A Little Faith

During my last conversation with Andre Dubus, we touched briefly on the somewhat sensitive subject of faith. That very friendly word is burdened with the stink of superstition, anti-intellectualism, and even a kind of subjugation, concepts to which writers – particularly literary writers – often live their lives in opposition. Yet there we were talking about faith, primarily because it was clear we couldn’t do our work without it. If faith is the belief in what cannot be seen or proven, then this is a writer’s first and greatest tool. Who can see your story but you? Who knows its value but you? And what proof do you have of that story’s value but a feeling within you that says this is interesting, this is exciting, this is funny or profound or scary? You get nothing but a feeling, which, if we were forced to describe it, would begin to sound eerily like the voices of angels and messengers to which mystics have listened for thousands of years.

Yet you hardly need to be a mystic or saint or even a writer to have faith in that which cannot be seen or proven. In fact, writing has merely taught me the immensely practical everydayness of faith. What do I ever actually know other than how I feel at a given moment? The rest is conjecture. The past is a dream, the future is a hunch. Meanwhile, how I feel in this moment remains as close as my own breath, and writing has taught me that this is all I need to know.

Strange, because how I feel is not an outcome. How I feel cannot be measured or compared. How I feel has absolutely no value to anyone but me. Yet it remains my truest guide, which says, “Forget the past and take your eyes off the future. I am here, and I am all you need.” Usually, I don’t believe this voice. He hasn’t the imagination for injury and shame with which I am so gifted. But the voice is as patient as it is persistent, and by and by I return to listen to his voice, which I am always pleased to find sounds strangely like my own.

9781935961994-Perfect_CS.inddWrite Within Yourself: An Author's Companion. "A book to keep nearby whenever your writer's spirit needs feeding." Deb Caletti.

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