And You have my pen

 There is something I have learned over the course of my writing life.

Writing is more than just a hobby, something you do for fun and entertainment.

Writing is not just a way to pass the time.

Writing is a responsibility; an aspect of the craft I’ll admit I hadn’t thought of before I began.

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty [ ri spònssə bíllətee ]   Audio player
  1. accountability: the state, fact, or position of being accountable to somebody or for something

The pen is mightier than the sword, Napoleon said. And he was right; he was more right than he knew. When a writer takes up a pen (or a pencil, or Microsoft Word) he is not merely writing for himself. Someone else is going to read this; someone else is going to be influenced by it. You have a responsibility to portray what it is that you believe in; what it is you want your reader to believe in.

Some authors declare ‘it’s my world. I can do what I want.’ But as a Christian, I have to disagree with that statement. Why would we write about something we neither condone nor believe in, for the sake of ‘creativity’? I know of some authors who are Bible-believers who write things they would never, ever do, say, or condone in real life. Witchcraft as good is an especially large issue for me. It’s what stands between me and the Harry Potter books, me and the Merlin TV series – no matter how much I want to read/watch these, I wouldn’t because I believe that witchcraft is evil. If I am going to write about something that God declares as an abomination, then it will be just that – an abomination.

C. S. Lewis had a famous witch in his books. She was the villainess, not the heroine – and therein lies my point. Authors hold tremendous power with the ideas, thoughts, feelings, emotions, and beliefs swirling through them, begging to be let out for others to read. Evil is not ‘good’ simply because we as authors want to take liberties. Black does not become white because we choose.

J. R. R. Tolkien stated in his essay “On Fairy-Stories” that

“Fantasy remains a human right: we make in our measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker.”

We have a right to create, because we were created. We have a right to reach for higher things, the ethereal things of heaven and eternity and love, perfect things that God created. We have a right to exploit and explore. It’s a way we have of dealing with the weightier issues we all struggle with, and so we re-create it time and time again, taking it apart and viewing it from different angles – and doing so, we bring the reader into our minds. They observe what we observe. If we take an issue off the dusty shelf and question it, then our reader is drawn into the question.

We cannot simply write whatever comes into our heads. It doesn’t work that way, not for us. Writing is a battleground, and we must choose which side we’re on. There is no Switzerland.  If you believe something, proclaim it. I personally have a strong faith in the triune God. I belong to no denomination except that I believe what the Bible says. But in today’s world, extremes are shied away from. If you believe something, you should walk on eggshells and not be too pushy about it. You should tolerate everything and proclaim nothing too firmly.

It’s in this sort of society that we have to take a stand. If we are certain of our faith, then we must leave the reader with no doubt about where we stand. If we believe something strongly and unfailingly, then our characters, our plot, our story will proclaim it. If the reader walks away wondering where we stand, what we believe, who was truly good and who was evil, then we, as authors, have failed miserably.

This is neither an annoyance or a hardship; in fact, our faith should bleed through our ink like blood. It should inspire, proclaim, declare the glory and wonder of God. It shouldn’t be our second nature, it should be our first.

Does this mean that every story has to be dull and religious, something that would have been solemnly intoned from a pulpit four hundred years ago? Of course not! God is love and light and glory and joy. My faith – I hope – shines through what I write, leaving no questions, no ‘gray areas’ – no matter what I explore, question, or exploit.

And I hope that when I get to the gates of Heaven, rather than being accused of leading people astray, He will say ‘well done, thou good and faithful servant.’ And I will know that my responsibility and joy as an author was complete.

We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Indeed only by myth-making, only by becoming ‘sub-creator’ and inventing stories, can Man aspire to the state of perfection that he knew before the Fall.


~J.R.R. Tolkien

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32 thoughts on “And You have my pen

  1. Here here. 😀 If you want to really go onward with fear and trembling before the Lord with your writing (in a good way) I encourage you to do a word topical study in the Bible on . . ..words. Go ahead. I triple-ink dare you. TRIPLE INK DARE YOU. That’s three of these:

    ~INK~
    ~INK~
    ~INK~

    I had something come up just today where I went “I would rather never write another word that do what this person is doing with their writing.”

    *le sigh*

    Keep on as you have begun, sister soldier and I will see you at that same the gate. I’ll be the one there, jumping up and down and yelling “SEE I KNEW YOU WOULD HEAR HIM SAY THAT”

  2. THANK YOU, Mirriam, for writing this! It’s straight from God, through you, to me. I had just asked God to clarify for me what the purpose of writing (fiction) is, or if it was in the end simply a waste of time. And I was confused about a couple things. He totally heard me 🙂
    That is so awesome! THANKS!

  3. What a great post, Mirriam!! Especially because I’ve just sat down to edit after quite a few days going without, and decided to read your blog instead 🙂

    I’d like to branch off of what you said and say that if we want our faith to keep on bleeding through our writings, it makes it even more important for us to read the Bible and stay close to God, or we might find that we have forgotten what we believe. And that’s not good for business.

    You inspire me, dear!! 🙂 And speaking of writing, I really really want to see another snippet from your new novel! 🙂

    – Ellyn

    • Oh, Ellyn, thank you SO MUCH! Honestly, I wasn’t expecting a response like this, and it’s very exciting to see I’ve got one!!! You have an excellent point. If we don’t KNOW the word, how can we expect to proclaim it?
      You would? Really? *sits and thinks* OKay, then. I shall do that. =D

    • Believe it or not, Wizards aren’t bad! Witches, yes. Wizards? No (depending on how they’re written, of course). The word ‘witch’ comes from the word ‘wycca’ which is a conglommeration of ‘dark arts,’ etc. The word ‘wizard’ comes from a word that, in old english, means ‘wise one.’ In the Bible, when God mentions wizards, the accurate translation is ‘necromancers’ or ‘warlocks,’ i.e. male witches. =) Besides, Gandalf isn’t really a wizard, people just call him that. He’s an Istari in human form. =D

  4. I have little to add to your excellent post – nothing, really – but I wanted to chime in to say, “Hear! Hear!” This is an aspect of the writer’s life of which we ought to remind ourselves regularly, so thank you for boldly setting it forth.

    There is no Switzerland. That sentence in particular stood out to me. It’s a new way of looking at the spiritual battlefield.

    By the way, authoress Anne Elisabeth Stengl wrote a similar post a while back called Do You Believe It?. You may already have seen it, but I thought it might interest you.

    • I had a fangirl moment when I saw you commented here. I inwardly squealed and went “ABIGAIL HARTMAN! AND she mentioned Anne Stengl!?” Oh YES! Thank you so much for that article; I hadn’t read it (though I love both her books) and it was very inspiring!!! Thank you so much!

  5. Great post. I don’t often bookmark posts, but I bookmarked this one. It’s disheartening to see all the garbage that gets published these days, and eight year-old’s reading it, and their parents proud because their kid is reading a book “about as big as a dictionary.” The age-rating of books is harmful, in my opinion, because kids who can read difficult books (and there are lots of kids who do) will quickly move on to the YA books, which, content-wise, are typically inappropriate. Of course, the parent is responsible for watching what their child reads, but as an author, I think we should assume we will be writing for a bigger audience than we expect.

    For my part, I’ve promised never to write anything that went against my principles. Besides, as many of the great authors have taught us, it’s never necessary. Some of the world’s best books didn’t need to use what is called “realism” to become masterpieces, and I believe that can happen again. 🙂

    • EXACTLY! *EX-ACT-LY*! That’s why I tend to disagree with the ‘classical’ style of homeschool, because it has children reading things too advanced. Too much ‘baggage to carry’ before they’re ready. I couldn’t agree with this comment more. And I’m honored you bookmarked it =)

  6. I’m not very religious– I’m a part of a church, but we rarely go–, and nothing in writing, (as in, witches etc.), really bothers me. But this was a really beautifully written post, that obviously came straight from your heart, and I think it is a wonderful post. I think it’s a very well thought-out post, and definitely one of the most beautiful I’ve read in a while. I can definitely see where you’re coming from, though, as I wasn’t raised to be very religious, I don’t get the religious aspects as much as I could if I had been raised to be more religious, but that’s okay. Because I know where you are coming from, because your faith, and your voice stand out clearly in the writing. Beautifully written, and very well done.

    -Sofie

  7. This is such an encouragement–I’ve fallen into a trough lately as I question what is the purpose of writing?? why we writers go on writing and scribbling in spite of the weariness and the drained days and the times when it seems impossible–this post helped me out, and further emphasized that God gives us writers the pen to create, as you said, and it brought a whole bucket of sunshine into my day :D. I love this blog–thank you Mirriam!
    Reb

    • I’m shocked at the response to this post! It’s far more enthusiastic than I’d dreamed of! Apparently, a lot of us writers are going through a rather boggish time! I’m so glad it was an encouragement to you! Thank you for telling me =)

  8. Thank you so much for writing this! It made so much sense. Lately, I’ve just been writing for “the fun of it,” and I wondered why I was so dissatisfied with what was coming out. Now I know.

    I’ve been fighting a few battles with this, wanting to write whatever I wished because “it’s my world.” Because of this post, everything has snapped back into focus. I’m not writing for me, I’m writing for a higher purpose. I’m writing for the glory of God, and if that doesn’t shine through, then what is the point?

    “There is no Switzerland.”

    I’ll remember that. =)

  9. Very well written, Mirriam. 🙂 You make some great points.
    It was interesting to read some of the quotes by Tolkien – I was unaware he’d said things like that before.
    I wish I could write as well as you do…

  10. *sigh* Thank you so much for writing that… I loved the “no Switzerland” bit, and this post was good for me to read if only because I have REALLY wanted to watch Merlin (it feels like half the blogs I read have someone talking about it) and one youtube clip leads to another… but as soon as I stopped and thought about it, I could not find a difference between it and Harry Potter. One just has sword fights and castles and things I actually like in it, LOL.

    So thanks for the encouragement! It helps to know I am not the only one who can read LOTR but cannot let myself watch Merlin. 😀 And I am looking forward to reading your stories some day and so glad that you are drawing the battle lines clearly! 🙂

    • I KNOW!!! It sounds like we’re about identical. One blog led to one youtube clip led to another, and we ordered the first disc of Merlin from Netflix – but never got through the first episode. I was really bummed because I wanted it to be okay SO BADLY, because I knew I would LOVE it – but I couldn’t get past the Witchcraft/warlock thing. Ditto with Harry Potter. =)
      Thank YOU! It’s great to know I’m not the only one out there, either! Thank you SO much for being so encouraging to me. =)

  11. Great post, Mirriam! I wholeheartedly agree about the responsibility of the writer, and I think you put it quite well. I’ve heard some writers suggest that exercising care to ensure what they write aligns with biblical truth constrains creativity and results in stilted books, but I find it the opposite. Within the bounds of Scripture there is massive scope for the imagination, and this exercise of imagination is made beautiful by truth.

    It’s my prayer that my writing would always reflect truth and awaken wonder at God’s nature and character in the reading of it. As you said, this doesn’t mean that all books will follow a certain formula–we’re each made unique in the image of an infinitely creative God, and our works will vary accordingly–but that our books have their roots in truth.

    By the way, you incorporated two Tolkien quotes that I love, and I think Tolkien’s works themselves are examples of how books don’t have to preach a sermon to convey truth about life and eternity.

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