Can Writing Heal the Writer?

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“It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” —Zechariah 4:6, NLT

 

There’s a problem in writing Christian books. Those of us who write them, whether they’re to Christians or not, we have to be healed first before we can offer healing to readers.

DSC_0203Yet how many of us can claim to be sufficiently healed?

In published stories, fiction or non, it often seems the writer has either fully escaped the darkness their story deals with, or they never struggled as it was. There’s a veneer of professional distance to many novels or memoirs that makes it easy to assume their authors have overcome all their challenges, reconciled with their past, and submitted to the call to share their journey of healing.

Yet is it true? In listening to writers talk about their lives and work, it would seem the reality is often far from that.

It would seem best to have “gotten over” your personal challenges before trying to help others with your story. Trouble is, we’re all writing wounded.

So what should we do? Should we believe writers humble claims about being messy and broken themselves? Or should we all get counseling before we write? Maybe work on how we present so we don’t look like we’re struggling as much as we are?

DSC_0210Or maybe–maybe we should forget looking good and look at what we’re writing for.

It’s worth asking: do we want to get well? And should we seek healing through our books for ourselves or to help our readers?

Those raised in church may hear a trick question there. It can be hard to separate our own needs from others’. Putting our own healing first can seem selfish, and others might judge us for admitting our need. It can feel best to remain silent—and unhealed.

It can also seem best to simply try to help readers, but that never works. As my friend Jamie points out, you can’t share what you don’t have. If for no other reason, as writers, we’ve got to embrace our need first and foremost. It’s not self-centered or sinful to seek healing, even when it requires resources and attention be diverted to us.

Yet can we find healing through our own writing?

Personally, I can attest to the experience of coming to claim what I’ve experienced better through writing about it. Yet, restoration and reconciliation were limited until I sought help beyond what I could produce myself. And my healing came not through church, counseling or relationships, but primarily through reading. And I’m not alone. Many writers’ attest that their most significant healing has come through powerful stories of love and restoration—the very place the inspiration to write for a higher purpose often comes from.

DSC_0200Yet I’ve felt called to help readers with my story and never felt fully healed myself. I wonder how many writers would agree. How many counselors become counselors because they needed counseling? The same might apply to “called” writers.

While I believe it’s possible, even preferable to require the healing you seek to share in writing, when we set out with fresh inspiration to share our message of hope, we must realize we can’t offer readers our full inspiration when we haven’t fully received that light ourselves. Otherwise, we risk trying to manufacture simply an artful experience.

Oswald Chambers says, “If in preaching the gospel you substitute your knowledge of the way of salvation for confidence in the power of the gospel, you hinder people from getting to reality…Never rely on the clearness of your presentation, but…rely on the certainty of God’s redemptive power, and He will create His own life in people” (emphasis mine).

DSC_0201If you haven’t yet been fully healed of your encounter with the darkness, let yourself first experience the full embrace of the light. Though the best writing comes from our broken places, no one can effect their own healing through writing alone for the simple reason that none of us possesses the light on our own. We won’t be able to sufficiently help readers until we do.

Consider, as you write: is your heart free? If writing your story has brought up the need for further healing, don’t ignore that. Seek out the sources God reveals until you see fruit from your restoration. You’re meant to experience writing not only as a lifeline, or a desperate escape, but as an overflow.

And when you write from the overflow, you will feel it, and so will readers.

DSC_0009Don’t forfeit the healing you deserve for the sake of the calling you serve.

Seek him, dear writer, and you will find him.

 

“My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power…”

—1 Corinthians 2:4, NIV

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5 thoughts on “Can Writing Heal the Writer?”

  1. This is the exact reason why I’m entering my fifth year of working in my first novel. Too many of my own struggles crept into the story, and rather than edit them out, I’ve spent years trying to work through them, understand them, and forgive in my own life before expecting my characters to do so.
    It’s not the story I set out to write, but it’s a lot more for the journey.

    1. Me too, Vanessa. Thanks for your witness. And God’s humble grace and unconditional love go before you and behind… It’s a journey of a lifetime, isn’t it?

  2. Right on – Free flowing writing especially helps in the healing process. But it is not just writing alone – it is praying and reading and gracing yourself time to experience that healing process before sharing your stories. It is being willing to be vulnerable and to share that vulnerability and honesty with others.

  3. Stumbled upon this post in the lefthand sidebar after reading about your daughter’s basketball scenario. I have completed the first draft of my memoir, and I had spent 3-4 months revising and editing in hopes of getting it to professional editors. Suddenly my desire to go through it again was gone. All joy in life was dark and despairing.

    I met with my physician and my pastor, and each thought similarly. My time spent rereading the abuses, hurts, and grief of my childhood had suddenly pulled into the dark morass of a new grief, a yet “unhealed” grief. I had thought my writing had healed me of my abuses, and I had written an ebook on the healing benefits of writing your story.

    Now here I sit knowing I have work to do but not writing. Healing myself with God’s grace and power and reaching for the light. I’ve been reading Buechner and Parker Palmer and am finding myself bit by bit improving each day. But when will I go back to the manuscript? Will I ever? It is not sitting in a corner of my writing space, the binder closed, waiting for me.

    Any thoughts or words are welcome. And thank you for writing this post.

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