At the end of my semester classes, I allow my students to tell me what I did well, and what I need to work on, or what else they would like to see in a class like mine.
I’ve never had any terrible feedback (if people love and respect you just the right amount, they don’t usually want to criticize you), but one thing my one student said has stayed with me.
She wanted to know about writing stories that matter.
Of course, I could answer this on an existential level, saying that all stories matter, because all art matters, and we are creating, and we are made in the image of a creator, and in fact, the one I often refer to as “The Grand Storyteller,” and I could also do other things.
The question made me pause.
I don’t like postmodernism, in general. But it has its good points, and I understand it was created as an offshoot of modernism, and that it is a reaction to the breakdown of society, values, and humanity at large, where worth is created or assumed by different measures and circumstances.
One of the things I like is that it does say that stories matter. All stories matter. From The Three Little Pigs to Dr. Seuss books to the Bible (my favorite is Max Lucado’s NCV, The Devotional Bible, eBook: Experiencing The Heart of Jesus – I’m a big fan of his work), every person’s story is supposed to matter.
Postmodernism is self-defeating immediately afterwards, saying that there is no such thing as meaning, but I do like the idea that all stories matter.
I agree with it; I’ve seen – and lived through – a life example.
My second roommate in college was a girl named Melissa. She was devoted to missions work, but she was having a rough summer, because she had to get a job in order to pay for college. She worked as a groundskeeper for the college. She did a great job, but one day, when she was working, she managed to slice her leg up with a weed whacker. It was not a pretty sight.
That day, I was also facing struggles, because I’d found out that I had to quit my job, in order to be able to go home for the summer. I hated college by then, since it was so far away from my family (I’d been desperate to get away, only to want to go home after the first semester).
Both of us came back from our day’s work with heavy sighs.
The next day, we came back with similar insights into God’s grace. She’d had some time to herself, where she said she’d felt God’s embrace on her, and told her not to worry about the money.
I had been listening to music when I felt overwhelmed, realizing that while I missed my family, I had a home with God. I remember this feeling when I listen to Steven Curtis Chapman‘s music.
It was so funny, to both of us, as we exchange stories, to realize God had been working out our lives, at the same time, and in such a needy way. We both ended up clinging to him more as a result.
Melissa’s story matters. My story matters. I can agree it all matters.
So, how does one write stories that matter?
I think it begins with the recognition that we matter, and what we do matters to God. What matters to us matters to God, and what matters to us matters to our stories.
So when it comes to writing, pick something you’re passionate about. Something you know about. Something you dream about. And write it with God, the best way you can. Everything we do from there on, we do with our own blood, sweat, tears, humor, and style. God takes over when we find ourselves at an end.