I believe the ability to write well is a wonderful gift from God. But I believe it can become a killing gift. The angst of the unpublished author is legendary. Scott Fitzgerald wrote of it in his novel (later film) The Last Time I Saw Paris. Here the writer becomes an alcoholic, his wife dies as a result of pneumonia after being inadvertently locked out of their home by him while he is drunk. He is declared an unfit parent and loses his daughter to his sister-in-law.
There is a true story of a man who killed himself after years of rejection slips. His mother then took his manuscript and found a publisher. The novel presumably was a success, but he was not alive to see it. Thomas Wolfe is said to have locked himself in a room to write all day, not taking care of himself or seeing others, casting the pages of his work into heaps on the floor, not even assembled into completed manuscripts. Dying in 1938 at only 37, most of his novels were assembled and published posthumously.
These tragic stories are probably as “legion” as the demons Christ cast out of the demoniac in the Bible who wandered naked and violent among the tombs. Was this demoniac also an unpublished writer? Scripture does not tell us, but I have sometimes found myself of his mindset and have asked “WHY?”
To write with power, depth, truth, one must sometimes call to mind emotionally charged episodes in ones life (and that of others) with every bit of authentic, raw feeling one can conjure up. Such feelings are best put from the mind (normally) in order to have a joyful, peaceful, and productive life. To purposely bring them back then dwell on them long enough to get them on paper is to take an emotional risk. Is it always possible to put the little crazy guy back into his box and lock it the moment one is through. Ideally so, but maybe not.
Why do writers write to start with? Is it a healing catharcis for him and for those who read his work? Is it a drive to substitute the imitation of life for life itself? If so, why would one have a drive to make that substitute? Is it due to a writer’s lack of positive engagement with real life due to emotional inadequacies? Does writing heal him or become an enabler of some neurosis to the extent that he is never healed? Writing has been for me both a great blessing and a cross to bear. Did God mean it to be so for me from the start? I do not know.
It is the classic “Catch 22”. To write well requires such challenges. To write less than well does not seem worth doing. I have to admit, however, that for me there has usually been enough distance between the original event and the portrayal of it for me to enjoy writing authentically of even the darkest shadows as much as of the light. If it were chronically painful, I simply would not have done it. I think that is so for most writers. Unlike in real life, the writer can choose to stop the process or tweak it into a positive or even humorous situation. I have written some of the funniest episodes coming from the darkest episodes.
I do believe that God allowed me to use writing to temporarily deal with difficult periods in my life until my relationship with Him grew strong enough that I leaned entirely on Him. He knows how to do things like that with such finesse that we frequently do not know He is working on the dilemma until we suddenly realized that it is beginning to be solved. The Bible says we go “from glory to glory” rather than being magically transformed without challenges and suffering.
Even if I had been immediately published and successful, I would have soon discovered that it was not the complete answer for all that ailed me. I would have finally realized that only God is that. There have been countless very successful writers who were alcoholics, drug addicts, paralyzed by depression and anxiety to the point of requiring psychiatric treatment. Hemmingway killed himself, yet he is one of the greatest writer of the 20th Century and certainly one of the most famous..