Which of these sentences impacts you more?
Children who witness domestic abuse suffer for years with anxiety.
Even 20 years later, my heart races when I recall the sound of his heavy footsteps in the hall, his hurled insults slurred by alcohol and my mother’s pleading for him to please, please leave her alone.
Both sentences carry the same theme. But the second carries the weight.
What is the difference? Vulnerability.
All writers must make this choice. Will you be brutally honest and open with your reader, allowing your own experience to become a character in the book? Or will you write from a distance, holding the reader at arm’s length?
We believe that your ability to be vulnerable with your readers is one of the key indicators of the success and impact of your book.
What holds you back?
1. People will judge me
You’re right. They will. People who have never met you in person will read your book and make certain assumptions about you, which you will likely never have the chance to correct.
However, we believe this is a risk worth taking if it means that your story offers a message of hope and healing to those who would otherwise not hear it.
In his post for Reader’s Digest, wrote,
I think as writers sometimes we’re afraid to let people know that we feel as deeply as we do. We’re tempted to write half-truths in the fear of being judged.
In fact, Mr. Sambuchino advises that the fear you feel in your gut is actually a good thing:
When what you’re writing scares you, it’s usually a sign that you’re being real. When you start to worry about what others will think, that is the writing that will affect people the most. The only way to achieve that is by going to your most vulnerable places.
2. My story will be too difficult or downbeat
The complete Gospel story is good news. This can lead us to think that all of our writing should be cheerful, peppy, and bright. However, the Gospel story is full of shadows, tragedy, and momentary defeats. We would cheapen it if we left out the hard parts like the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal, or the burial of our Lord. It is these hard parts that set the stage for the redemptive power of Christ. Thank goodness the New Testament writers didn’t whitewash the story of Jesus’ life!
In the same way, your story contains hard parts. To gloss over or minimize them is to rob the reader of the true sense of what God has done for you. Your reader is not reading your book for the glossy, shiny moments. They want to know how you walked through the valleys, navigated the obstacles, and stayed the course amid the crashing waves.
In his article The Key to Whole-Hearted Writing: Embrace Vulnerability, Grant Faulkner says,
Life is so mysterious, nuanced, ineffable—equally disturbing as it is beautiful—so I decided it was my duty as a writer to be brave enough to risk ridicule in order to bring my truths to light. Why write a sanitized version of life?
The ultimate example
Few writers have bared their soul like one of the writers of the book of Psalms, David. Whether he was being chased by King Saul, in anguish over the death of his son, or wallowing in the shame of his sin, David left it all on the page.
Consider this excerpt from Psalm 44 as David addresses God:
But now you have rejected and humbled us;
you no longer go out with our armies.
You gave us up to be devoured like sheep
and have scattered us among the nations.
You sold your people for a pittance,
gaining nothing from their sale.
Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep?
Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever.
Why do you hide your face
and forget our misery and oppression?
We like the way The Message paraphrases the last two sections:
Get up, God! Are you going to sleep all day?
Wake up! Don’t you care what happens to us?
Why do you bury your face in the pillow?
Why pretend things are just fine with us?
Clearly, David’s writing is as open and honest as it can be and yet the Bible tells us that God considered him a “man after God’s own heart.”
Here at Certa Publishing, we encourage you to follow in the footsteps of the Psalmist. Be honest. Be open. Tell the hard parts. And watch the Lord use your story to provide hope, healing, and encouragement to a hurting world.
Are your worried that your manuscript tells too little, or perhaps too much? We would love to look it over for you. Contact us today.