Reading back through previous contributions to this blog, I’m struck by how many people end up sharing their feelings about an aspect of their lives. Some of these stories are incredibly poignant and intimate, and we are all the richer for the privilege of reading them.
In her recent post Wendy Jones talked about the fact that there are so many different ways in which was are ‘more than writers’. It is so true! So for example, we have to live our lives, not just write about them, in fact we have to live our lives before we write about them. We have to experience things first of all, and then reflect on them, and then we may be able to share some insights with others. But the experiences have to come first. The stories I read here remind me that even the best writing can only be one half of a whole story, and it’s the lesser half at that. Our writing can only draw on the experiences and imagination that’s within us.
And there are no short cuts. We can imagine a problem, and we can imagine how we might deal with it, but readers are interested in authenticity, they are interested in the views and opinions of people who have been there, lived through it, done it, felt it. I wouldn’t dare write something about what it is to live with blindness just because I am able to imagine some aspects of what it is to be blind. The only people who have the authority to write about such things are those who have experienced it.
How do we gain these experiences? Well the good (and bad!) news is that most of the time we have to feel it: the joy and sorrow, the disappointment and the hope.
Feeling some of these things can be a terrible experience, or it can be wonderful, but it is life; and it seems that God is very keen on us living life, in all its bitter and joyous fullness. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that there’s a time for everything under heaven, and a lot of it is not pretty. And I’m also reminded of the image from Proverbs: “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17 NIV) Again, not always an easy process, but this is the stuff of life.
As writers we learn that everything we feel and experience fuels what we can bring to the page. And so, to coin a phrase, the only way we can write anything at all is by being More than writers.
Andrew Chamberlain is a writer and creative writing tutor. He is the presenter of The Creative Writer’s Toolbelt, a podcast that offers practical, accessible advice on the craft. Andrew has published fiction and collaborated on a number of ghost-writing projects through Authentic Media, including the bestselling, 'Once an Addict' with Barry Woodward. He has also self-published a number of science fiction short stories. Andrew will be speaking at the ACW event in October, and at the First Page Courses Lakes writing course in November.