Writers have a tendency to hide behind their stories when they write. I get it. It's easier. Instead of saying, "Here's what I think," we get to say, "Here's what my character thinks." Instead of saying, "Here's how I feel," we get to show what our characters feel.
It's not as scary: When people peer at our stories and glimpse a real person inside of it, we can just say, "Oh, that's just my character come to life. Not me. Totally not me."
And there's something to be said for that. After all, characters shouldn't be carbon copies of their authors, nor should every single thought and feeling in a book be the exact thoughts and feelings of its creator.
HOWEVER. Sometimes authors get so caught up in hiding themselves that they hide everything else, too: genuine feelings, important thoughts, provoking ideas. They stuff away the parts of the story that matters in an attempt to help themselves feel safe.
But here's the thing: Writing isn't about feeling safe.
You shouldn't write to become rich and famous. That takes a long time and doesn't really benefit anyone, except possibly yourself if you are very lucky. You shouldn't write to tell people that the sky is blue. People could just look outside. You shouldn't write to only entertain mindlessly. There are thousands of apps that can do that, and that's about a thousand too many.
You should write because you have something to say. Because you have a message people need to hear, a problem to discuss, something beautiful to share. You write because you have a truth to tell.
Maybe it's your truth. Maybe it's the truth of a friend, or one that you saw on the news one day and just couldn't get out of your mind. Whatever it is, it's there. You can see it, and, because you have the words, it's up to you to make sure that others get a shot at seeing it, too.
But you can't do that unless you're willing to be honest: both with yourself and your readers.
Let me give you an example. I'm a Christian. I believe in Jesus Christ and I want others to, too. I also have Lyme disease, which means I'm in pain all of the time. And I see other people all around me who are in so many different kinds of pain: physical, mental, spiritual, emotional. And you know what? That bothers me. I don't understand why God is allowing that to happen.
But I'm not supposed to talk about that. Not if I want other people to believe in Jesus too. Right? Right???
Wrong. I am a Christian. And I am a writer. God has given me questions. And he has given me words. So it's up to me to write about the problems that I have within my own faith. No, I don't have answers. I wish I did. All I have is pain and anger, love and faith. So that's what I write about in my stories.
And it's hard, because I put these themes into my stories and I know: People can see me. They are reading about my struggles and thoughts and emotions, albeit in different forms and with slightly different takes. But that's me nonetheless.
This was a main concern of mine when I first started fiddling with the idea of Skies of Dripping Gold. I knew that, if I was going to write this story in a way that matters, I was going to have to take the pain and the anger and abandonment I felt because of my sickness and channel it into that story. I'd also have to infuse it with the desperate faith and confused hope I felt.
I thought: "This will be too much." Too much truth. I looked at both myself and my potential readers, my insides screaming:
So I wrote the story. It hurt, because I had to thrust my hands deep into the darkness and stare directly at all of the ugly problems and scary questions that people like to pretend aren't there.
And you know what? It helped. It helped me with my own pain. It allowed myself (and some of my readers) to look at and fix the anger and fear we didn't think we were supposed to acknowledge. And that's when I decided: If I write, I will write honestly or not at all.
So you know those things that bother you? They aren't going to go away just because you won't acknowledge them in your writing. They're just going to sit inside of you and rankle, just as they sit inside of your readers and eat away at them.
You, as a writer, are not asked to have answers. You aren't expected to know everything or save everyone. You aren't Batman.
You are, however, expected to write truthfully about what matters. It is your job to explore ideas and topics honestly: Write about problems head on, explain beautiful truths so that people can see them clearly.
If you are a writer and don't pursue yours stories honestly, then what good are you? You'll provide some entertainment, maybe even provoke some thought. And then people will put down your book and you'll be gone from their mind. You will have made no difference, helped nobody. Not even yourself.
When you sit down before your story, you don't have to pretend. You don't have to make things look better or worse than they are. You don't have to be afraid of what people might think, afraid of whether or not you'll be able to get your point across, afraid of tearing open old wounds. You don't have to say what other people are saying. You just have to say what is true. And you have to say it honestly.
Write long and hard about whatever it is you know that others need to see. Maybe they won't understand it. But you know what? If you try your hardest, it doesn't matter. Because at least one person will see it: You. You have saved at least one person, and that is more than many will do in a lifetime.
What is it that you have to say that you haven't written before? I'm challenging you today: Write honestly. You were given this talent for a reason. You have the words, you have the means, you have the conviction. Do not let it go to waste.
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