I have a confession. My writing has been, well, non existent lately. We went through a winter where we seemed to catch all the bugs going around. I was exhausted from trying to get better myself and taking care of sick kids.
In the middle of this chaos, I received back my entry to the Genesis contest. To say the timing was bad would be an understatement. The comments in themselves weren't overly negative, but I wasn't in a place where I could receive the constructive critisism well. I felt discouraged and figured I'd never make it in the writing arena. Why not give up? I put it all aside and refocused on getting my family well.
Then we watched P.S. I Love You. This movie struck a chord with me and I found myself sniffling through it. When it was over, I shut myself in my room and had a good cry. I'm not usually weepy over movies and I felt a bit foolish, but I thank Jesus for reaching through this movie and touching my life.
You see, I was moved by the deep love the man had for his wife. He knew he was dying and he knew his wife would struggle once he was gone. So he planned a series of letters and events to walk her through her grief. I thought to myself, wow - to be loved like that. Then I thought about how I didn't deserve such love. I thought about how I long to be a wife worthy of her husband's praise.
Then it hit me. The wife in the movie wasn't a steller wife either. She struggled with her wounds and couldn't fully trust her husband's love for her. She didn't have to earn his love, she already had it. I talked to my husband about the movie and my thoughts and how I wish he wasn't disappointed in me. You see, I'm great at starting things, but not finishing them. I've known for years that he wanted me to accomplish the things I set out to do. One of those projects is my novel.
What he said next freed me to fly again and unlocked a key writing flaw. He told me he wasn't disappointed in me; he was disappointed FOR me. One simple word change, but a profound difference in perception. I had felt a burden to live up to this false expectation he didn't have. He loves me for who I am and his disappointment stems from that love. He wants me to finish simply because it's the desire of MY heart.
I pondered this as I thought about my writing. I didn't really want to quit, but what about my hero who seemed a little too perfect? My heroine had plenty of conflict, but my hero lacked some serious flaws. Then it clicked. The characters reflected my husband and me. I saw all of my screw ups, but my love for Bob blinds me to most of his. I give him grace, but myself, not so much.
Writers put a lot of themselves in their work, but when we aren't seeing clearly, it can have an undesirable effect. Our writing will lack authenticity and readers will catch it. Our novel will fall flat. My heroine was wonderfully flawed, but my hero lacked depth because the reader couldn't see his inner turmoil.
Allowing God to shine His light into our lives and correct our faulty thinking will bring authenticity to our words. Our characters come to life as flawed people saved by His grace. Readers will see the truth of it in their own lives.
The story we write doesn't begin in our head, it begins in our heart.