“Write what you know.” “Write what you have to write.” “Write every day. The Muse will accept the discipline, with time.” “Write fast. Edit slow.”
Writing advice. You have to love it. I mean, it’s good to give you a starting place, something to try.
But if I followed the writing advice as I had intended to, I would be writing a fuzzy-wuzzy faith-and-love tale of victory and joy. Because, you know, I wanted to write something that included my faith, and that’s how all those books go.
My manuscript doesn’t go like that. I’m temporarily paused because I don’t want to write about the darkness, and the sadness and the despair and the stupidity. But I’m persuading myself that this may be the most important part of the story, and if I shrink back from that, the whole point of it is lost.
It’s something I never knew I knew. It’s something that it feels like I have always known.
Just because the darkness is real, just because people are stupid, just because we face horrible things like depression and fear and guilt and hopelessness, that doesn’t need to make the story dark. The darkness doesn’t define the story, anymore than my struggles define my life.
People are stupid. All of us. We make stupid decisions, and sometimes it takes a terrible thing to make us realise our mistakes. We throw away the invaluable, we walk away from the most worthwhile, we hoard the poison.
But that’s alright. Because that’s not all we do. We also learn. We apologise. We rescue. We try again.
That’s why there may be darkness in my story, but my story isn’t dark. Hope wins. Always.
Sure, we can write what we know. Or we can do something just a little bit crazy – go out on a limb, do the dangerous thing.
We can write what we never knew we knew.