Friday, January 13, 2006

DL: The Empty Page


When I was in third grade, the love of stories prodded me to larceny.

I would sneak to the paper cabinet when Miss Ayres wasn’t looking and steal a couple of dozen sheets of writing paper, fold them over and staple them with a construction paper cover, and voila! An empty book, ripe for filling with stories. I would slide silently back into my school desk and gaze with awe at those empty pages, nearly trembling in my desire for school to be over so I could begin filling them with stories of talking turtles, pioneers, Lewis and Clark, Indians (odd—I never wrote about cowboys), space exploration, and any other subject that spurred the boundless creativity of a third-grader.

And I confess, there were many occasions when I stole more paper and created another book even before I’d filled the previous one, just for the love of holding the promise of all those empty pages in my hand.

It would never have occurred to me to see an empty page as a source of frustration, something I didn’t know how to fill. Why should it? My entire life stretched before me then, empty page after empty page, waiting to be filled in whatever way I chose, and the thought held no terror for me, only promise and excitement.

Most of those pages of life have been filled now, with as much pain and disappointment as pleasure, and for the most part not in the ways I would have foreseen then. (Although the third-grader would not have been at all surprised to find that the man in his fifties is an editor and, still, a writer of stories.) But I still am excited by empty pages, and I stand in awe of the process by which they will be filled with scenes and people that no one has envisioned before. (Ignore the fact that most of us no longer work with paper pages—I prefer the old-fashioned metaphor!)
For a writer, an empty page is a sacred thing. It is our invitation to participate with God in the creative act. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” the Bible tells us in Genesis 1:1 and 2. “Now the earth was formless and empty…” An empty page. Formless as an untold story. And God filled that page with light and life.

A writer sits before a stack of empty pages as God stood before an empty world. It is an awesome privilege—to participate with God in the creative act. Those empty pages represent our earth, the world of our not-yet-born story, formless and empty. And we have the opportunity to create on those pages a world filled with light and life. A world that mirrors and interprets for our readers God’s creation so long ago, that explains and organizes meaning and insight and emotion. That points the way. We have the privilege of becoming secondary creators who draw our readers closer to the Original Creator.

And as Christian writers, we have the freedom and the power and the opportunity to imbue our stories with that rarest of qualities in a fallen world: hope.

What gives us the audacity to take on that divinely modeled role? We were born to it. “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;… the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 1:27 and 2:7). We are made in God’s image—the Creator made us little creators—and God’s breath is in our nostrils. When we step into our role as the creators of little worlds, we simply fill out the clothes God put on us when he created his big world, and breathe out onto those empty pages that divine breath he breathed into us.

We were born to create.

Let us find the ways to do it best.
( Adapted from the fiction curriculum offered by the Christian Writers Guild.)

David Lambert is a novelist, editor, and frequent conference teacher. He has also authored the fiction curriculum offered by the Christian Writer's Guild.

4 Comments:

At 7:50 AM, Blogger Deborah Raney said...

"...God’s breath is in our nostrils. When we step into our role as the creators of little worlds, we simply fill out the clothes God put on us when he created his big world, and breathe out onto those empty pages that divine breath he breathed into us."

These words give me chills, Dave. The whole column gave me chills. Can't wait to open up my document and start filling in the pages this morning. Thank you for the inspiration.

 
At 9:50 AM, Blogger Kristy Dykes said...

Thanks, Dave, for an inspiring, encouraging post.

You said, "For a writer, an empty page is a sacred thing. It is our invitation to participate with God in the creative act."

No one could say that more eloquently. What an encouragement to me as I finish writing a Barbour novella in the next few days, which I take very seriously. When you get reader mail that says, "Your story touched my life" or "You made me think a different way" or "You gave me hope" or My friend renewed her faith in Christ after reading your story," etc., well, all I can say is, thanks for the reminder.

A sacred thing. An invitation. A creative act.

Doodads are dancing on my spine.

 
At 6:56 AM, Blogger S. A. Miller said...

Thank you Dave for this post. Whether secondary creator or subcreator, the notion of doing something so like my God stirs and resonates, a sacred call.

 
At 12:01 AM, Blogger Lynette Sowell said...

That's probably why I love empty notebooks in August. They're waiting to be filled.
~~Lynette,
who used to get in trouble for passing around stories in class.

 

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