Thursday, 12 July 2018

What makes us more than writers? By Andrew Chamberlain

Who are we?

As Christians we live in tension, we are not fully one thing or fully another. We are not even fully in one place or another. When Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” he was ushering in something which is here but not fully here, it’s “now and not yet” as we Christians are fond of describing our condition.
This is a mystery, and it’s one that we will never fully resolve in this lifetime. There are so many phrases we use to describe this state of being but none of them quite capture our state. We gather around the Kingdom of God, like the proverbial blind men around the elephant, each describing some aspect of its nature, some truth about it, but none of us has all of it. We long for it, as according to the writer of Hebrews, the people of God long for the heavenly country, the better country, but we are not there yet.

It is that state of tension, this longing and awareness of another place that makes us more than the identities we have on Earth. It makes us more than mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, partners, workers, leaders and followers. And it makes us more than writers.

What does it mean to be more than who we are?

What does the fact that we are more than writers mean for our writing? There are a host of answers to this question, I will focus on three.

First, to be more than a writer is, mercifully, a great defence against us making writing our god. We should e able to avoid the artist’s curse of making our art an idol. In my experience when an artist of any kind elevates their art to the status of god, both the art and the artist suffer. This same attitude of mind should also help us to graciously accept the criticisms of others, especially experienced editors and readers who are helping us to improve our work.

Secondly, our state gives us a source of material for our writing, if we are courageous enough to use it. Our contentions as Christians force us, again and again, to be real about our lives and the condition in which we live, and whilst this can be challenging it also provides the spark to create compelling writing.

Finally, to be more than writers helps us to remember that our writing, and our skills in the craft, are not static things, but must be worked at. I am reminded of Paul’s injunction to Timothy, to “fan into flames the gracious gift of God”. We should do likewise and fan into flames the gift given to us by God in our writing.

To be a Christian is to be more than any other identity we might assume, including that of writer. But those other identities are still important. May God give us the grace, courage, and determination to make that gifting everything it should be!

Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt , a podcast offering practical, accessible advice to creative writers, and author of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook containing the best advice and insight from 100 episodes of the podcast.