Welcome, friends! This post is part autobiography and part encouragement. I hope you glean positivity from it—let me know in the comments what you’ve learned from fantasy and creative expression.
I’ve always been a creative, somewhat distracted human. God is creative, and our imaginative expression mimics Him. As Wayne Grudem puts it in in his Bible Doctrine, “We reflect in small measure the creative activity of God, and we should delight in it and thank him for it.” It’s important to start off this post with the affirmation that these parts of the human spirit are good and holy. If they weren’t, we might not have Christian artists, musicians, writers, painters, chefs, teachers, and other wonderful skilled people. God uses art to draw people unto Himself. Here’s a brief overview of my childhood experience in creativity.
I. The Early Fantasies
When I was about five, I used to play the Lion King soundtrack on my bulky stereo radio in my room, climb on my bed and pretend to be a lion. My first childhood crush was the Genie from Aladdin. Naturally, little girls like getting attention. Using CDs and cassette tapes (represent, 90s kids!) that my parents gave me, I would play songs and construct thrilling fantasies. Usually, these featured Disney characters, along with myself, going on daring adventures and overcoming opponents. My goal was to be noticed by the Genies and other inspiring characters: sometimes I’d be in trouble. Other times, I’d save the day. My imagination romped around my invented world and did whatever I pleased. This was one of my favorite ways to spend time as a girl. As I grew older, it would become more organized, and more in line with my writing passion.
II. The Fanfiction Novels
There’s this nifty site called Fanfiction.com, that’s full of fandoms and teenage hormones and, if you search for it, some fairly good writing. The site lets you choose which fandom you want to write for, shows which characters your story centers around, and lets you pick the genre. Chapters are uploaded individually and can be edited at any time. Basically, it was exactly what 13-year-old me wanted.
Yes, that is my account, with one of my stories; and yes, my account is still up. After my parents and I came to an understanding on getting an account (To my discredit, I went behind their backs for a while), I began writing a self-insert fanfic about this show I’d just started to get into called Invader Zim. It was a 90s, sassy, sci-fi cartoon about this alien race called the Irkens, who send Zim to Earth to get rid of him. Instead, he ends up continually trying to take over the planet with his robot sidekick, Gir.
As a lover of sci-fi, I plopped my alter-ego down into this wacky universe without a problem. Chapters chugged out of my brain. Soon, I had a novel-length story. It went through a major edit. Throughout this time, I wasn’t just writing: I kept up my fantasizing habit. With the help of more private technology (i.e. an iPod and headphones), I continued dreaming, including things that never made it into my written story at all. Spending hours in my room became daily routine. In class, I’d lose focus and drift into more stories. This was a huge creative outlet, but it started to make me late to the dinner table and distant from friends. I began a second Invader Zim novel: a sequel. There was one character in particular I singled out to be my love interest. It’s safe to say we’ve all had a crush on a character; but my obsession was taking it way farther. I wasn’t just writing a self-insert fanfic. I was losing myself in pursuit of who I thought I wanted to be.
God brought this to my attention. My Sundays became a series of pledging to give up the fantasizing entirely, followed by Sunday afternoons of relapses and self-hatred. As college approached, I knew it was a turning point I needed to utilize. If moving out couldn’t stave off this habit, what would? Would I be married and spinning around the room with headphones on when my future husband walked in from work?
As it turns out, this decision wasn’t much more effective than the other Sunday morning ones. I still zoned out. I edited the second novel. By this point, I wanted to be done with it so I wouldn’t have a reason to return to that world. While I made friends at university, including a kind, sweet roommate, I still found myself yanking out earphones and wondering if anyone noticed weird things about me. There is one memory that stands out: One day, I held the door open behind me in one of the buildings. There was no one behind me. Standing there, feeling my hand on the door, I seriously reflected on who I wanted to be. Who I was. What this was doing.
If you’re still with me, thank you so much for listening to my personal story. Until 2013, I hadn’t shared these things with anyone. Why would I? It would be cute to tie up this post with an, “I quit one day and never looked over my shoulder.” That’s not the reality. I’ll share the reality shortly; but hopefully, these lessons will connect with and uplift you.
- Creativity and Fantasy are not Evil.
Putting in headphones, penning a fanfiction novel, losing yourself in a dream world, are not in themselves bad. Movies, music, novels—they all provide escape, and lessons, and growth. These are wonderful things. One thing I learned about my self-hate over the years is that it was partially unfounded. The issue wasn’t my imagination. I didn’t need to give that up entirely. If you’re struggling at all with questions of this nature, be gentle with yourself. Remember that our minds imitate God’s, to a limited extent. Making time for creativity is good.
- I Cannot and Should Not Be the Center of Any Universe
Manufacturing praise for myself leaves me feeling empty. It’s hurtful to others who need me. It’s not fair to the God who’s the only one truly worthy of worship. That attention I gleaned for myself felt good for a moment. But at the end of the night, it felt like poison, sucking the quality out of my days. I felt starved for true affirmation. I wasn’t giving back. I was just isolating myself more.
- All Human Machinations Fall Short
Whether it’s a skyscraper, a president’s promises, or a quiet, little bundle of words on a site dominated by stories, no human effort can fulfill our souls. God is the only true source of Life; in my attempts to manufacture a synthetic storehouse, God allowed me to realize how inadequate my efforts are. He is the answer: not our creations, our friends, our things, or our potential. These are cherries: enrichment. Blessings. Fruit.
If you’re struggling with the pressure to be good enough, or to be satisfied in things of this world, turn to the One who is worthy of worship. The only One fit to be the center of the universe. The only One whose story is perfect and pure. Jesus has created you as part of His universe for a specific reason. You are valuable because you are His.
V. Final Reflections
So how does my tale end (do our stories ever fully end)?
Well, I still put in headphones and dream. Nowadays, I focus more on original fiction. I’ve left the Zim novels behind; although, sometimes, for reflection’s sake, I remember the fantasy days in that world, and mark how far He’s brought me. I’m surrounded by a wonderful community of real people, who fill my life with joy and peace. I strive to draw close to God, and dedicate my work to Him. My dream is to become a published Christian novelist; and I believe it will happen. Do I still regret the wasted time? Absolutely. What I don’t regret are the lessons, both skill-wise and spiritually, that I learned.
I pray these thoughts will positively impact someone right now. You are loved, and you are valuable, here and now. ❤