Write In Pursuit Of Something. (A Blog Post and Pseudo Film Review Of Zero Dark Thirty)

I’m writing this post after having just returned from the theater for a late night showing of Zero Dark Thirty. It’s a film that has attracted a lot of attention for its portrayal of the events surrounding what is arguably […]
on Jan 15, 2013 · No comments


I’m writing this post after having just returned from the theater for a late night showing of Zero Dark Thirty. It’s a film that has attracted a lot of attention for its portrayal of the events surrounding what is arguably the greatest manhunt of all time – the search for Osama Bin Laden. And while this blog post is not intended to be a film review, there was something in the film that captured my attention so much I felt compelled to include it in my post today.

In a word, it was…Pursuit.

The narrative of the film focuses, for the most part, on a young CIA analyst named Maya who has committed her life to one thing and one thing alone – finding Bin Laden. To say the pursuit of Osama is Maya’s job would be a dire understatement. In fact, Maya’s investigative resolve hardens so much through the film that it eventually becomes a personal obsession. Months drag on to years marked with frustrations, dead-ends and life-threatening assignments around the globe. But she never gives up. Maya is dedicated to this task. Somewhere along the line she has made a sacred promise with herself and she will never stop no matter what happens – or how long it takes.

One of the things that struck me the most about this film is that it was not the polished and glamorized manhunt film we’ve come to expect from hollywood. It’s a far cry from a The Fugitive, Bourne Identity or even an episode of 24. No, this movie was much more about the monotony of research and the thankless and lonely life of an investigator than it was the thrill of the raid and the fulfillment of a dream. And I guess that’s what connected with me most as a writer.

Good writers are tenacious. It’s a necessity of the job. It’s not sexy or glamorous. At times its downright boring. But once we get ahold of a story, we must see it through to its end – no matter what the cost. We are, like Maya, investigators into the speculative “what if’s” of the case. It matters little if we are writing a fantasy, romance, adventure or thriller, the rules of the world must still be determined, the background and motive of every key character must be noted and sometimes we must be willing to backtrack, retrace our steps and question our own perceptions about the plot we have already written. It is in the trenches of writing, the daily grind of small word counts, backward progress and seemingly incoherent ideas, that a book will be forged and a victory will eventually be won. We must be tenacious, or we are doomed to fail.

Having successfully published four novels in the past five years, I’m often approached by others who have a desire to write a book someday, and they ask me what it is they can do to get published. The answer is never quite as simple as they’d like. The truth of the matter is that “getting published” is a route that looks different for every author and requires as much divine intervention as it does skill. Some of the most skilled writers I know still have unfinished or unpublished manuscripts in their file drawers. Why? The reasons for this are as diverse as the stories themselves, but one thing is certain – if you give up you’ll never succeed.

So, for those of you struggling with your writing (and I still count myself among you), allow me to offer this suggestion – be tenacious this year. Make a promise to yourself that you WILL finish that manuscript. Stick with it, no matter how long it takes. If you truly are a writer you will finish what you start. There is no stopping half way. Writing a book is not a sprint, it is a marathon. It will take everything out of you and leave you battered and bruised from the fight. But if you are committed, if you’ve set your eyes on the prize, you will find a way to finish strong.

But before you start pounding away at that novel – a word of warning.

In the final moments of the film, after Maya has accomplished all that she has set out to do, she is asked a question as she boards a plane alone. It is a simple question really, one that she should have asked herself years ago but never allowed herself time to ask it. The question was this: “Where do you want to go?” The question stops her dead in her tracks. She’s spent her entire career seeking this one man, that now, when she finally finishes what she set out to do, she has no clue who she is anymore. She doesn’t know where to go from here or what to do with her life. She cannot answer that question and it is a tragedy. In many ways, her pursuit had only just begun.

It was this moment that reminded me that it’s not enough to simply have a dream to write. You must know WHY you are writing. What is it that you hope to accomplish with your life. You must make your life about something bigger than yourself – something that will last long after you finish your novel or capture Bin Laden.

Why do you write? What are you really pursuing?

The answer will likely be different for everyone, but for me the only answer that makes the most sense comes from Matt 6:33

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I love this verse, because it always helps me to focus my mind on what matters most. If I’m not intentional about pursuing God’s kingdom first, I may one day find myself like Maya – with no life to “go back to” when it’s over.

So, what are you pursuing? Are you pursuing your own glory or are you pursuing the kingdom of God? If writing is your gift, why not write in pursuit something that matters today. By knowing why you write, you will be empowered to continue writing when the going gets tough.

NOTE: Due to the nature of the subject of the film, Zero Dark Thirty contains obscene language and graphic violence. This post is not intended to be an endorsement or recommendation of the film.

Story matters. As the balder half of the Miller Brothers writing duo, Christopher is convinced that his receding hairline is actually a solar panel for brilliant thought. While the science behind this phenomenon is sketchy (at best) one thing is undeniable – his mind is a veritable greenhouse of crazy story ideas. Oh, he's also the co-author of three award-winning youth fiction novels (The Miller Brothers) and newly released novel based on a video game and a pair of children's books. Their books are written for kids and adults who aren't afraid of adventure. His hobbies include dating his wife, raising three children and providing for his family through copywriting, web design and launching a free to read platform for novelists called BookJolt.com. One day, Chris and his brother hope to delve deeply into the realm of interactive fiction.
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  1. Bainespal says:

    A truly great post.  That question “Where do you want to go?” is terrifying.
    Seeking the Kingdom of God is certainly good, and that should be sufficient.  But that doesn’t tell us what to do or where to go.  It gives a goal, but I feel that there is no good advice as to how to achieve that goal, not without referencing other unachieved goals.  It is a destination without a map.  Or maybe it is more like a compass, but the compass gives you no help or even advice about how to climb over the hills circumvent the precipices in your path.

    • You are right, Bainespal, Christ’s encouragement to “seek first the kingdom” does not offer a step-by-step guide to a happy and satisfied life. In fact, we see from the disciples that often life in pursuit of the kingdom is anything BUT a bed of roses. If you are looking for God’s road map for you life, you will only find it by feeding the Spirit through time in His Word.

      I believe, however, that Christ’s commendation is intended to be a litmus test for the heart. Why are you doing what you are doing is more important than what you do. Christianity is all about what is happening within us, and has nothing to do with the externals of living.

      For some, seeking the kingdom will be a daily sacrifice of missionary work in a foreign field. To others, a daily scattering of the seeds of faith upon the stony soil of co-workers hearts. Or perhaps your life’s ambitions are to write a novel. If that is the case, do it to the glory of the Lord. Commit that work to Him and see what he would chose to do through your work. How might that story that is burning inside of you be used for his glory?

      The point is purpose is never found in WHAT we do, but WHY we do it. I believe Maya, in the film, lost an understanding of who she was and WHY she was in pursuit of Osama. When at last the foe was dead, she had nothing left because she had wrapped her entire existence into that one task – the act of the manhunt.

      There is a second verse that may help us in this. It comes from Colossians 3:17 and reads, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

      This means that the walk of faith that you must take every day is one that can bring satisfaction and glory to God if you chose to make it so. When you do, you will not be left empty handed. Paul himself felt a tremendous amount of satisfaction as his journey in this life ended with his execution. He writes in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith…” He felt complete and whole and would have no trouble answering the question of “Where do you want to go?” at the end of his journey.

      “To the Kingdom!” was his cry. His purpose was tied up in Christ’s kingdom, not earthly pursuits.

  2. Sherwood Smith says:

    What a terrific post. It resonated to the last period. Thank you!

  3. Excellent post, Chris.
    It’s true that Christ gave no step-by-step instructions for “seeking the Kingdom of God,” because, I believe, those steps are different for every individual. As you suggested, if it’s His kingdom that we truly seek, we’ll only find it by following Him. This requires a continual process of choosing His ways and values and loves and truths instead of the world’s–and instead of our own. Many crossroads, many choices, many opportunities to swerve off the path. But He’s always there calling us back when we let go of the things we’ve grabbed instead and turn back to Him.
    Interesting that you saw a correlation between the Christian walk and Maya’s journey. Good stuff!

What do you think?