f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: Day 3 of “Why Bother?” - The Social Isolate

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Day 3 of “Why Bother?” - The Social Isolate

From Shirley Brice Heath:
“There’s the social isolate—the child who from an early age felt very different from everyone around him. This is very, very difficult to uncover in an interview. People don’t like to admit that they were social isolates as children. What happens is you take that sense of being different into an imaginary world. But that world, then, is a world you can’t share with the people around you—because it’s imaginary. And so the important dialogue in your life is with the authors of the books you read. Though they aren’t present, they become your community.”

These children are more likely to become writers when they grow up because writing has become vital, intrinsic, and integral to their sense of connectedness. Franzen is struck by this description, hit hard, and it provided a kind of epiphany is his search for a reason to keep writing.

“Simply to be recognized for what I was, simply not to be misunderstood: these had revealed themselves, suddenly, as reasons to write.”

You can’t write intending to change the world.

You can’t write intending to become a bestseller.

You can’t write assuming your words will capture the essence of our time and culture.

You can write, however, out of a deep need to be understood. To try and communicate.

This raises some interesting questions for the Christian writer. Aren’t we already “fully known” by the one Being in the universe who matters? Wouldn’t writing for such a reason be the plea of those of little faith?

After all, in talking with numerous aspiring writers, very few mention this. Most talk about wanting to reveal something about God to others. That ministry/mission aspect which is so prevalent.

I don’t know. Does what Heath sets out resonate with any of you?

Personally it does and it doesn’t. I have no doubt that there is a strong element of seeking connection so that I’m “understood” in the writing I do. (I’ve said multiple times that writing has a distinct narcissistic bent to it. And that’s speaking as one who writes these little koans every stinking day.) And I’m sure the fact that relating to an invisible, omnipotent, omniscient God is, well, complicated has something to do with that.

But for me, it’s that invisible, omnipotent, omniscient God who triggers most of my writing. He is the “mystery” in O’Connor’s “mystery and manners.” The “manners” is how we’re supposed to live our lives in His light.

I’m supposing those questions drive much of CBA fiction, much of Christian fiction in general. And how we answer them will make a fine topic for tomorrow’s discussion.
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Go to Day 4 of our discussion of "Why Bother?"