I’ve been dipping into C. S. Lewis On Writing and Writers–taking its delights little by little and re-reading to savor. It really does go good with tea.
C. S. Lewis wrote in a letter to his good friend Arthur Greeves: “As for the real motives for writing after one has ‘got over’ the desire for acknowledgement: in the first place, I found and find, that precisely at the moment when you have really put all that out of your mind and decided not to write again…precisely then the ideas–which came so rarely in the days when you regarded yourself officially as an author–begin to bubble and simmer, and sooner or later you will have to write: and the question why won’t really enter your mind.”
I don’t think I’ve ever quite gotten over the desire for acknowledgement, or I wouldn’t be writing this blog. A writer writes to be read. But I understand fully what Lewis meant. When you feel led to write and know it is what you are to do and just get at it, there is freedom where creativity flourishes. I do not think this means we have no motive, but maybe that all the motives are pressing, yet they no long matter. The writing matters.
A couple of months ago, I enjoyed a conversation about books with two friends, intelligent and widely read ladies.
One of the ladies said to the other, “You should write about your family and all that has gone on.”
I echoed this sentiment. First off, there are no boring families, and secondly, everyone has an interesting life story. My friend has a good eye for story and a good ear for telling it, and from what I had heard, her family story was a good Southern gothic full of struggle, greed, and passion.
The woman responded, “I’ve thought of it. I would love to do it, and to have it be a bestseller…” her eyes sparkled, but the next instant she ducked her head. “But I would just be wanting to show them, get at them. That’s not a good motive.”
I admire my friend’s wisdom, kindness, and moral grounding. At the same time, I tend to say that any motive for writing is viable. If the urge to write the story returns again and again, we need to just get to it. Immerse ourselves in the work of writing and see where it leads us. Not all of our writing needs to be shared with the public, but not sharing is no reason not to write. Whatever motive propels us to express our words and ideas leads us into understanding ourselves, others, and life in general. Also, whatever our motive, God can use it to bring about something good. He can’t do anything with your writing, if you don’t write. My friend’s story of her family could end up helping someone else–and at the very least teach her about herself.
I remember a letter I received years ago from a generous reader. She explained that she had bought three of my books and taken them with her to read during the long and anxious hours she had to spend in a hospital waiting room while her husband underwent a dangerous surgery. She didn’t know if he would live. She thanked me for the books that helped her get through that difficult time. This letter so humbled me. You know, when I carried my cup of tea to my desk and sat myself each day to write those books, I never imagined someone would need the stories. Certainly if I had of thought that, I wouldn’t have been able to write a word. I was writing because I wanted to be a writer, and because because I had contracts to fulfill. I had bills to pay and an ego to nurture. Back in those days, I prayed for God’s help, but the writing seemed up to me.
However, while those motives brought me to the keyboard, once the words began to flow and my mind be captured by creativity, I was doing what I was meant to do, and God had plans that I never imagined. This is generally the case.
Proverbs 16:9 tells us: “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”
You know, God’s thoughts are high above us. He has plans, and we and any of our poor motives are not strong enough to mess up His plans.
Write from revenge, write from love, write from hope and from anger and from despair and from wisdom and generosity. But write when you must, and it will all be for God to use as He will.