Good Writing is Scary

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What’s the scariest thing you’ve done? Most people have a handful of moments in their life that were scary for one reason or another. My memory is almost entirely void of such moments. That says far more about my ability to remember than the excitement level of my childhood. The only thing that comes to mind is being timid to go on my first rollercoaster. Still, the experience was so much fun that it’s difficult to recall the brief moments of nervousness before boarding the ride. While it isn’t the scariest thing I’ve done, I have found that writing has a “scary” element to it as well. 

Typically my weekdays begin the same. I wake up and make 16oz of coffee in my Chemex or V60 (yes, it is the same amount nearly every day). Once the coffee is made, I open my computer and begin typing. Sometimes for a few hours, other times it’s only for a few minutes. You might be surprised to hear that getting up isn’t actually the scary part. I enjoy the process of writing; mornings included. 

What makes this process scary? It is the fact that good writing is honest writing. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to you. The books that have had the most significant impact in your life are likely the ones that have clearly and honestly described reality. The articles you remember most vividly were probably written from a posture of vulnerability. Good books or blog posts give us an honest picture of the world. Even in fiction, we encounter characters who’s struggles are not much different than our own. In his review of Lord of the Rings, C.S. Lewis said, “The value of myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significants which has been hidden by the ‘veil of familiarity.’” [1] In other words, even good fiction drives us to take a closer look at realities that often go unnoticed due to their familiarity. 

Good writing — honest writing — is willing to look at things as they are and wrestle with the deep brokenness that exists. To write well about yourself requires that you examine carefully the things that motivate you. To write well about the world requires that you take seriously the evil and injustice that exists in your neighborhood, city, and country. What we find in the world and within ourselves is brokenness. Things are not the way they should be. Paul says in Romans 8:20-21 that “the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God.” Then in Romans chapter seven, Paul wrestles with the fact that he doesn’t do what he wants to do (Romans 7:15-20). So whether you are looking outwardly at the world or inwardly at your heart, the story is the same; things are not as God intended. 

Since this is true, people have two options. They can ignore reality and pretend that things are not as bad as they appear — suppress the truth. Or they can pursue an accurate understanding of reality, which at first seems rather bleak. 

Good writers plunge into the grime, try to make sense of it, and then articulate it in a way that is helpful for people. No one wants to read a book that paints an inaccurate picture of reality and then tells you how to live in that dream world. We don’t live in Fairytale Land. That’s why good writing is such a dangerous endeavor. It requires an author to look honestly at the world and honestly at themselves. 

This is sobering. What we find is that the world is far worse than we would wish. Even more disparaging is the condition of our hearts. The evil our hearts are capable of producing is terrifying. And yet the remedy for this broken world and our broken hearts is far better than we could ever dream. If you are willing to enter into the mess, you will find that hope is waiting for you. A ransom has been paid for every evil that we discover. The reason we can navigate the suffering in this world with hope is because of the confidence we have that all will be made right someday. 

As one who enjoys writing, I hope to use words to paint an accurate picture of the world. I hope to — imperfectly but increasingly — see my heart in light of Scripture. And I desire to point people to the only person able to remedy the brokenness I find. His name is Jesus!

 


AUTHOR’S NOTE: I welcome any questions, sarcastic comments, or additional thoughts you may have. Please feel free to reach out HERE — seriously! If you were helped by something you read, please share it with your sphere of influence. Thanks! 

[1] Dan Dewitt, Life in the Wild, pp. 87.