All right, it’s time to get in the wayback machine and revisit a post from long ago. This one should be especially interesting to you aspiring writers out there, as well as the seasoned writers who need an extra gut-wrenching wake-up call from time to time. I know I certainly do.
Today was the first day of BYU’s writing conference, and it was great! The speaker in the last workshop, Dandi Mackall, was exceptional. I don’t have my notes with me and the BYU library closes in twenty minutes, so I’ll recap the best part of her presentation.
She said that once she had a dream where she died and went to heaven (thank goodness!). When she got there, the angel who greeted her offered to show her around, and asked what she wanted to see first. Her answer? The library, of course!
In heaven’s library, she found shelves stretching as far as she could see, full of the very best books. She picked out a few and recognized some of her favorites, the ones that had impacted and changed her life.
After a while, though, she started to get a little disappointed: all of the books in heaven’s library were books we already had down on Earth. Why was that? Didn’t heaven have anything new–anything we hadn’t already seen down below?
“But all these books were here first,” said the angel.
Still, she couldn’t accept that as an answer, so the angel took her down a long, winding, narrow corridor. The deeper she went, the narrower and dustier it became, until she started to feel uneasily. This part of the library was dark and dirty. It was clear that hardly anybody every came down here.
Finally, the angel led her to a door covered in cobwebs. He brushed them aside and opened the door. Here was a room many times larger than the first, with old, dusty bookshelves stretching out of sight.
She picked out a book and started reading through it. It was one she’d never heard of, but it grabbed her. She could tell that it was really good. She picked up another one, and realized that it was just the kind of book that one of her friends would have loved. She picked up another one, and realized that this one could have helped out another friend through a terrible crisis she’d recently been through.
“Why didn’t we have these books?” she angrily asked the angel. “They are just as good as the other ones. Why didn’t they make it down?”
“These are all the books that remain unwritten,” the angel answered. “Each one of these is a book that a writer, somewhere below, has in them but fails to write down.
“This one is by a writer who won’t let anyone give her the criticism she needs to improve her craft. This one is by a writer who doesn’t have the discipline to finish what he starts. This one is by a writer who doubts herself and doesn’t think she can ever get her story to work.”
Humbled, she followed the angel back to the main hall. Just before stepping through the doors, she saw one last book. The name on the cover was her own.
For some reason I don’t understand, fate, God, or genetics (or some malicious combination of the three) conspired to turn me into a writer. Sometimes, I wonder if I’m making a mistake trying to turn this passion into something that will feed myself and my future family. Looking at the millions of other writers like myself, it’s easy to feel anxious. Only a tiny fraction of us will ever make a professional career out of this. Do I even have a chance?
But then I hear a story like this one and I remember why it is that I write. Not for fame, fortune, publication, personal gratification, or even just because I can’t not do it. It’s because storytelling itself is important. It helps us connect with the world around us, to see its beauty and wonder. It helps us to appreciate ourselves and understand others. It stimulates our imaginations and lifts our eyes to see the divine potential that is all around us. It helps us to grow and to heal—to live and to love.
May you find your book in heaven’s library and bring it into the world!