As a teen, I was always encouraged to be a warrior for Christ. To use my artistic skills as a tool for conversion. The idea was to make something a mainstream audience would consume, while also preaching the truths of the Gospel.
I had this vision of myself standing before God with a smug smile and a line chart saying, “Check this out. 80% of the people who read my epic, fantasy, masterpiece converted to Catholicism.” Then God would pop the champagne and give me a big, fat bonus.
That’s only a slight exaggeration. I really believed that if I could just write the perfect story, souls would come to God in swarms.
After many years of life experience, I’ve identified numerous problems with this line of thinking. The largest of which is that I am incapable of writing the perfect story. The perfect story has already been written. You and I are both characters in it. The perfect story is the story of salvation. All great stories are merely a reflection of it.
That in mind, my personal approach to writing has changed. I no longer write to convert other people. I write to convert myself. Writing is my way of making sense of the world. Of contemplating how God is working in my life, through all its challenges and brokenness.
I am not saying you can’t write as a form of missionary work. When approached with humility, it can be a beautiful vocation. It is just not my vocation.
As a Catholic, there are dozens of reasons to write, all of which give glory to God. Writing, whether done professionally or personally, is incredibly enriching.
So I would love to share three reasons to write and invite you to reflect on them.
1. Write for Fun
Play is a beautiful gift from God. It encourages innovation and allows us to turn off our internal filters and experiment with different ideas. Play is a way of enjoying the world.
Aren’t you delighted when someone enjoys a gift you gave them? Do you think God is any less delighted when you enjoy the language and imagination that He gave you?
So you want to get together with some friends and make a story about a narwhal that sprouts wings, flies to space, and falls in love with an alien? Don’t scorn this as a waste of time. This is a way of praising God.
2. Write to Contemplate
How is God working in your life? How is He working in the world around you? How is He with you in your struggles and pain? How is He with you in your triumphs and joys?
When I am writing, I project these questions onto a fictional character. I imagine how God’s grace would touch that character. I imagine what would happen if the character worked with God, or against Him. Then I write the outcome I find the most interesting.
Writing to contemplate can take the form of a personal spiritual journal or a book of prayer. When I write to contemplate, it usually takes the form of an absurd fairy tale parody. This might seem strange, but it works for me. Exploring the absurd gives me perspective on reality.
3. Write to Share
I want your cookbook! (Well, assuming you’re a good cook.) Writing is a wonderful way to share our knowledge and talents with others.
In addition to practical skills, writing allows us to share our emotions and experiences with those around us. The writings I treasure most are those of my grandparents. These poems, stories, and journal entries give me a window into the heart of some of the most precious people in my life.
Think about the Bible. When I read scripture, I find myself hurting, rejoicing, weeping, and laughing with people who died thousands of years before I was born. What a beautiful gift!
Why Do You Write?
This is not an exhaustive list. There are many reasons to write. And whatever you’re writing, give glory to God!
Maybe you’re aspiring to be the next Tolkien, maybe you’re preserving grandma’s crochet patterns, or maybe you are having a blast with your fluffy, teen vampire romance. God will be with in in all your work if you invite Him.
So, Catholic author, take the pressure off and relax. You don’t need to write the perfect story. You can’t write the perfect story. The perfect story has already been written.
Guest: Katy Campbell: I am a Catholic humorist and lover of fairy tales. I prefer the gory originals to the squeaky clean Disney retellings but will gladly consume both. I graduated from John Paul the Great Catholic University in 2012 with a B.S. in Communications Media and recently left my real job to pursue a career as a starving author. I’ve published three books and numerous short stories which you can find on my website: katysfables.com