When you wonder if God can even use your writing…
Guest post by Angie Fraser
I was twenty years old and my heart was broken. My parents had finally divorced and I was leaving my father and my boyfriend of three years to move to another country. Boarding the plane, I felt dazed and numb.
Halfway through the flight, I pulled out a manila folder my friend Diane had put in my hands at the airport. On the front she had drawn a picture of ballet shoes, and in swirly ribbon-like letters she had written the word: “Winsome.”
Winsome turned out to be a kind of long short story. The heroine had some of my characteristics and similar pain in her heart. Diane had prayerfully typed out (on a typewriter!) a story with a prophetic flavour just for me. I can still recall the peace and assurance that blanketed me as I read it. I sensed I was under the shadow of God’s wings, a feeling that lasted for weeks as I settled into my new home.
This all happened nearly thirty years ago and I have lost touch with my friend. But the worn manila folder has a place of honour on my bookshelf.
Since then, I have written a few of my own stories for family members and friends. I pray for guidance and note any impressions or scriptures that come to mind. Then I weave personal details from the person’s life into a fictional story incorporating encouragement and assurance, just as Diane did for me.
Thanks to the teaching in The One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN), I have now written two novels. I suspect that my work will never be published in the traditional sense. Despite my best efforts, I use far too many adverbs, adjectives, clichés, and passive sentence constructions. My plots and characters aren’t particularly original. I’m too preachy. I could go on.
Does that mean that my writing can never be used for God’s purposes? I don’t think so. In a recent blog post, the lovely Tineke talked about writing for a smaller audience. I think that is where I slot in to God’s purposes.
Let me tell you what happened with my first OYAN novel, Starr’s Time. During the months leading up to writing it, I had to help my daughter work through text conversations with two distraught young girls who were contemplating suicide. Others in her circle of friends were cutting or starving themselves. With the exception of one, these kids were all home-schooled teens from Christian homes with loving parents. Homes like ours.
I wrote Starr’s Time with a heart desperate to convey God’s love, His intimate knowledge of each individual, and His desire to redeem and adopt us. I prayed every time I sat down to write; sometimes I prayed aloud right through the writing. When I finished, I sent my novel off to as many young teen girls as would read it. Some were polite, some were enthusiastic, and others avoided giving me any response at all. My own daughters were very honest – they found it too preachy.
I know Starr’s Time has many flaws; as Daniel Schwabauer, creator of OYAN, says, a first novel is definitely a novel to learn on.
But one of my readers (or victims as my husband would call them!) was twelve-year-old Sarah—I have changed her name to protect her privacy. She told my daughter she loved my book, she had read it “about fifty times” and she had just loaned it to another friend.
On another occasion, Sarah’s mother and I were planning a surprise for our girls. Sarah tried to guess what the surprise might be. Her mother later told me her guess: “Oh I know. It’s Mrs. Fraser’s new book! I can’t wait to read it!”
Yes, I felt blessed. But wait, there’s more.
I mulled over why Sarah would like Starr’s Time so much and I realized a couple of things. Sarah’s family had experienced a tragic loss. Towards the end of my story, there is a joyful family reunion with loved ones in heaven. I would love to think Sarah derived some comfort from this scene. Coincidentally, I gave Starr’s older brother the same name as Sarah’s oldest brother, and the most significant mother figure has the same name as Sarah’s mother.
All these things made me wonder….did the Lord orchestrate those little coincidences because He wanted me to write that book just for Sarah? The thought makes my heart sing.
Recently another friend asked to read Starr’s Time. To my surprise she loved it. She shared it with someone with a ministry to troubled teens who is now looking at it with the intention of reading it aloud to these teens. As you can imagine, I couldn’t be more thrilled.
I have to be honest. I have struggled with the fact that my novels probably won’t ever be published. (Then I remind myself that if they were, I would have to have a book launch or conduct author talks at local libraries. As a self-confessed introvert, public speaking in any form makes me cringe!)
But this doesn’t mean that my writing cannot be used in God’s kingdom. Over the years, I have written to make people laugh, to encourage, to touch hearts, to reveal truth, and to try to communicate the character of the God I’m so crazy about.
Jesus made it clear that the Lord has endowed individuals with varying degrees of ability and resource. But whenever we willingly put that talent to use for His purposes, He will take it and multiply it.
If you are a one-talent writer with a heart for God’s kingdom, you may not end up with a bestseller.
Instead, you might just produce a dog-eared manila folder of writing that becomes one person’s life-long treasure.
Angie Fraser is a teensy weensy bit older than your typical OYANer. She lives with her husband and three daughters in New Zealand, land of the desolating dragon and the breathtaking scenery. (In truth, where they live, suburbia obscures the views.) Over a year ago, she completed the OYAN curriculum and fulfilled her lifelong dream to write a novel. Angie currently homeschools two of her daughters and tries to stuff writing into cracks of spare time during the day.