Check out this fascinating article, readers:
Suffering Writers Don’t Need More Optimism, They Need More Opportunities to Strengthen Others
November 11, 2021
Editor’s Note: This article is the fourth installment in our five-part series on renewing storytellers’ souls. To learn why we’re doing this series and how we’re approaching the topics, read our introductory post.
The strongest metal is forged in fire. After removing a segment of steel from the flames, a blacksmith shapes and hammers it into a long, flat rod. Next, he alternates between warming and cooling his creation as he sands and dips it in oil to harden it. To relax any remaining brittleness, he reheats it one last time, then sharpens it with a whetstone. The repeated pounding early on ensures that the blade won’t bend or break under pressure, and the final refinement transforms it into a formidable weapon that can withstand any foe.
As writers, words are our swords and pain is the process that tempers those instruments. Death, divorce, disease, job loss—with the crises we face mounting on a daily basis, we may sink into an egocentric realm of despair where we can’t write, can’t ideate. But through these stressful circumstances, God challenges and molds us. And when we endure, we can mine our experiences to commiserate with hurting readers.
The Power of Vulnerability
Years ago, I lost a child to miscarriage. Struggling to cope, I turned, as I often do, to storytelling. As my questions and my tears streamed onto the page, a strange thing happened. I found clarity. Faith and hope revived. And, most wonderfully of all, God wrapped me in His peace.
Later, I met a woman at a conference. Although she was polite and kind, her eyes held sadness. So I asked if something was weighing on her, which prompted this total stranger to open up about her own miscarriage. Coincidence? I think not. We talked, prayed, and hugged. When we exchanged goodbyes, I sent my story draft with her, and she thanked me for the comfort it brought her.
When we’ve gone through a specific hardship, our portrayal of it will be deeper and more nuanced. Readers will sense that we understand, making them feel less alone. Exploring heartache together helps us heal.
Of course, sharing raw memories, even when couched in a story, requires a degree of vulnerability that can be intimidating. After all, we must relive the pain to pour it out in story format. For example, J.R.R. Tolkien’s personal relationships and military service inspired many of the characters and events in Lord of the Rings. And in Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls drew heavily on his childhood. These long-beloved classics show that brave writers are the most memorable.
We can gather the courage to pierce the gloom too if we remember that God is our sustainer and compassion is our motivation.