Motive: What's the Why Behind Your What?
When people hear that I'm a writer, many times they say, "Oh, I'd love to write a book one day," or "It must be amazing to see your own name in print!" or "Where do you get your ideas?" or "Would you tell me what you think of my first chapter?"
It's not always easy to sum up an answer in the short window of attention you're given to respond, but sometimes that answer is so important you know you'll have to get to it some day. As Christian writers, we have a great responsibility to give weight to the hard topics.
We know how important it is that characters have motive---as readers, we must understand the why behind their actions and words in order to relate to them, make sense of them, and maybe even root for them. How often, though, do we consider that each one of us writers have motives too?
I started writing Summer of Suspense as an English project a few years ago, without an outline or plan of any kind. As you may guess, I got very stuck. Not knowing how to push the story forward, or where it was even heading, I was in a position to really consider why I was writing at all.
Now, if you're like me, you've been taught that man's "chief end" in anything should be "to glorify God, and to enjoy Him for ever" (Westminster Shorter Catechism). And while this is easy to say, it's not so easy to walk out.
Too often our desires are more in the direction of
- making a name for ourselves and becoming famous,
- proving how good we are,
- enjoying ourselves,
- living up to others' expectations, and
- finding a suitable route for ambition
than we'd like to admit, and less in the direction of
- glorifying His name and growing in grace,
- delving into God's Word and increasing our understanding of its applications,
- providing godly reading material, and
- showing that actions have consequences
than we ought.
Writing, like music and sketching, is an art form. It requires creativity, imagination, thought, and problem-solving skills. And, like anything artistic, we "artists" are tempted to say, "Look! I created this. Isn't it good?" Since the heart is "deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" (Jer. 17:9) we soon desire to create something purely because of the glory we'll get out of it.
This desire for praise is the wrong motive I'm talking about. It's hard to explain this in a short space of time. This makes writing a process of hours of heart-searching and prayer, not the glamorous occupation popularly perceived.
If you still want to write a book . . .
. . . then please do. We need much more Christian literature that raises the banner of God's standard. But when you do, I encourage you to have a long look at why you want to write it. Motive can flavour anything you set your hand to, and a discerning reader will catch the scent.
We are all flawed and sinful human beings, and this makes our simplest actions . . . complicated. But by God's grace, we can crucify the flesh and be used as instruments to bring forth the message He wants us to, touching the lives of others, hallowing His name, building His kingdom, and doing His will.
This is why we should write.
"Not unto us, Oh Lord, Not unto us, but to Your name give glory,
because of Your mercy, because of Your truth."
C. R. Hedgcock