Sunday, June 16, 2019

Why I Write About What Scares Me

This is a post that is answering a question that nobody has asked me. A bit odd, I know. I’m writing and publishing it anyway because I hope that, somehow, it will encourage you in your writing journey (or even in your journey to tackle the thing that scares you). Thank you for reading. 

Every single story that I write is driven by something I have struggled with in the past…or am currently struggling with now. Themes I explore are often issues I wrestle with in my personal life, and character arcs and dialogue sequences that appear in my stories are usually ones I’ve had (or wish that I’ve had) myself.

As I write these stories, I am afraid. I struggle, and I grow exhausted. I want to give up sometimes. I want to pick an easier story to write, or perhaps craft something that is not quite so close to my heart. Because it’s painful, isn’t it? Writing about what matters hurts. 

Why I Write About What Scares Me

I dig deep, and sometimes I don’t like what I find in myself: Anger, fear, confusion. But then, other times, I plunge into the fray and find pieces of myself that I sometime forget exist: Courage, faith, passion. It’s all mixed up there in the pages of my stories. So many emotions, so many experiences, not all of them good, not all of them bad. I look at them, and that’s when the other kind of terror strikes me.

I am afraid of people seeing these pieces of my soul. The scenes that I labored over, cried over, sometimes even swore over, are going to be visible to everyone. And that frightens me.

Often I don’t feel qualified. I think that maybe I’m not ready, or that I don’t have the answers and thus have no right to dig up painful questions. Other times, I feel too qualified: I am afraid that I am too close to a situation to write about it.

In the end, none of those doubts really matter. Why? Because, over the years, I’ve come to realize that it’s the stories that scare me to write that are the stories that touch people the most. The fear that I feel is a sign that I am heading in the right direction.

This is difficult to keep sight of sometimes. So, when I feel fear or anxiety warring over my keyboard, I take a step back, and I remember.

I remember writing Skies of Dripping Gold and crying as I realized that, like Gabriel, my strength and my faith would come if I only kept trying. I remember the person who told me that when they start to feel angry and alone, they re-read the scene where Gabriel swears up at the sky and, suddenly, they feel understood and strengthened.

I remember hurting as I wrote about Wanderer’s pain and fear upon watching one of his loved ones grow ill because I have experienced (and watched others experience) the same thing. I remember the people who told me that reading his story was the first time they saw faith struggles depicted truthfully.

I remember writing about the giant chip on Jayel’s shoulder due to her disabilities and differences only to be hit by the realization that I carry that same weight. I remember all of the people who have been encouraged by her determination, and who are inspired by her fight to grow.

I think of all this, and I remember that honesty is important. I know the power of a true story. I have experienced it firsthand.

And, yet, I sit down to write from my heart, and I am afraid. I feel my stomach knotting up as I think: "This is too hard. I can’t write about this. Not right now." I force myself to push through, but then I think: "Maybe this is the one that is too much. Maybe this is the one that I should just keep to myself."

I find myself wanting to write something a little more laid back. A little safer.

But I am a child of God, and, to quote one of my favorite songs: "My God is good, but he’s not safe." This is proven to me each time that I write. God has handed me a passion and a talent for creating stories, and I know that I was not given this gift so that I could play it safe.

After all, there’s always somebody out there who needs to hear what I’m afraid to say. Sometimes that person is me, and sometimes it is my reader. Most of the time it’s both.

That is why I write what scares me. I hope someday it gets easier, though, honestly, this post in and of its self was a bit nerve-wracking to craft, so I’m not sure that that’s a realistic hope.

But that doesn’t really make a difference, does it? I’ve long since given up expecting my writing to be easy. I don’t need it to be. Not anymore.

I just need it to be real.

Related articles: 
Challenging Writers to Write Honestly
Looking at the World Through Lyme Colored Glasses: Eyes Wide Open

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  1. Such an excellent post, Hannah! I also find that the stories where I'm the most honest and transparent in my writing are the ones that get the best feedback. I learn more about how my readers can relate than I would have thought. In this way, writing helps me connect with people, which can be a wonderful thing!

  2. Thank you! I am encouraged! Have you heard of It's a podcast. I think they would be interested in you!

  3. Thank you so much for writing this. I've been writing the final book in my Christian based YA Fantasy and I've been struggling with the same thing-writing about what scares me. I find that my characters a lot of times reflect my own faith (or lack thereof) which is really frustrating. It's real, but I also hope we all grow in faith as the story continues. Thank you for articulating something so meaningful.

  4. I gotta bookmark this website it seems extremely helpful very useful. Thanks for sharing.

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