my favorite theme these days. It takes a little more effort to be that person who cultivates relationships so Biblical truths will be more palatable, as they are coming from a friend. It takes more effort to write characters who show their faith rather than just dropping it into a dialogue.
And for an extra bang for your buck, especially if you are interested in melodic trances, meet “Platitude,” mixed by Onova (otherwise known as Christian Lejon), released back in 2007.
I spent a couple of hours tonight on a Facebook party supporting debut author Nadine Brandes with the launch of her new release, A Time to Die, first in a series of three published by the newly-branded Enclave Publishing. It was incredibly cool, and a great time. She had video interviews, giveaways, great discussion, and it was interesting to connect with other writers and fans.
One of the activities we did centered on the premise of the book–what if you knew exactly how much time you had to live? How might you live differently? I would evangelize more. Although, I fear that knowing a date and time would just lead me to do as I sometimes do in other facets of my life–wait until the last minute and make a good run at it.
I’ve heard people, both in the church and out, throw around the “life is a vapor” and “no one knows when He’s coming” verses like candy, but they live their lives as if they don’t believe them. And they don’t share their faith as if they don’t believe anyone else is lost. So I’ve been thinking a lot tonight about evangelism and procrastination.
The Bible makes it really simple.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: fear God and keep His commandments. For this is man’s all.
Matthew 28:19-20 Go into all the world and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
We whine all the time about how our churches are losing members and people are losing their faith in God’s existence. But I think it’s time we face a bitter truth–we aren’t doing our jobs!
Think about it. How many employers would be content giving us a task that we ignore day-by-day? God has given us a charge–to go into the world and make disciples. And if we aren’t actively working on talking to people about God each day, we’re ignoring that task. The message is simple. God exists. He loves you. He sent his Son to die for you. Obey him and receive eternal salvation. Why is that so hard to share?
And we ignore this task for what? Sports? Work? Entertainment? Fear?
Have we made these things our all, when the Bible clearly tells us that keeping God’s commandments should be our all?
One reason I want to write Christian fiction is because it gives me a tool to share my faith. Even if someone never reads my work, I can tell them about my books and it opens the door to a conversation about God. But I should do so much more.
How do you fit evangelism into your daily lives?
That’s a great first line!
So… a few weeks ago, I was named Area Coordinator for the Eastern Kentucky branch of ACFW. Whoo hoo! Other than the only other Christian writer I know of in the area is the girl who teaches across the hall from me. Lots of work to do!
Today was an amazing day. A friend and I joined three writers at a quaint little bookstore/bakery to find out a little more about what needs to happen in an ACFW chapter. I can’t stress enough what a difference this organization has made in my life. The free classes, the contests, the encouragement–like anything else, you get what you give, but I’ve received some fantastic feedback and feel closer than ever to my goal of someday publishing.
One thing that stands out to me from the day–
As we got to know each other, we laughed and told stories. One of the ladies kept exclaiming, “That sounds like a great first line!”
I think about first lines all the time, stress over them, in fact. But this woman, within a span of about 30 minutes, had already turned our simple conversation into several great ideas. So, a new challenge for myself and anyone who reads this. Every day for the next week, just listen to everyone around you. Pay attention to their quips and greetings, and find as many great first lines as you can.
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