None of us makes it through life without some kind of pain and loss and heartache. We are all of us, broken or wounded in some way. Some of these wounds arise from tragic circumstances: the loss of a loved when far before their time, abuse, neglect, betrayal.
But sometimes brokenness happens simply in the way any much used item becomes broken: a handle falls off after too many years of lifting too heavy a load, we crack due to extreme variations in temperature or weather, our insulation no longer insulate, or maybe we’ve just rusted through. Some of our wounds will be self inflicted as we humans have an astounding ability to get in our own way.
The thing is, these wounds and losses are necessary—as much a part of life as breathing, for without them it’s hard to make the case that we’ve been truly living.
It is in the acquiring of those wounds that we become truly human. As painful as they are—they can also bring wisdom and strength, compassion and humility. If we let them.
They can also bring bitterness and calcification, close us down and shut us up tight.
That is what makes stories so essential to the human experience—they take the creators’ wounds and turn them into something more—a gift that we dare to give the world.
I first came across this concept of wounds as gift in a book by Robert Rohr while researching theology for assassin nuns. And while he writes about spiritual matters, it occurred to me that the concept was equally true and relevant for writers.
While wounds bring suffering, they also allow us to grow and change and transform ourselves into something more. That is one of story’s most important roles—showing us how to do just that with the circumstances that life has thrown us.
This is why books and paintings and drawings and music are so important to us, not only individually, but as a society: it illuminates the pain and joy of life and renders it fascinating and compelling, but also healing.
As writers, I believe this is at the very core of what we do—we take the raw stuff of our pain and doubts and fears transforms them into something that is, in turn, transformative to others. [Read more…]