In this blog I’ve talked about why writers write. I’ve mentioned that some of us feel “called” to write while others feel “compelled” to write. Yet, it doesn’t matter whether we are called or compelled, what matters is that we write to bring light to the reader.
Every reader is on a journey—a journey to gain deeper insight into the issue they’re reading about. A journey that somehow brings them to what we are writing about.
When my father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, I started a journey. Everything I read on the subject shed light on the long, weary road before us. Even fictional stories that addressed this subject cast new light on how this debilitating disease would engulf my father and how my family must prepare for it. Yet, fiction also allowed me to stand at a safe distance from the action where I could ponder what I would do in circumstances similar to the main character.
Bestselling author Marjorie Holmes said, “When you write from the heart, you not only light the dark path of your readers, you light your own way as well.” This is an ironic reward of the writing life; as we minister to others, we enlighten ourselves. Think about it. Every personal experience story you write involves the “arrival at some truth.” And that revelation has the potential to positively impact the reader’s life—and your life.
For example, I recently had an article published in a writer’s magazine entitled, “The Heart of the Story Was to Write from the Heart.” In this piece, I tell the story of Katie Miller, a 27-year old mother of three dying of ovarian cancer. Below is an excerpt followed by the benefit to the reader and to me, the writer.
As Katie finished her sentence, her four-year old, David, climbed into my lap and gave me a hug. Suddenly, I wasn’t the writer. I was part of the story. But not Katie’s story.
As David squirmed in my lap, my mind shot back to a warm, sunny June afternoon in 1965. My father has just returned from the hospital. He calls his six young children into his bedroom. We know what he is going to say. “Your mother passed away today,” he says solemnly. Panic seizes our hearts as he, my aunt and uncle, desperately try to bury their grief so they can help us cope with ours.
My mother died after a short battle with cancer. She was forty-five. Her children ranged from four to fourteen. I was eleven.
As David jumped down from my lap, I felt the eerie irony of his childhood colliding with mine. In three months he will never see his mother again. He will no longer enjoy the security of her embrace, the warmth of her touch, the joy of her smile, the strength of her encouragement or the smell of her perfume. Yet, someday he’ll crave to know everything about her—especially when relatives tell him how much he reminds them of her.
This article goes on the illustrate how to tell Katie’s story by writing from the heart, not the head. The reader learns how to craft a creative and compassionate lead paragraph that will grab attention and set the stage for what follows.
What did I learn as the writer? By allowing the memories of my mother’s death to stir my heart again, I learned (or relearned) that compassion is a healing balm that should be administered in large doses to a hurting world. This four-year old will experience many of the same emotions that I have from losing his mother prematurely. How might my experience help me be compassionate to him? To others?
There are many rewards to the writing life, publication being the most obvious. However, there is also the reward of bringing new light to the reader—and ironically, the writer.
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