This is a tough topic, but one I feel strongly about. I recently attended a wonderful well-known Christian conference. I loved everything about it. The people were warm and friendly. There were lots of hugs and words of encouragement, and everyone wanted to help each other succeed. It was a breath of fresh air, for me.
But I dreaded something about every conversation. That inevitable question that makes believers who write for a secular market cringe: "So what do you write?"
When I say, "fantasy" I get that questioning look, AND when I throw in the words "for a secular market" it's like I've committed a sin right in front of their very eyes. Given, my interpretation may be totally off, but that's what it felt like. I felt like I didn't belong. Like I was too worldly for these amazing people, whom I really connected with and understood and who actually, without them really knowing it, understood me. My soul.
It's been a few months since I left that conference, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about that feeling. I'm convinced that there are many other writers like me who have been confronted with this:
If God gives you a gift, you should use it for His purpose.
kI've done a lot of soul searching on this idea, and though this may not align with everyone's beliefs, it has kept me writing and growing closer to the Creator who inspires everything.
Let me tell you a secret: YOU ARE USING YOUR GIFT FOR HIS PURPOSE.
Our work may not overtly mention faith or God, but it does have His truth intermingled in the way our characters interact and the moral throughout. I dare say some good vs. evil is probably in there too, and maybe you even use magic as a catalyst! Uh-oh. It's okay. You shouldn't feel guilty about how God has inspired your writing. He is the creator of entertainment, even yours! He loves His children to explore their imaginations, and for a brief time, catch a glimmer of what it's like to be Him--the ultimate creative.
Secular Christian writers, allow me to speak to your soul for a minute. The same soul that has been tossed to and fro because of the hurtful words of others or the pressure to write only faith-based works when your heart pulls you to other endeavors. You're joining the greats, like J.R.R. Tolkien. You are expressing yourself through art. That's what artists do. If there's an element of Truth and Hope there, you have succeeded in using your gift for His purpose. You are going to the highways and hedges to reach the unchurched. Is that not what the Great Commission is all about?
There will always be well-meaning people who will question why you write what you write, but give them grace. They don't understand your purpose like you do.
In the beginning was the word... God uses words, and He'll use yours. Be encouraged, my friends. So long as you're drawing closer to Him and relying on His inspirations, you are fulfilling His will in your life.
So, for heaven's sake, go write something.
It's been a busy reading month for me. In addition to these lovelies, which I read for fun, I also read several other manuscripts. Luckily, I never get tired of stepping out of my world and into others.
What Do You Do With A Problem
First, give me a moment to pour out all my feelings about this series. When I first read, What Do You Do With An Idea, I cried. Seriously. I was standing in the bookstore, flipping the pages, and Prince Charming came up wondering what in the world was happening. Why were there tears in my eyes? Everything about that book made me want to read it every day for the rest of my life. Needless to say, I cradled it in my arms to the check out counter and have loved it ever since. This book, the second in the series, is wonderful too. They're both inspiring and carry a message that makes me want to re-read them over and over again.
Where the Wild Things Are
I'm not sure how I escaped childhood without reading this book, but even the most well-read have their gaps. I love the illustrations in this, and I enjoyed the message. Monsters are never as scary as they seem. In fact, they're just like you and me. Timeless.
The Amazing Adventures of Harry Moon: Halloween Nightmares
I love the spiritual themes and adventurous nature of these books. They're unlike anything I've ever read, and though I feel they could be stronger, I still think they're fun. Not to mention, the quality of this book is amazing. The artwork and interior are superb, and the authors have created great marketing techniques for these as well.
Lysa TerKeurst is amazing. She's so genuine and real, someone everyone can relate to. I especially loved how she tackles the emotional experience. In this book, she discusses how we sometimes allow our emotions to override our lives and how devastating that can be for us and those around us. If you're a mountain out of a mole hill girl, this is the book for you (and me).
The Best Yes
For the past six weeks, I've been co-leading a small group on the concepts Lysa teaches in The Best Yes. I haven't read a book that has changed my life this much in a really long time. We live in a world where we are rushed and busy 24/7, but God doesn't call us to a rushed life. He wants us to "underwhelm our schedules, so He can overwhelm our souls." Friends, go buy this book.
The Dollhouse Asylum
The Dollhouse Asylum is not your typical YA read, which is why I loved it. We all love the strong, female character in modern literature, but I also enjoy diversity, an exploring of all types of people. Mary Gray does that by giving readers a peek into the inner workings of one girl's emotional journey of learning that the man she adores and looks up to, a former teacher, is actually a stone-cold killer. I found it interesting that the MC struggles with a lot of things women who are abused (both emotionally and physically) struggle with. But that's not who he really is. He's good underneath it all. He won't do it again now that he knows it hurts me. Fans of Waywardly Pines and The Girl With All the Gifts will probably enjoy this too.
Today Facebook reminded me where I was on this exact day three years ago. I was in Savannah, GA. I've been to Savannah many, many times. It's my home away from home, and if you know me, you'll likely recall me telling you that it's my "soulmate in a place." Because it is. It truly, truly is.
I resent that reminder, though. I was working away, thinking nothing of long vacations. A memory of my husband asking me, while we sat on a park bench, to close my eyes, "What do you see?"
Characters walking cobbled streets many years ago. A party. A fire. A tragedy.
And I wrote.
I want to be there again. Not working away on my computer or busying myself with house work. I want to be in the place that inspires me to meet strangers, both real and unreal. I want to search the city for stories and let dark corridors whisper to me their secrets.
I want to take more tours and walk at night, allowing the southern breeze to pierce my soul. I want the early morning's fog to creep into my life, filling every corner with history and mystery.
I want Savannah.
Last time I was there, I wrote this:
The city of the dead lies silently beneath,
like an unsung song underneath our feet
like a painting void of color
or an undeveloped photograph--
never fully seen--
like an instrument without a string,
an undocumented life screams.
I want to document all the characters that fill Savannah's streets. It's time for another vacation.
There once was a seed planted deep in the depths of my young mind by a wrinkly one whom I loved. She whispered and nurtured it throughout her days until she fell asleep and could no longer. At first, I thought it dead, but bit by bit it recovered from its dormant phase and sprouted ever so tiny tendrils of thoughts that stretched and wove from there to the paper.
Years flew by like a quick wind, sorely felt and never seen.
Once upon a pair of eyes found that tiny tidbit and coddled it. Those eyes saw something I didn't realize I put there and watered the seed a little more. The more water it received, the more it stirred and created until hundreds of tiny somethings flittered across my desk. With every kind eye, the seed mulled itself into a thousand bitty dandelion fluffs that then scattered themselves across every cranny of my inner being until it finally burst forth like its own being, leaving me surrendering and at its mercy.
I always thought childhood was the time for magic. It turns out magic matures as it's nurtured with age.
I'm sitting here on my front porch listening to the birds sing, letting the spring breeze blow away my to-do list for a few minutes. Sometimes we need to escape from the ding on the washer, the piles of dishes in the sink, and the pups who need bathing, feeding, or both.
There are times when I crave nature and quiet. Even in my busy historic neighborhood, there's solace to be found on my swing, a place I can go to meet my thoughts and have tea with the one who created me.
These stolen moments are blessings. Just like these wild flowers I picked on my walk this morning. Even though the world is filled with chaos, there's still beauty everywhere I look.
Your enchanted challenge for the day is to steal a moment with your thoughts. Jot a few down, and if you find yourself wanting to share, I'm all ears.
Vanessa K. Eccles
Sharing wisdom on living a creative life.
Author of FABLED (2015) / Founder of The Faithful Creative Magazine / Executive Editor of Belle Reve Literary Journal
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