Thursday, June 19, 2014

Digging deeper

Photo by ScaarAT

During my senior year of college, I wrote a short story about a twenty-something wanderer trying to come to terms with losing his faith and disappointing his missionary father. In the last scene, he had a mystical experience in a church building and decided to go home.

My professor read it and told me to chop the last two pages. “I don’t buy the ending,” she said simply.

My stomach churned. I was reeling from my own crisis of faith; I needed to believe that the world still operated with logic and meaning, with a pattern of redemption. If I couldn’t write this into a story, did I really believe it?

“If I just leave it hanging, the story will be so depressing,” I protested.

“Life is depressing,” she answered.

With her help, I wrote a second draft, and a third, and a fourth, because I couldn’t just leave the story bleak—I needed to scratch my way toward a real experience of hope. In the final draft, I cut the mystical church scene, and ended instead with a subtle moment of reconnection to his childhood. My professor loved it.


Most of the time in life, there is no revelation in a church or on a mountain or while watching a sunset. Most of the time, our moments of redemption are only temporary, until we relapse back into the mess.

On the other hand, I believe people change. Inch by inch, and never linear. So that you barely notice until fifteen years have passed, and you are no longer the socially insecure and moderately self-righteous girl you once were.

It is hard to write this in a short story, or a blog-length piece, because you can only show an inch. The balance is tricky. One day I let the pendulum swing too far and I have shown a mile of change, and it can’t be believed. The next time, I forego any kind of change or deeper awareness, and it is like a mirror in the dark.

The art of writing redemption takes many drafts.


When I began my more purposeful approach to the blog last fall, I wrote many drafts. These days, I have sometimes been coming to the blank page hours before I hit the publish button. I think you know this.

It’s okay. Blogging is a discipline as much as an art, so sometimes I will publish something less inspired.

I want to dig deeper, though, to go beyond easy resolution or depressing reality, to find the seed of change and the kernel of truth beneath it all. That is what makes writing worthwhile: not the audience, not the affirmation, but that long, hard reach for hope and understanding.

I am working full-time this summer, and I don’t always have time for drafts and digging. I’d rather sacrifice quantity than quality. I won’t be writing quite as often in the coming weeks, but I will be trying to deepen my reflections: a process which is so difficult and gratifying.



  1. Thanks for sharing this. Sometimes my writing from years ago that seemed least inspired at the time becomes my moment of reconnection.

  2. Thanks Rachel! Always nice to have you stop by--and I'm gonna go read your post now :)

  3. Thanks for that perspective. So helpful to consider.

  4. Kirsten OliphantJune 20, 2014 at 1:03 AM

    I loved this. I have also struggled with faith and fiction and the falling flat of it so often. Here was my favorite: The art of writing redemption takes many drafts.

    Yes! So does the living of redemption.