This morning I saw this:
And I just had to share. Right now.
Yesterday, I met with a client who’s working on a memoir, and she shared with me her deep desire for her writing to be a source of encouragement for others.
It was like she was speaking my own wish and the reason I’m writing about how my life has changed since my husband and I adopted our son.
This morning, when I saw this fortune cookie musing on Facebook (the source of much wisdom — haha), I could see it so clearly. My client’s goal, my goal too, is to shine a light.
In church, it’s common parlance to talk about God’s word in terms of light. “Thy word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV). (You might recall Amy Grant’s 1984 song “Thy Word”?)
But what about our words? They also have the capacity to shed light, whether they are fiction or nonfiction. The stories we tell can illuminate little-known topics and offer how-tos for getting through life’s challenges.
In Story Genius (Ten Speed Press, 2016), Lisa Cron writes,
“The purpose of story — of every story — is to help us interpret, and anticipate, the actions of ourselves and of others. … We don’t turn to story to escape reality. We turn to story to navigate reality” (p. 16).
What does this mean? To me it says, as humans, we are voyeurs, always looking for clues for how to get through the conundrums of our days.
For me, today, I’m wondering how to connect with a teen who doesn’t want me to approach within a 100-foot radius, how to stop that loss of muscle mass that plagues us in middle age, how to discipline myself to sit down and write.
(And thanks to its thorough data-collecting and crack algorithms, Facebook serves up plenty of advice.)
Wherever you’re at, you’ve never been in this precise moment before. But someone has. Or maybe someone has been in a different struggle — fictional or otherwise — that speaks to you and has written about how they’ve gotten to the other side.
That’s what reading’s about. And that’s what we’re doing when we’re writing. We’re sharing with a reader one possible way for getting through to the other side.
Here’s another bit of wisdom I recently ran across. Sally Jane Smith’s post “Carving Joy from Grief” on the Brevity Blog includes this poem:
As a writer, as a human, it’s easy to ask, “Why bother?” “Why pick at the things that hurt?” “Why dig into the things I don’t understand?” “Why share it?”
Because, maybe there’s one person who can be encouraged by what we have learned.
Again, here’s Lisa Cron:
“At its most basic, a story is about how someone grapples with a problem they can’t avoid, and how they change in the process” (p. 30).
Because sharing a story is not just about slogging through the depths. It’s about how that slog changes us, how it grows us, how it prepares us for the next challenge and the next and the next.
That is why a story can be a ball of light, a lamp in someone’s hand, showing them a path through the darkness — or at least telling them they are not alone on the path.