Why Writing Takes Faith of a Kind: And Why That’s Good

If you don't believe that your novel can become something great--even if you don't see that greatness at the moment--you'll never finish it.

If you don’t believe that your novel can become something great–even if you don’t see that greatness at the moment–you’ll never finish it. You’ll find the walls that block your path insurmountable.

I’m going through kind of a tough time right now–periods of transition are always hard on me, because I prefer routine and knowing what’s coming my way–and it’s led me to really lean on my faith. (I happen to be Catholic, but that’s not the point of this post,so I won’t say too much about that. This is a writing blog, after all.)

I’ve thought back to some service I did as a college student on a retreat time, and a “talk” on faith I wrote for one of those retreats. I spoke about how faith is a living thing, and as such, it waxes and wanes. There are times when it’s strong, and times when it’s weaker, and it’s important to recognize that everyone experiences those swings. It’s important to remember in the weak moments that your faith isn’t flawed or broken; there’s nothing “wrong” with it. Ups and downs are the way of faith.

Well, I could say the same about writing. In fact, in one post I already have: “A Writer’s Journey, from doubt to confidence and back.” Every writer swings back and forth from thinking they’re writing the next great masterpiece to thinking that same WIP is absolute drivel and worthy of nothing but the trash bin. Writers come with all kinds of religious beliefs, but one thing a writer must have is faith in the project at hand, faith that it’s worth something. That’s the only thing that keeps me from throwing in the towel when things get tough.

I have to trust that I can find a way to fix the plotholes when I find them, even if the solution isn’t obvious at first glance.

I have to trust that my characters will take me where they need to go, when I’m not quite sure that direction’s right for the story. When the characters are acting true to themselves, then that’s the path to take. I have to trust that it’s all right if I don’t see where it ends.

I have to trust I can shape up that first draft–or second, third, fourth, fifth–into something I’m proud of when I feel like it just doesn’t flow the way I want it to.

I have to trust that my best is good enough, even if it isn’t perfect. No novel is perfect.

Personally, I’m able to do this because of my religious faith. I feel that my fiction is part of God’s plan for my life, so I guess you could say my Catholic faith spills over into how I approach my writing. When I recognize that despite my flaws and screw-ups as a person, I possess an intrinsic human dignity and can make improvements day by day to become a better woman, it’s easier to look at a novel with lots of problems and believe I can work it into something sharper, easier to read, and better written overall.

Obviously, my manner of finding that “faith” as a writer won’t be the same for everyone. Not everyone is religiously inclined the way I am. But no matter how you find that confidence in your project–that “faith” in the future of your novel when the present feels unsure–if you want to be writer, you need that. It’s worth taking the time to nurture.

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