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The Inspirational Element–Bringing Delight (or de-Light?)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

“Reading with worldviews in mind—both one’s own and that projected by the text—allows Christians to engage works in their own terms, while also interacting with the theologically” (Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Jr., “Reading and Writing Worldviews”). My tagline as a writer is: Inspired by Life . . . Molded by God. That is to say that I get my story ideas from the things I see around me, but when I start putting them down on paper, the way it comes out is molded, shaped, influenced by my relationship with God. I have a Christian worldview, therefore my writing does too.

My characters view the world through a certain set of filters, because those are the filters through which I view the world. That is also the worldview that I take with me whenever I read anything. It is this worldview as a Christian that allows me to “engage constructively the whole range of human expression from a Christian perspective.”

But does that mean we have to evangelize? Do we have to “preach” to our readers? Not unless that’s the kind of fiction we’re called to write! In real life, some people are called to be preachers or evangelists and are given a heart for reaching the lost or those who’ve lost their way, while many others of us aren’t. You must listen to your heart as you start writing, be true to yourself when it comes to the inspirational element you include in your stories. As you read from Shelley Adina and MaryLu Tyndall right here on this very blog, there are as many ways to present the inspirational message of a story as there are writers to do it. But while we may be called to write fiction with a certain level of spirituality included in it, I believe our primary goal is to bring delight to our readers—while also representing the Light.

In his essay “‘Words of Delight’: A Hedonistic Defense of Literature,” Leland Ryken wrote, “Through the centuries, the hedonistic defense of literature has had to contend with a utilitarian or functional outlook that belittles anything that is not directly useful in mastering the physical demands of life.” How many times have you been made to feel guilty for reading a “popular fiction” novel? Does it seem frivolous to you sit sit down and read the latest romance or mystery novel from your favorite author? Have you ever been made to feel as if you’re doing something wrong by writing fiction, even if it is from a Christian worldview?

If God had wanted the world to be simply utilitarian, Ryken explained, He wouldn’t have created such diversity in the flora and fauna around us—in the colors of the rainbow, in the variety of trees in the forest. So many passages in the Bible—especially in the Psalms—express pleasure with the physical world around us that God created. He gave us creativity to entertain ourselves and others and to bring pleasure . . . to bring delight.

Pleasure in reading, of course, goes hand in hand with pleasure in writing. If I don’t enjoy writing something, no one is going to enjoy reading it. When I read something that I know the author enjoyed composing, I’m going to at least have vicarious enjoyment in that (especially if it’s someone I know well). Therefore, the pleasure I derive in writing my novels will translate into enjoyment for my (eventual) readers.

“Lifelong readers of literature can attest that many of the most powerful ideas in their lives are ones that they encountered first or most memorably in literature” (Ryken). There’s a line from the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks movie You’ve Got Mail that describes me perfectly: “So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book.” As C.S. Lewis so aptly put it, literature becomes a window to the world. Ryken calls it “a mirror in which we see ourselves and our experiences.”

This is why I write! It’s my window to the world, the mirror in which I can examine myself and what’s happened in my life in a more objective way through creating characters. God gave us the ability to create to delight us and to delight others around us. Think about all of the different forms of art in the world: sculpture, paintings, music, drama, dance, poetry, fiction . . . God gave all of them to us for joy, for pleasure, and so that we could experience the delight of having the spark of His creativity living inside of us and becoming an outward expression so we can share that delight with others.

“Christians are the last people in the world who should feel guilty about the enjoyment of literature,” Ryken wrote.

Amen and amen!

In what ways do you find delight in what you choose to read? In what way do you find delight in what you write?

3 Comments
  1. Wednesday, February 6, 2008 12:08 pm

    I delight in what I read when it uplifts or affirms me, when it opens a window into a slice of the world which with I’m unfamiliar and I learn something new, when it makes me laugh.

    I delight in what I write when I believe it’s good quality and will be interesting to someone else, when a particular passage or phrase feels magical (even though an editor might not agree), when I’m putting words on the paper and moving forward, even if they won’t last.

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  2. Wednesday, February 6, 2008 7:45 pm

    I delight in words, in word pictures, whether from a classic or a current paperback, there is beauty in the way words are put together.

    I find delight in writing, in playing with words, in trying to express the universe in my head through characters, events, and settings.

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  3. Thursday, February 7, 2008 8:58 am

    I love Ryken’s quotes. God did create a huge diversity for us to enjoy, and yet sometimes I do feel the prickle of guilt for spending time on “secular” things.

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