When I was younger, in grade school, junior high and high school, I wrote stories, fiction. I wrote fiction because that is what I read. And I wrote fiction because it was fun. I wrote reams of the stuff. I quite consciously imitated the authors I was reading, their style, their pacing, their plots. It was a good apprenticeship of sorts, if haphazard and without the sort of mentoring a writer needs to find the soul within his craft.
In college (I’ve told this story before) I gave up fiction writing to do something more serious, like essays and poetry. I was no good at either. But I became ashamed, to a degree, of my fiction, and felt that it was purposeless and wasteful, only for mere entertainment. As I pursued my academic endeavors, my writing turned academic–I had a year-long apprenticeship under Aristotle–though I would sometimes sneak in some fiction here and there.
I “lost” my writing of fiction in part because through particular life events and academia I “lost” my heart. I had made it into the “life of the mind;” emotion was an inescapable accompaniment. Make no mistake, I’ve always been an emotional person. I did not turn into Spock. But I let my heart wither.
I gained my heart back, if I may say it that way, in the births of my daughters and through the rich imagery and use of the senses in Orthodox worship. There are many elements in Orthodox worship–praise, confession, thanksgiving, petition, etc.–but the central act of the Divine Liturgy, the Holy Communion, is the narrative of the Gospel events, from the creation to Christ’s return. By being invited into the Story of all stories, I found myself invited into a world of meaning, of “once upon a time” through “and they lived happily ever after.” In a way far more powerful than therapy, my heart was reopened. It took some time, of course, but in God’s providence he brought into my world a voice inviting me once again back to fiction writing. Hesitantly, after many exhortations, I did return.
I write fiction because it invites, it woos, it entices. It calls not only the readers, but more powerfully, the writer, into the Story. It is messy but contained by order. It is revelatory, when it’s at its best. If done well, the writer’s and the readers’ hearts are each read by the narrative. We are called out of ourselves and into a greater tale by the best of fiction. Yes, it may feed our mind–a good thing. But if it feeds our heart, and moves our hands, then that is a very, very good thing.
This is why I write fiction.