by Joanna Davidson Politano, @politano_joanna
“I want to be a witness for Jesus!”
That was the eager answer I received when asking another writer about her purpose in writing. I’ve heard that often among writers—everyone has a message they’re passionate about sharing in their stories, and they see novels as a vehicle for that.
The idea of “witnessing” has always terrified me, even though I was in love with the message I was supposed to share. The same held true when I started writing books. I felt so strongly about pouring truth into my novels, making the writing about more than the story itself, yet I couldn’t bear to dilute the power of the message by splicing awkward and contrived sermonettes into a story. So I asked Jesus—how does one go about weaving Your truth into stories in a way that’s authentic and meaningful?
His answer has been unfolding my entire writing life, and I’ll tell you what I’ve learned so far.
First of all, here’s the thing about “witnessing,” on or off the page. Your one and only job is to tell the truth about what you experienced. That’s it. Think about what a witness does in a courtroom—he just tells the truth, his firsthand experience. No witness is required to convince the jury of anything, to persuade the judge toward a certain verdict or feeling, or change the outcome of the trial. In the same way, writers are not meant to convince readers or to convict or change anyone’s mind. Simply be real and tell the truth, and let God handle the results. Freeing, isn’t it? Yet it isn’t easy, because it means you have to first experience God and His truths before you can attest to them on the page.
May I suggest something? If you’re struggling with your novel’s spiritual arc, if what you’ve done so far isn’t working or it simply falls flat, stop trying. Stop writing entirely for a minute. I know that sounds backwards, but it will catapult you forward in more ways than you know. Set the computer down and focus on figuring out how to live intimately with God, asking Him all your questions, pursuing Him, and talking through everything. Walk through the hard stuff with Him and work it out in your life and what you experienced with and about Jesus will naturally flow onto the page as “truth” that will be authentic and powerful. Stop writing to persuade or teach or even promote a message dear to your heart. Use your writing as a canvas to explore and discover and ponder truths of God that are endlessly deep and invite your readers to peer in at your journey afterwards. Write for your own heart and God will help it sink into the heart of others.
The truth is, it’s very possible to have a powerful spiritual thread in your novels when you integrate your art with your real life, and you fill that real life with God. Pursue God in the everyday—spend time with him, seek Him heartily, and submit to Him—then sit down and untangle your novel with Him. The result will be a tapestry of story, impact, and vibrant truth deeper and more lasting than all your hard work could have created alone. This may sound like a lot of effort with no written pages to show for it, but try it. You can keep chasing that elusive “secret” to good writing, keep working and honing and striving, or you can try something a little different, and open yourself up to the possibility of creating something that goes beyond your own imagination, your own abilities.
So really, here’s the secret—don’t worry about changing your reader’s life. Just change your own, spill that onto the page, and let God handle the rest.
When Aurelie Harcourt’s father dies in debtor’s prison, he leaves her just two things: his wealthy family, whom she has never met, and his famous pen name, Nathaniel Droll. Her new family greets her with apathy and even resentment. Only the quiet houseguest, Silas Rotherham, welcomes her company.
When Aurelie decides to complete her father’s unfinished serial novel, writing the family into the story as unflattering characters, she must keep her identity as Nathaniel Droll hidden while searching for the truth about her mother’s disappearance–and perhaps even her father’s death.
Author Joanna Davidson Politano’s stunning debut set in Victorian England will delight readers with its highly original plot, lush setting, vibrant characters, and reluctant romance.
Joanna Davidson Politano freelances for a small nonfiction publisher but spends much of her time spinning tales that capture the colorful, exquisite details in ordinary lives. She is always on the hunt for random acts of kindness, people willing to share their deepest secrets with a stranger, and hidden stashes of sweets. She lives with her husband and their two babies in a house in the woods near Lake Michigan and shares stories that move her at www.jdpstories.com. Connect with her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/joannadavidsonpolitano/ on Twitter: https://twitter.com/politano_joanna or on Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/sunshine39n/