I’m a writer.
Believe it or not, that’s a lot harder to admit than it sounds. It’s not that I’m ashamed to be a writer. On the contrary, I find inexpressible joy in the creation of new worlds and new people, in interacting with them (in a way only my fellow writers can truly understand), and in watching their adventures unfold before my eyes. Sometimes it feels quite magical, as if I am not “making” things happen so much as I am “discovering” what happens and simply recording it.
Why, then, am I so uncomfortable with admitting to being a writer? Simply put, because writing is an extremely personal art. To tell someone you’re a writer is like offering an invitation for them to peer inside your soul. At least, that’s how you feel. Open and exposed. After all, when you tell people you’re a writer, the question that inevitably follows nine times out of ten is the most dreaded of all: “What do you write?”
I’m going to let the rest of the world in on a little secret. That’s not as simple a question as you would expect. There are so many varied and complex factors to take into account, and—being the writer that I am—I want to give a fully developed, detailed history of my writing style and why I write what I do. A quick, one-line answer could never do it justice in my mind, and I always have to fight the urge to explain or defend myself further. Even so, I have come to terms with the truth that oftentimes a long explanation is not possible, nor indeed desired by the asker. So, I will spare you all the monologue this time and offer instead the short version:
I write fantasy.
At the moment, it’s the kind set in completely made-up worlds filled with magic, Elves, dragons, wizards, epic battles, and the like. Whenever I try to give a comparable example, I usually say “The Lord of the Rings,” because most people have at least an idea of what that story is like, and Tolkien is undoubtedly my biggest influence apart from the Bible. But even then, I feel the need to caveat the comparison, because it seems a very arrogant and bold claim to me to compare myself to the genius that is Tolkien. There—you see? This first post was supposed to be a simple introduction, yet even here I cannot escape the need to explain myself. Let’s leave it there, before I start again…
Besides, there’s another problem with admitting to being a writer. And it is, at least in my case, the more difficult obstacle. If one goes around telling people “I’m a writer,” eventually they are going to want to see evidence of that claim. The first time you relinquish your hold on one of your creations is the hardest, but that doesn’t mean you ever fully lose that sense of horror. Your stories (or whatever you write) are like your children. They came out of you, and you love each of them equally. Furthermore, you are convinced that they are the most beautiful, exceptional and brilliant children in the world simply because, well, they’re yours. So when you hand over your precious baby to be examined, judged and quite possibly criticized, there’s a natural desire to protect it.
Now, I’m sure this second problem manifests itself in varying degrees among writers. Being the introvert that I am, I tend to lean towards the extreme of over-protectiveness; which is probably at least one of the factors that kept me from writing sooner. The funny thing is, I’ve been a story-teller my entire life. As a child, I was always making up stories in my head to entertain myself and my family. But it wasn’t until college that I finally found both the desire and the boldness to write down stories and share them with others. Since then, I have also found myself for the first time in my life surrounded by dear friends and loving sisters-in-Christ, who also happen to be writers. Sharing stories, advice, triumphs, pitfalls, this opportunity was new and exciting to me. These friends have become my mentors, my examples, my encouragers—and I have learned so much from them. I’m fairly certain that I would never have gathered the courage to start this blog if I had not found them first.
Looking back, I often wonder why I didn’t start writing sooner, but ultimately that is in God’s hands, not mine. Even so, it’s as if all my life I was standing on the edge of a cliff overlooking a vast, beautiful ocean. Every now and then I would gather up a little courage to sneak a quick peek over the edge, but I always pulled back quickly in fear. Would I survive the fall? And if I did, how was I to know that I wouldn’t drown and be forever lost to the depths? I don’t know where this journey will take me, but I do know that I can trust God to guide me all the way. He has placed this growing desire in my heart to write, but only He knows to what end.
With this assurance, and with the encouragement and love of my family and friends, I have finally taken the next step. To steal a phrase from The Lord of the Rings, it’s “the deep breath before the plunge.” On the edge of the cliff, I am getting ready. Excitement and terror simultaneously course through my mind. The journey may not always be smooth, but it’s time for me to stop wavering. It is not my job to know the future, but to live a Christ-centered, God-honoring life. My writing should not be an exception to that, whether the subject matter is overtly Christian or not.
My plan for The Gathering Fire is two-fold: First of all, I will begin to share some of my writings. This will probably include short stories and poems, and maybe even a few excerpts from my current work-in-progress which I hope to eventually publish. Second, I will use this opportunity to share my thoughts on writing, teaching, music, and whatever else inspires me. I hope you will stick out the journey with me as I learn, grow, and probably make more than my share of mistakes. How thankful I am that my trust is in God’s control, and not my abilities!
This first post was just the deep breath. Now, it is time for me to take the plunge…