A Curious Girl

The musings of a girl who is curious in both senses of the word. Life, God, and York. Oh, did I say York? I meant Bradford!

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Writes of Passage

With finals so soon, many thoughts are buzzing around my head, like "Where am I going?" "What should I do?" and "Had I eaten the wrong mushrooms when I picked Biochemistry?"

If I'd taken something like, say, English and Performance, there would be much less pressure on my future career. I could be:

a) unemployed.
b) doing a PGCE to pass the time.
c) "You want fries with that?"

(All right, I'm sorry, any English and performance students, please don't hunt me down and kill me, or at least if you do want to kill me, do it before finals)

It's really a bit depressing working on finals with the main intention of finishing the degree so I can head for the hills and never go into a lab ever again. All right, I wouldn't mind if, say, I had a job in a lab for a few months to get some money, but please, I don't want to be doing this for the rest of my life.

Only I don't really know what else to do. It'd be nice to have a grand plan, but right now my grand plan is literally "pass degree, get job, get money" and that isn't exactly encouraging. I just want to get a job where I can be some good to other people, only I've no idea how I can do that and right now I feel generally useless, and perhaps this is because I should actually be working on my degree rather than posting introspective blog entries.

I'd just like not to be a waste of space, that's all.

I did have something of an epiphany recently when I was reading a story... OK, a fanfic... that I wrote a while ago and remembered a nice comment someone had given me about it. Then I remembered how people nagged me to finish some of my stories and actually laughed at my jokes and appreciated my ideas and I had a sudden moment of revelation when I realised that I could be a writer.

I do have a personal pledge to myself that I will never under any circumstances attempt to become a "great" writer. I met too many of those in a writing group I was in for a couple of months; people whose obsession with flowery language and grand ideas and "originality" often really ended up making their stories sound laboured or even unreadable. Because I'm the sort of philistine who prefers J.K. Rowling to Philip Pullman, I figured I'd rather just write good books that people enjoy, rather than intending on writing tomes encapsulating intense philosophical ideas. If I happen to mix in some philosophy or ideology I'd rather just do it because it comes naturally in the story.

I used to have the vague ambition of writing Christian fiction, which was quashed because I'm bad at it. Whenever I get vaguely near to moralising it sounds like something lifted from The Youth Bible. Or perhaps it's because I feel I ought to include God as a character, which doesn't seem right somehow, you can't invent a theophany. There's also the problem that I dislike most Christian fiction, apart from C.S. Lewis and Adrian Plass. I rather like Adrian Plass's approach, which seems to be just to write about life as it is and not write as evangelism. I think in Why I Follow Jesus he said that God can use his books, but then God can use any old rubbish.

In a possible irony, in Charles M. Sheldon's book In His Steps, the only character who backs down on his WWJD pledge is a novelist. The trouble is, it's quite simple to be, say, a builder for Christ. Build homes for the needy, treat your co-workers with respect and don't whistle at women in the street. (I once saw a cartoon with a builder calling down, "Excuse me, ma'am, you look very nice today" and the caption "Politically correct builders" :) ) OK, if you're a builder please don't come and kill me, or, again, do it before finals...

However, being a writer for Christ will always be a bit troubling because you can't really write books for the poor (except perhaps the poor in spirit, and they're a lot harder to cater for), and because you're dealing with words which are trickier than bricks. Forget the crap about sticks and stones, words are dangerous. Honouring God with words is a tricky business, as I'm sure Charles M. Sheldon realised. And how am I supposed to go about it? Should I take a year out to finally write my novel, or stick to web publishing and blogging?

I don't know, except I did at least have a sudden moment when I realised that my writing need not be all about me. I could write something someone else could enjoy, and perhaps (I hopefully thought) perhaps this could honour God, even if it wasn't directly about him? I enjoy writing articles for York uni's Christian magazine, but I'm not sure I'm ready (not old or wise enough) to be the next Philip Yancey, and I utterly refuse to be the next Rick Warren (and there could be only one Julian of Norwich). Could I really stick at it long enough to write a proper full-length book?

As usual, I'm not sure, but I would really like to. It would be wonderful simply to write something that people could enjoy, and hopefully also be encouraged by. It would be good to know that I'm some good to someone else :)

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