Thursday, June 1, 2017

Writing your untold stories

Pain. Ache. 

Heartbreak. Grief. Anguish.

All of us have experienced such woes, but too often we avoid writing about them.

How about you? Have you avoided writing the painful stuff?

Which of your stories remain untold?

Mick Silva says writers must be willing to take a chance—to risk examining our hard bits and pieces—and then to risk writing about them.

“That necessity to risk is why writing takes courage above all else,” he says. “Risking pain to seek the deeper truths about yourself and life, risking sharing what you know. Risking paying close attention when you experience pain or fear, knowing it means you’ve been chosen to understand, express and explain this particular view of it best….”

Writing about our sorrows can bring us healing, but there’s more: God can use our stories to give others hope and faith to get through their own heartaches.

God even planned for us to do so:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4 tells us that the God of all comfort reaches out to comfort us in our troubles so that we can comfort others with the comfort we have received from Him. That means writing about God helping you through your painful experience is a sacred calling, a ministry.

Take, for example, Dana Goodman’s experience: “During my intense grieving moments, other people’s stories gave me words to describe the ache that was indescribable. They gave me hope that a new day would dawn, and I would not be stuck in the black forever.” (Dana Goodman, author, In the Cleft: Joy Comes in the Mourning)

And so, we write:

“In a world that groans of brokenness
and screams of injustice,
it matters that we hold our creative candles
right up next to the pain.”

A word of caution: Writing about heartaches and tragedies can be excruciating—because to write them requires us to relive them. If we haven’t healed enough to write those stories, we must wait until we can relive them and write them.

When we’re ready to write the hard stuff, remember: Readers need to enter our emotion and live through the experience with us. They need to make an emotional connection with us.

To “hold our creative candles right up next to the pain,” we can employ method writing, a concept Bill Roorbach explains in Writing Life Stories.

Bill’s method writing is a spin-off of method acting. Here’s how that works: Before the curtain rises, the actor remembers a time in which he experienced the emotion he needs to act out. He spends time reliving that emotion so that when he steps on stage, he is wrapped in that emotion and succeeds in playing his part.

Method writing, then, requires us to step out of the present and into the past. We must take time (make time) to remember the event and rediscover the emotions that enveloped us.

Once we are reliving that emotion, we need to find the best words to describe it. That can take a long time, but it’s worth the effort.

We also must reflect on our accompanying thoughts and imaginings. We ask ourselves:

  • What was at stake? What did I have to lose or gain?
  • What life-shaking questions did I ask myself?
  • At the time, in what ways did I envision this situation would change my life?
  • What were my hopes, fears, and prayers?

When you’re caught up again in that event, get it onto paper or computer screen because that’s how you reach your readers—that’s how they join you in your experience, that’s how they learn from your experience.  

We need each other’s stories! We need each other’s hope!

What untold stories do you need to write? Others will benefit if you’ll put them in writing.

Ask God to help you.

Help me write in all my weakness,
in vulnerability,
bruised and broken,
in tears,
in poverty and pain,
waiting for your strength and your timing….
Bob Hostetler’s poem, A Weak Writer’s Prayer

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