Intrinsic Value

Posted on February 8, 2012

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I began writing my first novel when I was still in Seminary, probably around 2004 or 2005. It took me about two and a half years to get it done. The second one I wrote took me about two years. I have sent off query letters to various agents concerning both projects. A couple asked to see full manuscripts, but mostly it was polite form rejections.

I am currently working on my third novel, which I consider the best so far (at least conceptually.) And still I must fight off the internal question that rings like a gong inside my chest at least once a week, “WWWHHHHHYYY-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y-Y?????”

Why do I do this? It takes time. It takes energy. It can be frustrating to be stuck on a plot point, or feeling constrained by your own abilities, or by another letter telling you that “this isn’t a good fit for us.” Why write at all? Why not watch television and forget all about the dream and the hope and the drive?

Because, at least in my life, writing stories has intrinsic value. It has value in-and-of itself. It is its own justification.

The more things I do that have this characteristic, the happier I am. I love baking bread. Do I need to? Not really. Not as much as I do it. But it makes me happy.

Do I need to run as much as I do? I’m sure I could get many of the same health benefits on many less miles, but I enjoy the act of running.

I feel this same way about so many things: playing with my kids, reading books, drinking coffee, eating chocolate chip cookies, and even sleeping. None of these feel like a chore to me even though sometimes they are a lot of work. I am most unhappy, un-human, uncomfortable, un-myself, when I go against type, when I try to be something or someone that I am not. But when I push my life toward things that primary have intrinsic value, everything seems simpler and easier.

Sadly, I don’t think the church has intrinsic value. I find myself speaking about the church’s function in my lives, not the enjoyment I feel when I participate in it. The same is true with reading the Bible, prayer, and worship. I talk about how these things can bring a closer relationship to God, which is like eating chocolate chip cookies for nutritional reasons. Shouldn’t my experience of God be a delight, even if it is an unexplainable delight? And if not a delight, then at least honest about that fact? Something that leaves me feeling more human, more myself? That would be my hope. That is my dream.

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