Tuesday, 12 September 2017

“Faithful the wounds of a friend”? When your writing tells you the truths you don’t want to hear by Andrew J Chamberlain

“Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” Proverbs Ch27 v6

After more than twenty years as a author, I have just started to think of writing as a friend. I have realised that the craft fulfils many of the requirements of friendship. We spend hours together and I try to invest regularly in the relationship. I get fretful if I am away from my ‘friend’ for an extended period of time, and when the relationship is not going well I feel it personally.
To non-writers the intimacy of this relationship will seem strange; after all writing is just a hobby isn’t it? No need to get over excited! Alas, how little they know of writers and their writing!
But if writing is my friend, what do I get from this friendship? One rather terrifying ‘benefit’ is that my writing allows me to access the kind of honesty that can get under my skin and confront me with truths about myself and others, a scary prospect.
I’ve always considered authenticity in writing to be essential; but the consequence of this is that the most successful writing can end up being the most revealing writing. We can end up confronting ourselves with truths about our fears, our weaknesses, and our honest reactions to circumstances; and this isn’t just in the private pages of a prayer journal or diary. It can be a discomforting process, but if I am now thinking of my writing as a friend, then I should give this friendship, like all of my relationships, wholly to God.
As I recognise writing as a friend before God, the wisdom of Proverbs begins to make sense. I want to maintain an honest relationship with my work, and consequently it tells me to the truth, or rather forces me to confront the truths in my life. In that sense the craft fulfills the obligations of friendship as described in the verse above. The process of writing with honesty, before God, can sometimes be very hard. But the wounds are inflicted faithfully, and with our best interests at heart, and it is far better for me to be encouraged into honest self-awareness than to flatter myself with deception.
Honest writing is indeed a scary prospect, but I’m going to accept that challenge and try to find the faithfulness that God promises from true friendship.

Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast and author of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt Handbook containing the best advice and insight from 100 episodes of the podcast, and which will be published in early October 2017. 

1 comment:

  1. That's a new take on the relationship, and a helpful one. I shall ponder that because it affects how I write as well as why and for whom.