I spend the last five days in the redwoods, in Mount Hermon, at the Christian Writers Conference, learning what it means to be a Christian who writes.
I went through a similar process as I was finishing my PhD, trying to reconcile academia and my faith, and I see many parallels. But I have returned home (to the ‘real world’, I guess) and have been suddenly struck with what I can only describe as depression. Not clinical, don’t worry. But I’m overwhelmed by a serious sense of bleh, and I have been trying to think of why.
The realist in me knew that I would not leave the conference with either an agent or a book deal, but if I am honest, that was my fantasy. So, when the conference ended and I was sans agent and book deal, as I had predicted, I was of course disappointed. One critique I had with an agent was especially hard to hear, though I have been through such critiques and I would like to think that I know good writing advice when I hear it. Still, it stung.
And that is not to say that I did not have positive feedback. One publisher and one agent asked me to send in more. This is a great first step. Even the agent who ripped my manuscript apart said he would be happy to look at my work again after I’ve revised. The door has not shut completely, even though the sound of the initial slam is still echoing in my ears.
The time at Mount Hermon forced me to revise more than just my writing. In one session, our teacher asked, “If you knew that God was going to use your writing to touch the lives of people, but it was not going to be in the form of a shiny new book, would you still write?” What he was asking, really, is, to whom does my writing belong? Is it God’s or is it mine? If it belongs to me and I am writing for selfish reasons, then I can pretty much write whatever I want, cater to the general market and run with popular trends, even if the content is not edifying or honoring to God.
But if my ability to write, and the stories themselves, are gifts from God, then they belong to Him and I have a responsibility to use them for His namesake. And I have to trust Him with it, to open up opportunities when and where and for what He chooses.
So, I have revised my writing in more ways that one. I have to come before Him again and surrender myself, and my writing, to His uses and his timing.
On this Good Friday, I am especially reminded of the great gift of life I have been given through the sacrifice of my Lord. I am reminded that I do not belong to myself. I have been bought with a price.