I’m writing my first novel. There, I said it. It’s scary, this trying new things, risking failure. In public now.
As I sink into my main character’s head, considering her fears, flaws, motivations, and the life events that informed them, I’m gaining new perspectives. You might argue that it’s from my head her thoughts flow. Yes. And no. I mean, what do I really know-know about my own thoughts, anyway? How deep have I been willing to go with my self-examination? Apparently, not as far as I thought. Writing is excavation.
I’m told to ask my character a million why questions and to keep drilling down until I discover her core fears, the darkest moments of her past. So I can step into her identity and tell her story from that place.
In real life, in real time, we don’t often get to peer out of another person’s eyes, feel what they feel. Who has the time or the stomach for it? We hustle through our days because we can’t even stomach our own stuff. I like to think, as I walk a mile and beyond in someone else’s strappy sandals, I’m growing more empathy.
I’m grateful today that God has the stomach to bear with my every thought, fear, flaw and wound. And tenderly guides my excavation process, shining just the light I need. And never quits on me.
You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, And you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too lofty for me, too lofty for me to attain. ~ Psalm 139:1–6
So I drink green tea and adopt an archaeologist’s mindset and dig deep into my character’s behaviors and emotions, like I’m sweeping dry, caked earth away from an artifact. I’m curious. I’m sensitive. And while I’m at it, I’m applying a gentle brush to my own self-identity. Questioning my go-to behaviors. Considering why I react like I do. Sometimes, asking God to help me change before I fossilize this way.
This writing gig rends the soul. But I know I won’t unearth anything that God doesn’t already know about. That his light can’t touch. That his love can’t remedy. That’s the story I hope to tell.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. ~ Psalm 139:23-24