Saturday, January 10, 2009

Why Write?

Today, nearly nine months after finishing my study of Flannery O’Connor, I found myself returning to her texts. However, my purpose was to not reminisce over the hours I spent in coffee shops with dear friends nor the joy I seemed (perhaps strangely) to find in working late into the night with only my laptop and The Complete Stories for company. Instead, I returned to O’Connor to find a quote that has been pervading my thoughts as of late. In considering why I desire to write and feeling a need to explore and express this desire, I keep returning to an exchange O’Connor recounts in her essay “The Nature and Aim of Fiction.”

When asked why she wrote, O’Connor responded simply, “Because I’m good at it” (Mystery and Manners, 81). In saying this, O’Connor was not being arrogant, although on the surface it might seem that she was. Rather, for her, “it was the only answer [she] could give” (Mystery and Manners, 81). O’Connor firmly believed that her desire and ability to write was a gift that, because of her faith, bore “considerable responsibility:”
“It is a mystery in itself, something gratuitous and wholly undeserved, something whose real uses will probably always be hidden from us. Usually the artist has to suffer certain deprivations in order to use his gift with integrity.” (Mystery and Manners, 81).
While I do not presume to say that I am “good” at writing, I, like O’Connor, do presume to say that I write because it is a gift that God has given me and, as I am beginning to see, it is a responsibility that I am called to steward well. How do I know this? Simply, because of the deep pleasure I feel when I write.

For me, writing is a medium for critical examination and reflection, a mode of creativity, and a means for the imagination to take hold. I believe that to live honestly as a Christian it is necessary to face the reality of the brokenness of our world. It requires a “plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system” (Mystery and Manners, 78). Without such a plunge, our worldview is sheltered, shallow, and, therefore, inaccurate and, any attempt at the working out grace, is futile. It is when I write, that I most able to bear this broken reality, and, simultaneously, I am most enabled to hope. It is then that I am most able to think critically and then that I am most enabled to be my most imaginative.

For what purpose I have this desire to write, I do not yet know. How good I am at, again, I do not yet know. But, I do know that I relate deeply to Eric Liddell’s character in Chariots of Fire when he says, “I believe God created for me for a purpose … And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I may not be a world class writer as Liddell was a world class runner, but I do indeed feel God’s pleasure when I write.

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