A few weeks ago I woke up on a work day (I get only two per week) contemplating spending the morning writing some kind of public lament and personal confession regarding this presidential election. But something in me hesitated. This was not, I felt quite certain, my given task. Which was odd, because it seemed really, really important. Like, social justice important. Like, standing-before-God-accountable-someday important. But what was really tugging on me instead was a novel I’ve been chipping away at for (count them) fourteen years. Why the sudden urgency?
“Today I’m supposed to be writing fiction. Please remind me why this is important, why someone has to be writing stories that will outlast us, for the sake of my children, no matter what happens in November. Feel free to post your pep talks here. (Comments containing words like ‘election,’ ‘candidate,’ names of famous people of questionable moral character, etc., will be deleted without apology. I love you all.)”
The response? A deluge of encouragement from childhood friends, fans of my nonfiction, grad school buddies, publishing colleagues, people from church, family–none of whom have ever read my novels. Because I’ve yet to finish one.
I wrote two chapters that day–and six last month alone. This is what happens when communal discernment galvanizes the work you were born to do.
With permission, here are the marvelous comments I received.
Yes we need your fiction Sarah! These stories are the holders of beauty and truth and wisdom and goodness. Write for hope! – Catherine Carlson McNiel
I have two words for you – bucket filling! – Gretchen Williams
We need to know we’re part of a bigger story, Sarah. That this year, even this lifetime, is but one thin thread in a great tapestry. Write so we remember that God can take even the worst tragedies and find a way to bring about more joy, more peace and more love.
– Kristin Kratky
My favorite musician, Andrew Peterson, also writes books. When talking about them he likes to [paraphrase] G.K. Chesterton: “We don’t tell fairy tales to tell our children that dragons exist. They know that. We tell fairy tales to let our children know that dragons can be beaten.”
– Jonathan VanDop
Girl, you were meant to do this. I recall talks about writing fiction that go back many years. We need your voice, content, strength and skill!
– Marta Arthur (mother-in-law)
When I was a kid, fiction opened my eyes to the world beyond my little town and let me imagine who I might become. – Dayna Olson-Getty
Fiction allows people to escape the madness. – Amanda Shoemaker
I subscribe to a writing newsletter by Holly Lisle and she sent out her most recent one in the face of possibly losing everything to Hurricane Matthew. It was an email filled with gratitude and reflection and there’s an applicable quote that I gleaned from it that I think fits your request: “Fiction, both writing it and reading it, matters. Fiction is our dream of the way the world could be and should be, drawn against all the ways it should never be, and presented as a promise that what we can envision, we can create.” Keep writing, Sarah. Help be part of the creation of the world you envision. – Candy Bryant
Written well, fiction tells us the truth about who we are and who we can be. Please write stories that tell the truth and are tinged with grace (which is as deeply true as anything else). – Liz DeGaynor
Important—and faithful–because it’s what you were designed to do. – Margot Starbuck
From one fiction writer to another: it matters! Because there are those who only read fiction, and they need our stories of truth and grace. – Terri Kraus
Jonah Sachs, in “Winning the Story Wars,” says “human beings share stories to remind each other of who they are and how they should act.” Write us a good one, Sarah!
– Michael Poteet
“A book, too, can be a star, ‘explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,’ a living ﬁre to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.” (Madeleine L’Engle) Sarah, you write like a star. And I do mean that both ways…because you are amazing and talented and rock-star-like, but also because your words and stories shine brightly in a dark world. Write on! – Stephanie Voiland Rische
Write for all the children like the son of C. S. Lewis’s correspondent (and like me) who might love Aslan more than Jesus. – Sarah Rubio
Because we want you to have a reason to come back to Oklahoma to see us! We love your writings! – Jill Ade Biggs
When I am weary from reading too many news articles, I turn to my favorite authors of fiction. Someday you will be someone’s favorite “author of fiction.”
– Peg Faulman (thanks, mom!)
I can’t wait to read your fiction! I remember enjoying those writings about Walloon Lake!
– Judy White Brusslan (other mother-in-law)
Fiction takes us in to our imaginations of what could be–something we all need!
– Teresa Miller
“I am gathering words. For the winter days are long and many, and we’ll run out of things to say.”
– Daniel Ledingham, quoting from the book Frederick by Leo Lionni
To inspire us to explore our dreams. Fictional stories allow for the author, and the reader, to explore their hopes as well as their fears. While non-fiction portrays what is, fiction allows the thinking of what can be. – Julia Scott
As my Hebrew Bible prof said at VDS: Just because it’s not true doesn’t mean it’s not truthful.
– Andrea Roth Murdock
Because you are supposed to give me your fiction to look over. – Katherine James
Also, Sarah, go write fiction and block Facebook. – Erin Wasinger
You have a gift. A gift has to be opened to see what’s inside. Then it can be shared. Carry on! – Patty McCoy
Write because that’s what you are so beautifully gifted to do. Create the stories that lift up humanity into realms of grace and love and ground us in what is most important. Write because it is fun. Write because someone needs to find their story embedded in yours. Go. Write. For all of us. – Nikki O’Brien
How about you? Why write fiction? Post your comments here and keep sharing the love!
(Read part one on “Why Fiction” here.)
Sarah Arthur is the author or editor of over eleven books, including Walking with Frodo: A Devotional Journey through The Lord of the Rings and the forthcoming The Year of Small Things, Radical Faith for the Rest of Us (Brazos Press, Jan 2017; with co-author Erin Wasinger). The preliminary fiction judge for the Christianity Book Awards, she speaks around the country on writing and publishing. When she isn’t chasing two small boys around the house she can be found writing fiction while listening to the Yo-Yo Ma station on Pandora. www.saraharthur.com