“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” -Ernest Hemingway
The above is a well-known quote in the writing world, and for good reason. Every writer worth his or her ink knows that writing – be it short stories, poetry, novels or screenplays – can be a deeply emotional, sometimes painful, endeavor. I use the word “can” because it isn’t always that way. In fact, I’ve heard some authors say they never have more fun than when they’re writing, and that Hemingway was either taking his work way too seriously or simply in need of some therapy.
I happen to think one is capable of having both writing experiences: one of pure, unadulterated pleasure, and one of immense, far-reaching pain. Naturally, the experience you have depends on what you’re writing about and how it relates to you on an intimate, soul-deep level.
Using myself as an example, I have written a number of nonfiction women’s books and can’t tell you how much I enjoyed writing them. Two of the books combine empowering faith-based devotionals with heart-pumping, mood-boosting, fat-blasting workouts; how can a writer metaphorically bleed when she is writing on topics such as those? Currently, I’m writing book three in a fantasy trilogy and am enjoying every second.
I have completely empathized with Hemingway during the penning of three of my books to date: my memoir Immeasurable, the first book in my fantasy trilogy (not yet published), and my upcoming women’s novel, Armor for Orchids. It is probably obvious why the first book mentioned was tough to write. I felt as though I was sharing pages out of my diary – pages about my struggle with severe depression, anorexia, grieving the sudden death of my father…basically crumbling to pieces and trusting God to put me back together.
I cried for the first time while writing fiction about a year ago. I was working on my fantasy novel, happily typing away, not sure where the scene and its characters were taking me, and then WHAM! Tears. Warm, fat, salty streaming tears. (Have you ever experienced this? If you haven’t yet, you will!)
I don’t want to give too much away, but essentially the tear-eliciting scene involved my main character seeing a loved one she’d thought was long dead. As her eyes fell on him, my mind’s eye floated to a sun-streaked daydream of my father, smiling at me from outside my window.
I completely lost it.
But I kept writing, channeling those powerful emotions of longing and hope and long-awaited reunion into my main character’s actions and dialogue.
I opened a vein and bled. And it was beautiful.
My latest novel will be published by Evatopia Press on January 9th. I was talking with a writer friend of mine the other day about how this book was the most difficult for me write, let alone share with the world. Why? Because I drew heavily from personal experience, from the wintry valleys and parched deserts of my past. Three of the book’s four main characters are imbued with pieces of myself and people I have loved and admired. Unlike the fantasy novel in which just one scene tethered my soul to the protagonist’s, almost every chapter in Armor for Orchids is dotted with blots of my blood.
I cannot express how freeing, and indeed how cathartic it was to revisit my past, the lessons I’ve learned and the obstacles I’ve overcome, through the magical medium of fiction. There were definitely things I initially did not wish to share, things that my pride wanted to keep buried lest judgment be cast by readers whom I don’t know, and friends whom I do. I imagine every writer goes through this at one time or another: the fear of judgment, of doubt, of ridicule, of regretting you ever wrote the book to begin with.
But those are the stories we must write. For they are the stories that do far more than entertain readers – they touch, heal, invigorate, and inspire them. They make them sigh with relief as they think or speak aloud, “I thought I was the only one.” Or, “I thought I was hopeless. But now I know there’s a way out.”
Maybe these sentiments don’t apply to you and your current work in progress. Maybe you’ve never bled, cried, or even sweat onto the page. But, if you stay at this writing thing long enough, I can almost guarantee you will encounter a story inside yourself begging to be told. And it will be a story birthed from the innermost chambers and secret hallways of your past. You can fight it, you can run from it and reject it, but I hope and pray that you won’t. It’s too important that you tell it in the way only you can.
When the day comes to tell that story, I hope you will remember this post and be encouraged to embrace the heartaches and shadows and darkness that may accompany the journey. Those things have instilled in you a strength you never could have obtained apart from their tribulations. And there’s someone – perhaps thousands of someones – out there desperate to read a story that was forged in the fires of your one-of-a-kind life.
If you’re interested in learning more about Armor for Orchids and/or pre-ordering it, head over here. If you’d like to be an advanced reader and receive a free copy, tweet me at @dandersontyler or send me an Instagram message at @authordianatyler!