The first novel that I ever wrote got consigned to the fire in my misplaced desire to prove that nothing was more important than my relationship with God. It was like Abraham and Isaac except where Isaac was saved at the last minute, my book wasn’t.
My novel was an epic fantasy that took me a long time to write (at least a year). I carried it wherever I went. It was made up of my handwritten scribbles on sheets upon sheets of letter and legal sized printer paper. I still remember the two torn sides of the manila folder that held the papers before I upgraded the manuscript to a violet folder. When the violet folder had also fallen apart, the manuscript along with all four sides of the folders was secured in a dark brown envelope equal to the task.
At one point during its conception, I misplaced it on one of our family summer trips to the US. I was completely devastated. I thought that I had left it at one of the homes/hotels that we stayed at along our road trip so there was no hope of retrieving it by the time it’s absence was discovered. The manuscript wasn’t found until we were unpacking our bags when we got home. If you’ve lost something dearly loved and it’s returned to you then you can easily imagine my relief.
The novel was not easy to write either. I had never finished long-form fiction before. Whenever I was afflicted by writer’s block, I would scribble the next section in a series of points until I could write again. I would leave gaps so that I could keep advancing the plot and then come back to fill in the gaps. I prayed a lot during that period and I can’t ascribe all of the impressive ideas to my own imagination. I was convinced that God was writing with me and that He was enjoying writing it as much as I did. How the major conflict was resolved was absolutely inspired!
And then once it was completed I felt the satisfaction of having birthed genius. I cried in happiness and felt that warm glow of having completed something good. My characters were my babies and I had watched them grow up. That was an adventure for me to experience as both a reader and an author.
I moved on to a new book and started writing the outline. The process of that second book was different from the first. I had mapped out the entire plot and character histories before writing a single sentence. All that was left for me to do was to start writing. (By this time I had access to a computer and didn’t have to do another handwritten manuscript even though the outline was handwritten).
And then I had a crisis of faith. I can’t describe what birthed it except that I was a very fearful person. My relationship with God followed along those lines. I was afraid of disappointing Him and putting anything above Him. I don’t know why Abraham and Isaac hit me as hard as it did or a subsequent conversation about idolatry with a friend that was unrelated to writing. I was afraid of loving writing more than God and if I loved writing more than God then He probably didn’t have writing as part of His purpose for me. So I did the only thing that seemed appropriate to the situation - I proved that I loved Him more. I didn’t consult with anybody. I took my handwritten manuscript and the outline for the second book and I burned them. Hope died inside me as the pages burned to cinders.
That act precipitated my fall into depression when I saw the horror on my father’s face after eventually telling my parents what I did. They were so broken for my sake and wondered why I hadn’t talked to them before taking that step. When I realised that God hadn’t asked that of me I lost all sense of security in my relationship with Him. To realise that I hadn’t been Abraham with Isaac but Jephthah and his daughter was too much to bear so I set about trying to forget about it altogether. I wouldn’t forgive myself for my abortive act.
I tried to write fiction after that but couldn’t do it. Even if I could start a long-form work I was incapable of completing it. My Google Drive is a depository of mostly unfinished works. I drifted into poetry because the effort to produce something short was much easier to bear. I’ve written a few short stories and non-fiction pieces but most are unfinished. The reality was that any forays into writing were done in contravention of my aversion to writing. At any point during the conception and writing process, my disgust could override my impetuosity.
After a decade of denying writing and suppressing memories and emotions related to my desperate mistake, I started to hope again. I left for this journey with the expectation that writing would form part of my vocation (non-fiction of course). Even after leaving Jamaica, I didn’t remember that I hadn’t forgiven myself for the burnt manuscript. That came forcefully to mind one day in November 2020 when I was putting my niece down for a nap. My sister was there to hold me through my grief and I was able to start forgiving myself.
I believe that I will get to write and that God has given me a passion for writing and will use it for His glory. I also don’t believe that I’ll only be writing non-fiction (though I’ve grown to love it), but novels, glorious novels, as well.
This is a departure from the usual form but I hadn’t been able to think about this (much less talk about it) with anything less than abject mortification before, and that’s why it’s a good thing.
So what about you? What good thing happened to you last week?