This is from an opening chapter in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.* Screwtape is a demon from hell, and his job is to tempt souls away from the Christian faith. He writes letters to his protégé, Wormwood, who is new to the business of tempting souls and could use Screwtape’s expertise.
In this letter, Screwtape describes his sly tactic for tempting this reader’s soul. The reader is in the library, reading a sacred text. He is on the brink of finding God. A few moments more and his soul will be saved. And that’s when Screwtape swoops in with his subtle suggestion to put his book away and go eat lunch.
So what does the reader do?
He looks at his watch and thinks, “That’s not a bad idea.” He puts away his sacred reading. He eats lunch.
He does not find God.
Lewis wrote this book with a mind to teach Christians something about their faith. Those intentions aside, this scene stuck with me years after reading the book. I think of it now as I look back on the year. I look at what I’ve accomplished both in making progress and making mistakes, and this story become something of an allegory.
This blog has given me the opportunity to consider the problems that writers have (including myself). I think it comes as no surprise that we are our own worst enemies.
I don’t think Screwtape is entirely at fault. He had cruel intentions, to be sure, but that guy could have waited a few more minutes. Screwtape tells the guy in a subdued way, “Not now,” and the reader follows blindly without thinking about what he’s lost.
How often do you say that to yourself? Blog post? Not now. Chapter of the book? Not now. Like Screwtape telling the guy that he’s hungry, this voice tells you that you don’t have the willpower to write. You can do something else, something that’s less difficult, and write later.
Don’t worry, if you have this voice, it doesn’t mean you need to start seeing somebody.
But rather than give in to it, tell it to shove off. Tell that voice, “Not now. I’m writing.”
*Not an precise quote from the book.