Do we want a dose of gritty reality or is subterfuge the order of the day? by Joy Lenton

I write at an old oak desk, positioned close to an open window, lift my gaze briefly from the screen to savour a soothing sea breeze and quay-side view. 

Air is rich with birdsong and sweet fragrance pouring forth from a nearby arbour of flowers. Butterflies flit like my thoughts, alighting on something bright and fresh. Cut! That's pure fabrication, of course. Here's the reality...

Or should I share? Aren't we aiming to inspire one another with our words, rather than discourage with life's gritty reality? After all, what's a bit of softened lens viewing between friends? It helps us to imagine ourselves in a more salubrious place, a better pair of shoes. It fits us to enjoy flights of fancy without leaving the house, and suggests a lifestyle others can aspire to.

Hang on a minute, do I hear you say, isn't this taking creativity a tad too far? Well yes, so it is. I am a writer, after all. But here's the thing: being open, real, transparent and honest actually helps to foster trust and build connection—in real life and in the writing sphere.

How about poetry that emotes with feeling, more than languidly describing a beautiful scene? It tends to glean the most responsive reactions, engenders those 'you too?' moments we all secretly yearn for. 

Hanging out our proverbial dirty laundry in public is often frowned upon, because life can be hard enough without someone else's mess flapping in our faces.

Who needs a fresh dose of daily grime when TV and media already offer more than their fair share? And can we cope with a person's heart bleeding out on paper?

Such things nudge us out of our comfort zones, stir and provoke us into action, into caring, or maybe turning away. I've found in sharing personal story with transparency and vulnerability (laced with lots of God-given wisdom, sensitivity and discernment), we can make a better heart to heart connection with our readers.

It's still a risk to speak openly about our brokenness. Some might seek a more uplifting tidbit elsewhere. And others? They will stayhooked by our reality, seeing themselves within our stories, find they resonate deep within their soul.

My writing reality is less than exquisite. It's a delving into depths to mine nuggets, capturing whatever rises to the surface, whether it's a trickle or a flow. It's a weakened body bent over a PC with stiff, arthritic spine, painful fingers typing slowly, sore eyes hypersensitive to a bright screen. I know... the sacrifices for one's art.

There's no scenic view either. Sorry to disappoint you. But here's what I do have in abundance: grace upon grace, inspiration, transparency, God sustaining and equipping me to write regularly and to support and encourage other writers with their work.

My gritty reality is a life of chronic illness, pain and challenging circumstances. 

But oh how full it is of the reality of God's support, comfort and reassuring presence! 

We can't always alter or escape life's painful things, but they help shape who we become and enrich the hopeful truth we share.

If you stick around long enough and read between the lines of my work, you'll be able to trace God's loving hand on my life.

And it's the realest reality of them all, true for me and true for you too. It oozes out of every line we write.

How do you feel about sharing openly? Does the genre you write in affect your choices?

Joy Lenton is a grateful grace dweller, contemplative Christian writer, poet and blogger, author of 'Seeking Solace: Discovering grace in life's hard places'

She enjoys encouraging others on their journey of life and faith at her blogs and as she seeks to discover the poetic in the prosaic and the eternal in the temporal. You can connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.


  1. Lovely post Joy. As ever your encouraging spirit comes shining through. I find being open, honest and truthful is vital for me but then so far I have only written autobiography. According to feedback, whether in my preaching or writing, it is my honesty that speaks to people. It is risky sometimes to be honest, you may get stabbed in the back but then Jesus was nailed to a cross. So, I keep being honest and giving it all to him.
    Bless you Joy.

    1. Lynda, thank you for sharing your own experiences of being honest in your writing. I'm so glad you can relate to this post. I have found this true for me too: "it is my honesty that speaks to people" and it may be because I write non-fiction, largely sharing biblical truth via personal application and experience. Keep on being true to the way God is asking you to write. I'm sure many have been helped by your autobiography and true to life preaching. Bless you, friend. x

  2. Dear Joy,
    This truthful heart is precisely why I was led back to your writing, and to your poetry again and again. You spoke to a deep place in my heart, that at the time, felt as if no one else could possibly feel the way that I did. And, as a new blogger, I felt so unsure of my own honest way of writing. You have been a beautiful mentor to me, Dear Friend! And, I hope that I can continue to learn more about truthfully writing the story that God places on our hearts. Blessings to you! xoxo

    1. Dear Bettie, it's wonderful to think how God connected us through our words, especially so when you were led to me and mine because of an inner need you had. The things you cite remind me why I write and why it's all a means of ministry when yielded to Him. I see such sweet transparency in your words. You have definitely become more open in every way, drawing in other hurt and wounded souls who connect with the reality you share about your life and struggles. I rejoice to see God at work in and through you, my friend! Thank you so much for letting me know how my "truthful heart" has led you to be unafraid to be that way yourself. As part of my role as a writer has always been to encourage, help and support others in that task, it lifts my heart to hear how you feel I am a mentor to you. An honourable calling indeed! Blessings and love. xoxo

  3. Joy, I love this post. At first I was almost jealous of that beautiful scene you painted with your words, but then I saw it as an illustration of how our words can bring beauty whether fiction or reality. I love your writing, Joy. I can relate to so much of it and it inspires me to write, too.
    " But here's what I do have in abundance: grace upon grace, inspiration, transparency, God sustaining and equipping me to write regularly and to support and encourage other writers with their work." AMEN to that! Because of God in my life, I am able to write honestly and be vulnerable. I write to encourage myself and others and to share what God has done in my own life.
    So many blessings to you dear, Joy! I'm so glad to have you as a dear sister/poet/friend! Love and hugs! xo

    1. Gayl, I am awed and humbled by your kindness here! It's especially heartening to hear how my work has affected you in this way and how well you can relate to what I write. That's such a gift of grace. Your closing lines echo my own heart's motivation and longings. It's great to share such things. I'm honoured to walk with you, fellow writer/poet/sister/friend! Blessings, love and hugs. xo

  4. I think the answer is different for each of us. For me, I want to be obedient to write what God gives, no matter what the context. As for what I want to read, I definitely want my blogger friends to be real, but I also believe there are limits to what is appropriate to share. The bible addresses this as well. I've found some blogs to be overly focused on the negative and have stopped reading. But there is a difference between being real and being negative. God works and speaks His truth through our weakness. That is a beautiful thing. Your writing, Joy, is always a beautiful thing! I'm always encouraged and pointed to the Father when I visit here. God bless you.

    1. June, I truly value your wise words here. They bring a holy balance to the points being shared. This wasn’t intended to be a definitive article but a way to stir thoughts and reactions and to initiate debate, which it has. My feelings are closely aligned with yours. There are definitely “limits to what is appropriate to share”, and the manner of our sharing is important as well. This is a key truth for me: “God works and speaks His truth through our weakness. That is a beautiful thing.” Amen, my friend! I’m heartened by the way you perceive the transparency of my writing, because my goal is always to point toward the hope and encouragement we have in Christ, especially during life’s trials and tribulations. I always appreciate the gently open way you share your faith and how it speaks so beautifully of God’s work in you. It reminds your readers to lift their eyes to Christ, no matter what they may be going through. So blessed you stopped by to leave such an insightful comment. Thank you, sweet friend! xo

  5. But here's the thing: being open, real, transparent and honest actually helps to foster trust and build connection—in real life and in the writing sphere.

    You've hit it right here, Joy. And you are. And that's what makes connecting with you in friendship and faith a delight. Or should I say JOY ;) Blessings and Hugs...

    1. Sheila, it's also one of the things I love about your blog. You share from a painful place and invite the reader to see how God's grace makes all the difference. The lessons you have learnt on building a strong Christian marriage are truly helpful, mainly because it's clear your insight and wisdom are hard won trophies of having lived with a challenging reality. You've experienced life and relationship's gritty side and emerged with beautiful, grace-honed truth to share. It's a joy and delight to have connected with you, too, in friendship and faith. Blessings and hugs across the pond! xo


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