It’s finally feeling a bit like summer. Yesterday, we went out for a picnic for Canada Day. I had a marvellous time there and hope to do it again. ⸜( ´ ꒳ ` )⸝♡︎
Today, I wanted to share with you one of my all-time favourite authors. Her name is Ayako Miura, and what I find remarkable about her is that she’s a Christian author who wrote explicitly Christian themes and still left a mark in the Japanese literary world. Her most famous work, Hyōten (Freezing Point), set in Hokkaido, won a literary award and was dramatised countless times and was also made into movies in Japan and overseas. Many of her works are only available in Japanese only, which I find somewhat depressing, but hey, maybe it’s that time to learn Japanese!
Jokes aside, I recently came across her essay/reflective work, What Writing Means to Me. The first part is mainly a reflection on some of her famous works. The second part talks about her writing philosophy as a Christian author. The last part featured her thoughts on famous Japanese authors like Akutagawa, Dazai, and Ichiyō. What I thought I’ll do is to share some of the quotes that spoke to me from the second section.
So, without further ado, let me introduce to you Ayako Miura’s What Writing Means to Me!
Disclaimer: I’ve done my best to translate as closely as possible, but any errors/misinterpretations are my fault. I also add an honorific “sensei” at the end, which we usually do for teachers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, authors, and anyone we respect. ୧꒰*´꒳`*꒱૭✧
i. “First, pray.”
This is the basic. If writing is God’s will, He will take care of the rest.
This was her husband’s advice given to her on the night the story of Hyōten came to her, Miura-sensei writes. He told her it was alright to write as long as she prayed and this has remained central to her writing. What I thought was really remarkable was how Miura-sensei calls her occupation as an author a “writing ministry”. To her, writing is an evangelical mission…which is easily seen in her works that features many challenging theological themes that have continued to intrigue and uplift Christians and non-Christians alike. Prayer is the foundation to build this writing ministry.
ii. “When writing a novel, I start with what moved me the most.”
If it does not move you, it cannot move the readers. What makes the reader cry, I have cried more over.
“Faith literature”, Miura-sensei says, “is to entrust your faith into the novel when writing. So it cannot be simply laying out the facts–you must embody faith through your stories and characters.” Again, I love how Miura-sensei uses the word “faith literature” when talking about her work. Something I’ve always struggled with in my writing is the degree of explicitness my faith should be–should I implicitly write it in? What does being explicitly Christian even mean? But through Miura-sensei’s book, I came to realise that the reason her books seem to knock the breath right out of me is that she writes grounded in the Bible. She writes about how the world is one of confusion, and when she comes across a beautiful Biblical concept, she wants to share them with people the way you might want to share tasty food with a loved one. To her, it comes out as faith literature.
iii. “Next, I write ‘the world I know the most’.”
That is, to “write your problems”.
As a teacher, Miura-sensei struggled with coming to terms with the abrupt change in the teaching style during and after WWII. This was actually foundational to her journey to faith, so many of her works feature teachers and the limits they have when they come across complicated family situations/moral dilemmas. She also battled many illnesses and spent a long time in hospitals and around doctors, which she attributes as being influential to “her world”.
I think a lot of writers lose heart when they’re told to write “what they know”. But really, what that means is to write “what matters to you”. What matters to me will come to matter to people because chances are, we all struggle with similar problems. For Miura-sensei, she started with her problems and went deeper by researching/interviewing to see what else she could talk about. And this is what “writing the world I know most” looks like.
iv. “Lastly, if you have started a story, you must finish it.”
Even if it’s a wonderful novel, if it is half-written, it cannot be published.
This, Miura-sensei writes, is the most important thing when it comes to writing a novel. Miura-sensei also writes about the importance of keeping a journal. When keeping a journal, you must come to face yourself, the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. To continue this process, she writes, is what makes us grow as persons.
I used to have no trouble finishing my wips and used to write stories as presents to friends and families. (Now, I think they were too nice to me, but that’s beside the point.) Some were long, some were short. But the point was that I finished them, so people could read them.
Now, I have more trouble finishing the work I started. I have grand designs and themes and piles after piles of words, but they’re unfinished–and hence, unreadable. Whenever I feel like I won’t see the end to my current wip, I can remember Miura-sensei’s words… “Even if it’s rough, if it’s written, it’s a novel.”
And with that in mind, let us keep writing. ( ᐢ˙꒳˙ᐢ )
Thank you for reading! Have you heard of Ayako Miura? Do you have an author you respect from the bottom of your heart? What are some of the advice from Miura-sensei that spoke to you? Let me know in the comments below; I’d love to chat with you!