I haven’t always been a writer. I mean, I’ve always written things. I remember my first poem using personification—our vacuum cleaner had teeth and became a monster. Okay, so that’s not exactly personification, but I was close. I kept writing poetry in my early teens, but high school English introduced me to literary analysis and I was hooked. Then came college, with more literary analysis and a focus on research writing. By grad school, most of my writing was about teaching students to write. After I finished my degrees, my writing was made up of lesson plans, directions and assignment feedback, interspersed with book reviews and our (mostly) annual family Christmas letter.
I enjoy all those types of writing. Truly! But a couple years ago, something different started stirring in me. I reviewed tons of fabulous books, but sometimes, one would come along and make me think, “I could do better than this.” The thought was always followed closely by something along the lines of, “But you don’t have time.” or “No one talks the way you do. Your dialogue would be lousy.” or “It’s probably harder than it looks.” So, I didn’t write.
For a while, I was teaching teens the difference between “showing” and “telling” in fiction writing. I had a hard time getting them to understand the concept, so sometimes I would model by taking a paragraph of their narrative that was all “telling” and rewrite it to be “showing.” Although I had fun rewriting the sections for them, I still didn’t write.
In the midst of all this, my oldest child started growing up. We’d go to the library, and she would look and look for books. She’d outgrown most of the books in the juvenile section, and was drawn to teen books, but had a hard time trusting them enough to check them out. She tried a couple, but had bad experiences. You’ve all been there, right? You check out a book, start reading, and it’s great! A new, unusual story, an intriguing setting, characters you like. . . then, part-way through, the tone changes. Something unexpectedly creepy happens. Or the romance gets way more steamy than you’re comfortable with. Or a violent scene replays over and over in your mind. What do you do? If you’re lucky, it happened early enough so you don’t care about not finishing the book, but sometimes, you’re already invested. You like the characters and you need to know what happened at the end, but now you’re nervous to finish.
Around this time, I started thinking, “I wonder if I could write a book my daughter, her friends, and my students would like? A book without all the sex, and violence, and super creepy parts. . . but a book that is still grown up, and belongs in the teen section?” But I still didn’t write.
One day, with this question still floating around in my mind, I went to Bible study, and the speaker talked about a verse in I Peter 4:10. It says, “Be generous with the different things God gave you, passing them around so all get in on it, if words, let it be God’s words. . ..” Somehow, my mind got stuck on this part of the verse. For the next 20 minutes, I sat in Bible study, and instead of taking notes, I wrote a scene. I got home, and kept writing. A week later, February 7, 2014, (exactly two years ago as I write this), I typed out the opening scene of my current completed manuscript, Amber in the Mountains. Since that day, I write.
Don’t get me wrong. I read a lot of books, and you might think some of them are violent, creepy, or steamy. We’re all different and that's okay. But, I hope, with the books I write, to challenge the assumption that all teens want steamier, creepier, more violent stories. Instead, I want “God’s bright presence to be evident in everything [I write], through Jesus.” 1 Peter 4:11
If you are a writer, why do you write? And if you aren't a writer, what is the main thing holding you back? Leave a comment! We'd love to encourage you!
Photo: Erin Cronin: Sylvan Lake Dam
Verse: Peterson, Eugene H. The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2002. Print.