How Writing Fiction Deepened One Woman’s Appreciation for God

MELENITA / FLICKR
MELENITA / FLICKR

Fiction is about everything human and we are made out of dust, and if you scorn getting yourself dusty, then you shouldn’t try to write fiction. It’s not a grand enough job for you. – Flannery O’Connor

As 2014 ends, it’s time for the “Best Of” lists to start appearing our newsfeeds. The best movies, the best songs, the best new products. For some, the most anticipated of these is the “Best Books” list—the one where we add more books to the pile already waiting on our nightstands.

And yet, if these lists are indication, evangelicals have some odd reading habits. As much as we say we value fiction, when the “Best Christian Books” lists come out, they are stacked with nonfiction. (And if we do bring up top fiction titles, they only appear in a separate, fiction-only category.) This reality has niggled at me for a while, if only because I knew it mirrored my own reading and writing habits. So recently I decided to do something about it: I signed up for National Novel Writing Month.

Valuing Fiction
More than 400,000 people around the world participate in National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo), devoting the month of November to churning out a rough draft of that novel that so many believe they have inside them. By registering at the official site, NaNoWriMo.org, participants can track word count, connect with other writers, and receive encouragement throughout the process. A cheery banner at top assures you that “The World Needs Your Novel.”

While I doubt the veracity of this statement, I knew that I needed to write a novel. For the last several years, I’d been collecting anecdotes and bits of conversation to “one day” put in a book. Theoretically, I knew the power of stories to preserve a way of life or explore the human condition; but whenever I sat down to write, I inevitably veered toward non-fiction. I guess simply didn’t value stories the way I claimed I did.

This disconnect might trace back to my relationship with the most prominent book in my life: The Holy Bible. Like other conservatives, I cling to the authority of the Scripture. Given modernist readings of Scripture as myth, it’s easy to react in the exact opposite direction and approach the Scripture as if it were non-fiction. After all, we believe it is literal and historical, right? Poetry, figurative language, and parables not withstanding.

When we privilege a non-fiction reading of Scripture, we can unknowingly translate this onto our broader reading and writing habits. Non-fiction will seem more “biblical” or more spiritual because it mirrors how we engage the sacred text. Even as we argue for the importance of the redeemed imagination, few of us are actually employing it. Participating in NaNoWriMo was my chance to act on what I’d long professed but never proven: writing fiction is just as valuable as writing non-fiction. As I set off to write in the beginning of November, it wasn’t long before I realized how daunting the task of 50,000 words in 30 days would be.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Hannah Anderson

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