Keeping on and letting go

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Have you ever destroyed any of your writing?

I have. The page-a-day diary I kept at the age of 16 was just too embarrassing to keep. The self-absorption, the lack of emotional maturity ... it was excruciating to read! I wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to discover that, so I sent it to the shredder. I did keep a few passages where I described a family holiday in Cornwall, as my descriptive writing was good, and there was no adolescent angst clogging it up ...

A very long time ago, I also got rid of a collection of short stories I’d written at about the same age. Now I regret having done so. The stories may have been immature (trust me, they were) but they were also fizzing with ideas and creativity. It makes me sad to think I threw them away and treated my adolescent fiction so lightly. The stories would have made fascinating re-reading, as I could probably discern in them undercurrents in my childhood and teenage years that I was only just starting to understand.

Private diaries are not for keeps, not unless you are a truly amazing writer or spiritual giant. Those people’s diaries are worth reading! But I will ensure that nobody has to wade through my spiritual journals when I’m gone. I will be content to let them go. But I do regret treating my early forays into fiction in such a cavalier fashion.

As we head into a new year, what in our writing life will we keep and what will we throw away? (Ecclesiastes 1: 6) I think it's a profound principle in life that sometimes things have to die before a new thing can be born. This certainly applies to us as disciples of Jesus: as the Lord said, we have to die to ourselves, to our egos, crucify our old nature, if we are to follow Him. The process is painful, nobody would deny that, but it can also be hopeful and life-giving.

As we face this new year as Christian writers, I pray that all of us:

- will cherish our writing gift because God gave it to us and God saw that it was good

- will be blessed through sharing our writing gift with others, whether we get any financial reward for it or not

- will be stretched to write something new we’ve not tried before

- make the most of every God-given opportunity to become more creative

- will also have the courage to relinquish what needs to be relinquished

- will also just relax, and be ourselves, and ENJOY our writing, without burden or expectation … treat yourself to a retreat (it doesn’t have to be a literal retreat, or even a writing retreat. The important thing is to know we are deeply loved by God, whatever we write).

Spiritual de-cluttering can be very restorative. I know that from experience. Letting go of precious dreams and ambitions can of course be very painful, but if that’s a road you have go on, I pray that God replaces every one of those writing dreams and ambitions with something even more profound and precious in your life.

Happy New Year, ACW.

I am the administrator for the education and learning department of the United Reformed Church, and an Anglican lay minister. I wrote a devotional for the anthology Light for the Writer’s Soul published by Media Associates International, and my short story ‘Magnificat’ appears in the ACW Christmas anthology Merry Christmas Everyone.

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