Rarely does a day pass anymore without a depressing headline hitting the news. Violence, hate, and fear rampage across your screen. Some days you can’t bear it, so you shut off your devices. You’re done. You want life to be normal again. You want your motivation back. You want to revive the creativity that all of the chaos and uncertainty killed.
But ignoring the news will only give you a false sense of peace that won’t last. “Take a walk. Read a book. Visit a friend,” anxiety taunts. “I’ll return when you’re through.”
You’re tired of hearing that voice, aren’t you? You’re tired from sleepless nights and cranky kids. You’re tired from cramming for college finals. You’re tired from clocking too many hours at two jobs to pay overdue bills. You’re tired, tired, tired.
Maybe you’re even too tired to write.
I’ve been there. I’m usually very driven and disciplined, but last year I struggled with inertia. The question I kept asking myself, and the one you’re probably wrestling with too, is: How do I reignite my passion and energy for storytelling?
When I looked to the One whose grace crosses out my weakness, I found the solution.
Christ, Our All
“But as for me, the nearness of God is my good.” (Psalms 73:28)
Every fall, we publish an article series that describes how to pursue the ideals of our Christian Storytellers Manifesto. So far, we’ve covered different components of story craft, like tricky subjects and characters. But this year we decided to focus on rejuvenating writers’ hearts. Due to the turmoil of 2020–2021, we felt that an exploration of the CSM’s thirteenth resolution would be timely:
“We resolve to base our confidence in God and not the opinions of others, to rely on God by praying over our writing, and to bury ourselves in Scripture, for we can only exemplify truth when we are immersed in it ourselves.”
At our recent staff retreat, we discussed what placing our confidence in God can look like as writers. We exchanged a variety of thoughts: accepting His timetable for when we achieve publication, seeking His guidance on the themes we choose, and letting scriptural truths permeate our stories. But an equally pivotal question is: Why do we place our confidence in God?
The answer might seem so obvious that it’s not even worth dwelling on: God is infinite and all-knowing and unchangeable. He mercifully rescued and remade us. Of course we’d rely on Him! However, we need to pause and reorient ourselves now and then, or else we’re apt to subconsciously forget who we are.
We’re Christians first and foremost, not storytellers.
Crafting stories isn’t more important than reading God’s story. Creating realistic characters isn’t more important than nurturing a godly character. Brainstorming a plot twist isn’t more important than soaking in the wonders God shows us every day. He is our reason for living, working, and writing. Regardless of our current circumstances, our relationship with Him, not our writing, should be our highest priority and most valued gift.
The Lord Jesus Christ is our resource for every need, large or small. He is our Savior, our Father, our Friend, our King, our Creator, our Shelter, our Sustainer, our Compass, our Anchor, our Comfort, Our Hope, our Light, and our Rest. He is sufficient for all things—including the mess of words that we’re trying to shape into coherent, compelling stories.
Christ’s Sufficiency for Storytellers
“For You light my lamp; the Lord my God illumines my darkness. For by You I can run upon a troop; and by my God I can leap over a wall.” (Psalms 18:28–29)
We often define our relationship with Christ in spiritual terms—confession, worship, evangelism, tithing. But He is sovereign over the mundane too. When we’re folding laundry, washing dishes, or checking social media, He is there, watching us, loving us, teaching us. So how much closer is He when we’re attempting to portray the reality He’s designed?
When we draw perimeters around our faith, we also limit our access to blessings.
In the closing keynote for our Authentic Characters Summit, Allen Arnold presented the concept of creating with God instead of treating Him as external to the process. Imagine how much richer our writing time would be if we listened to that advice!
- God’s Word can help us ground our stories in truth.
- God’s Spirit can help us convey the lessons our readers need to learn.
- God’s peace can help us stay calm when we’re overwhelmed with responsibilities.
- God’s presence can help us gather the courage to pitch to agents and publishers.
- God’s power can help us reach the readers our stories will impact.
- God’s compassion can help us create characters readers will empathize with.
- God’s grace can help us handle edits and criticism with humility.
- God’s strength can help us persevere after dozens of rejections.
God can accomplish much more than we realize, and even more than I listed above. Does that mean He’ll immediately fix all of our writing problems and smooth our path to publication? No. A genuine relationship with God involves trusting Him even when the direction He’s leading us in is disappointing.
If our writer’s block refuses to relent, maybe He’s urging us to take a break. If our books aren’t selling, maybe money and fame aren’t necessary to the plan He has for us. But even if He doesn’t hand us a book contract today or an abundance of inspiration tomorrow, He will provide the serenity and stamina we need for the troubles we’re facing.
What if our relationship with Christ isn’t as healthy as it should be, though? How can that affect our writing?
A Call Back to Christ
“If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction.” (Psalms 119:92)
The events of 2020–2021 have put people around the world under emotional, physical, and financial strain. But I believe that spiritual strain is part of the equation too. If we’re honest with ourselves, we don’t fully understand why God is allowing all of the upheaval. Doesn’t He hear our prayers for relief? He seems so distant.
Or maybe we’re the ones who have slipped farther and farther away. Maybe stress has eroded our communion with Him.
When life assails us, our ability to concentrate decreases. Since writing demands nearly 100 percent of our concentration, either we’re pecking out disjointed scenes, or we’re not touching our keyboards at all. What’s our recourse when that happens? Do we devour K. M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs? Have an intensive brainstorming session? Attend a virtual writer’s conference?
Although those activities may (or may not) unclog the flow of ideas, the underlying issue (disconnection from Christ), if left unaddressed, will continue to worsen. When we fixate on our writing, our careers, our dreams, we are, as Charles Spurgeon summarizes it, diluting our effectiveness: “When a man has fifty different desires, his heart resembles a pool of water, which is spread over a marsh, breeding miasma and pestilence; but when all his desires are brought into one channel, his heart becomes like a river of pure water, running along and fertilizing the fields. Happy is the man who hath one desire, if that one desire is set on Christ.”
Obsessing over our writing (or anything else) reduces our energy to a near-stagnant trickle, and the lack of movement breeds bacteria. If we yearn to bring glory to God and experience joy in our writing, we first need to reignite our passion for Him. He is the only One who can offer us the refuge we need to write in the midst of trials. As the verse at the beginning of this section states, we’d perish without Him.
Deepening Our Relationship with Christ as Storytellers
“His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalms 1:2)
For those of us raised in Christian homes, prayer and Bible study and church have probably been integral to our routines since childhood. But each of those habits can become rote if we’re not careful—an item we scratch off an “I belong to Jesus” checklist. It’s our attitude that’s the game changer. Are we steeping our minds in God’s Word throughout the day, or are we reading a couple chapters and then shifting our attention to our jobs, families, and the latest funny meme in our Facebook feed?
For example, during my daily Bible time, I review the same passage for a week, and on Sunday I repeat each verse to myself, rolling the meaning around in my head. I’m not just opening and closing my Bible for a designated number of minutes each day, I’m letting the text saturate my thoughts. That’s because I wholeheartedly agree with Charles Spurgeon: “He is not the best student who reads the most books, but he who meditates the most devoutly upon them.”
The practice of meditation primarily boosts our spiritual growth, but it can boost our writing growth too. In a sermon about the influence of God’s Word on believers, John MacArthur makes an interesting point: “As a Christian, you’ll never function on what you don’t know. It’ll never happen. You’ll never be able to operate on the principle you never knew. You’ll never be able to apply the truth you haven’t discovered. So, as you feed into your mind the Word of God, it becomes a handle by which the Spirit of God directs and guides.”
Although MacArthur is referring to the overall scope of the Christian walk here, the same principle applies to writing. We can’t infuse our stories with truth if we aren’t thoroughly, personally familiar with whatever is honorable, just, pure, lovely, and of good repute.
We need to slow down so that the verses we’ve read can roam around our minds. We need to think and pray about God’s precepts when we wake up and when we go to sleep. Our books can wait. So can our platforms. Because the more intimate we are with God and the Bible, the more our writing and our lives will naturally “reflect and reveal God’s story,” whether we’re conscious of it or not.
Meditation, however, is only one aspect of building and maintaining a relationship with Christ. That’s why we’re going to delve into four other areas over the next couple weeks:
- On Thursday, November 4th, Josiah will expose common mistakes that writers make in how they approach prayer.
- On Monday, November 8th, Martin will explain how chronically flat characters may be a sign that we need to expand our personal growth.
- On Thursday, November 11th, Lori will demonstrate how God strengthens us through trials so that we can then minister to others through our stories.
- On Monday, November 15th, Gabrielle will remind us where our identity as writers comes from and debunk the lies that contribute to self-doubt.
Our True Rest
“I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.” (Psalms 16:8)
To the person who has to drag herself out of bed each morning, to the person with more expenses than income, to the person who views his writing as worthless, to the person unable to push past a blinking cursor, to the person alone and scared and wondering why…
I hear you, I see you, I feel your pain.
I wish I could assure you that tomorrow will be brighter. That you’ll suddenly figure out how to fill in all of your book’s plot holes. That the relationship you’re aching for will solidify instead of falling apart. That next year will be normal. But I don’t know what the future will bring.
What I do know is that, through Christ, we can do all things and endure all things.
Remember that, dear one.
Cling to Him, cast your cares on Him. No matter what hardships befall us, He’ll carry us through the darkness to the light on the other side. If we place our confidence in Him, we can do the impossible.
Even write a book.
Rejoin us on Thursday as Josiah encourages writers to reevaluate and revitalize their approach to prayer. In the meantime, we’d love for you to share your perspective. How do you cultivate a relationship with Christ as a writer?
 C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume Three (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), p. 92.
 C.H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon’s Sermons, Volume Four (Hendrickson Publishers, 2016), p. 41.
Mariposa Aristeo is a writer of quirky characters and fantastical adventures filled with heart, humor, hope, and, very often, dinosaurs. If you can’t find her in one of her own imaginary worlds, try combing the pages of a great middle-grade fantasy novel.
At Story Embers, igniting (and sometimes imploding) ideas is her favorite pastime, so she often uses her creativity to make graphics for articles and writing quotes, as well as implement new strategies for SE’s social media channels. Explosions aside, she loves getting to know each and every writer here at SE by running the popular #embersgram hashtag on Instagram and responding to your questions and emails.
Besides being a co-owner of Story Embers, Mariposa is an ACFW First Impressions contest finalist, a children’s book illustrator, and the host of the IGTV series #middlegrademagicwithmari. You can check out her book recommendations (and shenanigans) on her Instagram page or her character sketches on her art account.