As is the case with most endeavors in life, it’s helpful to have some kind of an end goal when you embark upon a new pursuit. Well, the other day I began to contemplate my motivations for writing fiction. It wasn’t an existential meltdown, by any means: a “Whyyy am I even doing this?” mentality accompanied by hair pulling and teeth grinding.
Rather, I wanted to pinpoint my goal with writing. What do I hope to achieve? What keeps me going when things get hard, whether that be writer’s block or less than stellar sales?
Otherwise, without identifying my objective, how will I know if I’m successful? If this is about popularity, our ranking on Amazon is a benchmark. Similarly, if I’m in it to put away a nest egg for retirement, net sales will determine success or failure.
So let me begin by eliminating some possible motivations–these do NOT drive my writing! (May I clarify that these sentiments belong to me, Cassandra, and I don’t try to speak on Chris’s behalf!)
That’s actually quite laughable! Let’s just say that if I were doing this for the money … well, I would’ve pulled out long ago. There is a HUGE discrepancy between the hours we devoted to writing The Shadows of Freedom series and the income it has generated thus far. I’m blessed that I have a husband with a full-time job that can support our growing family. I don’t have to rely on writing to help pay the bills. So, no, I’m not in it for the money!
I have to be honest: sometimes I feel like a hypocrite. I write, in part, about spirituality, prayer, and faith. I try to sow these themes through our plots. It probably comes across that I am a spiritual, prayerful, and faithful person. I try to be that way, certainly, but as I grow older, I come to see more and more how often I fail in those areas.
It seems like it was easier to be kind and patient and good when I was younger—before becoming a mother, specifically. I had the availability to go to church every day if I wanted. I had the time to spend thirty whole minutes in prayer. I volunteered at a soup kitchen each week. I felt like a good person. Now I am a mother and, at the end of the day, sometimes I feel like I just survived. If I have a spare thirty minutes, I use it to exercise or write in order to relax and feel sane; I don’t use it to pray. Maybe I should.
I see a lot of my failings—losing my temper, complaining, selfishness. My protagonist talks about the need for prayer, yet when my own prayer time comes around in the morning, sometimes I decide to watch mindless videos on Youtube instead (like the man who rescued a grocery store lobster and is now raising him in a tank. It’s actually quite fascinating—the lobster’s name is Leon—but … well, you get the point).
So I don’t write to preach. I’m not an expert; I’m there in the trenches, struggling for holiness but often I end up in the muck of sin. As I become more aware of my personal sinfulness, I become more and more thankful for the astounding mercy of God.
I don’t want my writing to drastically change my life. I’m not in this to become a celebrity! I’m happier being “C & C Spellman” instead of “Cassandra and Chris Spellman.” I like the anonymity of “C & C.” I have some friends who aren’t even aware that Chris and I are authors. That’s okay with me.
Some people make writing their career. That’s their dream and they’re happy doing it. I’m happy for them. But that’s not what I’m seeking. I have a career and it’s being a mother to five beautiful, precious children that I love dearly. I wouldn’t change my career for the world and it is exactly what I’ve always wanted to do with my life.
However, I will swiftly add that it is by far the most challenging thing I have ever done. It is a tremendous responsibility. It’s also my priority. Maybe one day, when the children are grown up and all in school, I’ll spend more of my days writing. But for now I fill my days with changing diapers, preparing meals for hungry little mouths, breaking up arguments, reading stories, practicing spelling words, and listening to their interests and ideas. I hope that one day our children will read our novels and enjoy them!
So, if I’m not writing for these reasons, what am I writing for? I came up with a few reasons, in no particular order.
Writing is like play for me. It’s just down-right fun! As I go about my tasks, maybe while I am washing dishes or folding laundry, I picture our characters and imagine their dialogue together. It’s a wonderful escape, a place I can go to in my mind whenever I like to do so. It also becomes a puzzle that’s entertaining to put together. How does this aspect of the plot fit into another? How can these characters end up in the place I’d like them to be?
Writing works my mind. It’s a mental exercise that makes me feel good: it’s hard work, but meaningful. We’re made in the image and likeness of God. God is the ultimate Creator and, like Him, we enjoy creating.
You know the saying: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Or, to put it in more spiritual terms: God brings good out of evil. I grew up in a very faith-filled family. We went to church every Sunday. We prayed together. I was very active in my parish community, volunteering and working there. My church was like my second home.
Then, when I went to college, I had a crisis of faith—an experience I know I’m not alone in. I didn’t exactly lose my faith, but I seriously questioned it and really entered a dark period of my life. God brought me back into His fold, for which I am forever grateful, and I see His hand in so many moments during that time. That spiritual journey really shaped me as a person.
The dark time—the “lemons,” you might say—helped me write from a very personal space. Amanda’s spiritual journey in The Shadows of Freedom series—though very different from mine in many ways—has some similarities.
One summer during my college years, the dear priest at my parish gave us an assignment during his homily: write a letter to Jesus. I followed his encouragement and found the exercise so helpful and moving, I spent that whole summer filling a notebook of letters to Jesus. I’d ride my bike to a nearby cemetery, sit under a tree, and just write and write in the silence. Years later, I thumbed through those notebooks as I wrote some of Amanda’s scenes where she prays to God. I write to turn the painful and sinful parts of my past into something beautiful: to let God weave a story through them of redemption, forgiveness, and healing.
As I’ve blogged about before, writing is something I share with my husband. It’s a hobby we both love. The world of The Shadows of Freedom has been built by both of us. I love observing our complementarity. I admire Chris’s insights, ideas, and words. We’ve shared many laughs together as we discuss the plot and even as we work together marketing the books. He is my partner in every sense of the word. Writing has brought us closer together as husband and wife, as friends.
God gives everyone gifts. Everyone has something they’re good at. God gave that gift to you for a purpose. He wants you to use it to build up His Kingdom, to draw souls closer to Him, to spread the truth. I believe that God put this love of writing in my heart for a purpose. I humbly hope that He is using our words to touch other people’s souls. I pray that my ego and ambition will never become a hindrance to that.
I want to offer words that inspire other people, that cause them to think about the bigger picture and ask important questions. Writing brings me joy … and I want to share that joy with others. As Morgan says in In the Shadows of Freedom, joy springs forth from the deepest recesses of the soul. Only God produces that joy.
I pray that our work of writing is, ultimately, God’s work.
The Final Question
That brings me to the big, final question: have we been successful or not?
Maybe you can answer that for me. Has our writing helped you? Has it inspired you or touched your soul in some way? Has God spoken to you through it? Has it brought you joy?
I pray that it has. And I will keep working, honing my craft and offering it to God, so that may continue to be the case!