The Book That Changed My Writing: “The Story of With”

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This one is for all you creatives out there.

For many artists pursuing their craft, whether it is writing or painting, home remodeling or singing, there seems to be one thing that helps them understand their art. There’s a building they saw once that inspired them to see the power of great design. Or, it might be a song. When it comes on, it reminds them that they are singers, too. For me, Allen Arnold’s book, “The Story of With: A Better Way to Live, Love, Create,” is one that helped changed everything.

The book is an allegory about creativity that brings to life how our identity and imagination work hand in hand as we grow in intimacy with God. There’s more much packed into this book that I simply cannot do justice on this blog post, but let this photograph of my copy do the talking. It is a well-worn and indispensable piece of my writing storehouse that I go back to again and again—whenever I need to replenish and refresh.

Arnold writes, “I believe God instills a unique set of interest and talent within each of us, knowing the more we pursue them, the more we encounter Him. God creates a world of wonder and then places a corresponding wonder in each of us. Imagine it. The very things in life that we’re drawn to were made for us.”

If you’re not familiar with Arnold, he is the founding fiction publisher for Thomas Nelson (HarperCollins Christian Publishers). He now oversees content at Ransomed Heart, a ministry founded by John Eldredge, the New York Times Best-selling author of “Wild at Heart.” He understands writers (and creatives of all kinds), and he knows the insecurities that can plague us and the breakthroughs that can transform us.

Today, I’m reminded of a short scene in the story when the main character intends to use her creativity to make a sandwich. She had all of the ingredients she needed for a masterpiece except for the bread. Her companion, a chef, takes a loaf of bread out of the oven just in time. Here’s an excerpt.

“How’d you know I’d need bread?”
“I didn’t.” He set the flat Italian bread on a cutting board. “I, too, pursued what I felt I had to make. Now you have revealed why!”

This small moment is exactly the reminder I need so regularly as a writer. Sometimes, it can feel as if I am writing in a vacuum, with no idea if what I am doing will connect with anyone or be any good, or matter at all… Writing can feel like a solitary sport. But it’s not.

Arnold reminds us that we are not writing—or creating—alone. We are creating with our Lord. Giving ourselves time to pursue our creativity and the freedom to enjoy it not only cares for our heart, but it helps us grow closer to Him. And in God’s wonderful economy, as He works the creativity and imagination of His people together in a way we cannot possibly understand, our art also benefits one another.

We can write something and never know the wonderful extent it may bless another. It might be exactly what someone else needed to create their own work of art—the very ingredient they have needed and didn’t know… Much like “The Story of With” has been for me.

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