by Charlotte Snead
Writers are a strange lot. We talk about our characters as if they were our friends-and perhaps they are, our best friends. I don’t just sleep with just anyone, and these, my companions, talk to me at night, waking me up, demanding a re-write, more detail, a closer look, another layer. Sometimes they let me off with a promise, but more often they stay in my head until I’m driven to attend to their demands.
Anyone who has read Cecil Murphy’s Unleashing the Writer Within-and it you haven’t, please do, it will make you a better writer-has made the painful discovery that the best writing comes from our gut. We lay ourselves open, reach down deep in our souls, and hang it all out. My first book, His Brother’s Wife, came from getting on and off the elevators at Walter Reed, watching our wounded warriors struggle to regain their mobility, and knowing anyone of them could have been my son.
My upcoming book, Recovered and Free, The Song of a Prodigal Father, comes from the pain of the child of an alcoholic. The struggles to accept a parent’s imperfections, to separate the person from the disease, the pain of tough love, and the repeated and constant requirement to forgive-those emotions are real and raw, and the writing is honest, even though the book is fiction.
Vulnerability makes writing good, but it is a two-edged sword. We write to release our pain, and, more importantly, to help someone else along the way-comforting others with the comfort we have received, as Paul encourages. You aren’t alone. Others have passed this way, walked this road, and come out on the other side of this valley. We give God glory in our testimony of his healing and hopefully lend a hand up.
In so doing, however, be cautions of the ripple effect. We aren’t the only ones on this journey-siblings, children, and friends may not be where we are, and they must be considered. We must not unintentionally hurt those we love. I have been checked, wisely, by my adult children, who can be affected by my revelations, and I have had to disguise them and myself in my writings, changing times and venues, and names and places. I can use the emotion, the shame and the pain, but I can’t open their wounds. Only they are allowed to do that.
My father never admitted mother was an alcoholic, and that’s okay. When I understood my behavior patterns came from being the adult child of an alcoholic and addressed that, I found healing. He never understood he was an enabler, but his commitment and loyalty were life lessons for me. He never abandoned his three daughters to the verbal and emotional abuse of a mother who could be loving one moment and hurtful the next. He was our rock, our stability, and in his arms I first experienced the love of my Heavenly Father.
About Charlotte Snead: Duke University, class of 1963. University of North Carolina, Masters of Social work, 1966.
Married in 1962 to Dr. Joseph A. Snead, they raised five children and a foster daughter, and adore five grandsons.
Authored the novel His Brother’s Wife, and “Earned Love,” in the romance anthology I Choose You. Blog: charlottesreaders.com
I appreciate the honesty in your post, Charlotte, and the balance — that we are not alone when we walk our life roads, or our writing roads. And while the challenge is to write honestly and with vulnerability, we don’t want to add more hurt to others as they try to walk out their journeys. Thanks for the reminder.
Your sharing is precious and touching, esp. the last paragraph since I shared this life and family with you.