I believe some of the most profound changes in readers happen while reading personal writing.
I am always open to learning and inspiration, and want to know and understand others’ feelings, thoughts and motivations, so I gravitate toward personal essays and similar fiction. Many personal pieces are positive and give us a warm feeling. Others are full of difficult experiences, and when we read them it’s as if we were partaking in their grief, anger or misery. Actually, I am willing to do that, as long as they are not sensationalistic, intended to startle or shock, and as long as there is a benefit. My favorite authors of personal writings use introspection, contemplation, and analysis in order to help readers gain some new insight or encouragement.
All this about reading personal writings is just to say that I want to keep these in mind when I am the writer. It is important to me to have a strong worthwhile purpose and message that will result in a revelation or inspiration for the reader.
It is also important to me to be upbeat. Although I spill almost everything out in my journals, even in that private place I prefer to be positive and not dwell overly much on things that are hurtful or upsetting. I guess it’s because I plan to re-read them, and I know what I’m talking about, even if I don’t give all the gory details. Or I think that someone else might end up reading them, and don’t want anyone to misunderstand them.
Similarly, I want all my “public” writing to uplift and encourage, and don’t usually have a problem being transparent and honest about my own foibles, mistakes, failures, confusion, revelations, relationships, hopes, dreams, and limitations. But I don’t want a reader to feel upset or depressed. So in my writing, I find myself hesitant to share the negative—the sad, tough, painful—things in my heart.
However, God may have other ideas. I recently wrote a draft of a short story in which I had the main female character struggling with something I’d struggled with years ago. I was surprised to find the character narrating my story, something that I hadn’t thought of for a long time, and that I’d never really talked about with anyone before. But there it was, right there all over the page where someone could read it. I felt uncomfortable and exposed, and considered erasing it. But then I decided just to go with the flow and write it all out.
That was a new experience, and now it feels like it’s “out there”, even though at this point I would feel embarrassed and ashamed for people to read it. And maybe that’s as far as it was supposed to go—in my mind and on my notebook, for me to ponder and pray about. One day I may decide it should be available to the public in some form, but for now, I’m just feeling excited to realize that my quick prayer for God to guide my writing was clearly answered in a significant way.
William Wordsworth encouraged his wife to “fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”. It takes courage and skill to do that, and not everyone tends to be aware of the stirrings inside, or to have the ability to write words to describe those stirrings. But we writers do! So we need to breathe out the words in our hearts. I believe this is one of the most important ways that heavenly love and wisdom are communicated on this earth.
Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/lecates/307250887/