There’s nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein ~Red Smith
I can be a very private person, even among my own family. I tend to sit and chew over my own problems, especially if it’s something I’m going through and not something that happened to me. I have a suspicion that I may have exasperated my parents or my husband more than once by doing this.
So whenever I read a blog post or book chapter about how authors need to open up, how they need to be truthful and real in their stories, a little part of me goes ulp and curls up inside an impenetrable hermit-crab shell.
That’s the part of me that I don’t like to admit to having—the bitterness and anger that I can have toward certain topics/people, the sneaking suspicion of being hugely unworthy of my life and faith, the part of me that can be dark and depressed. I’m not one to say that everything is rainbows and roses, and I don’t want anyone to get the impression that I’m perfect, but I don’t want them knowing about that little nasty part of me.
Then something happened.
I had two weeks in September where I didn’t do much. I felt tired all the time and nothing interested me except sitting on the couch and reading. I forced myself up to do some chores and make food, and I tried to force myself to write, but the spark just wasn’t there. There were causes for it, I know. It was our first rainy/gloomy days of the fall/winter, I’d picked that time to stop taking my vitamin D, and my brain felt fuzzy because allergies hit me (being pregnant, I couldn’t take the only allergy medicine that works for me).
I am not a sit-on-the-couch-all-day person. I usually want to be engaging my brain or working my body. But all those things combined to make me depressed.
Justin made me start taking my vitamin D again and, a couple of times, he let me sit and do nothing while he cleaned or made dinner. After a few days and a fun trip to Green Bay with friends, I started feeling a little better. All it took was getting my rump off the couch and taking care of myself—as always.
That Wednesday I started writing again. I had to rewrite a short story per an editor’s request, so I buckled down and did—something that I’d been procrastinating on for months because I didn’t know how to change it without ruining the story.
When I finished, I sat back in amazement. The elements I’d added to the story resonated with the recent bout of seasonal depression I’d gone through. I had been truthful without that added bit of reserve that I usually wrote into my stories. I had opened a vein and bled all over the page and made the story better for being so honest.
It made me feel cleansed and euphoric. It also made me freak out a little.
Writing with openness is scary, because there’s the chance that someone will hate it—and therefore, a little piece of me. That hermit-crab part of me did more than ulp—it flat-out threw a temper tantrum.
But I sent it in anyway.
The last time I wrote like this was when I was nineteen and wrote a story called Shattered Heart, about how my heart was broken and irreparable because I’d not been careful with it, and how God mended it. It was a very personal story, but I ulped and handed it to my mom to read anyway. Shortly after that, Justin and I began courting, and my parents said they knew I was ready to be in a real relationship because of that story.
I’d forgotten what that felt like. I don’t want to forget again. Writing like that is a gift from God. It feels so beautiful. It feels exactly like what I’m supposed to do. It makes my stories much deeper and richer. I hope to continue in this newfound joy and honesty.