Every year for the past 5 years I have participated in Nanowrimo. It’s a rather madcap adventure where one writes a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It’s always good fun and a bit exhausting. This year I was debating on whether or not to do it.
Each year I have hit my word count but felt like what I had written wasn’t worth much. Lately I have been feeling good about the essays I am writing, the non-fiction I am creating, and I didn’t (and don’t) want to mess with that groove. Maybe this year I should sit out. Maybe doing Nanowrimo is a waste of time.
But I’ve also been thinking about what Walter Brueggeman calls “The Prophetic Imagination”; the idea that in order to live into a new reality we must first be able to envision it. He says that you need to be able to take things that people can identify with, situations they can understand, and weave them into something Essays and sermons are wonderful, but there is nothing like stories to help us imagine. I think of books like “The Hunger Games” and other dystopian novels that send warnings about what things might become if we don’t change, stories like “Harry Potter” that teach us about sacrifice and friendship, stories that take us into lives unlike our own and open up new worlds. In fact, it’s the stories in the Scripture that manage to resonate the most deeply.
This idea of engaging the imagination needs to be more than just heavy handed allegory. It can’t simply be “christian fiction” with a nice, tidy moral. There has to be such depth that it can ignite passion and move hearts. Maybe what the world needs is less sermons and more stories. Maybe we need less theology and more characters to emulate.
So this year I will embark on Nanowrimo once again. I’ll write furiously (and probably badly) but I will try to use my words to engage that prophetic imagination. It might not be anything worthwhile, but if nothing else it will use different parts of my brain and will help me to begin to articulate the future I want to live into. It will hopefully deepen my own skill for weaving stories that can ignite change.
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