Writing as Praying
Guest Post by Helena Page Schrader
Since the second grade, I have been inspired (not to say compelled) to write novels. I have never been able to explain why, nor how I ‘select’ the topics of my novels. The ideas for novels occur to me spontaneously, initially as very vague and ephemeral ideas, which I then refine and redefine at a rational level. But the irrational and inexplicable manner in which the initial spark of inspiration occurs has always suggested to me that my novels were genuinely “inspired” not conceived.
My personal beliefs are that all acts of creation — from giving birth, cooking and sewing to great works of art and architecture – are an imitation of the divine. Creation is for me a positive force; destruction a negative one – although I’ve had some very intriguing discussions about whether there can be “creative destruction!” On the whole, people who are creative are, I believe, doing God’s work.
Writing fiction is a means by which I confront and try to understand emotions, behavior and concepts that I have not personally experienced. When writing, I try to put myself in someone else’s shoes (my characters’), and in so doing I try to see things from a different perspective. The reason for doing this is to try to understand the human condition and my fellow humans better.
With time, I came to realize that the process of creative writing is my way of communicating with God. Creative writing is not about asking God for something. It is not about me articulating my thoughts and feelings to Him. Rather, it is about receiving ideas, guidance and understanding. When I sit down to write, I open both my mind and my subconscious to inspiration. As I write, I am almost always surprised and excited by the unexpected reactions of my characters. They then become my teachers, giving me new insight into human nature. Again and again, I have felt a wonderful sense of awe at the end of writing a scene, a chapter or a book, when suddenly I start to understand things that I had not rationally grasped when I started writing.
Because I am an imperfect human being, I do not always understand what I “hear,” nor do I always have the skill to describe and convey to readers the insights I have gained during the process of writing. Nor do I claim that my insights are relevant to everyone. We all have an individual relationship with the Devine, and we must all communicate with Him in our own way. Nevertheless, I firmly believe that like a good meal or a beautiful building, a divinely inspired work of fiction is something that can comfort, sustain and inspire more than just the creator. For that reason, I share the products of my “prayers” – my books – with others.
Helena Page Schrader is a career diplomat, who earned a PhD in History from the University of Hamburg with a ground-breaking dissertation about the mastermind behind the Valkyrie Plot against Hitler. She has published non-fiction works on the German Resistance, women in aviation in WWII, and the Berlin Airlift. Her novels on the German Resistance (Hitler’s Demons, the Battle of Britain (Where Eagles Never Flew), and Ancient Greece have won praise and awards. She is currently working on a nine Tales of Chivalry. The first novel in this series, A Widow’s Crusade, was released April 9, 2013. You can find out more about Helena and her books at her website: http://www.tales-of-chivalry.com.