Praying About Our Writing: an Exercise in Obedience

This year, I had a lot of unfinished projects, so the thought of starting a new one with National Writers Month did not appeal. Fortunately, the Catholic Writers' Guild was having its own program: 30K for Christ. The idea was to commit to writing 30,000 words on a project during November--and dedicating that effort to Christ. Participants could select any project--fiction or non-fiction, new or continuing. The only rules were to strive for 30K words and to spend a little time beforehand praying about our writing.

A couple of times when I mentioned this, someone has said, "You're a Christian writer. Don't you always pray about your work?"

Actually, I've only recently come to the idea of praying about my work. I know that sounds weird, but well, this was work. I didn't pray over doing dishes. If I worked in Walmart, I wouldn't pray over each transaction I rang up. Why, then would I pray over every article, e-mail or query letter I sent out? (Well, OK--I did pray about the query letters.) Further, I had the feeling that praying over my work was actually kind of selfish. Who was I to ask God to come from On High just to guide my hand toward success. I'd do my best for Him; if he liked it, it would do well; if not, all the prayer in the world wasn't going help.

I was first introduced to concentrated writing-focused prayer was when I interviewed Michael O'Brien, author of Father Elijah: An Apocolypse and other books. He received the idea for Father Elijah during a fervent prayer over the state of the Western World, and although he pushed it away, thinking it was a distraction, the idea and a sense of peace returned. "So during the next 8 months, I went to the blessed sacrament every morning asking God for the grace for that day's writing. I saw it as an exercise in obedience. I was convinced it could not be published in our time. No one was publishing serious Catholic fiction," he said.

An exercise in obedience. Maybe I'd been thinking about this the wrong way. Praying about my work wasn't a prayer that my work be successful--even successful in bringing people closer to God--but more about preparing myself to receive God's grace, opening myself to His will, and recognizing that I'm doing so. Maybe its just giving God His due by admitting, whether it's a lousy first draft or the scene that flows, His will be done.

Nonetheless, I'm a person of sloppy habits, and I still didn’t pray as regularly as I should, so 30K for Christ was a good way for me to refocus. I wrote a prayer for our Guild to use:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

God in Heaven, You granted us, in Your Image, the ability to imagine and create. This month, I endeavor to indulge that creativity. Look with favor upon my efforts.

Dear Holy Spirit, this day, this month, I commend my writing efforts to your care. I ask for your guidance and your prayers as I seek to complete the project(s) in my mind and my heart.

O my Jesus, son of God, Light of the world, help me to spread your Light in all that I do. May my words be pleasing to You. Be close to me in this month as I strive to write 30,000 words for you.

Dear St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus. You knew hard work all your life. Inspire me to keep working toward my goal even when the words won't come with ease. You faced uncertainty. Teach me, then to place my trust in God as I forge into the uncertainty of my writing adventure.

Dear Mary, our Spiritual Mother, you were uncertain when the Archangel approached you, yet you gave yourself to God's Will. Give me grace to recognize and embrace my calling.

I place myself and my muse in your care, full of trust and gratitude. Amen.
May the Holy Spirit fill me and guide my imagination, I ask through Christ our Lord. Amen

November is over. I didn't quite make the 30K goal. I did, however, work through some stumbling blocks in my novel's plot, fight off the demons of doubt that are plaguing me with this work, and get 20 K and a strong agent query letter closer to my goal. And I've improved my habit of prayer. That, more than anything, made the month a success.


Check out What's Happening with Carole McDonnell

Thought I'd take a moment and a liberty . . . it isn't my blog day but I have an important announcement!

The Christian Fiction Review Blog (CFRB) and friends are touring Carole McDonnell's Wind Follower this month.

Now, I have to admit that I wasn't able to read Wind Follower, thus don't have a review to provide. However, other good folks at the CFRB have done so. If you visit the Blog Tour Central, you can read more about the tour . . . oh yes, and the novel Wind Follower!


Christ Figure or Christian Figure

The Christ figure or the Christian figure

I don't know what my problem is exactly, but the depictions of Lost Souls in stories simply fascinate me. There's something about a Lost Soul, someone who is utterly destroyed, confused, oppressed, in darkness, that of course reminds me of a Lost Sheep or of sheep without a shepherd.

When I see a television documentary about a prostitute, a petty thief, a prisoner, a molested kid who grows up to be a male prostitute, my heart goes out to them. Generally, it takes a lot to make me dislike them, and unless they are torturers, molesters, or murderers the disgust factor just isn't there.

I suspect this is because I'm a Christian. The whole saved-by-grace kind of thing. After all, our dear and wonderful Lord hung naked between two thieves, killed wrongfully by capital punishment, with a supposedly fallen woman as a comforter in his death. But I suspect this love for the fallen might have another cause. I'm a writer. The artistic soul often tends to veer toward the wounded, the alienated, and the outcast. I also grew up with some pretty wounded folks...folks many Christians would not really hang out with, much less write about.

Our Lord, as Yeats said, "pitched his tent in the place of excrement." Imagine heaven in its white purity. Imagine the filth of earth in all its sins. Earth is so sinful and dirty and filthy that even the most perfect righteous person is unclean and their righteousness like filthy rags. But what lifts us out of this dirt? The Love of God shed abroad in our hearts for God and for God's fallen sheep. And our faith in God's love for us.

Sometimes when I've finished reading a book written by a Christian writer, I find that the character's goodness has turned me off. I feel often that I have not read a book about the gospel of God's love toward us, but a book about a person becoming good. I feel as if, under the guise or showing the gospel, the author has written a book which led me to the tree of knowledge of good and evil instead of the tree of life. I feel as if the writer has written a book that shows me a Christ figure instead of a Christian figure.

I often wonder why so many main characters in Christian fiction, seem to be more like Christ than the Lost Sinner. Perhaps, unlike Christ, we cannot "condescend" (an old and lovely word, that) into the lives of those unlike us. Perhaps being in the dingy mind of a sinner is just too dark for us. Perhaps we identify too much with the Pharisees and still don't understand the essence of the gospel: our conversion is a conversion from our own righteousness and dead works to believing in God's love for us through the life and death of Jesus Christ.

Several Christians have not liked the way my main character, Loic, behaves after his converstion. They think he ought to behave better. I try not to write characters who are perfect. The first is my own issue: I don't like the idea of writing a perfect man. Human hearts lust. If they don't lust, they compare. And all too often, women romance writers seem to fall into the habit of falling in love with their main male characters...as if their main male characters are the literary man of their dreams. It's a subtle act of carnal concupiscence but it happens very often. Yes, I know men can write and read books without being in love with their male lead but the women writers I have known seem to need to be somewhat in love with a character in a book in order to read his story. This is a kind of lust and daydream I simply don't want to indulge in.

But the other reason is this: I'm a Christian, someone who continues to sin even after my conversion. I honestly wish I were perfect. But I am not. I muddle through with my brightest light being that God loves me. I am a writer, and so I can only tell about my own life, and maybe my readers will judge my characters badly. Or maybe they will identify with them, or maybe they will understand them. My hope, however, is that they will look up from my book with a loving heart that doesn't expect perfection from their neighbor or brother in Christ. Although we all have the mind of Christ and are being renewed everyday by His Living Word, only Christ is the true Christ figure. We and our brothers and sisters in Christ are nothing more or less than Little Christs, believers who are learning to love our neighbors as ourselves instead of measuring them by some standard of perfection. When I write, my only hope is that my readers will walk away from my books knowing how to love. And if we can love an imperfect character in a novel or in the Bible (Lot's wife, Job's wife, Hagar, Michal) we are well on our way to doing learning how to love.

Often we Christians say that non-Christians dislike us because we are so like Christ. But that isn't true. In fact, it is usually the opposite. They dislike us because we do not show the love of Christ. We often stand afar off from people we consider sinful and we often have a holier-than-thou attitude because we truly believe in our good works. And the writings of Christians often show this lack of understanding of the gospel of God's love.

Thank you dear Lord Jesus for teaching us how to love the lost and the saved the way you love us, and not with our own human measures.