JSB: One Reason to Write
There's a moment near the end of the Woody Allen movie Stardust Memories, wherein Woody plays Sandy Bates, the highly successful director of film comedies who wants to get serious. So he makes an art film that is immediately panned. The critics say they used to like his films, particularly the early funny ones. Sandy is in despair. He wants to make a statement that is important to the world.
A space ship with super intelligent aliens has landed in a field, and is about to take off. Sandy races out to them.
Sandy: Wait a minute! Don't go! I've got some questions.
Og: We can't breathe your air.
Sandy: You guys gotta tell me, why is there so much human suffering?
Og: This is unanswerable.
Sandy: Is there a God?
Og: You're asking the wrong questions.
Sandy: Look, here's my point. If nothing lasts, why am I bothering to make films, or do anything for that matter?
Og: We enjoy your films. Particularly the early funny ones.
Sandy: But the human condition is so discouraging.
Og: There are some nice moments, too.
Sandy: But shouldn't I stop making movies and do something that counts, like helping blind people or becoming a missionary or something?
Og: Let me tell you, you're not the missionary type. You'd never last. And incidentally, you're also not Superman, you're a comedian. You want to do mankind a real service? Tell funnier jokes.
There's a lesson there for writers, especially Christian writers. We need to tell better stories (and funnier jokes wouldn't hurt, either). But they have to come from who we are. The source of our stories should gnaw at us from within, not from an external measure someone else creates.
As Brenda Ueland puts it in her inspirational book, If You Want to Write: "Everybody is original, if he tells the truth, if he speaks from himself. But it must be from his TRUE self and not from the self he thinks he SHOULD be."
And Ray Bradbury says, "There is only one story--your story." Find it and write it.
The mountain climbers say they scale a peak "because it's there."
You should write because it ISN'T there.
James Scott Bell is a novelist and columnist for Writers Digest magazine.