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A Writer's Life
My Life for Yours
Some people say they like writing because it’s therapeutic. And they’re often right. Writing is personal expression, getting a load off the heart. It’s a fulfilling mental exercise, often untangling numerous strands of noodles. And it is creative, one of the simplest ways there is to be artistic.
But there is more to this therapy than self-help. We have all read pathetic writers who write solely to entertain themselves and laugh at their own jokes. However, in order for any form of creative expression to communicate anything, it must be others-focused. The written word only has value when it creates ideas in a reader’s mind. The written word becomes the slave of the reader, and reader is the master of the written word.
And so a writer lives to be read; and yet, dies each time he gives his writing to an outsider. This is the dichotomy of an author’s work. Perhaps he began writing because he had thoughts --too many thoughts-- that were overflowing his valves. He found that the release of feeling as he released his thoughts, much like a good cry or a hard laugh, was gently cleansing and ordering his inner person. Therapy. Now he could sigh and step back from his work refreshed, but he was curious. Was this stuff he wrote any good? He had a feeling it was. Perhaps he should show it to somebody.
Then the struggle begins. This writing wasn’t meant to be read; or was it? What if it gets crushed? But what if it meets success? What if this is what people have been waiting for, even needing, all their lives? And he knows his writing will have no existence as it sits locked away in its tattered red notebook.
Perhaps this qualm is best answered with a Biblical concept, and one that Douglas Wilson has recently applied to the mutual sharing relationships that take place in the home, and that is: “My Life for Yours.” Every home must exhibit the generous nature of this maxim as the husband lays down his life for his wife, and his wife lays down her life for her husband; the father lays down his life for his children daily at work, and the wife lays down her life for her child each time she gives birth.
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Writing is the release of an author’s life into words. His unique experiences, his thoughts, his research, his emotions: all are laid bare on the cross of the blank page. They are crucified, nailed there, unmoving, unapologetic, stretched out unclothed for all the world to see and mock, immortal and forsaken. The words are no longer living clay, but roast hard in the furnace and unable to be changed. Now he who reads must decide whether to identify himself with the life on the cross or spit in its face and tear its robe. Both Calvary’s climax on that great stone hill, and the author’s climax in the final words of his article involve laying down life without knowing if anyone will understand the significance of the sacrifice.
Even as I write now I am faced with the struggle of sharing my writing. It is personal, fluid, a living thing. If I publish, it will be solid and changeless. Once I say something in writing it cannot be amended. But yet-- what if exposing my writing to whatever may be in store actually accomplishes good? What if my writing really does bless somebody? That could be worth something. And if it meets ridicule, or boredom? What then? I will learn and move on, and that too is worth something. Perhaps I will be crucified upside down. I am both afraid to imitate Him and afraid not to.
Joy cometh in the morning of the third day. A note, a comment, arrives from a reader and it reveals that my logos on the cross was victorious. The writing was accepted, enjoyed, and even published. My dead words are resurrected in the minds of the readers. Now the second prophecy is fulfilled as many others are identifying with my writing, accepting the laying down of my life for them and doing likewise (“take up your cross and follow Me”). They read, think, and live, as a result of one person’s refusal to selfishly keep his life for himself. Through the death of one grain of wheat, a crop is harvested.
Death is not therapeutic. Nobody said “My life for yours” was a fair deal. But only he who lays down his life will keep it. Only he who risks losing himself will actually “find himself,” and it can be that he will gain something more than himself in the process.
© 2009 Jane Grey