Thursday, December 17, 2009
Christmas with Virginia Smith
The Book of Your Heart
By Virginia Smith
Putting up the Christmas tree at my house is a very special event. I relish the ritual of hanging the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Each one holds a memory. The shiny silver bell engraved with our wedding date. The brightly painted teddy bear with the year of my daughter’s birth painted on his hat. The skiing Santa I bought on our first ski trip. As I lift each treasure carefully out of the box where it has lain hidden from view all year, a precious memory emerges from deep within my heart and finds a place on my tree.
I imagine stories are like those ornaments, each one a treasure nestled within the heart of a writer, waiting to be brought out and displayed. Perhaps that’s how we first recognize that we are writers: fictitious people walk and talk and breathe within us, and we burn with the desire to show them to others. A story unfolds with startling clarity in our minds, and we know—just know—that we won’t have a moment’s peace until we’ve set it down on paper and shared it.
That burning desire is exactly what enables us to tell a story that stirs the imaginations of others. It is our passion for the story and the characters that causes us to spend hours striving for the precise word or the perfect phrase to relay the vivid images in our heads. For some, the stories conceived in our hearts burst from us full-grown; others hold a story inside, nurturing it in the deep places until it ripens into the thing of beauty we’ve envisioned.
Many years ago, a story bloomed in my heart. It was full of adventure and love, and infused with hope—truly, a thing of beauty. I wrote the first draft feverishly, the words pouring onto the page as the plot unfolded in my mind. The characters were so real, their struggles painful and vivid. I studied the craft, intent on telling my tale with artistry. With each new skill I learned, I revised and polished until the story sparkled. If ever a story was born from the heart, it was that one.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an editor who shared my passion. Whether due to my lack of skill or the uncertainties of the market for that genre, the story of my heart was rejected over and over. I mourned. I raged. I cried out to God, “Why did You give me this story if You don’t intend me to tell it?” After my rage died, I revised and polished the manuscript again. Finally, when there was not a single word that hadn’t been scrubbed until it shone, I gave up. After all, if there was no place for the story of my heart in the publishing world, maybe there was no place for me there either.
That’s when I heard God’s whisper: Do you think I have only one story to give?
A few days later, a character waltzed into my mind and began telling me about her life. She became real to me, as real as the characters in my first story. I discovered that there was room in my heart for her, too. In fact, this new tale took on a glimmer and shine all its own. I employed the skills I’d honed on my first, and eventually, God placed a published book in my hands.
And then He said: I have more stories to give you.
Can you imagine anything sadder than a Christmas tree with only a single ornament? Or a life with only a single precious memory? Or a heart with only a single story?
I am convinced that good stories are born in the heart of God, a heart immense and overflowing with creativity. He carefully selects an author for each one and bestows a precious gift – straight from His heart to ours. We write it and polish it and, when the story has become as beautiful as we can make it, we must hang it on the tree and reach into the box for another treasure.
Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including Stuck in the Middle, a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder, a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her newest, Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in her Sister-to-Sister Series, will hit bookstore shelves in January. Learn more about Ginny and her books at www.VirginiaSmith.org.
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